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The 10 Most Important Big Ten Football Games Of The 2017 Season

Big Ten football was thrilling last year, with three Big Ten East programs all vying for College Football Playoff spots late into the year. This year should be more of the same for Big Ten fans.

The league is looking strong once again coming off of the impressive 2016 season. With the trio atop the the Big Ten East all returning strong teams, Michigan State looking to bounce back, and a number of teams in the Big Ten West improving, there are some very fun match-ups to look forward to.

There are a few huge non-conference games involving Big Ten teams as well to get this college football season started, which could have a huge impact on the College Football Playoff picture.

Here are the ten most important games of the upcoming Big Ten season:

10. Iowa vs. Penn State, Sept. 23

Last match-up: 2016 - Penn State 41, Iowa 14

Penn State waxed a decent Iowa team at home last year, but as we saw with last year's Hawkeyes win over Michigan, big games at Kinnick Stadium can be a different animal. Penn State enters the year with huge expectations, but has some help with the early schedule keeping them in Happy Valley until this trip to Iowa, with the only challenging game a revenge spot against Pitt in Week 2. If PSU wants to repeat in the Big Ten and contend for the Playoff, it will need to succeed where Michigan failed last season.

9. Michigan vs. Florida, Sept. 2 (Arlington, TX)

Last match-up: 2015/16 - Michigan 41, Florida 7

Just two years ago, Michigan dominated the Gators in the first bowl game of the Jim Harbaugh era, the 2016 Citrus Bowl. The turnaround for a rematch is very quick, with this high-profile game opening the 2017 season. Michigan sent a bunch of players to the NFL Draft, so this season will really test out Harbaugh's recruiting, which has been very strong on paper. Florida may also feature an interesting new player, in grad transfer quarterback Malik Zaire, who is expected to commit to the Gators extremely soon.

8. Nebraska vs. Iowa, Nov. 24

Last match-up: 2016 - Iowa 40, Nebraska 10

Two of the better teams in the Big Ten West face off in the last week of the regular season. Depending on what Wisconsin, the division favorite, does this season, it could end up having big ramifications in the Big Ten title game race. Nebraska will be looking for revenge after last season's 30-point blowout loss at Kinnick.

7. Michigan vs. Michigan State, Oct. 7

Last match-up: 2016 - Michigan 32, Michigan State 23

Michigan State might have been shockingly bad last season, but the rivalry with Michigan is always contentious, and 2016 was no different. The Spartans hung in with a very good Wolverines team until late in the game at home. It's hard to get a great gauge for Sparty after the disastrous 2016 season, but we'd expect Michigan State to bounce back a bit, and give Michigan a tough run again. Even after last year, MSU has won five of seven against its in-state rival.

6. Wisconsin vs. Michigan, Nov. 18

Last match-up: 2016 - Michigan 14, Wisconsin 7

Wisconsin faced one of the toughest possible schedules for a Big Ten West team, including games against Michigan and Ohio State. It lost to both, but took the Wolverines and Buckeyes to the brink. This year, Harbaugh's team heads to Madison, where the Badgers will be looking to score a big 'W' as they look to get back to Indianapolis. This is also a brutal second to last game for Michigan, which hosts Ohio State seven days later.

5. Nebraska vs. Ohio State, Oct. 14

Last match-up: 2016 - Ohio State 62, Nebraska 3

This one...it got pretty ugly. Nebraska's quarterbacks combined to go 9-for-33 for 126 yards and two picks. J.T. Barrett put up huge numbers, throwing for 290 yards and four scores. Even Ohio State backup Joe Burrow got in on the fun, going 6-for-6 for 62 yards in relief. With the shift to Lincoln, we don't expect this one to be quiet the same result, though Ohio State should be a solid favorite.

4. Ohio State vs. Oklahoma, Sept. 9

Last match-up: 2016 - Ohio State 45, Oklahoma 24

This might be the non-conference game that will play the most direct impact on the College Football Playoff, with both teams making the four-team field in recent years, and each being the favorite to win their conference. Last year, Ohio State rode roughshod over Oklahoma in Norman. This year's game takes place at The Shoe, but with Baker Mayfield back for Bob Stoops' team, there will still be a ton of hype for the match-up. The winner will have an invaluable signature non-conference victory under its belt.

3. Penn State vs. Michigan

Last match-up: 2016 - Michigan 49, Penn State 10

Last September, Penn State wasn't the same team that it became in November. The team lost to Pitt earlier in the month, and was then blown out by Michigan on September 24. The decisiveness of this game likely played a huge part in Penn State being snubbed for Ohio State come College Football Playoff time. This is a huge revenge spot for the Nittany Lions.

2. Ohio State vs. Penn State, Oct. 28

Last match-up: 2016 - Penn State 24, Ohio State 21

Penn State's 2016 win over Ohio State made for the stickiest situation for the College Football Playoff selection committee yet. For the first time, the group took the at-large team with what was seen as a better resume, Ohio State, over Penn State, a conference champion with a head-to-head win over the team that edged it out. Both teams have huge expectations, returning star quarterbacks, and sights on a Playoff run. This should be a blast.

1. Ohio State vs. Michigan, Nov. 25

Last match-up: 2016 - Ohio State 30, Michigan 27 (OT)

Was there any doubt? Penn State should be very good this year and could crash the party and win the Big Ten again, but we wouldn't bet against this being a strong possibility as a de facto Big Ten East title game. Oh, and it's one of the, if not THE, best rivalry in college football. And it's a revenge spot for Michigan after last year's controversial finish, a 30-27 overtime win for Ohio State. During the Rich Rod and Brady Hoke years, this game was big as a rivalry, but was rarely super important within the landscape of the sport. With Jim Harbaugh at Michigan, that is no longer the case. This game means everything in the Big Ten.