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Big Ten Non-Conference Schedule, Week 1: Four P5 games, only one win?

What I Want in the Non-Con asks if Michigan can beat Florida, and Purdue and rutger can avoid embarrassing the conference.

Capitol One Orange Bowl - Florida State v Michigan Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images

Another year, another ill-advised column idea in which I attempt to provide prescriptions to the rest of the conference as to how well Big Ten teams should do in their non-conference matchups.

“What I Want in the Non-Con” is a simple premise, ripped off former OTE writer and current The Daily Gopher mind JDMill: Write about what would constitute a successful week for the conference in the eyes of the national media and in the best interests of “conference pride.”

This is the point, yearly, where I note that I don’t actually give much of a shit about how well the rest of you all do. You laugh when Northwestern loses to Illinois State, I laugh when North Dakota State manballs Iowa. It is how the conference works. At the same time, there are demonstrable conference interests in good performances against other Power 5 football conferences—better college football playoff positioning, strength of schedule, and general perception among national media members.

With that in mind, over the last three years I’ve come up with several easily-broken rules that somehow still define how I write this piece:

My General Rules:

  • Don't lose at home to G5 schools.
  • Beat Notre Dame.
  • Blow FCS teams the hell out.
  • Cover spreads on the road if you're the underdog.
  • Cover the spread at home.



Minnesota Golden Gophers (-26) vs. Buffalo Bulls

The ask in this series is for covering at home, but a -26 line—even against a rebuilding and questionable Buffalo team—seems a little excessive to me. I’d like to see the Gophers demonstrate a quarterback with whom they’re going to stick. I mean, it’s Demry Croft, but maybe Conor Rhoda will look vaguely competent for a while. The Bulls don’t have a ton to challenge Minnesota, though, and I want to see Minnesota cover.



rutger Scarlet Knights vs. #8 Washington Huskies (-30.5)

I mean...just find a way to cover modestly. I’m not talking a backdoor cover in some 56-26 bullshit, I just want to see the Knights look vaguely competent and hold down the Husky attack. Just do that, please. Kyle Bolin proving he’s immediately capable of turning around the Scarlet Knights attack through the air would be a cherry on top.


wisconsin badgers (-28) vs. Utah State Aggies

Cover. I hate this part of the exercise. I guess figure out who your linebacker is going to be, now, since Jack Cichy and Zack Baun are dead or whatever.



#6 Penn State Nittany Lions (-30.5) vs. Akron Zips

Cover. Don’t get Saquon Barkley hurt. That’s about all I got.

Maryland Terra Pins at #23 Texas Long Horns (-17.5)

I know we’ve got people on the OTE staff not buying the Texas hype and taking the Terps straight up in this one... I’m going to be much more measured and say that I’d like Maryland to make this one interesting through the second half and manage to beat the spread.

That would include Ty Johnson breaking a big run and whichever QB DJ Durkin names today (it’ll be Kasim Hill or Tyrrell Pigrome) managing an efficient offense against an athletic Long Horns’ pass rush.

Illinois Fighting Illini (-7) vs. Balls Tate Cardinals

Win. I don’t care how you do it or who you do it with. Thumpasaurus has given me no reason to believe in Illinois football, but Chayce Crouch should be able to succeed with Garrick McGee as the mind being the Illinois offense. Open up the playbook and go for this one, because you’ll need a head of steam for the South Florida Bulls.

Hustle Belt is tapping the Cardinals as a sleeper, though, and QB Riley Neal should make some hay against the Illinois secondary. That’s why I’m not even worried about the cover, Illini. Just get the W.

Iowa Hawk Eyes (-12.5) vs. Wyoming Cow Boys

I’m of two minds here. One side of me has little sympathy for Iowa and wants to say they should sack up and cover against a Mountain West team. Then again, Josh Allen Josh Allen Josh Allen Josh Allen Josh Allen Josh Allen Josh Allen Josh Allen Josh Allen have you heard he might be Craig Bohl’s next Carson Wentz?!

Add to the fact Iowa has suspended CB Manny Rugamba and will be breaking in QB Nathan Stanley (or Tyler Wiegers, I guess, but I don’t know, don’t care, and we’ll find out today)... I’d like to see Iowa win by more than a score, but a 12.5 line is really uncomfortable. A cover would be nice, but I’ll take a win with some caveats.

Michigan State Spartans (-17.5) vs. Bowling Green Falcons

Another sexy upset pick. I don’t particularly care; if Mike D’Antoni and the Spartans want to prove that 3-9 was a blip, they have to come screaming out of the gates. That’s not only a cover, but it’s a salt-the-earth, oh-the-humanity, stop-they’re-already-dead beat-em-down. Brian Lewerke needs to come out throwing the ball all over the Falcons’ bottom-10 pass defense, avoid Gus Schwieterman, and lead the Spartans to a rousing victory.


Michigan Wolverines (-3.5) vs Florida Gators

Win. I don’t care if Wilton Speight throws for 500 yards or 50, I don’t care if Rashan Gary gets to the quarterback 10 times or shits himself running onto the field. As long as Jim Harbaugh makes McElwain his dead shark right there on the JerryWorld sideline, we’ll be golden.

Northwestern Wild Cats (-24.5) vs. Nevada Wolf Pack

Cover. This would not be a Fitzgeraldian thing to do, as in 19 games against G5 (non-FCS, non-P5) opponents under Pat Fitzgerald, the ‘Cats are 14-5 with an average margin of victory of 6.6 points. That...I just...what the fuck. Anyway, let Justin Jackson loose on the rush defense that was, in 2016, one of the five worst in the country. (though one which should improve under former WVU architect Jeff Casteel). We shouldn’t learn much, we should just watch the ‘Cats cruise.


Purdue Boiler Makers vs. Louisville Cardinals (-25)

I will likely tune in to this one for just a little bit to see if David Blough shows any signs of that famed Brohm Quarterback Whispering, but we’ve heard the reports out of West Lafayette that Brohm’s rebuild is proceeding slowly (because Darrell Hazell was such a shitty coach). But in the context of this game in Indy, likely with a pro-Louisville crowd making the trek up I-65, I want Purdue to beat the spread and show signs of life on offense.


Nebraska Corn Huskers (-16) vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves

I’ve got 10,000 “Tanner Lee for Heisman” buttons printed up and ready to go, Husker Nation. All I want to see is him prove he’s the second coming of Eric Frazier or Barty Crouch or whatever.

Nebraska faces a rebuilding Arkansas State secondary that surprised in 2016, and Blake Anderson’s crew will look to Sun Belt DPotY Ja’Von Rolland-Jones to get to Lee and pull off the stunner. If the Huskers get Devine Ozigbo running downhill and keep the Red Wolves on their back foot (paw?), they should easily meet the expectations of a cover.

So what will happen?

I can't do basic math. Thanks to Turney for pointing that out; it's been fixed.

What I Want:

10-2. I’m writing off rutger and Purdue, yes. But I would love to see the Terps go on the road and stun Texas, for all the reasons wrapped up in a perennially-overrated Texas’ presence in the Top 25.

What I Expect:

9-3. It’s still tough to think there’s more than a 15-20% chance Maryland pulls it off in Austin, so this even feels like a bit of a high-wire act. That’s room for one of Illinois, Iowa, and Michigan State to fall in games they easily could lose.

Burn Mattresses in the Street If...

7-5. We can logic away an 8-4 start, especially if it includes a couple of the teams listed above. But if a few of those three or, worse yet, someone like Minnesota, Nebraska, or Northwestern dicktrips, not only does the national hand-wringing begin again for the conference, but any hope wisconsin fans have of making the College Football Playoff will take an even bigger hit. The conference would obviously prefer its biggest names to shine, but there’s an increased danger of it having to write off an entire division by Labor Day.


In Week 1 non-conference games, the Big Ten will go...

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    12-0. Yes, I’ve been drinking, why do you ask?
    (38 votes)
  • 3%
    (16 votes)
  • 17%
    (77 votes)
  • 32%
    (143 votes)
  • 28%
    (123 votes)
  • 4%
    (21 votes)
  • 1%
    (5 votes)
  • 3%
    A losing record, burn it all down
    (16 votes)
439 votes total Vote Now