Nonconference games are massive for a Big Ten team’s bowl hopes. With both teams knowing each other well and the fans bringing an extra layer of emotional charge, nearly every conference game is a tough one. There are no gimme games in the Big Ten.
Teams in the conference usually take one of two approaches to their nonconference schedule. Either they throw in some big games to help boost their stock for a College Football Playoff push, or they throw in some games to give them a tune-up for the season. See Ohio State opening up their season at Notre Dame for the former and Michigan against Connecticut for the latter approach.
While South Dakota State is an FCS school, usually an easy tune-up for a team that just made the Big Ten championship game, they are a unique test. A routine contender for the FCS national championship, their offense will be a great test for the experienced Hawkeyes defense.
Iowa State always presents a challenge. While not a conference opponent, this will be one of the most emotionally charged games of the season with the Cy-Hawk Trophy on the line. These two fanbases do not like each other, and many Hawkeye fans believe Iowa State head football coach Matt Campbell undeservedly gets more credit than Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz. It will certainly be a new-look Iowa State squad in 2022.
Speaking of a new look, Nevada pretty much lost everybody. We’re not just talking about a few key pieces, we really mean everybody. With the exit of former head coach Jay Norvell to Colorado State, Nevada saw some of their top returning talent transfer. The team also lost some of its best players to the draft as well.
Iowa certainly doesn’t face the most daunting nonconference schedule across the Big Ten or nationally, but it’s no cakewalk either. It’s a good three-game test prior to league play where the Hawkeyes will presumably be favored in each.
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