Non-conference play hurt the B1G last year.

Why? As it turned out, the B1G didn’t pick up one marquee non-conference win. We thought at the time that Michigan beating Florida would have an impact on the College Football Playoff race, but those teams won as many games combined as each of the four Playoff contenders.

As a result, the B1G was shut out of the Playoff race for the first time. As we saw in 2017, non-conference play will be a huge factor in whether that happens again in 2018.

But there should be some opportunities for a B1G team to earn a marquee non-conference win in 2018. And there should also be games that are just downright fun to watch.

Here are the five non-conference games that I can’t wait to see in 2018:

1. Sept. 1 — Michigan vs. Notre Dame

Yes, it’s back. For the first time since 2014, these two storied programs will play football. It’s about time. There’s something about this rivalry that seems timeless, regardless of the players or coaches involved. This will be Jim Harbaugh’s first Notre Dame game, which is incredible considering he’s entering Year 4 at Michigan.

Besides the obvious reason of why this game will be the best matchup of the opening weekend, it could also be Shea Patterson’s Michigan debut. If the Ole Miss transfer is eligible, can you imagine the hype he’d generate across college football if he went into South Bend and tore up the Irish?

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And on the flip side, can you imagine the Harbaugh hot takes that’ll form if Michigan loses the opener? Either way, sign me up.

2. Sept. 15 — Ohio State vs. TCU (at AT&T Stadium)

I thought TCU had one of the more overlooked seasons of 2017. The Horned Frogs might’ve lost three of their last six games and missed out on a New Year’s Six Bowl, but they still finished 2017 ranked No. 9. They’ll likely start off 2018 as a top-20 team, which will give Ohio State a chance to pick up the quality non-conference win that it lacked in 2017.

Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

I’m curious what both of these offenses will look like. Both will have new starting quarterbacks, and both will be young up front. Does that mean we’re more likely to see a defensive struggle than a shootout in Dallas? Perhaps.

This matchup could also turn into a Heisman Trophy-boosting performance for J.K. Dobbins in his return to the Lone Star State. Certainly Buckeye fans would like to see that instead of a repeat of the 2017 Oklahoma game.

3. Nov. 3 — Notre Dame vs. Northwestern

This is a sneaky good non-conference matchup that fittingly won’t be played during the meat of the non-conference slate. Like the Michigan-Notre Dame series, Northwestern will also take on the Irish for the first time since 2014. And, as many Wildcats fans will remind you, they won that game in South Bend and the one before that in 1995.

Nobody needs to know that the Irish won the previous 14 meetings and that Northwestern never surpassed the 15-point mark in any of those games.

But in 2018, this should be a solid matchup. It’s probably a good thing that this game isn’t until November. Besides Northwestern’s recent tendency to sleepwalk through the first part of the season, getting Clayton Thorson back at full strength would be huge.

This could wind up being a nice little opportunity for Northwestern to boost its bowl bid against what figures to be a top-25 team.

4. Sept. 15 — Missouri vs. Purdue

If you don’t get why this game is on this list, perhaps you missed the 2017 season. You know, when Purdue actually became one of the more entertaining teams in America and Mizzou caught fire down the stretch. Jeff Brohm is still in West Lafayette and Drew Lock is still in Columbia, which means we should see fireworks come September.

Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

I know what some people might be thinking. This game was awful last year. Mizzou looked like a train wreck and Purdue was clearly the better team. Dare I say that both of these programs will be a whole lot better one year removed from their first meeting.

Lock is going to have some NFL draft buzz, and Purdue could even have some top-25 buzz with all the starters who return this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of those things got a nice lift by the time this one is decided.

5. Sept. 8 — Michigan State at Arizona State

An excuse to listen to Herm Edwards talk about a B1G team? Yes, please.

The new Arizona State coach is going to provide plenty more viral moments. I’m just hoping he delivers one involving Michigan State leading up to this game. There’s probably a pretty good chance that Edwards says “Coach D’Antoni” and accidentally provide some bulletin-board material.

Even if he doesn’t, I’m fascinated to see how this Edwards experiment plays out in Tempe. This is the first real test of this new era for the Sun Devils.

Unfortunately for them, it’ll come against a Michigan State team that returns virtually everyone from a squad that won double-digit games in 2017. Something tells me that if Edwards doesn’t know how to pronounce Mark Dantonio’s name by the time September rolls around, he’ll learn it on Sept. 8.