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Tuesday, August 30, 2011
The Big Ten's biggest games in 2011

By Brian Bennett

We're just two days away from the start of the college football season. For the Big Ten, most of the Week 1 games are little more than warm-up acts. The competition level will quickly rise. Here's a look at the seven biggest games of the season involving the league (Big Ten title game not included) in chronological order:

Alabama at Penn State, Sept. 10: The only nonconference game to make this list. Because it's the SEC, because it's a national power (the Crimson Tide are ranked No. 2 in the preseason polls) and because this game is on Big Ten turf, the outcome of this one will go a long way toward determining the public perception of the league's strength this season.

Nebraska at Wisconsin, Oct. 1: The Cornhuskers' first-ever Big Ten game might also serve as a preview of the conference title game. Nebraska and Wisconsin are the preseason favorites to win their respective division crowns. This game could set the tone for the entire league season.

Ohio State at Nebraska, Oct. 8: New Big Ten power, meet the old conference boss. This will be the Huskers' first Big Ten home game, and the Buckeyes will have all their suspended players back just in time for the trip to Lincoln.

Wisconsin at Michigan State, Oct. 22: The Badgers' lone loss in 2010 came in East Lansing. Most of the Spartans' difficult games are on the road this season, so they will need to protect home turf to have any chance at competing for the Legends Division title.

Wisconsin at Ohio State, Oct. 29: Wisconsin took it to the Buckeyes from the opening kickoff last year while knocking off the then-No. 1 team in the country. Here is Ohio State's chance for revenge in a key Leaders Division showdown.

Iowa at Nebraska, Nov. 25: The first "Heroes Game" should kick off a strong new rivalry in the Big Ten. It could also have major implications in the Legends Division outcome.

Ohio State at Michigan, Nov. 26: No list of the Big Ten's biggest games would be complete without The Game, regardless of how good the participants are that particular year. Plus, who isn't looking forward to seeing how Brady Hoke backs up his big talk in his first shot at the Buckeyes?