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Top 10 Big Ten games of 2015

Whichever team is celebrating after the Michigan State-Ohio State showdown could have the inside track on a CFP berth. Getty Images

The good news is the season is just nine days away. The bad news? You’ll have to wait a little longer before conference play starts up.

So to help pass the time, as part of a conference-wide series, we’re ranking the B1G’s 10 best games and skipping those pesky nonconference matchups. Here’s a closer look at what the Big Ten has to offer:

1. No. 5 Michigan State at No. 1 Ohio State, Nov. 21

Sorry, traditionalists. This trumps The Game because it has the potential to decide the East and possibly who grabs a spot in the College Football Playoff. Plus, who wouldn’t want to watch Joey Bosa vs. Connor Cook and Shilique Calhoun vs. J.T. Barrett/Cardale Jones?

2. No. 1 Ohio State at Michigan, Nov. 28

You don’t get named the sports rivalry of the century for nothing. The Game is one of those can’t-miss matchups in college football, one of those fun rivalries where the hate is palpable no matter the records of the teams. Three of the past four contests were decided by six points or fewer.

3. No. 20 Wisconsin at Nebraska, Oct. 10

OK, so the Freedom Trophy doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as Paul Bunyan’s Axe … or most trophies, for that matter. But this still is a crucial game in determining the winner of the West, and Nebraska is out for revenge after losing 59-24 last season and 70-31 the year before.

4. No. 5 Michigan State at Michigan, Oct. 17

These schools are just about an hour’s drive from one another. Michigan State has won six of the past seven meetings, which isn’t too shabby for a school that was called Michigan’s “little brother” not too long ago. Call it the Hart Hex.

5. Penn State at No. 1 Ohio State, Oct. 17

Thanks to a favorable schedule, the Nittany Lions could very well enter this game undefeated. Even if they don’t, they nearly upset the Buckeyes last season and could once again provide a tough test. An 8 p.m. kickoff should only add to the atmosphere.

6. No. 20 Wisconsin at Minnesota, Nov. 28

Gophers coach Jerry Kill is tired of seeing red around the Twin Cities, and he’s sick of being asked, “Where’s the Axe?” There’s one simple cure for that -- and that’s to finally beat the Badgers. Minnesota has lost by double digits in the past five meetings, but Minnesota is getting better every year.

7. Michigan at Penn State, Nov. 21

Both traditional powerhouses are starting to regain their footing, and this should be a defensive battle. Throw in the fact that Penn State has a planned “White Out” for this game, and any college football fan should enjoy it.

8. Nebraska at Minnesota, Oct. 17

The West appears to be a three-team race among Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin -- so, naturally, whenever those teams play one another, the importance can’t really be understated. Minnesota’s corners should test Tommy Armstrong Jr.

9. No. 5 Michigan State at Nebraska, Nov. 7

Can you believe this is the only division crossover game to make the list? Both teams are largely viewed as the second-best teams in their respective divisions. And both teams have to replace a second-team All-B1G running back -- the Spartans’ Jeremy Langford and the Huskers’ Ameer Abdullah.

10. Rutgers at Penn State, Sept. 19

This may not be a rivalry -- yet. But the recruiting territory overlaps and the fan bases just don’t like one another. This is the first B1G matchup of the season, and it could be a close contest, as it was in 2014.