Top B1G non-conference showdowns in next five years
The beauty of the College Football Playoff system is that it essentially incentivized headliner non-conference games.
Teams don’t have to worry about missing out on a national title all because they lost their one big non-conference game. The fact that both College Football Playoff National Championship winners had a loss proves that.
The B1G has a bunch of games in the next five years that could boost playoff résumés, or they could be rivalries renewed. Either way, they have plenty at stake.
Five of the B1G’s top 10 non-conference games in the next five years are in 2016. It’s worth noting that only one game of a series was selected (sorry Nebraska vs. Oregon and Ohio State vs. Oklahoma).
So with that in mind, here are the B1G’s top non-conference games in the next five years:
Sept. 3, 2016 — LSU vs. Wisconsin (at Green Bay, Wisc.)
The next time Wisconsin takes the field, it’ll be for a headliner showdown at Lambeau Field. Even without the Dave Aranda storyline, this one was already going to have plenty of buildup with Heisman front-runner Leonard Fournette facing the experienced Badger defense. Technically, this is a neutral site game. Tell that to the see of red that will dominate the scene at Lambeau.
Sept. 10, 2016 — Penn State at Pitt
Speaking of non-conference showdowns at NFL stadiums, Penn State will take on Pitt at Heinz Field in what will be a major bragging rights game in the state of Pennsylvania. The recruiting war is real, and Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi hasn’t been shy about sharing his joy in stealing recruits from James Franklin and other B1G schools. This is a must-win game for Penn State to establish itself as the state’s top program.
Sept. 17, 2016 — Nebraska at Oregon
Nebraska fans understand the importance of headliner showdowns. More times than not in recent memory, the Huskers fell flat in those games. If and when Nebraska starts off 2-0, this will be a chance for Mike Riley to get his biggest win yet (the Michigan State victory, while big, was in the midst of a five-win regular season). A win against one of the 21st century powerhouses would give Riley — a former Oregon State coach, too — the momentum he needs heading into B1G play.
Sept. 17, 2016 — Ohio State at Oklahoma
Any time two teams coming off top-five finishes get to square off in non-conference play, it’s a big one. College GameDay will likely be on hand to witness two of the top quarterbacks in the country in Baker Mayfield and J.T. Barrett. Both could potentially still lose this game, run the table and still earn a College Football Playoff berth. But the road gets much easier for whoever takes care of business in Norman.
Sept. 17, 2016 — Michigan State at Notre Dame
A rivalry restored, indeed. It was odd not to see MSU and Notre Dame battling in one of their classic non-conference showdowns the last two years. Both could be top-15 teams by the time this one rolls around, which means the winner could vault themselves into the early College Football Playoff discussion. MSU wouldn’t mind repeating its 2015 effort against Oregon.
Sept. 2, 2017 — Maryland at Texas
There figures to be more buildup for Year 2 of the D.J. Durkin era than Year 1. Kicking off the season in front of 100,000 people will add plenty of juice to the start of Maryland’s 2017 season. Who knows? Maybe Texas will have a new big-name head coach by then. Either that or Charlie Strong will have the Longhorns turned around and ready to make a loud opening statement.
Sept. 2, 2017 — Michigan vs. Florida (at Arlington, Tex.)
Wait, we’ve already seen this movie before. In fact, we just saw it. It wasn’t a thriller, either. So why is it a headliner non-conference game? Well, College GameDay will likely continue its tradition of opening the season in Dallas. More importantly, Jim Harbaugh and Jim McElwain will be in Year 3. If their turnaround jobs in 2015 were any indication, both could be preseason national title contenders.
Nov. 3, 2018 — Notre Dame at Northwestern
There’s a reason these two teams went on a 20-year break without facing each other. Notre Dame had a 15-game winning streak in the series that stretched from 1965-94 until Northwestern ended it in 1995. The Wildcats went to the Rose Bowl that year. When did they see Notre Dame again? Not until 2014. The Irish know that it can’t afford to lose to Northwestern. Both fight over recruits in Chicago and whether or not they’ll admit it, it’s a game that means more than a casual fan might think.
Sept. 21, 2019 — Rutgers at Miami (FL)
I don’t like to project four seasons down the road. But, assuming both are given a little bit of time to rebuild, Mark Richt and Chris Ash will be in Year 4. Those two coaches have two of the top recruiting hotbeds in their backyards. I know right now this might look like a game between two teams that have plenty of cleaning up to do. But if both coaches can tap into their recruiting markets, this one has the potential to be one of the top Power Five non-conference games in 2019.
RELATED: Can B1G teams bounce back in 2016?
Sept. 12, 2020 — Ohio State at Oregon
Oregon likely woke up the next day after the 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship wanting a rematch. Well, five-and-a-half years later, that’s exactly what it’ll get. With the way both of these programs reload, I’m confident in saying that this one will still have major implications to it in 2020. And if Brady Hoke is still leading the Oregon defense, Ohio State fans will have all the more reason to look forward to that one.