Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 8/18/13
The 2013 college football season kicks off in just a few short weeks and the Big Ten enters the season looking to claim the final BCS championship.  Twelve teams will compete as both Legends and Leaders for the last time, before the latest round of expansion brings in newcomers Maryland and Rutgers and reshuffles the divisions.  Fans are eager to enjoy the final year of BCS chaos before the playoff system ushers in a new era of unbridled, different-y chaos. So what are the top games for the Big Ten in 2013?  Ohio State is the preseason favorite and potential National Championship contender.  They must beat out Wisconsin in the Leaders division, while Penn State remains inelligible.  In the Leaders division, Michigan is in the midst of revival under Brady Hoke, but Nebraska is still looking for their first Big Ten title and Northwestern and Michigan State are in the running as well.  While the top ten games should center around these prominent storylines, we'll check out a few others as well.Where some might say its impossible to objectively rank one game against each other, I say that's what the internet is for, and what follows are the top ten games for the upcoming Big Ten season, counting up from 10 to 1.  Also inlcuded are some points on why we care and why some of us may not.  Disagree?  Be sure to let me know. 10 - UCLA at NebraskaWhile this is a non-conference matchup, it is also a pairing of top tier teams from the Big Ten and Pac-12, as well as a chance at redemption for Nebraska for their 36-30 loss last year in Pasadena.  While UCLA isn't Oregon or Stanford, they did beat USC and win the South last year, and could likely repeat, which means this will be the Cornhuskers' first gut check of the season in week three.  To add a little extra heat to the fire, the game will kick off at 11am in Lincoln, or 9am on the West Coast, a little payback for the 6:50pm West Coast kick off last year which had Bo Pelini and his crew up past their bedtimeWhy we care - Redemption game, Pac-12 versus Big Ten showdownWhy we may not - Non-conference, bring on the Big Ten schedule! 9 - Michigan at NorthwesternThe next four games on this list are likely to be paramount in determining the Legends division champion.  With Michigan, Northwestern, Nebraska and Michigan State all identified as preseason contenders, it is difficult to predict exactly which game will end up being the deciding contest.  So why did this one get bottom billing?  Not only is it the last of these pairings, but I think Northwestern is less likely to play a factor later in the season.  This game is, however, the final of a three week gauntlet for the Wolverines, who face Nebraska and Michigan State in the two weeks prior.  If the Widlcats were looking to knock off one of the big boys, this would be the time.Why we care - May determine the Legends division championWhy we don't - It may not 8 - Nebraska at MichiganWhile the Legends Division is fairly wide open due to the parity of the majority of its members, the Cornhuskers and the Wolverines remain preseason favorites.  While there are still three weeks of play following this game, and significant hurdles remain for each team, this game is a critical crossroads for both.  Big Red put a pounding on Michigan last year in Lincoln, but can they fare as well when travelling to the Big House?Why we care - Showdown between preseason Legends Division favoritesWhy we may be less excited - Preseason favorite status doesn't always yield in season success - just ask Lane Kiffen and USC about that one 7 - Michigan State at MichiganThe battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy and bragging rights within the mitten state are on the line in this intra-state contest.  While this game will likely play a factor in the Legends Division title race, it makes the cut as a rivalry game above all else.  Although the Wolverines dominated this series since the 70s, the Spartans have won four of the past five, have the best defense in the conference and get to play host this year in East Lansing. Why we care - Division implications and a heated intra-state rivalryWhy we might skip it - What happens in Michigan can stay in Michigan 6 - Northwestern at NebraskaThis is the first of the Legends Division title bouts, and the loser could find themelves all but eliminated from the running after the first week in November.  While Nebraska's showdown with the Wolverines is looming the following week, they would be ill-advised to look past the explosive offense of the Wildcats.  Big Red fans will undoubtedly make Lincoln a hostile environment for Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern, and this promises to be an exciting and high scoring battle.Why we care - Explosive offenses, first Legends Division showdown of top teamsWhy we may reach for the remote - Still hard to believe that Northwestern is that good 5 - Opening DayThis is actually a combination of three key matchups for the Big Ten over Labor Day weekend - Northwestern at Cal, Penn State versus Syracuse and Purdue at Cincinatti.  See what I did there?  Ten game list, snuck in two extras for ya, BAM.  These games are important matchups for the Big Ten to improve on its dilapidated national perception.  While none of the opponents are powerhouses, they are all solid programs from AQ conferences, and some quality non-conference wins will help to improve on the Big Ten's rather unimpressive 2013 bowl performance.Why we care - Big Ten pride and what should be good non-conference matchupsWhy we may miss parts while "resting our eyes" - Cal, Syracuse and Cincinatti just aren't Alabama 4 - Penn State at Ohio StateWhile the Nittany Lions remain inelligible to play for the Big Ten Title, they can still be crowned Leaders Division champions, but will have to beat out both Ohio State and Wisconsin to do so.  The Buckeyes have even more on the line here, as a loss to Penn State does far greater damage to their National Title aspirations than their Division goals.  This game has rapidly become a heated rivalry since Penn State joined the Big Ten as only twice in the history of the series has at least one team not been ranked, and neither have maintained more than a few years dominance over the other.Why we care - National Title implications and a strong rivalryWhy we might slip out quickly to grab a pizza - Sanctions remain in effect on Penn State, at least until the NCAA goes bankrupt from defending itself in lawsuits 3 - Michigan at Notre DameNight games at Notre Dame are a awe inspriring events in themselves.  Add to this the storied tradtion of both programs, the fact that Notre Dame's seven point win last season was the largest margin of victory in the series for the past four years and the Irish fresh off a trip to the National Championship Game, and we have a must see spectacle.  With this showdown taking place only the second week of the season, it will be a huge measuring stick for both teams' 2013 potential.Why we care - Epic rivalry under the lights with National Title implications and storied programsWhy we may not bee too upset if we miss the opening kickoff - Early in the season and both teams are always overrated by those exciteable media members anyway 2 - Ohio State at MichiganThe Game.  One of the most lauded rivalries in all of sports, the rabid fanbases on both sides ensure this is a passionate battle every year.  While many Big Ten fans may make claim that The Game's place is always at the top of this list, it drops a single spot because it is not a Division matchup.  The up side of this?  2013 is the final year that this will be the case, before realignment places these two rivals in the same division, meaning that if a rematch of The Game is to be had in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Title, this is the final year for it to occur.Why we care - If you don't care about The Game, you're probably not actually a Big Ten fanWhy we may take a bathroom break, but only during halftime - This is a cross-division rivalry for one more year 1 - Wisconsin at Ohio StateWhile the Big Ten Championship Game is the ultimate matchup for Big Ten fans in the post season, this game holds the most importance during the regular season.  It will almost certainly determine the Leaders Division Champion, and will be a major milestone for the Big Ten's most likely National Title Contender, Ohio State.  Wisconsin has risen to elite status over the past decade, and the winner here will likely be favored in the Big Ten title game as well.  In terms of importance to the conference, the battle between the Buckeyes and the Badgers makes the top of the list.Why we care - The winner likely plays for the Big Ten Championship and could continue to the Rose Bowl one way or anotherWhy we may not tape our eyes open - Tape hurts, that's why they invented DVRs!
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