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Big Ten non-conference power rankings: Where we point fingers at Ohio State and salivate over Northwestern

It's about time we got into the power rankings clubhouse. Here, we break down all 12 Big Ten schools and the non-conference schedules each team put together.

Scott Halleran

Holy cow, it’s going to be a rough first month to watch in the Big Ten conference, you guys. We have cupcakes, FCS flunkies, Mid-American monotony, and an amalgamation of weird west coast games. And guess what? You’ll watch every single game, because you’ll be thirsty for any kind of semblance of real football coming off that retched month of the NFL preseason in August.

Here, I have gathered up the non-conference schedules of each Big Ten team and have ranked them according to strength of schedule, interest level, wow factor, and overall "do I care?" to watch factor.

From worst to first, read about which teams got it wrong and which teams did okay in the Maize N Brew 2013 non-conference schedule power rankings:

12. Iowa

8/31 vs. Northern Illinois

9/7 vs. Missouri State

9/14 at Iowa State

9/21 vs. Western Michigan

Analysis: The only thing worse than the backlash toward Stewart Mandel’s column Monday is the Iowa non-conference schedule. The only interesting game on the slate is its rival game against Iowa State, and I can already hear every ACC, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC fan rooting on Twitter for Northern Illinois in Week 1.

11. Ohio State

8/31 vs. Buffalo

9/7 vs. San Diego State

9/14 at California

9/21 vs. Florida A&M

Analysis: Ohio State takes the cake when it comes to a high-profile team making a low-profile schedule. OSU fans are champing at the bit to see an interesting game in Columbus. The Big Ten disallowing programs to schedule future games against FCS teams and the college football playoff requiring a tough strength of schedule should fix that problem going forward.

10. Purdue

8/31 at Cincinnati

9/7 vs. Indiana State

9/14 vs. Notre Dame

9/28 vs. Northern Illinois

Analysis: Purdue has two semi-interesting games, but the problem is the Boilermakers are not going to rack up any frequent flyer miles. You could not construct a more regionally-based schedule than what Purdue put together. That schedule is just Ball State away from being a complete Midwestern snoozefest.

9. Illinois

8/31 vs. Southern Illinois

9/7 vs. Cincinnati

9/14 vs. Washington (Soldier Field)

9/28 vs. Miami (OH)

Analysis: To be fair, that neutral site game against Washington is just what the doctor ordered. It is appealing to fans from both the Big Ten and Pac-12, could be a close game, and the losing team could be without its coach at the end of the season. The problem is Tim Beckman has to take his ragtag bunch of players to the game – I still cannot believe the downward spiral that is of Nathan Scheelhaase’s career.

8. Indiana

8/39 vs. Indiana State

9/7 vs. Navy

9/14 vs. Bowling Green

9/21 vs. Missouri

Analysis: Now we are talking! Kevin Wilson’s team has the arrow pointing upward, and Indiana’s schedule is doing just the same. Navy brings Keenan Reynolds, the sneaky awesome and fun to watch quarterback, to Memorial Stadium, and who doesn’t want to watch a Big Ten school faceoff with a SEC school like Missouri?

7. Nebraska

8/31 vs. Wyoming

9/7 vs. Southern Miss

9/14 vs. UCLA

9/21 vs. South Dakota State

Analysis: I give Nebraska credit for trying, but, boy, that schedule looks boring. UCLA downed Nebraska 36-30 in 2012 at the Rose Bowl, so it’ll be chin-scratching to see if Jim L. Mora can sweep the series when he brings the Bruins to Lincoln. This game will be pivotal for running back Ameer Abdullah’s Heisman Trophy campaign.

6. Penn State

8/31 vs. Syracuse (MetLife Stadium)

9/7 vs. Eastern Michigan

9/14 vs. Central Florida

9/21 vs. Kent State

Analysis: Erase the two MAC schools, and this schedule is not half bad. One thing America needs more of is Penn State coach Bill O’Brien in high-profile games, especially since he’ll never see a bowl game while in Happy Valley. He’ll jump to the NFL before you guys know it.

5. Michigan State

8/30 vs. Western Michigan

9/7 vs. Southern Florida

9/14 vs. Youngstown State

9/21 at Notre Dame

Analysis: You can hate Michigan State all you want, Michigan fans, but Spartans athletic director Mark Hollis knows just exactly what he is doing. Last year Sparty faced Boise State, and this year they face up-and-coming Southern Florida and its new coach Willie Taggart – a guy who fell from the Jim Harbaugh coaching tree. Not to mention, Michigan State-Notre Dame is always must see TV.

4. Michigan

8/31 vs. Central Michigan

9/7 vs. Notre Dame

9/14 vs. Akron

9/21 at Connecticut

Analysis: Like Big Brother, like Little Brother. This schedule is eerily similar to Michigan State’s non con. Michigan rematches Notre Dame in the Under the Lights pay per view, where ESPN College GameDay is sure to attend. I’m still shocked Dave Brandon couldn’t get the UConn game moved to MetLife so more U-M fans could enjoy the thrashing of an American Athletic Conference team in New Jersey. Oh well.

3. Northwestern

8/31 at California

9/7 vs. Syracuse

9/14 vs. Western Michigan

9/21 vs. Maine

Analysis: This schedule is frontloaded, but it features two respectable matchups. If this was 20 years ago, the Week 1 game against Cal would be riddled with SAT jokes that are not funny. Thank Yeezus for Pat Fitzgerald, Venric Mark, and Cain Colter.

2. Wisconsin

8/31 vs. UMass

9/7 vs. Tennessee Tech

9/14 at Arizona State

11/9 vs. BYU

Analysis: Point me in the direction of the football scheduling God, so I can thank him personally. You’re telling me I get to watch Utah State’s old coach in Gary Anderson use Bret Bielema’s guys against the best team from the state of Utah in BYU? Sign me up. We also get to watch Wisconsin travel to Arizona State, one of Phil Steele’s surprise teams to win the national title. Thanks, football scheduling God.

1. Minnesota

8/29 vs. UNLV

9/7 at New Mexico State

9/14 vs. Western Illinois

9/21 vs. San Jose State

Analysis: I know, I know. But Jerry Kill has turned around Minnesota, and all four should be back-and-forth MACtion type of games. There is no reason the Golden Gophers will not be leading the Big Ten in points forced by Week 5. They didn’t schedule world-beaters, but they also didn’t schedule a ton of MAC schools either. Gophers fans will get some fun football to watch, finally.

Let me know in the comments how you’d break down your power rankings, and you should go ahead and tell me what you think of mine.