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Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Ranking B1G nonleague games: Nos. 34-21

By Brian Bennett

We're continuing to rank every Big Ten nonconference game, from worst to first. The countdown began yesterday with Nos. 48-35, or the ones least likely to set any Nielsen ratings records.

Today, we take a look at the games ranked from No. 34 to No. 21, or what I like to think of as Tier II: Mostly MAC-tion, plus some interesting action.

No. 34: Eastern Michigan at Penn State, Sept. 7: The only real snoozer on the Nittany Lions' schedule, but it should cure insomnia. The Eagles went 2-10 last year and are 10-38 in their past four seasons.

No. 33: Miami (Ohio) at Illinois, Sept. 28: A MAC team that went 4-8 in the MAC last year versus a Big Ten team that was 2-10, a week before conference play? Can I hit the fast-forward button?

No. 32: Western Michigan at Northwestern, Sept. 14: Get ready to see a lot of the Broncos here in the next few entries. This was a 4-8 team last year, by the way.

No. 31: Western Michigan at Iowa, Sept. 28: Four words why this could be a more interesting game than it appears: Central Michigan, last year.

No. 30: Western Michigan at Michigan State, Aug. 30: Well, it is the opener and it's an in-state game, so this ranks as the "Empire Strikes Back" of the WMU-Big Ten trilogy, for what that's worth.

No. 29: Southern Miss at Nebraska, Sept. 7:  The Golden Eagles were the only FBS team to go winless last year, though we still have a hard time believing they're that bad.

No. 28: Wyoming at Nebraska, Aug. 31: The Cowboys went 4-8 and had one of the worst defenses in the FBS last season. Good luck in Lincoln, guys.

No. 27: Buffalo at Ohio State, Aug. 31: Back to some more MAC-tion after a break break in the rankings. The Bulls were just 4-8 last year but at least they appear to be improving. And it's an opener.

No. 26: Central Michigan at Michigan, Aug. 31: Those Chippewas will try to win a game in Big Ten land for the second straight year, though Michigan should be a lot tougher than Iowa was in 2012.

No. 25: Bowling Green at Indiana, Sept. 14: This has the chance to be pretty interesting, as Bowling Green is coming off an eight-win season and a has a very strong pass defense to match up with the pass-happy Hoosiers.

No. 24: South Florida at Michigan State, Sept. 7: The Bulls have a history of upsets, but new coach Willie Taggart has a rebuilding project on his hands.

No. 23: Navy at Indiana, Sept. 7: Two wildly different offensive styles, both of which are effective in their own way. Last year's game went down to the wire.

No. 22: San Jose State at Minnesota, Sept. 21: The Gophers had better be on full upset alert against a team that won 11 games in 2012 and can really pass the ball. On second thought, it might not really be an upset if the Spartans won.

No. 21: Cincinnati at Illinois, Sept. 7: Probably our first entry where the Big Ten team almost certainly will be the underdog.