Over the past few years, non-conference schedules have gone down the drain, particularly in the six major conferences. Rivalries such as Penn State vs. Pitt have turned into Penn State vs. Akron in order to make the university more money and to ensure more wins. Here are a few dream matchups for each Big Ten team to play a home series with.
Illinois vs. Tennessee
These are two teams that always have great recruiting classes, but don't live up to the hype. Illinois has been good off and on this decade, as has Tennessee, when both programs should have been good consistently.
Depending on the year, this could be a hard fought game between two respectable teams, or a battle between two teams who couldn't live up to expectations. Either way, it would be fun to watch, and definitely a breather from the 65-0 scores during the first few weeks of the season.
Indiana vs. Duke
It would be very interesting to see what happens when you put together two historical basketball powerhouses that can't seem to find a groove in football. Both teams rarely make a bowl game, and continuously attract more fans to basketball than football games. Both teams would have a shot to get a signature win for their program and get a jump start to continue that success down the road.
Iowa vs. LSU
No Hawkeye fan can ever forget Iowa's 56-yard Hail Mary to beat LSU in the 2005 Capital One Bowl. Perhaps no LSU fan wants to remember that day, but a home series between the two could create a new rivalry. Now an SEC fan may look at this and laugh, predicting an LSU blowout, but that may not be the case. Iowa is 5-3 against SEC opponents all-time. I would look for each school to win at home.
Michigan vs. Nebraska
It's harder to get any richer in football tradition than this. Both teams rank in the top five on the all time wins list, and both are fighting to find their identity again. Coaches Rich Rodriguez and Bo Pelini have changed up their respective teams' playing style over the past few years, and are trying to get back to elite status. This game could help both programs make the jump to once again be solid football teams.
Michigan State vs. Georgia Tech
This would be an interesting game against a middle of the pack Big Ten team and a top ACC team. While everyone thinks the Big Ten is down, they are still better than the ACC, and I think that this would be a good, hard fought game. Both have had their ups and downs in recent years, and this game could be a big factor in elevating each teams' national standing.
Minnesota vs. South Carolina
These are two teams that jumped out the gate hot in 2008 due to easy non-conference schedules, but then faded down the stretch because of inexperience and the fact that they played harder teams. Both teams will be improved somewhat from 2009, but still won't be even close to conference championship contenders. This matchup could simulate the makings of a decent middle tier bowl game.
Northwestern vs. Stanford
Academics vs. academics. Let's face it, both of these schools will always be known more for the classroom than for football. While both programs have a long history of less than impressive teams, they seem to be on the rise, and haven't been as bad as normal over the past few years. Northwestern probably has the upper hand right now, but you never know with these two teams whose brains could blow any other team off the field.
Ohio State vs. Alabama
While Ohio State's national standing has gone down because of their games against USC, Florida, Texas, and LSU, this is a team that they have a good shot at beating and a game that can help them tremendously on the national stage. Both are storied programs that consistently rank in the top ten, sometimes even the top five. This could be a marquee non-conference matchup and maybe the game of the season both years of the series.
Penn State vs. West Virginia
Geographically, this has the makings to be a great rivalry. Both teams are consistently at the top of their conferences and consistently rank in the top ten. While Penn State is coming off one of their best seasons ever, West Virginia is coming off a down year, but should be able to achieve their status as an elite team once again sometime in the next few years.
Purdue vs. BYU
This is a pretty random matchup, but I think it has the makings to be a great game. Purdue did fairly well against Oregon last year until finally losing in double overtime at Ross-Ade Stadium. I'm not buying all of the hype that BYU is getting and I think that Purdue has the makings to beat them and gain some more respect for their program.
Wisconsin vs. Clemson
These are two more teams that consistently underachieve and are very similar to each other. Both had great expectations heading into 2008 and both failed miserably, receiving middle tier bowls. This would be a loud and very exciting game, as both Wisconsin and Clemson are very hostile environments for visiting teams. I think that this would be a great matchup that could give each team a confidence boost for the rest of the season. Once again, I would look at the home team to win each game.