The Mid-American Conference on Monday announced its nonconference schedule for the 2011 season, and once again the lineup has plenty of Big Ten flavor.
The two leagues will meet 11 times this fall, and colleague Andrea Adelson has the full MAC breakdown. I realize that Big Ten fans don't get too jazzed about facing the MAC every year, but these scheduling agreements aren't going anywhere, so it's silly to ignore them.
Instead, let's dive in and take a look at the matchups.
Akron at Ohio State
Indiana at Ball State
Western Michigan at Michigan
Toledo at Ohio State
Eastern Michigan at Michigan
Miami (Ohio) at Minnesota
Northern Illinois vs. Wisconsin (at Soldier Field, Chicago)
Penn State at Temple
Western Michigan at Illinois
Eastern Michigan at Penn State
Central Michigan at Michigan State
There are eight games at Big Ten stadiums, two at MAC stadiums and one at a neutral site.
The Big Ten went 11-2 against the MAC in 2010. The two losses came by Minnesota against Northern Illinois and Purdue against Toledo.
How will the Big Ten fare this fall against the MAC? Which Big Ten team is most likely to stumble?
I asked colleague Andrea Adelson, our nation blogger who covers the MAC and all non-AQ leagues, to help break down the Big Ten-MAC matchups. We both agreed that defending MAC champ Miami is the best bet to knock off a Big Ten squad when it visits Minnesota. Miami is Adelson's early pick to win the MAC.
Temple gave Penn State all it can handle last season in Happy Valley and will host the Nittany Lions on Sept. 17. The Temple program certainly is on the rise, but the Owls went through a coaching change in the offseason and, as Adelson points out, lose their top three defenders and have some uncertainty at the quarterback position.
The Northern Illinois-Wisconsin game intrigues me, and the Badgers would be foolish to look past the Huskies. For starters, Northern Illinois is now coached by former Badgers defensive coordinator Dave Doeren, who knows Wisconsin's players and the staff quite well. Although NIU loses standout running back Chad Spann, star quarterback Chandler Harnish is back.
Adelson writes of NIU: "I know they have pulled the upset against the Big Ten in the last several years, but they haven't played anybody as good as Wisconsin in the last three [this team rarely gets blown out, though, so that is one thing to keep in mind]."
Ball State and Western Michigan both open against Big Ten teams coming off of coaching changes, but Adelson notes that both the Cardinals and the Broncos are facing some significant personnel challenges this coming season.
The MAC won four games against Big Ten squads in 2009 but only half that total in 2010. I'd be surprised to see the Big Ten drop more than two games to the MAC this fall.