The last two weeks of non-conference play has a significant tailing off in quality out of conference teams, but unlike 2010, there is no 'MAC Week Tribute'. But we do have a couple games that, if you have a chance, you should watch or keep tabs on through out the day.
Week three is actually fairly decent, but week four is kind of a dog, with more byes (two) than quality non-conference opponents (one--thanks, Notre Dame!). I'm sure if weeks 1 and 2 prove to be dominant for the conference, the detractors will point to week 4 and say 'what the hell kind of OOC schedule is that?'
Oh well, Haters Gonna Hate, and Taters Gonna Tate.
Love this picture. Love. It.
Notre Dame at Michigan State: Hat's off to Michigan State this year, as they face their second quality OOC opponent in three games. The downside, of course, is losing to BSU and Notre Dame. But the upside is huge--two wins against two quality opponents (and yes, Notre Dame is a quality opponent, at least in September) and Sparty is looking at a possible top 5 ranking heading into conference play. MSU wants to be considered an elite team, they've played like it at times, and a win here either helps the annual Notre Dame September ascension or depending on how week 1 went, knocks MSU off the national radar.
If Hall plays, OSU should win this game. Should.
California at Ohio State: This is the first test for the Urban Meyer Experiment, and it will be a good test. Cal's Isi Sofele is probably the best running back you've never heard of, and a decent defense will be a fair test for an OSU offense that was Joe Bauserman'd into the 100's in total offense last year. With Jordan Hall maybe or maybe not back from his foot injury, it will be interesting to see who Meyer tries to make his go to guy on offense, besides Braxton Miller.
Matt McGloin. If he's the answer, what is the question?
Navy at Penn State: Navy is a football team that gives other teams fits. Navy was only 5-7 last year, but are two years removed from being 14 points from an undefeated season, and had the number three rushing attack in the country last year. The option offense is a bear to try and defend if you don't do it every week, and Penn State's defense was just okay at times last year. With Bill O'Brien installing a pro style offense with a less than optimal guy to run it in Matt McGloin, I sense a real trap game for Penn State here.
Is Marqueis Gray ready to step up?
Syracuse at Minnesota: Here's the deal, Gopher fans--the Gophers were a much better team at the end of the season, and the Gophers should be 3-0 heading into this game. This will be a step up in competition, and a barometer for where the Gopher program is in year 2. This game isn't going to move the perception radar in either direction, but it will be an indication of what direction Kill has Minnesota going. A convincing win, and they're more than likely going to get to 6 wins. A loss, matched with another non-conference loss to any of the three cupcakes they have up until this game, and I'll have a hard time believing the Gophers will get more than 4 wins.
Michigan at Notre Dame: Like MSU, Michigan has a pretty good OOC schedule this year, with Alabama, Air Force, and Notre Dame. The Irish had Michigan dead to rights last year, and miraculously Denard Robinson engaged the 'Rainbow Bomb' offense and engineered a comeback for the ages. Can they do it again this year? They have better playmakers on offense, they have a better defense, and the only disadvantage I see is that this game is in South Bend. It'll be a close game, as these tilts almost always are, but a Notre Dame win would be an upset. Go Blue.
If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go take a shower now. I feel dirty.