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1. Nebraska: If the Huskers can beat UCLA in Week 3 at home, they really ought to be 7-0 heading into November. Their October Big Ten slate is Illinois at home, followed by Purdue and Minnesota on the road.
2. Michigan State: Even if you factor in a loss at Notre Dame on Sept. 21, the Spartans have a great chance of being 7-1 heading into their Nov. 2 showdown vs. Michigan. The toughest road challenge besides the Irish is an Oct. 5 game at Iowa.
3. Penn State: Three of the four nonconference games carry at least medium degrees of difficulty, but the Nittany Lions don't play a true road game until Oct. 5 at Indiana, to whom they've never lost.
1. Purdue: A 1-7 start is a grim, but real, possibility, with Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Northern Illinois, Nebraska, Michigan State and Ohio State all on the docket in the first eight games.
2.Wisconsin: The Badgers schedule is not terribly taxing overall, but the first six games could make or break it. They travel to Arizona State in Week 3, play at Ohio State in Week 5 and face a dangerous Northwestern team on Oct. 12. A couple early setbacks could put Wisconsin out of division contention before mid-October.
3. Indiana: Hopes are high for a bowl game this year for the Hoosiers, and they have eight home dates. But if IU stumbles early on in a stretch that includes potentially tricky games against Navy, Bowling Green and Missouri, they could already be behind the eight ball as they start Big Ten play vs. Penn State and then play on the road at Michigan State and Michigan. Still a young team in several areas, Indiana might not be able to recover from some early punches in the nose.