It’s never too early to start talking about non-conference matchups, right?
Here are the top 10 non-conference foes that B1G teams will see in 2017:
Matchup — at Penn State
What they’re up against — Pitt is a team that has nothing to lose and is capable of taking down giants. They do lose some studs in Nathan Peterman and James Conner, and the game is at Penn State. Still, Pat Narduzzi will have the troops ready to roll for that one.
Matchup — vs. Wisconsin
What they’re up against — A rare trip to mountain country for the B1G, the Badgers will take on a 9-4 BYU squad with a veteran quarterback in Tanner Mangum. If you’ll recall, he has no problem tearing the hearts out of B1G West teams.
8. Notre Dame
Matchup — at Michigan State
What they’re up against — Regardless of how poorly both teams played last year, this could still have the feel of two top-25 teams battling. MSU might not have to worry about finding an answer for DeShone Kizer, but the Irish have one of the better returning backfields in the country. On the bright side, the Spartans will get Notre Dame at home.
Matchup — vs. Illinois
What they’re up against — Most years, a matchup with USF doesn’t jump out on the schedule. This season, that’ll be a different ballgame. Willie Taggart might have left Tampa for Oregon, but he didn’t leave the cupboard bare. Charlie Strong should have plenty of talent to match up with Lovie Smith’s squad.
Matchup — vs. Nebraska
What they’re up against — Speaking of Taggart, the Ducks will be a better-coached team in 2017. They also won’t have Brady Hoke running their defense. All signs point to Oregon being much better than the team Nebraska beat in Lincoln last year.
Matchup — vs. Maryland
What they’re up against — For the last few years, the Terps had to be licking their chops looking at that 2017 season opener against the Longhorns. Maybe they would luck out and get Texas at a historic low. Now, the Longhorns have Tom Herman. Austin will be rocking for his debut, which should make for quite the road environment for the Terps.
Matchup — vs. Michigan (in Dallas)
What they’re up against — The Wolverines will face one of the most talented defensive units in the country to open 2017. Wilton Speight could see plenty of pressure, but it might not compare to the heat that Don Brown brings on whoever starts at quarterback for the Gators. Still, this should be one of the best matchups of Week 1.
Matchup — vs. Purdue (in Indianapolis)
What they’re up against — The Heisman Trophy winner. Lamar Jackson would give any defense fits, much less one that finished 117th in scoring in 2017. Fortunately, Purdue does have the entire offseason to prepare for Jackson, who struggled when he faced consistent pressure. Still, Jeff Brohm’s offense is going to have to be beyond explosive for the Boilermakers to hang around in Indy.
Matchup — at Rutgers
What they’re up against — Fresh off their run to the College Football Playoff, the Huskies still have plenty of talent. Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin won’t be any fun for Chris Ash’s defense. Perhaps the lone bright spot for Rutgers in this one is that Washington had three defensive backs get drafted in the first two rounds. At least Jerry Kill’s Rutgers debut won’t be against a bunch of NFL-ready prospects.
Matchup — at Ohio State
What they’re up against — Assume that Baker Mayfield won’t be suspended for the showdown in Columbus. You’re still looking at a team that returns a Heisman-caliber quarterback with one of the top offensive lines in the country. The battle up front should be one of the best we get all year in college football. The battle between Mayfield and the OSU crowd might prove to be even more entertaining.