Park Ridge, Ill. - The Big Ten announced today that conference football programs will move to a nine-game Big Ten schedule beginning with the 2017 season.
Three teams each from the Legends Division and Leaders Division will feature five conference home games during odd-numbered years, while the other three schools from each division will host five conference contests during even-numbered years. The 2017 schedule will include five conference home outings for Iowa, Michigan State and Nebraska from the Legends Division and Illinois, Indiana and Ohio State from the Leaders Division. The 2018 schedule will feature five Big Ten home games for Michigan, Minnesota and Northwestern of the Legends Division and Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin of the Leaders Division.
The Big Ten will return to a full nine-game conference schedule for the first time since the 1983 and 1984 seasons. Eight of 10 conference schools played nine-game schedules during the 1981 and 1982 seasons, while two of 10 teams featured nine-game schedules from 1971-72 and 1977-80.
The 116th season of Big Ten football kicks off with prime time home games for the defending Big Ten co-Champions, with Wisconsin hosting UNLV on Thursday, Sept. 1, and Michigan State facing Youngstown State on Friday, Sept. 2. The conference's remaining 10 teams open action on Saturday, Sept. 3, including Nebraska's first official game as a member of the Big Ten. Conference play will begin on Saturday, Oct. 1, and will feature divisional play for the first time. The champions of each division will meet on Saturday, Dec. 3, in the inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game to be played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and televised by FOX Sports. The winner of the title game will earn the Big Ten Championship and a chance to play in either the Rose Bowl Game or Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game.