We know the Big Ten is going to have plenty of special games this season, especially with Nebraska now in the picture. Most of those games will likely be in-conference games, but in this slideshow we will look at the top 10 non-conference matchups for the 2011 season.
Honorable Mention: Minnesota at USC (September 3rd)
This game was considered because it is USC after all. If USC was playing practically any other Big Ten school, it would have made the list, but let's face it, Minnesota just doesn't have what it takes to make this a competitive game.
USC beat Minnesota 32-21 last year at the new TCF Bank, but USC is a better team this year with QB Matt Barkley returning, and playing in southern California is going to make things real tough on the Golden Gophers.
Last Meeting: 2010 Wisconsin 41, UNLV 21
This will be the game that opens the 2011 NCAA football season for ESPN. What's not to like about this game? It opens up what looks to be a great college football season yet again, and it's a Thursday night game at Camp Randall.
Night games at Camp Randall have been a pretty rare occurrence in the past, but a Thursday night game at Camp Randall should be epic. These two teams have battled a bit in years past, with UNLV usually playing the Badgers pretty tough.
The Badgers lead last year's contest 17-14 at halftime before putting up a huge third quarter to pull away from the Runnin' Rebels.
Last Meeting: 2010 Penn State 22, Temple 13
Here's another rematch for a non-BCS school taking on a Big Ten powerhouse. Temple nearly made it happen last year at Happy Valley, having a 13-9 lead in the third quarter and trailing by just two points until Penn State shut the door with a touchdown with under four minutes to play. Temple still want on to an improbable 8-4 record and a win over the Big East's Connecticut Huskies.
This time around, the Owls have the Lions at home as they look to beat Joe Paterno for the first time in 26 tries.
Arizona State goes to Champaign looking to do something they couldn't do last season: win a road game against their Big Ten opponent. The Sun Devils had Wisconsin on the ropes last season at Camp Randall, only to fall short 20-19, due in large part to a blocked extra point by Badger safety Jay Valai.
Illinois and Arizona State really have no history to go off of here. Illinois is looking to build off their decent season last year, which ended with a 38-14 over Baylor in the Texas Bowl. Arizona State is coming off a late season collapse, in which they missed their third straight bowl appearance.
Arizona State is still thought to be the better team at this point, but the Illini will look to make things interesting.
Last Meeting: 1992 Boston College 49, Northwestern 0
Northwestern went through one of their average seasons once again, finishing 7-6 after losing to Texas Tech 45-38 in the Ticket City Bowl last season. Like Northwestern, Boston College is coming off a 7-6 season and a bowl loss to Nevada in the new Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Boston College is just 10-29 versus Big Ten opponents all time, but are 3-0 since 2002. The Wildcats head to Chestnut Hill, 5-2 in true non-conference road games since 2006.
Last Meeting: 1961 Wisconsin 23, Oregon State 20
Oregon State has been looking to bolster their non-conference schedule for the past few seasons, and getting Wisconsin this year is no different. The Beavers lost to TCU by nine, and to Boise State by 13 last season, battling tough in both games. Oregon State lost to ranked Cincinnati in 2009, and ranked teams, Utah and Penn State, in 2008. Despite trying to reach out and face tough foes early, Oregon State simply has not had success in any of those games.
The Badgers will look to make it back-to-back wins versus Pac-10 foes, after beating Arizona State 20-19 last season at Camp Randall. Wisconsin hasn't lost a game versus a Pac-10 team since 2001, losing by three points against Joey Harrington and the Oregon Ducks.
Last Meeting: 2010 Michigan 28, Notre Dame 24
Michigan won last year's meeting in South Bend, and has now won four of the last five games in this historic series. Last year's game was a back and forth battler, but Denard Robinson led his Wolverines by running for 258 yards and two touchdowns, and adding 244 yards and a touchdown through the air.
If Notre Dame can prove they are up to the task in stopping Denard this year, they may have a chance. If not, it could be a long day for the Irish, and we could see another record performance from Michigan QB Denard Robinson.
Last Meeting: 2010 Alabama 24, Penn State 3
This has a possibility to turn into a really good game, or it could end up somewhat like last season, where Penn State never really has a chance. This year the game is held at Happy Valley, which sets up more intrigue and could provide Penn State with an opportunity to stick around. Penn State is a good enough team where if you let them stick around late in a ball game, they could make you pay for not shutting the door earlier.
I'm not picking Penn State to win this game, but if it's close, you never know. Crazier things have happened.
Last Meeting: 2008 Pittsburgh 21, Iowa 20
Iowa is coming off of one of their most unsuccessful seasons in recent memory, after going just 4-4 in the Big Ten last year. This also could be somewhat of a let-down game for the Hawkeyes. Iowa plays their rival Iowa State the week before, which means they could have a let down the week after, against Pittsburgh.
Iowa is generally a very strong non-conference team, and conference team for that matter, but the Hawkeyes are just 2-3 in the last five years in games following affairs versus Iowa State, with one of those three losses coming to Pittsburgh in 2008. If both teams show up ready for this game, it could be one of the most exciting non-conference games in the entire country this season.
Last Meeting: 2010 Ohio State 36, Miami 26
Ohio State is a mess right now. With Prior and Tressel, this would be No. 1 without a doubt, but the uncertainty of the Buckeyes at this point may make it extremely tough with them traveling to Miami for this game.
Miami played somewhat competitively with the Buckeyes last year, but Jacory Harris' four interceptions really sunk the 'Canes. Like the Buckeyes though, Miami still isn't sure who will be starting at QB quite yet.
Miami is trying to make that big push towards national championship contention, somewhere they haven't been in quite a while now, and this game could be a huge statement for the Hurricanes, even with a win over a team in turmoil like the Buckeyes are.
Last Meeting: 2010 Michigan State 34, Notre Dame 31 OT
Oh boy, anyone remember this game from a year ago? This was quite possibly the game of the year in college football last year, and why not think that this year could end the same. For those of you who can't remember what happened in last year's game, I advise watching the video above, so I won't even bother explaining how the game ended.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins is back for his senior season with the Spartans, and is highly regarded as one of the top QBs in the country entering the season. Notre Dame finished the season strong though, winning seven of their final nine games, including a 33-17 defeat over Miami in the Sun Bowl.
Notre Dame, like Miami, is trying to get back in to the national championship spotlight. The Spartans will be strong once again this year but, with the game in South Bend, you can expect another tight battle between these two teams.