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Tuesday, August 27, 2013
The List: Top Big Ten games for recruits

By Brad Bournival & Tom VanHaaren

The 2013 season is right around the corner, which means recruits will be scheduling official and unofficial visits. The bigger the game, the bigger the implications at stake with regards to recruiting.

With a lot of top prospects still on the board for Big Ten teams, here is a look at the top 10 games this season for the conference.

1. Ohio State at Michigan, Nov. 30

When isn’t this a big game? The rivalry of all rivalries, this game could have some huge implications across the board. There is a chance that both teams will be undefeated heading into this game, and depending how things shake out it could be the first of two meetings for the bitter rivals. Since Michigan and Ohio State are competing for similar prospects, this game could be an advantage for the victor. It will be a good game no matter what, which means the atmosphere will be electric. It will be an outstanding environment for recruits to be, and is the most important in the Big Ten this season. As both Brady Hoke and Urban Meyer dig in with their teams, this is a pivotal matchup.

Michigan celebrates
Michigan got a big recruiting boost by beating Notre Dame under the lights.
2. Notre Dame at Michigan, Sept. 7

Dubbed as Under the Lights II, this is going to be a huge game in terms of recruiting. The first matchup at night was two seasons ago and helped Michigan land a good amount of the 2013 class. Safety Dymonte Thomas committed while on his visit that weekend and more eventually followed. This season Michigan will be hosting its top targets for the 2014 and 2015 classes, so the implications once again are huge. Defensive end Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge), the No. 4 ranked player in the country, will be on his official visit for this game as will the No. 1 ranked player in the 2015 class, Jashon Cornell (St. Paul, Minn./Cretin-Derham Hall). If the atmosphere is anything like it was for the first matchup under the lights, this game will be enormous for Michigan recruiting.

3. Michigan at Michigan State, Nov. 2

Michigan won the previous matchup with a last-minute field goal at home and is looking to extend its winning streak. Michigan State is making a big push with Detroit prospects and if the Spartans can create an exciting atmosphere for this game, it could have a big impact on local visiting prospects. If Michigan State can take back the Paul Bunyan trophy it would be a huge win, not just on the field. It could have just as big an impact if the Wolverines leave East Lansing with a victory.

4. Wisconsin at Minnesota, Nov. 23

This one has long meant something to both teams as the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe has been almost dead even. In fact, the series is at 58-56-2 in favor of Minnesota for what is one of the coolest trophies in sports. Tradition means something to many of the recruits and seeing the fire both teams play with during the game certainly is a big recruiting tool.

5. Wisconsin at Ohio State, Sept. 28

Meyer has pushed for more night games and this one could arguably decide the Leaders Division champion. With Ohio State’s postseason sanctions lifted and the fact a win could give the Buckeyes a leg up in the division, expect them to get some of the biggest names on campus so they can see just how loud Ohio Stadium can get.

6. UCLA at Nebraska, Sept. 14

This game is one of only two out of conference games featuring a ranked opponent for the Big Ten. UCLA heads to Nebraska to take on the Cornhuskers, and it is a big matchup not only for Nebraska, but for the conference. Since the Cornhuskers moved to the Big Ten, there has been somewhat of an identity issue on the recruiting trail. They are no longer a part of the Big 12, but are far enough away from the Midwest that there are some issues landing top recruits out of the region. One game will never make a huge difference, but if Nebraska wins, it could help with exposure in a market with plenty of recruits.

7. Northwestern at Cal, Aug. 31

This is an interesting pick because the Wildcats would likely prefer a win against one of the highly ranked Big Ten teams, such as Ohio State in Week 5. This isn’t to say those games aren’t important, but this could be a big one if Northwestern wins. ESPN 300 linebacker Brandon Lee (Indianapolis/Warren Central) is visiting for this game and has Northwestern in his top five. He will also be visiting for a Northwestern home game during the season, so this could have an impact on his decision. If Northwestern can win this game it continues the momentum from the 2012 season and sets the Wildcats up to make a run at another outstanding season. This game could be the start of something big for Northwestern .

8. Penn State at Ohio State, Oct. 26

Much like the Wisconsin game, this one will be under the lights in The Horseshoe. Demetrius Knox (Fort Worth, Texas/All Saints Episcopal) will lead the list of pledges who will be trying to get targets to think about Ohio State even more. Knox, who will be on an official visit, said this about the game: “It’s probably the second-best game there is in college football other than Ohio State versus the team up north.”

9. Notre Dame at Purdue, Sept. 14

Besides the fact that this one is for in-state bragging rights, it might be termed the Drue Tranquill Bowl. Tranquill (Fort Wayne, Ind./Carroll) committed to the Boilermakers on July 23, but had second thoughts after the Fighting Irish offered him on Aug. 2. He’s been to both universities on visits since then and remains a Purdue pledge. The three-star outside linebacker plans to attend the game. Expect other big Purdue targets to be there as well.

10. Wisconsin at Iowa, Nov. 2

First, let’s start with the fact the battle is deadlocked at 42-42-2. Then add that it’s for the Heartland Trophy. With the Badgers headed back to the West Division, the game will mean even more next season. The in-game experience will no doubt pour off the field and into the stands where some of the biggest targets for both teams will be. Given the history of the series and the fact it’s not a terribly long drive to either place, the matchup is intriguing to recruits.