A review of the Big 10 non-conference schedule shows that there are plenty of marque matchups in the first four weekends of the 2012 college football season.
August 31 & September 1 — Tough openers for Michigan schools
- Boise State at Michigan State—On the last day of August, the Spartans host the perpetual BCS underdog, Boise State Broncos. Despite losing a lot of valuable talent on offense and defense, head coach Chris Petersen (73-6) is a proven winner and will give Michigan State a real battle in the season opener.
- Michigan vs. Alabama—What has Michigan gotten itself into? The Wolverines begin the year against Alabama, the 2011 national champions. Somehow Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas does not seem like a neutral field for Michigan. The Crimson Tide will feature another deep and talented team led by quarterback A.J. McCarron. The Wolverines have the most explosive running quarterback in Denard Robinson, who needs a quick start if he has Heisman Trophy aspirations.
September 8 — Could we see some upsets?
- Iowa State at Iowa—Last year there was no way that Iowa State could win this game, but Cyclones head coach Paul Rhoads beat the Hawkeyes in overtime, 44-41. Funny things happen when these in-state rivals play each other, and it may come down to a quarterback duel between Iowa's James Vandenberg and Iowa State's Jared Barnett.
- Purdue at Notre Dame—The hype is this is Purdue head coach Danny Hope's best team. He has quarterback Caleb TerBush to lead an offense that features running back Ralph Bolden and a defense anchored by potential All-Big Ten tackle Kawann Short. Some experts say once head coach Brian Kelly settles on a starting quarterback, Notre Dame will be fine. But this game would be the perfect opportunity for the Boilermakers to beat the Fighting Irish and show they will be a Big 10 contender.
September 15 — A "prove your mettle" weekend
- Notre Dame at Michigan State—There have been some classic games between these two schools. The Spartans will be seeking revenge after last year's loss, and if Notre Dame still has some issues on offense, Michigan State will make the Irish pay for it.
- California at Ohio State—California should be the first real test for the Urban Meyer-led Buckeyes. The Golden Bears always seem like a Pac-12 contender, but have ended their last two seasons with a thud. California quarterback Zach Maynard needs to be flawless against a tough Buckeye defense. Look for Braxton Miller and the Ohio State offense to do well in this game, because the Bears' defense needs to be restocked for 2012.
September 22 — A "makes you wonder" weekend
- Michigan at Notre Dame—The Wolverines beat the Fighting Irish in The Big House last year, but can they win in South Bend? Notre Dame always seems to find a way to split the games between Michigan and Michigan State. The two Michigan schools may sweep the Fighting Irish this year if their defense cannot contain Wolverine quarterback Denard Robinson.
- Temple at Penn State—It will be an in-state contest with a lot of pride on the line. Temple head coach Steve Addazio has Owls fans excited after a 9-4 finish in 2012. Despite off-the-field events, Penn State played well in 2011. New head coach Bill O'Brien needs to win this game to maintain the Nittany Lions' tradition of success on the football field.