The oppressive heat wave continues...the heat dome, it's being called, and it's covering 1,000,000 square miles of the Midwest, from Nebraska all the way to New York City. In other words, the geographic footprint of the B1G once Texas A and M and Oklahoma head to the SEC and conference realignment undergoes the inevitable seismic shift.
But that's another story for another time, because we need to finish off our non-conference analysis. The first three weeks of the non-conference schedule are behind us, and I'm looking at the B1G having a 9-5 record in the key games we've looked at so far, maybe 8-6. The last week of the non-con (well, we're throwing Purdue's game against Notre Dame in there, but it's week five) only has three games that really stand out, and two of the games feature OSU and Michigan.
There's no MAC-rifice week this year, but most of week 4 consists of directional schools. Although there's a lot of slim pickings in week 4, there are still three games that will draw some interest, and worth a look see.
So if weeks 2 and 3 were our main course, let's pour ourselves a cup of milk and enjoy some dessert. We've got some good, homemade pie. A la mode, of course, to help beat the heat.
Week 4, after the jump.
San Diego State at Michigan: San Diego State was in much better shape when Brady Hoke left it than when he got there, and you could argue that SD State was a better team than Michigan at the end of last season. QB Ryan Lindley is probably one of the best players you've never heard of, and he leads an offense that can score, and Michigan had a defense that couldn't stop anyone. Michigan has a very good chance to go 4-0 in the non-con part of the schedule, and this game will really tell us where Brady Hoke is in returning UM back to the top of the conference. I don't really expect Michigan to lose this game, but San Diego State is very capable of pulling the upset, as they scared the bejesus out of TCU, Utah, and Missouri last year, and were 20 points spread out over four games from being undefeated. That said, since Hoke coached there last season, I expect Michigan to be ready to go and take care of business.
Colorado at Ohio State: Like the SD State game for Michigan, this is a game I expect OSU to win. Even though they're a BCS school, Colorado isn't a very good football team, Ohio State is at home, and the noise of the tattoo controversy will be well in the rear view mirror. The Buckeyes should have handled their first big test on the road against Miami, the quarterback situation should be ironed out, for the most part, so there's no reason to believe that they won't blow Colorado out. A loss would be disastrous for the Buckeyes.
Notre Dame at Purdue (Week 5): By now, we'll have a good idea about what kind of football team Purdue is...or will we? They will be coming off their bye week, and up until this game the toughest game they will have had is Middle Tennessee State. I think the B1G will be going for a Notre Dame sweep, and this will be a huge game for Purdue. Can they get the win? I don't know. The only game that Purdue was close to full strength at last year was the Notre Dame game, and they never really got untracked. If they can pull the upset, they'll probably be 4-0 with a good chance to go 5-0 (Minnesota is the following week), and then it's only one more win to get bowl eligible.
So there you go, the B1G marquee non-conference games in a nutshell. I really expect the good guys to have a solid non-conference schedule in 2011, but for as good as some of these games will be, I think they will pale in comparison to conference play.
And it all starts September 1st at Camp Randall.