Scheduling against a non-power conference usually has more advantages than disadvantages.
Typically, it’s a nice way to lock up an early season home game and pad the win total as teams fight for bowl eligibility. A good portion of the time, these type of games end in easy wins for the B1G schools.
Sometimes wrenches get thrown into those plans, though.
Though most of the B1G’s non-conference slate against Group of Five opponents should be relatively harmless, there are a few teams that could spoil early season plans for a handful of B1G squads.
Here are five non-conference foes outside of the Power Five conferences that could steal a win in 2017:
Sat., Sept. 2 at Iowa
Every year, the Hawkeyes seem to be in a dogfight with a non-Power Five Conference opponent. Wyoming has the potential to be that pesky thorn in Iowa’s side in the opening week of the season.
The Cowboys finished last year 8-6 and will present a lot of problems for the Hawkeyes. Quarterback Josh Allen threw for over 3,000 yards in 2016 and is expected to be one of the top prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft.
With the offensive question marks surrounding Iowa heading into the year, this contest may come down to how well the Hawkeyes’ defense performs against a pass-heavy offense.
Iowa suffered a pretty devastating loss a season ago to North Dakota State at Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes will have to play well in Week 1 to avoid a non-conference setback for a second-straight year.
Fri., Sept. 8 at Purdue
Purdue had trouble defending the run last season, something Ohio can take advantage of in the Week 2 showdown.
A.J. Ouellette and Dorian Brown will be a two-headed monster out of the backfield for the Bobcats. That combination will be a huge concern for the Boilermakers, who surrendered 238.4 yards per game on the ground last year, an average that ranked No. 115 nationally.
Jeff Brohm’s fast-paced, high-powered offense will be an advantage for Purdue and might be enough to keep Ohio from spoiling the Boilermakers’ home-opener.
But if Purdue has as much trouble against the run as it did last year, the MAC has a great chance to get another win over a B1G school.
Fri., Sept. 15 vs. Illinois
A tough road test for Lovie Smith and the Illini early in the year.
The Bulls finished 11-2 last season and return quarterback Quinton Flowers, who accounted for 4,342 total yards and 42 touchdowns in an impressive junior campaign. Along with do-it-all running back D’Ernest Johnson, USF’s high-powered offense is going to be a handful for an Illinois defense that gave up 405 yards and 32 points per game last fall. Not to mention, the Illini are replacing an entire defensive line.
USF’s defense did struggle last season, but with Charlie Strong running the show and seven of the team’s top nine tacklers back, the Bulls should be much improved in that area.
Expect a high-scoring shootout in Tampa that could come down to the final series of the game.
Sat., Sept. 16 vs. Wisconsin
BYU has been a B1G killer the past two seasons. In 2015, the Cougars snapped Nebraska’s 29-game winning streak in season openers on a Hail Mary. Last year, they trounced Michigan State in East Lansing.
Could the Badgers be next?
Wisconsin probably shouldn’t be too considered about BYU. The Badgers are in a much better situation than Nebraska in 2015 and Michigan State in 2016. But with the game being played in Provo and with Tanner Mangum still under center, BYU had to make the list.
Sat., Sept. 23 at Maryland
The Terrapins were fortunate to escape Orlando with a win over the Knights the last year, needing double-overtime to get the victory. And we’re set for a rematch in College Park.
This is a great matchup for two coaches that are ahead of schedule with their respective programs. Scott Frost turned UCF into a quality bowl team after a winless year in 2015. Maryland doubled its win total in D.J. Durkin’s inaugural campaign.
Both teams have some major holes to fill and neither is going to make a huge jump in win totals in 2017. Basically, UCF and Maryland are mirrors of each other and this contest is a toss-up, just like it was last season.