We're putting together the ultimate Big Ten road trip for 2012. We don't get to choose what games we attend each Saturday in real life, but if we could this is how our itinerary would read.
We'll both pick a game for each week of the season, based on what looks the most interesting to us and to get a wide view of the conference. It's time to take a look at the options for Week 3:
Charleston Southern at Illinois
Ball State at Indiana
Northern Iowa at Iowa
UMass at Michigan
Notre Dame at Michigan State
Western Michigan at Minnesota
Arkansas State at Nebraska
Boston College at Northwestern
Cal at Ohio State
Navy at Penn State
Eastern Michigan at Purdue
Utah State at Wisconsin
Brian Bennett's pick: Cal at Ohio State
This is not exactly the most appetizing slate of games. Notre Dame at Michigan State is the obvious one, but I've seen the Irish a lot over the past couple of years and have a feeling I'll be seeing them later on in this road trip. So I'm heading to Columbus.
Sure, Cal has been down of late, but the Golden Bears should still present a challenge to the Buckeyes. Mostly, I just want to see the Urban Meyer offense in person for the first time and get a sense of how good this Ohio State team can actually be. The Buckeyes aren't really playing a loaded nonconference schedule, so this could bring their toughest test before Big Ten season arrives. I'm interested to see if Meyer has found some playmakers on offense to pair with Braxton Miller by Week 3.
Adam Rittenberg's pick: Notre Dame at Michigan State
As much as I'd like to see my childhood team, the Cal Bears, head to Columbus, I think the better game will be in East Lansing, where I'll be for the second time in the first three weeks. Last year, Notre Dame handed a mistake-prone Michigan State team a 31-13 loss at Notre Dame Stadium in a game the Fighting Irish desperately needed to win. The Spartans should get a more polished effort on their home field.
This should be a low-scoring, defense-driven matchup with plenty of star power such as Michigan State defensive end William Gholston and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o. Michigan State will be breaking in a new starting quarterback (Andrew Maxwell), while Notre Dame's quarterback situation is up in the air right now. The game features two intriguing running backs in Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell and Notre Dame's Cierre Wood. Should MSU drop its opener to Boise, it could find itself in a similar spot to Notre Dame in 2011 -- desperately needing a win. If this game is anything like the last time these teams played at Spartan Stadium, it'll be well worth the trip. Maybe Aaron Bates can present the game ball. I'm heading back to Sparta!
Previously on the road trip ...
Week 1: Adam at Boise State-Michigan State, Brian at Michigan-Alabama.
Week 2: Brian at Penn State-Virginia, Adam at Nebraska-UCLA.