17 best Big Ten conference games in 2107

With spring practices in the rear view, we’ve reached the long, agonizing part of college football’s offseason. Instead of counting down the weekends until Week 1 of the 2017 season, let’s get prepared by breaking down the best of the Big Ten, from players to coaches to games. Up next: The 17 best conference games on the 2017 Big Ten schedule.

Here’s what we think we know about the 2017 Big Ten season: Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin should be really good. Michigan has the talent to be good. If that lead group looks familiar, it should.

The real intrigue starts with trying to pick the fifth-best team in the conference. There are a bunch of candidates in the West. It’s plausible that Maryland or Indiana could sneak into that conversation.

It should be a deep league with at least four very good-to-great teams, and another four-to-six good teams. That should make for a lot of fun conference matchups.

Here are the 17 best for the 2017 season:

17. Minnesota at Iowa, Oct. 28

Minnesota’s schedule in Year 1 for P.J. Fleck is backloaded. The Gophers could be 7-0 when they arrive in Iowa City. Anything worse than 6-1 will be a disappointment.

The Gophers’ last five contests might be the toughest stretch for any team in the league: at Iowa, at Michigan, vs. Nebraska, at Northwestern, vs. Wisconsin. Going 3-2 in that stretch with wins over the right West teams could put Fleck and Co. in the Big Ten Championship Game.

If Iowa gets to this game at 5-2 or 6-1, it will be billed as one of the biggest showdowns in the division. It also will pit the NCAA’s most tenured coach, Kirk Ferentz, against one of the best young coaches in the country.

16. Ohio State at Indiana, Aug. 31

A conference game to start the season, and an intriguing one at that. Kevin Wilson was Indiana’s coach last season. Now he is Ohio State’s offensive coordinator.

How will the Buckeyes’ new-look passing game fare against Indiana’s potentially strong defense? Tom Allen’s first game in charge was the Foster Farms Bowl. His second one won’t be easier, with a top-5 team coming to Bloomington for a Thursday night tilt.

15. Northwestern at Wisconsin, Sept. 30

The Wildcats are a trendy pick to finish second in the Big Ten West. It won’t take long to find out if they deserve that kind of preseason hype. After Wisconsin, they get Penn State.

Both teams have an early bye week, and they should be well rested for the first conference game of the…

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