With National Signing Day behind us and spring practice on the horizon, it's not too early to take a look at what lies ahead for the Big Ten in terms of intriguing non-conference matchups.
The addition of a ninth conference game puts added pressure on everyone during the early portion of the season. That's the time of the year where conferences find out how they measure up nationally. Less games means less chances for teams and conferences to make statements.
Spoiler Alert: Have your popcorn ready for Saturday, Sept. 17.
Way Too Early Ranking of the Most Intriguing Big Ten Non-Conference Game of 2016
10. Rutgers at Washington, Sept. 3
New Scarlet Knights head coach Chris Ash leads his team across the country to take on a Husky squad that could make some noise in the Pac-12 in 2016. It will be a measuring stick for how far Rutgers needs to go.
9. North Carolina at Illinois, Sept. 17
Bill Cubit will have all of the added pressure and expectations of coaching without the interim tag in 2016. The icing on the cake? A visit from one of the better teams in the country a season ago before conference play gets going.
8. Oregon State at Minnesota, Sept. 1 (Thursday)
The Tracy Claeys era gets underway with a visit from former Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen and the Oregon State Beavers. Gophers fans will be anxious to see what, if anything, has changed post-Jerry Kill.
7. Duke at Northwestern, Sept. 17
The Blue Devils will be looking for revenge after Pat Fitzgerald's bunch pulled out a win in Durham last season. Both teams return plenty of key players and will be looking to make strong runs in their respective conferences.
6. Penn State at Pitt, Sept. 10
It's only slightly warm, but James Franklin's seat could get hot real quick if he can't establish dominance in the Keystone State with a win over Pat Narduzzi's Panthers on the road.
5. North Dakota State at Iowa, Sept. 17
The Hawkeyes went on a magical regular season run in 2015 and missed out on being crowned Big Ten champs by the length of a forearm. They'll return nearly every key player on the roster -- and they'll likely need every last one of them to bring their A-game against the 5-time defending FCS champion Bison.
4. Oregon at Nebraska, Sept. 17
Mike Riley's first season at the helm in Nebraska may not have produced as much success as many had hoped, but those close to the program like the direction he has the Huskers headed in moving forward. He'll face his old intra-state nemesis in a statement game for both teams when the Ducks visit Lincoln.
3. Ohio State at Oklahoma, Sept. 17
Two storied programs led by two historically great coaches will clash in Norman in a game that will likely be referenced at the end of the year when the College Football Playoff committee needs to pick four teams to play for a title.
2. Michigan State at Notre Dame, Sept. 17
It'll be good to see the Irish playing a Big Ten foe from the state of Michigan again. Mark Dantonio's team will be trying to establish an identity in the wake of yet another mass exodus of NFL-caliber talent. Notre Dame, on the other hand, will be loaded and focused on getting to the College Football Playoff.
1. LSU vs. Wisconsin (at Lambeau Field), Sept. 3
The Tigers turned heads on National Signing Day and will head into the season with plenty of momentum as well as an early Heisman Trophy favorite in the backfield. Paul Chryst's Badgers will be looking to finally pull off one of these high-profile, neutral-site wins for the B1G. Don't let the backdrop fool you -- the Tiger faithful will travel well enough to make this one a true neutral-site contest.
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)