Some day soon, we're sure we'll convince our bosses to give us an unlimited travel budget and our pick of games to attend each week. But in the meantime, we'll simply imagine how we would travel each week during the 2013 season if that were the case.
We're limiting ourselves to one game per week and trying to diversify between the bloggers when it makes sense. And note again that this is almost assuredly not our actual travel itinerary for the season.
We've already made our picks for Week 1 and Week 2. Here's where we'd like to go for the week of Sept. 14.
Illinois vs. Washington (at Soldier Field in Chicago)
Bowling Green at Indiana
Iowa at Iowa State
Akron at Michigan
Youngstown State at Michigan State
Western Illinois at Minnesota
UCLA at Nebraska
Western Michigan at Northwestern
Ohio State at California
Central Florida at Penn State
Notre Dame at Purdue
Wisconsin at Arizona State
Brian Bennett's pick: UCLA at Nebraska
These two teams combined for over 1,000 yards last year at the Rose Bowl as UCLA won 36-30. Both offenses should still be explosive, even as the Bruins lost star tailback Johnathan Franklin. They've still got quarterback Brett Hundley, and Jim Mora should have things clicking in Year 2. Mark Schlabach ranked UCLA No. 21 in his latest preseason Top 25, so this is unquestionably Nebraska's biggest nonconference test.
The good news for the Cornhuskers is they usually play much better at home. The expanded Memorial Stadium should be rocking for this one. Taylor Martinez, Kenny Bell and Ameer Abdullah should give UCLA all it can handle. The question, again, will be whether Bo Pelini's defense will be up to the task. Nebraska looked a step slow last year in Pasadena but is hopeful some younger, more athletic defenders will make a difference this time around. And you just know that Martinez, a California guy who grew up rooting for the Bruins but was only recruited there as a safety, wants to beat UCLA before his career is up. Get me to the land of the red balloons for this one.
Adam Rittenberg's pick: Wisconsin at Arizona State
Great call on UCLA-Nebraska, but I can't keep following you around the league, Bennett. I'm getting in touch with my West Coast roots this season, and for the second time in three weeks, I'm grabbing the sunscreen, hopping on a plane and flying West to Pac-12 country. Wisconsin faces its first major test under new coach Gary Andersen as the Badgers head to Tempe to face Todd Graham's high-octane Arizona State Sun Devils team. These trips out West haven't exactly been good for the Badgers, who have lost the past three Rose Bowls and nearly were shut out last season against Oregon State in a 10-7 loss. Big Ten teams have really, really struggled in true road games against the Pac-12.
Wisconsin's quarterback competition will garner most of the attention during the offseason, but Andersen is a defense-oriented coach tasked to take a typically solid defense from good to great. Arizona State provides an excellent test for star linebacker Chris Borland and the Badgers, who have had their ups and downs against the spread offense. The Sun Devils return talented quarterback Taylor Kelly and dynamic weapons like Marion Grice and D.J. Foster. They finished 14th nationally in scoring and 25th in total offense in Graham's first season, and figure to only get better. We'll learn a lot about Wisconsin on both sides of the ball in this one. Colleague Ted Miller already had invited me to his palatial desert estate for dinner. Afterward, I'll park myself on Mill Avenue and check out all the beautiful, um, cacti.