2012 Preview - Top Non-Conference Games
No. 3: Florida at Florida State
No. 3: Florida at Florida State
Posted Aug 21, 2012

The 50 best non-conference games, led by the 'Bama-Michigan showdown.

2012 Preview 
Top Ten Non-Conference Games

Top Non-Conference Games  
- 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 

2012 Top 50 Non-Conference Games
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 1-10) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 11-20) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 21-30) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 31-40) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 41-50)  

Follow Us ... #ColFootballNews  

10. Miami vs. Notre Dame (in Chicago), Oct. 6

It still sounds like a magical match-up, even if it isn't. It might not be the Jimmy Johnson vs. Lou Holtz days, and the national championship isn't going to be in the mix, but for two programs desperate to return to glory, this is a must win on a huge stage. Played in Soldier Field in Chicago, it'll be a pro-Irish crowd, but it's the type of atmosphere in which the Canes of old used to thrive. This is the fourth game away from home in the first six weeks for Miami, and with Florida State and Virginia Tech still on the horizon, while the Irish will be in the midst of a brutal stretch of games with Michigan up before and Stanford coming to South Bend the week after.

All August long, CFN and Scout.com will get you ready for the season with these great features. But that's not all. Check CFN's 2012 preview page for even more coverage.
Aug. 1: Top coaches on the hot seat
Aug. 3: Meet the new coaches
Aug. 6: Teams that might surprise us
Aug. 8: Teams that might disappoint us
Aug. 10: Teams that could ruin your season
Aug. 13: Biggest unanswered questions
Aug. 15: Great programs heading nowhere
Aug. 17: Unknown programs on the rise
Aug. 20: Top Heisman Trophy candidates
Aug. 22: Best games of the regular season
Aug. 24: Toughest stadiums to play in
Aug. 27: Teams most likely to play in BCS
Aug. 29: Title game match-ups we'd love
9. Notre Dame at USC, Nov. 24

Is this going to be the Heisman-maker for Matt Barkley? USC is in for a fun November, kicking off with the Oregon showdown and with the UCLA game coming the week before the Irish come to town. The Irish schedule is the opposite time-wise, as it eases up a bit in November before closing things out in L.A. Considering the expectations are through the roof for a loaded Trojan team, and with the pressure on Notre Dame to finally start to make huge strides forward under Brian Kelly, it's going to be rough on which ever head coach loses. Kelly might have beaten Lane Kiffin two years ago, but after losing last year, and with the Irish dropping nine of the last 10 in the series, he has to finish strong.

8. South Carolina at Clemson, Nov. 24

No one on either side wants to hear it or talk about it, but even though last year's match-up might have been the strongest in the recent history of the rivalry, it didn't matter. South Carolina blasted Clemson 34-13, and it's been spun from both sides. Clemson might have been looking ahead to the more important game against Virginia Tech in the ACC championship -– which it won in a walk -– while South Carolina might have simply been that much better. After getting blasted three times in a row in the series, though, Clemson will need a win to get the rivalry back on its side.

7. Oklahoma State at Arizona, Sept. 8

The match-up between the two was supposed to be a wild shootout last year, and Oklahoma State won without breathing hard, 37-14. They were supposed to come up with a fun 2010 Alamo Bowl, and the Cowboys won a 36-10 layup. Before that, they hadn't played since 1942. Now things are different as new Wildcat head man Rich Rodriguez coaches his first huge game in Tucson after starting out the era with Toledo. Can he have his plan and system in place by the second game of the year? Oklahoma State will be looking to show that the offense has reloaded in its only meaningful game until kicking off Big 12 play with Texas at the end of September.

6. Boise State at Michigan State, Aug. 31

It's the first meeting between the two programs, and it's yet another moment when Boise State is supposed to prove itself. No one has to do more rebuilding than Boise State, but time and again Chris Petersen and the program have been doubted, and time and again the brand-name BCS team comes away with a loss. Michigan State has a ton of work to do to reload, too, but its toughest early games are at home with the Broncos, Notre Dame, and Ohio State all coming to East Lansing and with only one game outside of the state of Michigan before late October. Boise State still has BYU and a trip to Southern Miss to deal with, but this is the big game the program lives for.

5. Auburn vs. Clemson (in Atlanta), Sept. 1

Has Clemson recovered? The last time it hit the field, West Virginia was scoring at will in one of the ugliest Orange Bowls of all-time. The Tigers are loaded again, they're good enough to win the ACC title again, and they have everything in place to turn things around with a big opening weekend win, but the other Tigers in this game are improved, too. Auburn might have struggled in a rebuilding year in a nasty conference, but the last time it was in Atlanta it dominated Virginia in the Chick-fil-A bowl in the final game of 2011. With the SEC opener against Mississippi State to follow, and with LSU and Arkansas still to deal with in September, this is a must win. For Clemson, it's smooth sailing for a few weeks until it opens up the ACC schedule at Florida State.

4. Michigan at Notre Dame, Sept. 22

It was one of the best games of 2011. The Irish and Wolverines were playing street ball, with each offense doing its best to one-up the other in a 35-31 Michigan victory. With the win, the Wolverines have won the last three in the series and five of the last six, and this year's team is the best in several years. The Irish should be improved, too, but the schedule is nasty and the team might already be worn out by this point with the opener against Navy in Ireland and with a trip to Michigan State –- along with a home game against Purdue -– before this showdown. Michigan has its big tests, too, starting out with Alabama and having to face Air Force, but considering the expectations, a loss to the Irish would be a major disappointment.

3. Florida at Florida State, Nov. 24
Sign up now to join the Florida community.
Free 7-day trial!

Is Florida back to being Florida? It has another year under Will Muschamp for all the talent to mature and play as expected. Will Florida State live up to the wild expectations everyone has had for the program since Jimbo Fisher loaded it back up with talent? There's no reason for this year's rivalry game to not matter on a national scale again, and there's absolutely no way it'll be another brutal game like last year's 21-7 Seminole win. FSU got the victory despite gaining just 95 yards, while Florida struggled with just 184 yards of total offense. Will the two mega-powers be night-and-day better one year later? There's no excuse not to be.

2. Notre Dame at Oklahoma, Oct. 27

Oklahoma went on an epic 47-game winning streak from 1953 to 1957, with a loss to Notre Dame at the beginning of the 1953 season the last in the run, and with a 7-0 loss to the Irish in 1957 ending the fun. The two have faced each other since then, with the Irish winning in South Bend in 1999, and now the battle between the two superpowers is back on.

This is the last game in one of the nation's nastiest schedules with the Irish dealing with big game after big game after big game until the trip to Norman. While the game against Pitt the week after is still interesting, it's not going to be a breather compared to what the Notre Dame has to face over the first eight games.

The game couldn't come at a better time for the Sooners. It might be in the middle of the Big 12 season, but it's sandwiched between two of the of the league's lightweights with Kansas coming the week before and a trip to Iowa State to follow. The other non-conference games are against UTEP and Florida A&M, but OU can be forgiven for the light slate with such a tough conference schedule.
Sign up now to join the Alabama community. Free 7-day trial!

1. Alabama vs. Michigan (in Arlington), Sept. 1

In the 2000 Orange Bowl, Tom Brady led Michigan over Shaun Alexander and Alabama in one of the greatest bowl games of all-time. It was thrilling, heartbreaking, and classic. It was also one of just three times the two mega-programs have met, with the Tide winning the 1997 Outback Bowl and the 1988 Hall of Fame Bowl.

The stakes are even higher this time around.

Last year, LSU set the tone for its run to the BCS championship with an impressive win over Oregon in Arlington, and this year's game might also have national title implications in one way or another.

Alabama still has the brutal SEC schedule to face, including road trips to Arkansas, Missouri, and LSU, but there's a chance that this might be the toughest game on the lot if Michigan is as good as advertised. The Wolverines are loaded on offense -– led by quarterback Denard Robinson and a thrilling group of skill players –- while the defense should be improved just enough to give the tweaked Tide offense a few problems.

But Alabama is still Alabama, and it's going to be on the short list of preseason favorites for the national title. But it still has to replace a slew of key defensive starters from the 2011 BCS champions, it has to replace RB Trent Richardson, and it has to get used to life with new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.

Brady Hoke came up with a few big wins in his first year in Ann Arbor – -including a Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech -- but beating Alabama would officially signal that the program is back to national title status. If the Wolverines are good enough to beat the Tide, they'll be good enough to beat everyone else on the schedule.

For Alabama, beating a BCS-caliber team would prove that it's business as usual and would be yet another big victory for the SEC.

Top Non-Conference Games  
- 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 

2012 Top 50 Non-Conference Games
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 1-10) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 11-20) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 21-30) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 31-40) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 41-50)  

Follow Us ... #ColFootballNews