Here’s a look at the Big Ten’s nonconference games, from best to worst:
1. Michigan State at Oregon: A delicious clash of styles, and such a stern test for the Spartans that you can almost forgive their game at the very bottom of the list. Almost.
2. Wisconsin vs. LSU (at Houston): There isn’t much philosophical difference in the ways these programs go about their business. The Tigers have better athletes, though.
3. Miami (Florida) at Nebraska: After the Huskers played so many bowl games right in the Hurricanes’ backyard, it’ll be nice to see that “U” helmet in Memorial Stadium.
4. Michigan at Notre Dame" The last game in the series for some time, until Notre Dame changes its mind, twirls its hair and Michigan comes running.
5. Cincinnati at Ohio State: The Bearcats, preseason favorites of the American Athletic Conference according to several publications, have some talent and a healthy chip on their shoulder for the big brother Buckeyes.
6. Virginia Tech at Ohio State: The Hokies scored a combined 10 points in their spring game. Translation: Their defense will be a challenge for OSU’s rebuilt line, and their offense can’t crack an egg.
7. Penn State vs. Central Florida (at Dublin): The Nittany Lions are headed to Ireland to play the surprise team of 2013. UCF head coach George O’Leary must be Irish, yes? I will be awakening in the wee hours of Aug. 30 to tune in.
8. Northwestern at Notre Dame: The Big Ten really needs to stop its addiction to Notre Dame’s brand of ecstasy, but at least the game will be played in November.
9. Indiana at Missouri: Coach Kevin Wilson has considerably improved the talent profile of the Hoosiers, but it’s time to make a bowl game. Beating a rebuilding Mizzou team would be some statement.
10. Ohio State vs. Navy (at Baltimore): You’ll never see me scoff at the Midshipmen, wingbone wizards and slayers of giants. Navy nearly knocked off OSU in 2009, losing 31-27.
11. California at Northwestern: They combined for 74 points and 1,057 yards last year. Works for me.
12. Iowa State at Iowa: Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads made a big show in February of recruit Allen Lazard rebuffing overtures from the Hawkeyes to flip a week before signing day.
13. Minnesota at TCU: The Horned Frogs open with Samford, then have a bye week before and after this game. I’ll be picking the Gophers to lose.
14. Iowa at Pittsburgh: So much pro-style, downhill-running offense that it might as well be an honorary Big Ten conference game.
15. Utah at Michigan: The Utes are 18-19 since their switch to the Pac-12. The program doesn’t have quite the name it did a half-decade ago.
16. Illinois at Washington: The Illini didn’t have the horses to muscle the Huskies last year. It probably won’t look much prettier now that ultra-disciplined Chris Peterson has taken over on Montlake.
17. Nebraska at Fresno State: There isn’t anything about this game the Huskers will like. Snakepit stadium, night game, scorching heat. Fresno hasn’t lost at home since 2011.
18. West Virginia at Maryland: According to Google Maps, the Terrapins play their home games 12 miles from the Washington Monument. You learned something.
19. Maryland at Syracuse: The East Regional final — next! Somebody’s going to the Final Four!
20. Rutgers at Washington State: A fairly tasty morsel on opening Thursday night if you’re willing to stay up until Friday morning, since the Cougars averaged 58 pass attempts per game last year.
21. Purdue vs. Notre Dame (at Indianapolis): The Boilermakers may never get closer to a Big Ten title game than playing the Fighting Irish in Lucas Oil Stadium.
22. Rutgers at Navy: Define irony: A military branch known for air and sea superiority hardly ever passing or swimming for yards.
23. Appalachian State at Michigan: The sequel to 2007’s for-the-ages upset in the Big House. If Michigan’s offense doesn’t toughen up, the same result is possible.
24. Wyoming at Michigan State: The Cowboys don’t have near the talent to upset this version of the Spartans, but Craig Bohl’s bunch will grind clock and keep it close.
25. South Florida at Wisconsin: The Badgers square off against the general region of the country where they’d like to recruit.
26. Maryland at South Florida: The Bulls’ second appearance on the list. The Terps may regret making this trip.
27. Northern Illinois at Northwestern: Since these schools are 75 miles apart — and Northwestern can’t sell out its stadium to save its life — this is more a neutral game, played on the Wildcats’ campus. Our first MAC game. Get ready for many, many more.
28. Bowling Green at Wisconsin: The Badgers munch on one of the MAC’s best teams. This one is, in the words of Don Corleone, a little dangerous.
29. Indiana at Bowling Green: Bowling Green lost handily to the Hoosiers last year. MAC payback coming?
30. Florida Atlantic at Nebraska: We’ll never get that Pelini Bro Bowl. Given how it went down in Boca Raton, Carl will be giving Bo a full, robust scouting report, right?
31. North Texas at Indiana: Norah Jones’ alma mater won nine games last year. Dan McCarney effect.
32. Kent State at Ohio State: The Buckeyes are allowing an audience for the Golden Flashes, who have one winning season in 10 years. MAC meal plan.
33. Temple at Penn State: The Owls were a funny team last year. Lost to Fordham, nearly beat Central Florida. I miss Paul Palmer and Mark Macon.
34. Ball State at Iowa: The Hawkeyes have lost to MAC teams each of the last two years. The meal plan occasionally gives Big Ten teams food poisoning.
35. Tulane at Rutgers: New Orleans vs. New Jersey. Too bad it’s not the Saints vs. Giants.
36. Middle Tennessee at Minnesota: “Middle” sounds more quaint than “Central,” don’t you think? Reminds me of the West African nation Upper Volta — at least until it became Burkina Faso.
37. James Madison at Maryland: The Lefty Driesell Bowl. If this were basketball. Maryland just evokes basketball in my mind.
38. San Jose State at Minnesota: Before the Spartans return to Minneapolis for a second straight year, they’ll play at Auburn.
39. Northern Iowa at Iowa: Could former Nebraska quarterback Brion Carnes deliver an upset for the Panthers? MVC meat and potatoes.
40. Akron at Penn State: Between head coaches James Franklin and Terry Bowden, how many cans of energy drink must they consume every week?
41. Western Kentucky at Illinois: It’s a game that will be played.
42. Texas State at Illinois: LBJ graduated from Texas State.
43. Eastern Illinois at Minnesota: The most dangerous offense in FCS, which just lost its starting quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, to the NFL, visits the slow-and-steady Gophers.
44. Indiana State at Indiana: The Hoosiers’ lone “easy” game of their nonconference slate. Well, easy for the Hoosiers, anyway. MVC meal.
45. Miami (Ohio) at Michigan: Last year, the Wolverines nearly coughed one up to Akron. Miami (Ohio) is terrible — nearly beyond belief, I tell you — but one never knows. MAC-and-cheese meal.
46. Jacksonville State at Michigan State: Located in Alabama, Jacksonville State whooped McNeese State in the FCS playoffs. So take that, Nebraska.
47. Eastern Michigan at Michigan State: At 12-48 in the last five years, perhaps it’s time EMU does something else. More MAC.
48. UMass at Penn State: The MAC-fueled Minutemen finished 1-11 last year, including a loss to Maine.
49. Youngstown State at Illinois: If Tim Beckman drops one to the pesky Penguins, just draw up the firing papers. MVC, if you please.
50. Western Illinois at Northwestern: The Wildcats get an open date to prepare for WIU. Or, you know, the game at Penn State after WIU.
51. Western Michigan at Purdue: Directional school No. 1 for the Boilermakers. MAC meal plan.
52. Central Michigan at Purdue: Directional school No. 2 for the Boilermakers. MAC meal plan.
53. Southern Illinois at Purdue: Directional school No. 3 for the Boilermakers. MVC meal plan!
54. McNeese State at Nebraska: May this be the last FCS opponent the Huskers ever schedule.
54. Western Illinois at Wisconsin: The Leathernecks’ athletic department must need some rent money to schedule two Big Ten whoopings. MVC meal plan.
56. Howard at Rutgers: The worst of the worst. The Bison, an FCS squad, lost 76-19 last year to Old Dominion. The Scarlet Knights should have scarlet cheeks over this one.
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