Some of the Big Ten football teams decided to man up in their non-conference schedules this year. And as usual...some didn't.
Three teams have non-con schedules so soft that a loss would by laughably bad...
The Iowa Hawkeyes face such juggernauts as Miami Hydroxide, Northern Iowa, and North Dakota State (without star quarterback Carson Wentz). The Michigan Wolverines face powerhouse Hawaii, University of Central Florida (Go UCF Golden Knights!), and the woeful buffaloes of Colorado. The University of Maryland Terrapins replaced the woeful Richmond Spiders for whatever Howard is, along with two pathetic Florida schools - the winless UCF Golden Knights and whatever Florida International University Golden Panthers.
That slate makes the Penn State SoftTM schedule look positively harrowing.
Other than that, I see at least one non-con game on every schedule that will keep fans up at night. Let's jump right in.
The Indiana Hoosiers face the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest. What the hell is that mascot anyway? A church elder gone bad? Who would pick that as a school mascot? Creepy.
Don't let last year's record fool you, the Deacs fielded a young team, and don't lose much. The offense should be more dynamic this year under the leadership of QB John Wolford. This is as close to a non-conference challenge as the Hoosiers will face. It's not a guaranteed loss...but it could be a tight game.
Illinois Fighting Illini have a guaranteed loss to the FUNC Tar Heels. The Heels reload at quarterback with Mitch "Writes His Own Papers" Trubisky. This kid can ball and he will be flinging it against a mediocre Illini secondary. He's also mobile, making him a nightmare to defend when he decides to tuck it and run.
The Michigan State Spartans have the toughest non-conference schedule of all the teams. While they do play cupcake Furman, they also take on Notre Dame and BYU. On paper, Notre Dame looks like a loss for Sparty. I hate to say it, but that's going to be a tough matchup for a team that loses as much talent as MSU did. That game will be the best test of a retooled defense and a new quarterback under center.
The Ohio State Buckeyes also takes on a good team...after playing cream puffs from Bowling Green and Tulsa they get Oklahoma. OSU sent buckets of talent to the NFL after last season. Oklahoma did too, but not at so many key positions. The Sooners kept two All Big12 stars for this year: quarterback Baker Mayfield and running back Samaje Perine. There isn't a tougher game on a Big Ten schedule this year and it could be a big loss for OSU.
The Penn State Nittany Lions faces a high-pressure non-conference game this season, as its rivalry with Pitt resumes. I hate Pitt, but as Sparty fans are quick to point out, Pat Narduzzi can
talk a lot of shit coach. This is a must-win for Penn State and it looks, on paper, as a pure loss. Penn State must replace its quarterback and entire defensive line. At the same time, they must see improvement on an offensive line that gave up sacks at a rate unmatched in college football in a decade. Right now, this game looks to favor the Panthers.
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights scheduled Washington? In their non-con slate? Ha ha ha ha ha...aaah ha ha ha. Oh sorry, I'm back. Yeah...nope. You guys are going to get creamed.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers scheduled a non-conference slate of State teams. Oregon State, Indiana State, and Colorado State. Unfortunately for the goofs, this is a better Colorado State team than they squeaked past last year. The Rams return a ton of players from last year, including quarterback Nick Stevens and running back Dalyn Dawkins. The defense should be stout again as well. The Gophers will need some luck to get past this Colorado State team.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers arguably scheduled above their weight class with the Oregon Ducks. Mike Riley beat Oregon six times out of 18 tries. That's a passing grade in Chapel Hill, but not so much for a coach in the epic Civil War series. The Ducks will bring in two new coordinators, including the svelte defensive genius of one Brady Hoke. Sorry Husker fans, I'd pencil this one in as a loss.
The Northwestern Wildcats scheduled another run at ACC rival nerds Duke University Blue Devils. Duke is something of a wildcard. It won a close game at the Pinstripe Bowl against Indiana to end last season. Northwestern was a good 10-3 football team last year, including a close win in Durham. This year Duke looks to return the favor. Expect this to be another close game, with the Dookies favored.
To put it frankly, the Purdue Boilermakers are at risk of losing every time they step on the field. And two of its three non-con games look like sure losses. Cincinatti and Nevada will both be
excellent tests crushing defeats for [redacted]. Sorry gang. I like you guys, but you suck on the field until you prove otherwise.
In a Malort-fueled moment of self-loathing, the Wisconsin Badgers scheduled the Bayou Bengals of LSU as an out of conference match up. Whelp, here's your SEC measuring stick game for 2016. If the Badgers get creamed, it will be the talking point during every nationally televised game we're in. Here's what they'll say:
"Well Bill, this Ohio State team looks pretty good. But we really don't know how good it is. The B1G Ten just isn't that strong, as we saw when LSU took Wisconsin out behind the wood shed."
These teams don't match up well. LSU is probably going to mop the field with you guys. Let's hope I'm wrong.
Those are the non-conference games that I think are probable losses. I hope I'm wrong and we sweep the schedule and go undefeated into Big Ten play. Ha ha ha ha...pass me the Malort.