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Big Ten Football: Tom Dienhart's hard takes heading into Week 6

Michigan at Northwestern

Fitzgerald, Harbaugh discuss Saturday's matchup

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

The first full slate of Big Ten games looms with all 14 teams in action vs. one another in seven contests. Top billing: Northwestern at Michigan on BTN/BTN2Go. Can NU remain perfect as it treks to play the white-hot Wolverines? Also, Illinois can show it’s legit by winning at unbeaten Iowa. And Wisconsin visits Nebraska with both teams desperate for success.

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Northwestern dreaming big after commanding win over Minnesota

Oct 3, 2015; Evanston, IL, USA; Northwestern Wildcats quarterback Clayton Thorson (18) celebrates after running in for a touchdown during the first half of the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Watch our Northwestern highlight!

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Where were you the night of Oct. 6, 2013? Northwestern knows exactly where it was back then. Why shouldn’t it? The program hasn’t been the same since that infamous night—the night the music died for the Northwestern program as it slipped from relevancy.

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Get Tom Dienhart's best of Big Ten non-conference action

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Zettel joins family in stands

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten has 54 non-conference games in the book with just two to go (Rutgers and Penn State both still will play Army). And, it did pretty well vs Power Five leagues, going 10-9.

But before Big Ten action commences Saturday, let’s take a look back to digest what we witnessed in non-conference action.

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Tom’s Take: Week 3 Big Ten honors, grades, stock reports & numbers

Sep 19, 2015; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley (26) scores a touchdown in the second quarter against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Watch our Rutgers-Penn State highlight

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Week 3 was all about the ACC, as the Big Ten played five games vs. the eastern league. Final score: ACC 3, Big Ten 2. Northwestern (at Duke) and Iowa (Pitt) were the only two Big Ten teams to win. Illinois (at North Carolina), Nebraska (at Miami) and Purdue (Virginia Tech) all lost.

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Best of Week 3: Nebraska's trip to Miami earns top billing

Sep 13, 2014; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights linebacker Darnell Davis Jr. (59) blocks Penn State Nittany Lions field goal attempt during the first half at High Points Solutions Stadium.

Hear from Christian Hackenberg

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Not a lot of “wow” factor in Week 3, with Nebraska’s trip to Miami (Fla.) earning top billing. These programs battled for the national title three times, after the 1983, 1994 and 2001 seasons. Alas, neither program is of that ilk at the moment—no Tom Osborne, no Howard Schnellenberger, no Dennis Erickson … no legit national title dreams.

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So, can the Big Ten get two playoff teams this season?

Sep 12, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio talks to player during time out during the 1st half of a game against the Oregon Ducks at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Watch our Oregon-Michigan State highlight

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The first leaf hasn’t fallen off a tree yet, but it’s never too early for some playoff speculation. More specifically: Can the Big Ten get two teams—Ohio State and Michigan State–into the four-team playoff?

Sure. It could happen. Myriad possibilities still loom for a lot of schools and leagues.

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