Not all games are created equal. And in the nonconference portion of the season, most of them are terrible, where there's usually one team involved that you wouldn't pay money to see. Or, in the case of Indiana-Massachusetts, two. Seems like a shame to waste September weather on games like these, especially when we know what October and November have in store for the Midwest. But here we are.
Nonetheless, there are some potentially close games at hand, and close football is generally fun football to watch, so it could be worse. At least we stuck the FCS team with Minnesota.
We're ranking these games both individually and in tiers, because there's always a Mendoza Line of quality in college football. And cross that line you do not.
Tier 1: Drama and Intrigue!
1. Nebraska at UCLA: It's the Husker aerial assault against the explosive offense of UCLA. Hang on, what the hell year is this again? Nebraska looks stronger but could well miss Rex Burkhead this weekend, while UCLA's defense needs to tighten up if it wants the huge home win.
2. Purdue at Notre Dame: With Notre Dame readjusting to life stateside, Purdue has an opportunity to pull off a pretty substantial upset, historically speaking. There's an awful lot of talent in South Bend this year, though.
Tier 2: 1 Good Team!
3. Air Force at Michigan: A defense that was absolutely mashed in Week 1 now has to face a confounding triple-option attack. Air Force hasn't beaten a BCS-conference team that ended the season with a winning record since 2003, but the conditions are ripe for fun here: a hangover game for Michigan, a quirky offense, and a sneaky-good program—Air Force has been to five straight bowls.
4. UCF at Ohio State: The conference announced this week that Ohio State would indeed be eligible for the Leaders Division championship. It wouldn't mean a trip to Indianapolis for the conference title, so that's out the window, but the fact that there's something historical to play for other than the Michigan game is not insignificant.
5. Michigan State at Central Michigan: Let's not act like making this a road game is going to put Sparty in a tougher spot than if this game were in East Lansing. It'll be exciting to see Le'Veon Bell follow his gladiator-virtuoso performance from Week 1, and definitely keep an eye on the Michigan State passing game. And then turn the game off at the half, probably.
Tier 3: Mediocre-Football Theater!
6. Wisconsin at Oregon State: Here's the thing—the only way this game is close is if Wisconsin's not very good. We already know Oregon State isn't.
7. Iowa State at Iowa: This should be a tight one, and it's fun to watch rivalry games, but Week 2 games between two teams that aren't likely to sniff the top 25 on the year are generally disposable.
8. Northwestern at Vanderbilt: Northwestern is football chaos theory—wholly interchangeable skill-position players on offense, a speed-demon returner, and a defense that is pure Swiss cheese until it forces a fumble and takes it to the house. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Vandy's in the SEC and is starting to recruit like it. And there's not much room for chaos theory in the "My 11 > Your 11" picture.
9. Illinois at Arizona State: The Illini offense looked lifeless even before Nathan Scheelhaase got dinged up. Meanwhile, ASU's a borderline .500 team breaking in a new quarterback. These two teams deserve each other this week, but that doesn't mean football fans deserve this game.
10. Penn State at Virginia: Penn State is a compelling story, to be sure, but the football itself hasn't been up to snuff yet. Meanwhile, Virginia's got a solid but unspectacular team and a spectacularly mediocre fanbase and stadium. The Cavs would be the perfect avatar of ACC football if it weren't for this game.
Tier 4: Unworthy of Comment!
11. Indiana at Massachusetts
12. New Hampshire at Minnesota