Opinion | Week 1 is here, but challenges remain

An unlikely Big Ten football season is getting underway this week. But with an ongoing pandemic, completing a full schedule will have its challenges.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa players take the field during a football game between Iowa and Michigan in Ann Arbor on Saturday, October 5, 2019. The Wolverines celebrated homecoming and defeated the Hawkeyes, 10-3.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

This wasn’t a story I necessarily thought I was going to write this fall.

When the Big Ten postponed fall sports on Aug. 11, I started planning for a spring (or winter?) football season. When Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said that the fall season wouldn’t be revisited, I assumed that it wouldn’t be.

Well, here we are.

After months of back and forth, it’s officially Week 1 of the Big Ten football season. The conference kicks off Friday in Madison. The next day, Iowa takes the field in West Lafayette against Purdue.

Typically, the first week of the Big Ten football season is full of optimism. Every team is 0-0 and, at least on paper, is still in the hunt. That’s still the case this season — sort of.

Game week being here doesn’t mean the obstacles are gone. Far from it. Conferences around the league have had to postpone games following positive COVID-19 tests. Teams, including Baylor, have had to shut down activities because of outbreaks within their programs. Coaches have been forced away from their teams after testing positive.

The offseason for Big Ten football teams was already chaotic enough. The season itself is an entirely different challenge.

Playing eight regular season games and one game during “Champions Week” with no flexibility to reschedule any matchup that may be halted by the pandemic will inevitably prove impossible for some teams.

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Even with the safety protocols in place and the Big Ten’s access to daily testing, the virus is likely going to significantly affect a program in the conference at some point. Hopefully, Iowa and the other 13 conference programs can stay healthy and on the field, but there are no guarantees this season.

That’s what happens when you attempt to play in a pandemic.

This season could be memorable for Iowa — even without considering the circumstances under which the team is playing.

Yes, there are still plenty of questions. The main one being how Spencer Petras performs as the team’s new starting quarterback. However, looking over Iowa’s depth chart makes it clear that Petras has all the help he could possibly need.

On defense, Phil Parker may be replacing several key starters from last season. But with a solid mix of veterans reclaiming their spots like Chauncey Golston and Matt Hankins and younger player like Dane Belton and Jack Campbell, Iowa should continue its string of top-tier defensive seasons.

All the same types of questions that are asked at the start of a season are still there. Usually this week would be full of over-analyzing the Week 1 depth chart of trying to figure out if any player was a last-minute addition to the injury report. There will still be plenty of that.

I hadn’t ever considered that the first week of the season would also be spent awaiting the team’s coronavirus test results to see if the opening game would indeed happen.

Iowa football is back, the pandemic is ongoing, and Week 1 this year in the Big Ten — just like the rest of the season — is unfamiliar territory.

Let’s see what happens.