Power Ranking Non-Conference Schedules in the Big Ten West
1. Nebraska Cornhuskers: Aug. 30, Florida Atlantic Owls (6-6); Sept. 6, McNeese State Cowboys (10-3)*; Sept. 13, Fresno State Bulldogs (11-2); Sept. 20, Miami-Fla. Hurricanes (9-4).
Why: It’ll be interesting to see Nebraska travel to California to play a Derek Carr-less Fresno State team. Jetlag, anyone?
2. Wisconsin Badgers: Aug. 30, LSU Tigers (10-3); Sept. 6, Western Illinois Leathernecks (4-8)*; Sept. 20, Bowling Green Falcons (10-3); Sept. 27, USF Bulls (2-10).
Why: Bucky gets a neutral site bid with one of the SEC’s premier teams in LSU, not to mention the defending MAC champion Bowling Green.
3. Northwestern Wildcats: Aug. 30, Cal Golden Bears (1-11); Sept. 6, Northern Illinois Huskies (12-2); Sept. 20, Western Illinois Leathernecks (4-8)*; Nov. 15, Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-4).
Why: Notre Dame is looking much more intimidating with the likelihood of Everett Golson returning under center.
4. Iowa Hawkeyes: Aug. 30, Northern Iowa Panthers (7-5)*; Sept. 6, Ball State Cardinals (10-3); Sept. 13, Iowa State Cyclones (3-9); Sept. 20, Pittsburgh Panthers (7-6).
Why: Ball State retained coach Pete Lembo, but loses four-year starter Keith Wenning under center. The Cardinals have quickly become a MAC power, but shouldn’t be a threat to beat a revitalized Iowa program.
5. Minnesota Golden Gophers: Aug. 28, Eastern Illinois Panthers (12-2)*; Sept. 6, Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (8-5); Sept. 13, TCU Horned Frogs (4-8); Sept. 20, San Jose State Spartans (6-6).
Why: Minnesota notched its first winning season since 2008, but can Jerry Kill take the Gophers to the next level this fall? It’ll all start in non-conference play, especially on Sept. 13.
6. Illinois Fighting Illini: Aug. 30, Youngstown State Penguins (8-4)*; Sept. 6, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (7-5); Sept. 13, Washington Huskies (9-4); Sept. 20, Texas State Bobcats (6-6).
Why: The Illini played Washington tough at home in a 34-24 Week 3 loss last year, but now have to travel to Seattle without QB Nathan Scheelhaase.
7. Purdue Boilermakers: Aug. 30, Western Michigan Broncos (1-11); Sept. 6, Central Michigan Chippewas (6-6); Sept. 13, Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-4); Sept. 20, Southern Illinois Salukis (7-5)*.
Why: If you’re going to bounce back from a 1-11 season, make sure you schedule a few lightweights. Purdue has a chance to double its win total in non-conference play alone.
*denotes FCS team
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