Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Ranking B1G nonleague games: Nos. 48-35
By Brian Bennett
The 2013 season will be here before you know it. Well, that's not really true, unless you are unable to process time in your brain and six weeks feels like a flash. If so, you've got bigger problems to worry about than the Big Ten season.
But the point is, the season is close. And in our continuing quest to kill as much of this seemingly neverending offseason as possible with pleasant football-themed distractions, we're here to rank all 48 of the Big Ten nonconference games.
Let's start with games Nos. 48-35, or what I like to call Tier I: If you're excited about these games, you really, really love football. These aren't the most exciting on the schedule, but one game we ranked No. 39 last year -- Utah State at Wisconsin -- ended up being a thriller. So you never know.
No. 48: Tennessee Tech at Wisconsin, Sept. 7: An FCS team that went 1-7 in its conference last year, lost its best player (Da'Rick Rogers), and gave up a combined 133 points to Oregon and Murray State is coming to Madison? Yep, this could get ugly fast.
No. 47: Florida A&M at Ohio State, Sept. 21: The Rattlers went 4-7 last year and have a new coach. This game avoids coming in last simply for the potential of A&M's halftime show. When the league decided to eliminate FCS games, this should have been Exhibit 1A as to why.
No. 46: Western Illinois at Minnesota, Sept. 14: Another really bad FCS team (3-8 last year) that couldn't even move the ball, as the Leathernecks scored fewer than 10 points per game. Yuck.
No. 45: Missouri State at Iowa, Sept. 7: Another FCS team with a losing record last year -- theme alert! -- and Missouri State started off 0-6 last year. Pass the remote.
No. 44: Southern Illinois at Illinois, Aug. 31: Slight bonus points, but not too many, for an in-state game. At least the Salukis had a winning record last year, and if the Illini play like they did last year, they could make any game interesting. Well, not interesting, but close.
No. 43: Indiana State at Purdue, Sept. 7: Indiana State became a respectable FCS program under Trent Miles. Unfortunately, he bolted for Georgia State. Again, in-state game but not a whole lot else.
No. 42: Indiana State at Indiana, Aug. 29: Only slightly more interesting than the Indiana State-Purdue game because these two teams played down to the wire last year, and it will be on a Thursday night without much other competition.
No. 41: Maine at Northwestern, Sept. 21: Maine has traditionally been a pretty good FCS team, though it slipped to 5-6 last year. Nothing more than a Big Ten tuneup.
No. 40: Youngstown State at Michigan State, Sept. 14: The Penguins went 7-4 last year, and, uh, I guess there's always a chance Mark Dantonio will get confused and think he's back working for Jim Tressel at Youngstown.
No. 39: UMass at Wisconsin, Aug. 31: UMass is an FBS team, but it's not far removed from its FCS days in either time or skill level. At least it will be the official beginning of the Gary Andersen era.
No. 38: Minnesota at New Mexico State, Sept. 7: Norwood Teague isn't going to raise $190 million by agreeing to future games like this one. NMSU was 1-11 last year, 10-40 the past four years.
No. 37: Akron at Michigan, Sept. 14: The Zips nearly lived up to their nickname last year by going 1-11. At least Terry Bowden should make for some good news conference action.
No. 36: South Dakota State at Nebraska, Sept. 21: SDSU won a playoff game last year and should be the friskiest of the FCS teams on the Big Ten schedules this year.
No. 35: UNLV at Minnesota, Aug. 29: The Rebels took Minnesota to overtime last year in Sin City but went 2-11 on the season. The Gophers should be good enough to avoid a similar scare in their opener this season.