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Friday, July 19, 2013
Ranking B1G nonleague games: Nos. 10-1

By Brian Bennett

As the season draws nearer -- six more weeks! -- we've been trying to build excitement by ranking all the Big Ten nonconference games of 2013. We've already done No.s 48-35, 34-21 and 20-11, which can be found here.

Now it's time for the Top 10, or what I call Tier IV: Don't miss these unless someone inconsiderately scheduled you to be in a wedding (and it had probably better be your own wedding):

10. Notre Dame at Purdue, Sept. 14: Always a big game for Purdue, and the Irish will play at night at Ross-Ade Stadium. Can the Boilers bring home the Shillelagh Trophy for the first time since 2007?

9. Iowa at Iowa State, Sept. 14: Another big rivalry game, and one Iowa has lost two years in a row. The Hawkeyes simply must break that streak to douse the negativity around the program, but they have to go on the road.

8. Northwestern at Cal, Aug. 31: You think the Wildcats are happy about opening on the road in a 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time kickoff? They had better hope they get a win with all that jet lag. It could be a shootout.

7. BYU at Wisconsin, Nov. 9: There's the Gary Andersen-BYU angle, which will be interesting. It will also be somewhat unusual to see the Badgers step out of conference in November. And BYU should be pretty good.

6. Penn State-Syracuse, Aug. 31: The game is an opener, and there will be plenty of curiosity about Penn State's new starting quarterback. It's also at MetLife Stadium, which should create an intriguing atmosphere since both teams' fans can easily drive there.

5. Ohio State at Cal, Sept. 14: The Buckeyes will be a heavy favorite, but they did struggle to put away Cal at home last September. This will be the first and maybe only real test of the nonconference schedule for a team with national title aspirations.

4. Wisconsin at Arizona State, Sept. 14: The Badgers go out to the desert for what should be a real contrast in styles of play. Arizona State could be a sleeper team in the Pac-12 this season. Win this one, and Wisconsin has an excellent chance of surpassing last season's win total.

3. Michigan State at Notre Dame, Sept. 21: The downside it that we will have seen the Irish play a Big Ten team twice already by the time this rolls around. But these should be two fierce defenses going at it, and if the Spartans' offense has made any progress in the first three weeks, it could be a whale of a game.

No. 2 UCLA at Nebraska, Sept. 14: Wouldn't be at all surprised if this one ends up being a 45-42 final. Two potent offenses, two conference division winners from last season, one repeat of last year's wildly entertaining game. I'm all in.

No. 1: Notre Dame at Michigan, Sept. 7: Hard to beat this game based on previous thrilling installments, the fact that it's under the lights at the Big House, and that this might be the last time we see the Irish in Ann Arbor for several years. This is a pretty easy choice for the top spot.