It's the dog days of summer, so we're desperate to see some football. Of course, not all football games are created equally.
As we've done in the past around here, we're ranking the 2014 Big Ten nonconference games from worst to first. We're taking into account quality of opponent, interest level and expected competitiveness of the game while breaking these down. We'll do this in four batches of 14 games, which equals the total number of 56 nonconference matchups for the league this year. (Math!)
This first installment, as you'd expect, involves a whole lot of FCS and MAC action. We warn you: It won't be pretty. But at least it will be football.
No. 56: Rutgers vs. Howard, Sept. 6: The FCS Bison did go 6-6 last year, but come on. Playing HBCUs should never be on the Big Ten agenda, as this debacle proved a year ago.
No. 55: Indiana vs. Indiana State, Aug. 30: The Hoosiers hung 73 points last year on the home-state Sycamores, who went on to finish 1-11. Bet the over.
No. 54: Wisconsin vs. Western Illinois, Sept. 6: Giving yourself a little breather the week after playing LSU is understandable. The Badgers usually bludgeon overmatched teams at Camp Randall, and this should be no different.
No. 53: Purdue vs. Southern Illinois, Sept. 20: Should be a guaranteed win for the Boilers. Emphasis on should.
No. 52: Northwestern vs. Western Illinois, Sept. 20: If you're itching for more Leathernecks action after the Wisconsin game, you're in luck. And you're weird.
No. 51: Illinois vs. Youngstown State, Aug. 30: Maybe if Jim Tressel came back to coach the Penguins one last time ...
No. 50: Purdue vs. Western Michigan, Aug. 30: Yes, a matchup involving an FBS opponent beats out several FCS games. WMU went 1-11 last year, FYI.
No. 49: Maryland vs. James Madison, Aug. 30: Never forget this, Terps fans.
No. 48: Penn State vs. UMass, Sept. 20: The Minutemen are an FBS team. Not that you could really tell.
No. 47: Michigan State vs. Eastern Michigan, Sept. 20: EMU is an FBS team. Not that you could really tell.
No. 46: Nebraska vs. McNeese State, Sept. 6: Hey, the Cowboys did win 10 games last year and blew out South Florida. So that's something.
No. 45: Michigan State vs Jacksonville State, Aug. 29: The Gamecocks made the FCS quarterfinals last year and are ranked in the top 10 of some FCS polls. In case the Spartans are looking ahead to that Week 2 trip to Eugene.
No. 44: Illinois vs. Texas State, Sept. 20: The Bobcats are coming off a 6-6 season in the Sun Belt. Tim Beckman desperately needs to go 6-6.
No. 43: Illinois vs. Western Kentucky, Sept. 6: A great way to get halfway to 6-6 is by scheduling Texas State, Youngstown State and WKU.