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Best 10 Non-Conference Series of the Next Decade

Who in the Big Ten is making waves with their football non-conference scheduling? (And just how many times can we feature Notre Dame?)

Dusty Zeigler Notre Dame

Longtime OTE commenter br27’s excellent Fanpost, “Non-Conference Games I’d Like to See,” got me thinking: Who are the various Big Ten teams playing over the next decade?

Wonder no more!

We’ve put together a little schedule grid for all 12 fine, Graham, 14 Big Ten teams from here to, well, 2031, since some ambitious folks are scheduling all the way out to there. You can find a full, permalinked and embedded grid here.

Honorable Mentions:

For Preparation? goes to Purdue, for scheduling home-and-homes with both Vanderbilt and TCU, with the Boilermakers hosting the first leg in 2019...and not returning to either until 2029.

For Ambition? goes to rutger, landing a home-and-home with UCLA in 2020-21, along with locking down a four-year series with nearby Temple. The Scarlet Knights have also audaciously scheduled a 2023-24 home-and-home with Virginia Tech and, even more boldly, a 2030-31 series with Kansas State, in which I expect Zombie Bill Snyder, if not elected President of the Federated State of Kansas by then, to beat Cryin’ Chris Ash by 140.

Also receiving votes in this category was Maryland-Texas, though it loses points for the Terps giving their home game to FedEx Field.

For Inflated Perceptions of Self-Worth? Oh yeah, Nebraska and Tennessee are absolutely playing a series in 2026-27, and you can bet it is just going to be positively intolerable.

Purdue-Mizzou (2017-18): Will one year be enough for Jeff Brohm to build a contender in West Lafayette? Similar to the Indiana-Mizzou matchup, we could have some fun if the Boilers find a way to put up points on the Tigers.

Indiana-Louisville (2023-25): Consisting of a neutral site followed by a home-and-home, this one has regional significance and should be full of points as Bobby Petrino likely returns for his third tour of duty in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

Michigan-Washington/Virginia Tech (2020-21): This is a cop-out, but look at Michigan playing two P5 schools in 2020 and 2021! Those should be some good prime-timers on FOX and ABC.

Michigan State’s Consistency: The Spartans will play home-and-homes with Arizona State (2018-19), Miami (2020-21), and Boise State (2022-23). None of those by themselves move the needle, but collectively they paint a quality picture of scheduling under Mark Hollis.

Penn State-West Virginia (2023-24): I shudder to think what happens when these two fanbases interact.

I guess Penn State is still playing Pitt through 2019, too.

Dishonorable Mentions:

3. Minnesota. It’ll be until 2020 that the Gophers play anyone of actual value, a 2020/2025 home-and-home with BYU. Besides the promise of home-and-homes with Mississippi State (yawnCLANGyawn) and Colorado (actually fine!) down the road, it’s an #elite snoozefest for the Gophers in the coming years unless PJ Fleck goes Reverse Jerry Kill (somehow even less kinky than it sounds) and pays to back out of a cupcake to play, oh, North Carolina?

2. Illinois. Here are the P5 schools the Fighting Illini will play through 2025: Virginia (home-and-home 2021-22), Kansas (home-and-home 2023-24), at Duke. In the meantime, the Illini can look forward to series with UConn and South Florida, I guess.

1. Iowa. Could it be anyone else? Besides their home-and-home with perennial laughingstock Iowa State, the Hawkeyes’ most challenging non-conference game through 2021 is a home date with Wyoming in 2017. If Dollar Billz Barta gets removed over this firing scandal, maybe we’ll see some changes at Iowa lead to the Hawkeyes pounding the pavement over state lines in the twenties. I won’t hold my breath.

Top 10 Non-Conference Series in the Big Ten

T-10. Maryland-West Virginia (2020-21): This means very little to anyone east of whatever those mountains running up and down the East Coast are, but I’ve been told this is a Very Big Deal. So sure! We can get excited for that, assuming DJ Durkin builds something approaching a program in College Park.

T-10. Notre Dame, Stanford out for Northwestern: OK, this one isn’t a single series. But a home date with the Irish in 2018 and a return trip apparently still on the books to Stanford in 2019 may give us some indication as to if Pat Fitzgerald’s model is really keeping Northwestern relevant among the Powers That Be in college football. And for all those of you accusing me of being a blatant homer: (1) Sue me, and (2) You know you will be a little smug if the ‘Cats manage to pull off one, let alone two of these wins.

9. wisconsin-BYU (2017-18): It’s an under-the-radar kind of matchup, but both Kelani Sitake and Paul Chryst have done bang-up work early in their careers at their dream jobs, and this blue-collar matchup should be good for those fans of trench battles and wildly-differing fan profiles.

8. Penn State-Auburn (2021-22): The Nittany Lions are set to try their luck again with the SEC, having scheduled a home-and-home with the Tigers. This one should be chock full of intrigue if Auburn remains relevant in the SEC, bringing us another good Big Ten-SEC second-tier measuring stick.

7. Nebraska-Colorado (2018-19, 23-24): Does anyone still care about this rivalry, or has Iowa replaced Colorado as the new thing for Nebraska to scoff at but occasionally lose to? We’ll find out if absence has made the heart grow any fonder in the I-80 showdown.

6. Ohio State-Oregon (2020-21): Yeah, this could do for some excitement if the Ducks recover under Willie Taggart. FOX getting what they paid for here; will surely put these two in prime-time.

5. Ohio State-Texas (2022-23): Really, just go look at Ohio State’s non-conference schedule from here to 2025. There are some great matchups that will catch national eyeballs, and if you’re not watching, you’re missing out. Add in the potential for Tom Herman taking on his mentor? That’s gold, Jerry.

4. Michigan State-Notre Dame (2017, 2026-27): Yes, Sparty, we didn’t forget about you. I almost dumped this lower because I have a tough time getting up for a rivalry that’s taking 9 years off, but the 2017 game should be a test of whether either program is getting back up off the mat from their respective TKOs in 2016.

3. Ohio State-Notre Dame (2022-23): Do the two have the history of Michigan State-Notre dame? Nah. But Ohio State draws those national eyeballs in a way Sparty just doesn’t, and this one will be hyped beyond all belief, assuming Brian Kelly’s successor brings Notre Dame back to its previous heights.

2. Michigan-Notre Dame (2018-19): We were scared when the schools announced they would not be renewed the series (and then everyone proceeded to take their various potshots at why the rivalry was dying), but never fear! It was announced last summer that this is back on, and if a little HARBAUGH-Kelly chippiness were to add to the rivalry, so be it.

1. Nebraska-Oklahoma (2021-22, 2029-30): Will the Huskers and Sooners still have the same levels of hate for one another? I have a sneaky suspicion that the answer is yes, although if Mike Riley has merely continued the PeLLLLini tradition, some of the luster may not be there beyond the Great Plains. Expect 2021 to get allllll the hype, though.

That’s how I see it, at least. What do you think are the best non-conference matchups coming up on the Big Ten schedule?

And again, for a full schedule grid of non-conference games as we know them through 2031, click here!



What's the best non-conference series coming up in the Big Ten?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    (104 votes)
  • 15%
    Michigan-Notre Dame
    (39 votes)
  • 7%
    Ohio State-Notre Dame
    (20 votes)
  • 8%
    Michigan State-Notre Dame
    (23 votes)
  • 11%
    Maryland-West Virginia
    (30 votes)
  • 16%
    Other (let us know in the comments!)
    (42 votes)
258 votes total Vote Now