Top 10 2014 Big Ten nonconference foes

Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

This year’s non-conference schedule for Big Ten teams is one of the best in recent memory. College football royalty fills the must-see slate with teams such as Oregon, LSU, Miami (FL) and Notre Dame scheduled to take on the Big Ten’s best.

Here is a countdown of the top 10 non-conference teams on Big Ten schedules this season.

10. Cincinnati (at Ohio State, Sept. 27)
Coaches Poll ranking:
Unranked (honorable mention)
2013 record: 9-4 (6-2)
Returning starters: 16
Breakdown: There are big expectations surrounding this Cincinnati program in Tommy Tubberville’s second year at the helm. The Bearcats return an abundance of starters on both side of the ball and are tabbed as the favorite in the 2014 American Athletic Conference preseason football media poll.

9. Virginia Tech (at Ohio State, Sept. 6)
Coaches Poll ranking:
Unranked (honorable mention)
2013 record: 8-5 (5-3)
Returning starters: 13
Breakdown: After back-to-back “down” years, people are wondering what is in store for the Hokies in 2014. A bevy of talent is back on both sides of the ball, combined with a favorable schedule, which makes fans in Blacksburg optimistic about what lies ahead.

8. Miami (FL) (at Nebraska, Sept. 20)
Coaches Poll ranking:
Unranked (honorable mention)
2013 record: 9-4 (5-3)
Returning starters: 14
Breakdown: This is a group that started red hot last season, winning its first seven games and owning a top-10 national ranking. However, the Hurricanes lost four of their last six games, including a 36-9 blowout defeat to Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Al Golden’s team will rely on a high-powered offense, which averaged more than 30 points per game last season and returns six starters in 2014.

7. TCU (vs. Minnesota, Sept. 13)
Coaches Poll ranking:
Unranked (honorable mention)
2013 record: 4-8 (2-7)
Returning starters: 16
Breakdown: Last year’s win-loss record makes you wonder why TCU appears on this list, but this is a program that lost six games by single digits, four of which were by three or less. The Horned Frogs return seven starters on both sides of the ball, and while the offense did struggle at times last season, the defense was outstanding. Gary Patterson will rely heavily on his defense in 2014, which should be one of the top units in the Big 12 this season.

6. UCF (vs. Penn State, Aug. 30 – Dublin)
Coaches Poll ranking:
Unranked (honorable mention)
2013 record: 12-1 (8-0)
Returning starters: 17
Breakdown: This is a group that excelled on both sides of the ball last season, averaging more than 34 points per game, while holding opponents to just 21 points. The majority of the defense returns, led by standout linebacker Terrance Plummer, along with defensive backs Jacoby Glenn and Clayton Geathers. On offense, the Knights must find a way to replace QB Blake Bortles and RB Storm Johnson, who are both in the NFL now. A week 1 showdown with Penn State will be a great opening game.

5. Missouri (vs. Indiana, Sept. 20)
Coaches Poll ranking:
Unranked (honorable mention)
2013 record: 12-2 (7-1)
Returning starters: 11
Breakdown: The Tigers are coming off a memorable season, which included an SEC East Title and a win over a very good Oklahoma State team in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. The challenge for Gary Pinkel’s team this season will be replacing stars on both sides of the ball, including Dorial Green-Beckham and Henry Josey on offense, and Michael Sam and Kony Ealy on defense. Indiana’s high-flying offense will be a good test for this rebuilt Missouri defense.

4. Washington (vs. Illinois, Sept. 13)
Coaches Poll ranking:
25
2013 record: 9-4 (5-4)
Returning starters: 12
Breakdown: Chris Petersen takes over a talented Washington team left behind by Steve Sarkisian, who took off for USC after five seasons. Both the offensive and defensive lines return a ton of talent, but skill positions will be a big question mark for the Huskies this fall. Who replaces Keith Price at quarterback, Bishop Sankey at running back, Kevin Smith at wide receiver and Austin Seferian-Jenkins at tight end? If Peterson can find answers for those questions, the Huskies could compete with the big boys for a Pac-12 championship.

3. Notre Dame (vs. Michigan, Sept. 6; vs. Purdue, Sept. 13 – Indy; vs. Northwestern, Nov. 15)
Coaches Poll ranking:
17
2013 record: 9-4
Returning starters: 13
Breakdown: The Fighting Irish must find a way to replace several stars on both sides of the ball. Everett Golson has been admitted back into school, and will take over the starting quarterback. If he can duplicate the same success that helped the Irish get to the National Championship Game two years ago, this group should be in tip-top shape. More questions surround the defense, a unit that returns only two starters from a front-seven that struggled with stopping the run last season. The talent is certainly there for this program, but will the results on the field follow? We shall see.

2. LSU (vs. Wisconsin, Aug. 30 – Houston)
Coaches Poll ranking:
13
2013 record: 10-3 (5-3)
Returning starters: 14
Breakdown: The Tigers have won at least 10 games in each of the last four years, but that streak could be in jeopardy. Les Miles’ team will feature one of the top offensive lines in the country, but replacing skill players such as Jeremy Hill, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. will not be easy. This is a young team, and with so many new faces at key positions, it will be interesting to see how LSU fares in the always-competitive SEC West. A Week 1 matchup with Wisconsin has the potential to be one of the top games of the year.

1. Oregon (vs. Michigan State, Sept. 6)
Coaches Poll ranking:
4
2013 record: 11-2 (7-2)
Returning starters: 16
Breakdown: Oregon returns nine starters on an offense that ranked No. 4 in the nation in scoring last season. This unit is led by a legit preseason Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Marcus Mariota, as well as a talented, and experienced offensive line. On defense, the Ducks will rely on All-American Ifo Ekpre-Olomu to lead a talented, speedy unit. This could go down as the nation’s best non-conference matchup.

 

Originally from Farmington Hills, MI, I have worked at the Big Ten Network since 2012 and took over my role as web editor and blogger in August, 2013. Follow me on twitter for constant Big Ten updates @srmerriman. Thanks and enjoy!!

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16 Comments

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (16 Comments)
John on 8/4/2014 @ 7:00pm EDT Said:

The bias against Iowa never stops does it? Their game in Kinnick against Iowa State is a huge game as is their road game at Pitt. You idiots just don’t get It, do you??

Anthony on 8/4/2014 @ 9:47pm EDT Said:

John you don’t get it. Iowa St. and Pitt May be big games for you, but nobody else.

Elizabeth Cahoy Holloway on 8/4/2014 @ 10:02pm EDT Said:

It’s Iowa…’nuf said…

Jeff on 8/4/2014 @ 10:08pm EDT Said:

John, you just don’t get it. Iowa State maybe is a “huge” rivalry game in Iowa, but it’s not like Iowa State is the same team from a few years ago. Throw Pitt into that same category ….Iowa is/will FAVORED big time in both those games so there isn’t a big draw there.

cb on 8/4/2014 @ 10:18pm EDT Said:

If you put two games on then two have to come off. Instead of just saying its a bias and calling people idiots why don’t you put an actual reason as to why either of those two are better than two of the ones listed.

Matt on 8/4/2014 @ 10:39pm EDT Said:

Since when was Iowa vs Iowa State ever a big game to anyone outside of Iowa? Both teams are outside of the rankings, and has very little meaning to anyone on a national scale. The exact same goes for the game against Pitt. Now the Hawkeyes might be the surprsise team in the conference, but according to these “idiots” and the entire country as of right now, neither game has any value.

Hans on 8/4/2014 @ 10:43pm EDT Said:

Ummm let’s see John…your are talking about an Iowa team that went 8-5 last year, an Iowa State team that went 3-9 and a Pitt team that went 7-6. The list is the TOP 10 non-conference games….not the Top 10 non-conference mediocre games. What is there to get??? Which game on the list is Iowa vs Iowa State a better game then?

bob on 8/4/2014 @ 10:50pm EDT Said:

Cincy at Ohio state better that Pitt against Iowa? Really?

mike on 8/5/2014 @ 12:49am EDT Said:

I think fresno st. should be added they were in bowl game and this could be an upset!!

josh on 8/5/2014 @ 4:25am EDT Said:

IOWA STATE and PITT is ur argument? Lol, please re-read your post. Lol

Damien Whited on 8/5/2014 @ 7:19am EDT Said:

Iowa fans, these are the top 10 Big 10 non- conference games. Pitt a huge game? Well, if Pitt was the Pitt of Dorsett or Marino, then this game would be on the list. Oregon vs. Msu, Nebraska vs. Miami, and Wisconsin vs. Lsu ARE BETTER/ BIGGER GAMES THAN Iowa vs. Isu or Iowa vs. Pitt. (Pitt reference was about when Tony Dorsett was there in the mid 1970s, and when Dan Marino was there in the early 1980s, these 2 players were among those who made them good @ Pitt.)

xer0cool on 8/5/2014 @ 9:01am EDT Said:

Calling everyone idiots, that’s a sure-fire way to bring people to your side…..said no one ever.

However, Iowa hasn’t exactly been the powerhouse they were in the late 00’s. You have some decent guys coming in and a heck of a coach, so we’ll see. You definitely have the cake side of the conference.

Gurndogg on 8/5/2014 @ 12:59pm EDT Said:

Mike I agree that Fresno St. game. To Bob I guess you can’t read OSU vs Cinn. a team that could (will most likely win) win their Conf. is no match for Iowa vs Pitt game not even close.
I could agrue that the OSU’s game are some of the best right behind the top 4 as Cinn. will most likely win their Conf. then V.T will most likely win their Div. in the ACC & play in their Conf. Championship. s well as the Navy game they will go to a Bowl & will most likely win 9-10 games & could probably beat N.D.

Richard Barnes on 8/6/2014 @ 2:01am EDT Said:

Fresno St will be aiming at NU no doubt. I do feel however that NU with an offense tweaked to adding a few options in and a couple screens etc will cut Nebraska’s turnover issue down considerably. Dinardo noticed the same thing too. Nebraska finally has a nickel back with the right stuff in Charles Jackson and that just might give this squad a dash more potency in the secondary, particularly against spread teams. Fresno, will not go down easily, but I feel the Huskers will prevail. I’m not going to get down on the Iowa/Pitt statement. I don’t agree that it should be on this list but I will say that it’s not far off of the list either. It’s certainly one I’d like to watch!

Nick Juskewycz on 8/15/2014 @ 3:58pm EDT Said:

As an Iowa fan, I have no problem with the Hawkeyes being left off this list. Although, I have no idea why Minnesota at TCU is No. 7, and I think Cincinnati at Ohio State is debatable.

I think several games are as good as those (or better): Iowa vs ISU, Iowa at Pittsburgh, Nebraska at Fresno State, West Virginia at Maryland, Maryland at Syracuse, Indiana at Bowling Green (seriously, don’t overlook BG), Rutgers at Washington State, California at Northwestern

It seems like these are just the 10 best nonconference opponents the Big Ten faces as opposed to the 10 best nonconference games (even though the top three are the best games). 1. Oregon 2. LSU 3. Notre Dame 4. Washington 5. Missouri 6. UCF 7. TCU 8. Miami FL 9. Virginia Tech 10. Cincinnati. Yes, you can debate it, but that’s essentially what it is.

Lewis Fulcher on 8/15/2014 @ 5:02pm EDT Said:

I think this whole list is kind of ridiculus. OSU vs. Cincinnati is a Top 10 Big Ten Foe? Geez, our scheduling must not be very good as conference. I think we really only have a Top 5 list here and they tried to stretch it to 10. So, I agree MSU/Oregon, Wisconsin/LSU, and the Team Up North/ND make the list. I also think Nebraska/Miami and OSU/VT belong on the list. Cut it at 5. Go Bucks!