Hey, who doesn't love a good list and who doesn't love a look ahead to a season that is over 8 months away, right? Well, that's exactly what we are going to do for you as we attempt to give you an early look at the Ten Best and Ten Worst Big Ten non-conference football games in 2013.
There were a lot of games worthy of both lists, but we narrowed down a list that was at least 15 deep to give you the best of the best that we can look forward to or throw up about before the real games start.
I don't know about you, but when someone asks me if I want the good news or the bad news first, I always go for the bad news first and that's where we're going to start today - with the worst of the Big Ten teams' non-conference schedules.
10 Worst B1G Non-Conference Games:
|1.||Minnesota @ New Mexico State||Look, Big Ten teams playing on the road is cool and all, but what in the blue hell is Minnesota doing playing on the road to a terrible New Mexico State team. A team that was 1-11 last year and the lone W was against Sacramento State at that.|
|2.||Ohio State vs. Florida A&M||It's bad enough when a team as good as OSU takes on a bad MAC program, so imagine how bad it'll be against a bad MEAC program from the FCS level. If you're going to play an FCS opponent, at least make it a good one... Is that too much to ask?|
|3.||Penn State vs. Rhode Island||Now this game isn't 100% on the schedule yet, but it's 99% there and it's absolutely pathetic. Why? Try PSU wanting an "easier" schedule - so they replaced their one tough game, vs. Virginia, with a completely terrible Rhode Island team from FCSland. Ya, cause that'll help you sell tickets in Happy Valley, right?|
|4.||Wisconsin vs. Tennessee Tech||The Golden Eagles are becoming quite familiar with the B1G as of late, but this is also a pathetic matchup against a BAD FCS program. Again, if you're going to force your fans to pay full price for FCS games can you at least make it against a good FCS team?|
|5.||Michigan vs. Akron||I suppose we could try and give UofM a break or two since they also have Notre Dame on the schedule this year, but Akron? A 1 win team from the MAC that has been terrible since before I was born in 1981... Yea, we applaud you for not going the FCS route at least, but come on... Seriously?|
|6.||Iowa vs. Missouri State||The Hawkeyes have serious issues at running back and seemingly all sorts of other areas, so they can be forgiven a bit for wanting an easier schedule, but again... another HORRIBLE FCS program? This is a team that went 3-8 last year in a not that good FCS conference. Enjoy the payday and the easy W for Iowa as they attempt to pad their schedule.|
|7.||Michigan State vs. Youngstown State||Welcome to a rare rematch of a game between an FCS and FBS team at the same location - but that's what we've got here and MSU will be looking a lot different on the offensive side of the ball. At least MSU is taking on a good FCS team, but still not a fan of these games in the least.|
|8.||Illinois vs. Southern Illinois||The Salukies haven't been that good since the days of Jerry Kill, who's now at the helm of the Gophers of Minnesota. At least it's in-state and against a team that has potential to be good at the FCS level. Illinois needs some confidence after last year anyway.|
|9.||Minnesota vs. Western Illinois||WIU has a long history of playing Big Ten opponents, so at least they're not going to just roll over and die, but they were just 3-8 last season and they don't look to be vastly improved this upcoming season.|
|10.||Nebraska vs. South Dakota State||SDSU is a very, VERY good FCS program, arguably one of the three best in the Midwest along with NDSU & Northern Iowa, but a program like Nebraska has ZERO business playing these kind of cupcake schedules. It's laughable that a school like Nebraska can't find time to give the money it'll pay out to SDSU to schools in the MAC or Mountain West, but it sees some sort of challenge in playing SDSU?|
There's no doubt about it, there are some pretty damn craptastic games coming our way in the month of September. Thankfully, there's also some very, VERY good and important matchups coming our way as fans too. In fact you could argue that every team in the Big Ten has at least one of them, even Indiana and Minnesota - o.k., not the Gophers, but hey, they can't be blamed after taking beatings by USC over the past few years, right?
So, what games populate our list and why? Let's get to it....
10 Best B1G Non-Conference Games:
|1.||Michigan vs. Notre Dame (9/7)||Do we really need to go deep into this one? Simply put this is likely to be an early season matchup between two highly ranked opponents and it could actually be one of the biggest non-conference games of the season in the nation.|
|2.||Nebraska vs. UCLA (9/14)||This was a great football game in 2012, but there are questions on both sides entering 2013 and Nebraska would love some revenge over a UCLA team that put themselves on the map with a W over the Huskers out west. Getting them in the Midwest will be huge for them and for the conference after a down 2012.|
|3.||Wisconsin @ Arizona State (9/14)||Could there be fanbases that are more alike? Seriously, when you think of party schools and tailgating it's hard not to think of the UW and ASU. But as much fun as it'll be in the parking lots it'll also be really interesting on the field too. ASU will be looking to take a step up and this will be the Badgers first shot at a real team under new HC Gary Andersen.|
|4.||Indiana vs. Missouri (9/21)||It's the Big Ten vs. the SEC in a rare regular season non-conference matchup - what's not to love. It's also a rare non-mismatch too. Indiana was VASTLY improved last year and is arguably on the same playing field entering 2013 as the Tigers. A W over Mizzou would be huge for the Hoosiers hopes of stepping it up in 2013.|
|5.||Iowa @ Iowa State (9/14)||Iowa has been struggling for a few seasons and this is their one chance on the road. Add in a big time rival who beat you at home last year and you've got the makings of a must win football game. Let's not forget that Iowa is also starting to lose recruiting wars it was easily winning over ISU, so this one is VERY important to the Hawkeyes nowadays.|
|6.||Purdue vs. Northern Illinois (9/28)||Darrell Hazell's squad will face a few challenges in the non-conference slate, but this will be a bigger challenge than some expect. NIU is coming off of their best season ever and they'll need this game to help pad their resume if they want to repeat the magic of 2012. No matter if they do or don't NIU is a damn good program and a damn good test for a younger Boilermakers team|
|7.||Iowa vs. Northern Illinois (8/31)||This is the Huskies first of two games against the Big Ten this season and after a narrow one point loss to the Hawkeyes at Soldier Field in 2012 the Hawkeyes will be on high alert. However, it's hard to argue that NIU isn't the better team going into this game, so look out Hawkeyes in this one.|
|8.||Purdue @ Cincinnati (8/31)||Hard to believe that the Boilermakers are taking on this schedule in Hazell's first season, but I doubt they thought they'd be facing two conference champions when they signed up for games against Cincy and NIU, huh? Either way this one could set the tone early and with both of these teams having new coaches it'll be a great measuring stick as to the progress Hazell is making right off the bat.|
|9.||Illinois vs. Washington (9/14)||Why is this one on the list? Simple really, it's a game played at Soldier Field in Chicago and getting yourself in front of the Windy City crowd will be huge for Tim Beckman, especially after what was a truly crappy 2012 season. Washington is a good Pac-12 team and it's one of only two games between the two conferences in the Midwest so go Illini!!|
|10.||Northwestern @ Cal (8/31)||Northwestern was very good in 2012, reaching double digits in wins and winning a bowl game for just the 2nd time in school history. However, starting the season off on the road to a rebuilding Cal team is going to be a challenge for the Wildcats to say the least. Cal may not be that good yet, but it's a B1G team in Pac-12 territory and I don't think I need to remind you of what happens more often than not out west, right? Let's just hope the Wildcats can buck the trend to say the least.|
It's a race between the opening weekend and the 3rd weekend of non-conference play as to which one is more important to the teams and the image of the conference as a whole, but for me it's the 14th of September with massive matchups across the board against fellow BCS conferences taking place more so than on the 31st of August. At least we have multiple weekends with good and intriguing matchups for a change.
There's always going to be good and bad matchups in non-conference season, but at least this upcoming season the VERY good matchups almost every team can boast outweigh the crap that'll come along with it in 2013. Did we miss any games? Agree or disagree with our lists - well leave a comment and get the discussion going then!!