This year's non-conference schedule is, of course, laced with too many FCS teams and lower-tier conferences. But, there are 16 games this season against teams from the "AQ 6" conferences. These are the ones that everyone will be looking at. If the B1G can get big wins against big name opponents, we get national attention. If we don't win, we get national attention for the wrong reasons. So, I will break down, in my opinion, the most important non-con games this fall.
1. Michigan St. vs Boise St.
This is my most important game because this is the B1G's most realistic chance of beating a big name opponent (although they aren't in an AQ conference). If Michigan State can win this Week 1 game, the B1G will get praise.
Prediction: Michigan State 20, Boise State 16
2. Michigan vs Alabama
The only reason this isn't #1? Alabama is defending national champs and no one really expects a win from Michigan. BUT, that doesn't make this game unimportant. Lose big and the nation will once again laugh at the B1G and the SEC won't shut up about it. Play it close or win it, immediate national respect.
Prediction: Alabama 35, Michigan 24
3. Iowa vs Iowa State
Call me a homer, but this game is more important than most people give it credit for. Iowa State is a very solid team. They have proved that under Paul Rhoads. Iowa learned that the hard way last year (and so did Oklahoma State). Win this and there is a solid win over a Big 12 rival. Lose it, and you won't hear the end of it.
Prediction: Iowa 24, Iowa State 23
T-4. Michigan @ Notre Dame
Michigan St. vs Notre Dame
Tied simply because both these teams need the wins to prove they are B1G contenders and also because I personally think Michigan is the slightly better team, but they have the road game. If one of these teams lose to Notre Dame, the other will be considered superior. If both lose, the B1G will look weak.
Predictions: Michigan 28, Notre Dame 17 | Michigan State 21, Notre Dame, 7
6. Illinois @ Arizona State
These are two teams that started off last season with great starts and tons of hype. Niether team lived up to it. This is just a straight up toss-up game.
Prediction: Arizona State 21, Illinois 17
7. Penn State vs Temple
This has been a very, very competitive rivalry game as of late and this year it is just as important as ever as Penn State tries to keep from drowning in this scandal, and as Temple moves to an AQ conference, the Big East.
Prediction: Temple 14, Penn State 10
8. Purdue @ Notre Dame
This game could determine what kind of season Purdue will have, although if it results in a loss, it won't hurt the conference too bad. Win it however, and the B1G gets brownie points.
Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Purdue 27
9. Northwestern vs Boston College
Really just an interesting matchup that can determine what kind of seasons each team will have. These are the games that can make the B1G's non-con record look great or bad.
Prediction: Northwestern 28, Boston College 17
T-10. Northwestern @ Syracuse
Northwestern vs Vanderbilt
This was kind of a tough one for me, so I just lumped them together. A win against an SEC team is big, but it is JUST Vanderbilt. And Syracuse really shouldn't be all that great. It's tough to judge how important these games are because yes, they need to win these to help the conference, but they really aren't that important. I don't know, I'm just rambling now.
Predictions: Northwestern wins both 21-14
12. Penn State @ Virginia
This one is more important for Penn State than it really is for the B1G, but it's still an important game in the grand scheme of things.
Prediction: Penn State 29, Virginia 21
13. Ohio State vs Cal
Ohio State is slated to have a breakout(?) year and non-conference-wise, this is the big challenge. It's mainly important just because it's one of the 3 games against Pac-12 foes.
Prediction: Ohio State 42, Cal 14
14. Nebraska @ UCLA
This is so low pretty much due to the fact that UCLA somehow miraculously went 6-8 last season and Nebraska didn't.
Prediction: Nebraska 38, UCLA 10
15. Wisconsin @ Oregon State
This game is only important if Wisconsin loses it. Otherwise, it's just another game on the schedule.
Prediction: Wisconsin 42, Oregon State 13
16. Minnesota vs Syracuse
This game is extremely important to Minnesota, but really it won't do much for the B1G if they win. I suppose it shows even our worst is better than the Big East's mediocre teams, but that doesn't show much.
Prediction: Syracuse 26, Minnesota 21
Main point: I personally think even our "good" non-con opponents are pretty easy, save for a handful. I think this is an easy winning record for the B1G. I have them going 11-5 against this competition with the conference breakdown going as follows:
Big 12: 1-0
Pac 12: 3-0
Big East: 2-2
Notre Dame: 2-1