The Big Ten Conference announced its 2016 and 2017 conference schedules Thursday morning, and it looks like Wisconsin's string of soft schedules will come to an abrupt end in 2016 when the conference expands to nine conference games.
The Big Ten's new divisional lineup separated the Badgers from some of the conference's historical powers like Ohio State and Michigan, but the Badgers won't have to wait very long to play a few games against the Wolverines or the Buckeyes. The Badgers will travel to Michigan and Michigan State to open their 2016 conference slate, and they'll also host Ohio State the following week to wrap up what could be a brutal three-game stretch.
The Badgers are also scheduled to travel to Virginia Tech for a non-conference game on Sept. 10, and the league's nine-game format will all the Badgers a maximum of just six home games in 2016.
Wisconsin's game against Michigan will be their first since 2010, when the Badgers beat the Wolverines 48-28 in Ann Arbor. The 2016 schedule also has the Badgers playing Michigan State for what will be the first time in three seasons, after the Badgers played the Spartans seven times in six seasons.
The Badgers will finish their conference season against teams from within their division. They'll travel to Iowa on Oct. 22, host Nebraska on Oct. 29, and head back to Evanston, Ill., for a game with Northwestern on Nov. 5. The Badgers will finish the season with a game against Illinois on Nov. 12, a game at Purdue on Nov. 19, and they'll host the Minnesota Gophers in their annual rivalry game to close out the season on Nov. 26.
Wisconsin's 2017 schedule sees both Ohio State and Michigan State fall off the slate in favor of Maryland and Indiana, but Michigan is scheduled to make their first appearance in Camp Randall Stadium since 2009, when the Badgers won 45-24.
The Badgers will open their 2017 season with a home game against Northwestern on Sept. 30, followed by a road trip to Nebraska on Oct. 7. The Badgers will then host Purdue and Maryland on back-to-back weeks on Oct. 14 and 21, followed by back-to-back road trips to Illinois and Indiana on Oct. 28 and Nov. 4. The Badgers then return home for games against Iowa and Michigan on Nov. 11 and 18, and will finish their season in Minneapolis to play Minnesota for Paul Bunyan's Axe on Nov. 25.
The Badgers are also scheduled to play at BYU, host Virginia Tech, and at South Florida to open their non-conference season. That would give the Badgers just six home games again for the second straight season.