The countdown to the 2016 college football season is already on. And though kickoff for the openers won't arrive for about 29 weeks, that doesn't mean we can't begin thinking about some of the truly intriguing early-season matchups. Which teams have the toughest nonconference schedules, and which ones will fatten up on cupcakes?
Here is a look at the Big Ten's easiest nonleague schedules, ranked 8-14 (with 14 being the easiest). We examined the other seven teams Monday in our list of the toughest nonconference schedules.
8. Nebraska (opposing team's record last season in parentheses)
Sept. 3: vs. Fresno State (3-9)
Sept. 10: vs. Wyoming (2-10)
Sept. 17: vs. Oregon (9-4)
It's nearly impossible to predict how good a team might be several years out at the time a game or series is scheduled. Nebraska agreed to multi-game deals with both Fresno State and Wyoming back in 2008, but neither team will likely boost the Cornhuskers' resume in 2016. The Oregon game on Sept. 17 is no doubt the highlight of Nebraska's nonconference schedule in the first game of a home-and-home series. Lincoln will be rocking.
Sept. 3: vs. Eastern Kentucky (6-5)
Sept. 10: vs. Cincinnati (7-6)
Sept. 24: vs. Nevada (7-6)
Purdue desperately needs a strong start in Year 4 of the Darrell Hazell era. The Boilermakers are 4-8 in nonconference games during his tenure, and three of those victories have come against FCS schools. In nine nonconference games against FBS teams, Purdue has been outscored by an average margin of 40-24. Quarterback Gunner Kiel is back for his senior season at Cincinnati, and Purdue could have its hands full in that Week 2 matchup. Nevada won the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl against Colorado State last season.
Sept. 1: vs. Oregon State (2-10)
Sept. 10: vs. Indiana State (5-6)
Sept. 24: vs. Colorado State (7-6)
A year ago, Minnesota needed overtime in Fort Collins to escape with a 23-20 victory against Colorado State. The Rams went on to play in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl and are the only team on the Gophers' nonconference schedule that had a winning record last season. Oregon State lost its final nine games a year ago, and Indiana State tied for sixth in the Missouri Valley Football Conference of the FCS.
Sept. 3: vs. Miami (Ohio) (3-9)
Sept. 10: vs. Iowa State (3-9)
Sept. 17: vs. North Dakota State (13-2)
Miami hasn't finished with a winning record since 2010, while Iowa State hasn't closed with a winning mark since 2009 -- though the Cyclones have lost two bowl games since that season. The Cy-Hawk Rivalry is always one to watch, and Iowa State has won three out of the last five meetings. Still, the real intrigue comes when North Dakota State -- the five-time defending FCS national champion -- visits Iowa City. North Dakota State is better than many Power 5 programs. And from 2010-14, the Bison actually beat an FBS team every season: Kansas, Minnesota, Colorado State, Kansas State and Iowa State, all on the road.
Sept. 3: vs. Hawaii (3-10)
Sept. 10: vs. UCF (0-12)
Sept. 17: vs. Colorado (4-9)
For fans wanting to see a marquee Michigan nonconference matchup, you'll have to wait until 2017 when the Wolverines open the season against Florida. The 2016 schedule doesn't provide much in the way of excitement. Hawaii has produced five consecutive losing seasons. And UCF has to rebuild under first-year coach Scott Frost after the Knights went winless in 2015. Colorado may be a Power 5 program, but the Buffaloes haven't been relevant on a national stage for quite some time. Their last winning season was in 2005. Since moving to the Pac-12 in 2011, Colorado is 10-39.
Sept. 1: at FIU (5-7)
Sept. 10: vs. Ball State (3-9)
Sept. 24: vs. Wake Forest (3-9)
Indiana came back to defeat FIU 36-22 in Bloomington last season after trailing at halftime. But that Hoosiers offense also had record-setting quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who accounted for three touchdowns in the game, and running back Jordan Howard, who ran for 159 yards. Opening the season on the road is never easy. Still, IU has a chance to polish off an undefeated nonconference season for the second straight year.
Sept. 3: vs. Howard (1-10)
Sept. 10: at FIU (5-7)
Sept. 17: at UCF (0-12)
Yes, Maryland must play on the road twice in its first three games. And yes, first-year coach D.J. Durkin has a lot of areas to fix with a program coming off a 3-9 season. But this is still the easiest nonconference schedule in the Big Ten, and the Terrapins should be able to build up some wins before the meat of league play. There isn't a Power 5 team in the bunch.