Big Ten Football: The Top 5 Weeks in the Big Ten This Season

Kevin TrahanAnalyst IJuly 29, 2011

Big Ten Football: The Top 5 Weeks in the Big Ten This Season

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    With the kickoff of Big Ten Media Days on Thursday, the countdown to the Big Ten season has officially begun.

    There is just over a month left until the games begin, and in a new-look Big Ten, there are sure to be some very exciting matchups.

    In setting up the divisions, the Big Ten was careful to maintain many traditional rivalries and also added games that could end up being classics and turn into rivalries in the future.

    Check out the five weeks with the Big Ten's best matchups this season.

No. 5: Week 12

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    By Week 12, the contenders will have been separated from the pretenders and the Big Ten race will be well under way.

    This week provides new rivalries as well as established rivalries.

    Among the new rivalries are Nebraska-Michigan, which pits two teams with strong traditions and passionate fan bases. Iowa and Purdue will also begin their "rivalry" in a protected divisional crossover game.

    Week 12 also features Ohio State-Penn State, which has produced some classics in the past.

    Schedule:

    Wisconsin at Illinois
    Indiana at Michigan State
    Iowa at Purdue
    Nebraska at Michigan
    Minnesota at Northwestern
    Penn State at Ohio State

    Best Game: Nebraska at Michigan

No. 4: Week 9

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    Week 9 could be the week that decides the winners of each division.

    Michigan State and Nebraska square off in a pivotal Legends Division matchup, as both teams are expected to contend for the division title this season.

    In the Leaders Division, Ohio State and Wisconsin will meet in a rematch of one of the best games of last season, and both teams are projected to contend for their division title as well.

    Iowa will try to reclaim the Floyd of Rosedale trophy in a revenge matchup against Minnesota, while an upstart Illinois team will go for a second consecutive win against Penn State.

    Schedule:

    Illinois at Penn State
    Northwestern at Indiana
    Iowa at Minnesota
    Purdue at Michigan
    Michigan State at Nebraska
    Wisconsin at Ohio State

    Best Game: Wisconsin at Ohio State 

No. 3: Week 2

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    These days, non-conference season is more of a time for teams to schedule cupcakes and come away with a win and a lot of money than it is a time for great matchups.

    However, Week 2 of this season provides a number of top non-conference games for Big Ten fans to enjoy.

    The most high-profile game nationally is Alabama at Penn State, as the Nittany Lions will look for revenge after a beatdown in Tuscaloosa last September. Wisconsin will play Oregon State in a solid Big Ten-Pac-12 matchup and Michigan will face Notre Dame in a series that has been wildly entertaining as both teams try to reclaim their winning tradition.

    Additionally, Iowa will play Iowa State in a heated in-state rivalry game and Kevin Wilson will have the first tough test of his Indiana career against Virginia.

    Schedule:

    South Dakota State at Illinois
    Virginia at Indiana
    Iowa at Iowa State
    Notre Dame at Michigan
    Florida Atlantic at Michigan State
    New Mexico State at Minnesota
    Fresno State at Nebraska
    Eastern Illinois at Northwestern
    Toledo at Ohio State
    Alabama at Penn State
    Purdue at Rice
    Oregon State at Wisconsin

    Best Game: Notre Dame at Michigan

No. 2: Week 6

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    While it only has one true rivalry game, Week 6 is full of "created" rivalries that have created some of the top Big Ten games of the last decade.

    The one true rivalry is Illinois-Indiana, a game that is a must-win for the Illini, but would be a great statement game for Kevin Wilson's new staff.

    Iowa and Penn State will continue their newly formed rivalry, as the Nittany Lions go for their first win against the Hawkeyes since 2007 and Michigan will face Northwestern in a matchup of two sleepers in the Legends Division.

    The inaugural Nebraska-Ohio State game will be held in Week 6 as well, and this game could be one of the biggest on the national stage, as both teams have huge fan bases and the game will mark the return of four of Ohio State's suspended stars.

    Schedule:

    Illinois at Indiana
    Iowa at Penn State
    Michigan at Northwestern
    Minnesota at Purdue
    Ohio State at Nebraska

    Best Game: Ohio State at Nebraska 

No. 1: Week 13

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    Week 13 is rivalry week and produces some of the best matchups of the Big Ten season all on the same day.

    Ohio State and Michigan will play in the headliner and both teams will be sporting new coaches. Iowa and Nebraska will kick of their new rivalry—The Heroes Game—in Lincoln on Black Friday, and Penn State will play Wisconsin.

    It's the ultimate Big Ten football weekend and the league should dominate national stage that weekend. It could also end up deciding the divisional races, as the winners for Iowa-Nebraska and Wisconsin-Penn State could play for the Big Ten Championship the following week.

    In addition, Northwestern will play Michigan State in a game that could have Legends Division implications as well.

    Schedule:

    Illinois at Minnesota
    Purdue at Indiana
    Iowa at Nebraska
    Ohio State at Michigan
    Michigan State at Northwestern
    Penn State at Wisconsin

    Best Game: (tie) Ohio State-Michigan and Iowa-Nebraska