This autumn, the Big Ten has many opportunities to prove that it's a top-tier conference in college football.
The SEC is indisputably the most dominant conference with six consecutive national titles, but the Big Ten has some of the largest fan bases, traditions and lucrative television contracts in the country.
Now is the time for the Big Ten to prove it can handle playing against the best competition in the country.
This is about respect—nothing more.
Some teams in the conference have a challenging non-conference schedule which will give them national attention while others have selected cupcake teams to pad their win total for 2012.
Win, and these programs will gain prestige and shoot up in the AP and USA Today top-25 rankings. Lose, and the naysayers will claim the schools and the Big Ten are once again overrated.
The following non-conference games are the most critical for the Big Ten to win to gain respect nationally.