CFN Spring Preview - Top Non-Conference Games
Posted Mar 12, 2013

Ready to start getting fired up? Here are the biggest of the big non-conference games of the 2013 season.

2013 Spring Preview 
Top Ten Non-Conference Games

Top Non-Conference Games  
2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 

2013 Top 50 Non-Conference Games
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 1-10) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 11-20) 
- 21 to 50 Coming Wednesday
- 2013 CFN Spring Preview 

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10. LSU at TCU (in Arlington), Aug. 31

It's an interesting showdown in the Jerry Jones palace with TCU, despite now being in the Big 12, still looking to play the role of giant killer and LSU trying to start things off with a dominant performance to show it's ready to be in the national title mix. The last meeting between the two was an LSU 10-7 win in 1968, while the last TCU win in the eight meetings came in a 3-2 Sugar Bowl barnburner in the 1936 Sugar Bowl. It's the opener for both teams with LSU getting a break with UAB, Kent State and Auburn at home to follow, while TCU gets SE Louisiana up next before starting the Big 12 season against Texas Tech.

9. UCLA at Nebraska, Sept. 14

It was UCLA's big announcement last season that things were quickly changing under Jim Mora, but now it's Nebraska's turn to show that things are different. The Bruins won 36-30 in the second game of 2012 for only the second victory in the 11 game series since 1972, but they're going to have to handle a tuned up Big Red. This is part of a five game home stand to start Nebraska's year, with Wyoming and Southern Miss to warm up against, while UCLA has a tough date with Nevada to start before getting two weeks off to prepare. With some due respect to Northwestern, if Nebraska wins, it'll almost certainly be 8-0 before going to Michigan.

8. Notre Dame at Michigan, Sept. 7

For different reasons, the last few showdowns between the two historic rivals have been outstanding. Last year's 13-6 Irish win was a rough dogfight, while the 35-31 Wolverine win two seasons ago was arguably the best game of 2011. The last four games have been decided by a touchdown or less, and this time around it should be a great indicator for each team before they go on to more big battles. This kicks off the Irish's Big Ten portion of the season with Purdue and Michigan State to follow, while this is Michigan's only game of note until going to Penn State in mid-October. Realistically, a win should mean an 8-0 start for Brady Hoke's club before dealing with Michigan State.

7. Florida at Miami, Sept. 7

It seems like these two should've been playing on a regular basis, and it was a big deal for a while when, depending on who you believe, Florida ducked out when Miami was rocking and rolling, but these two haven't played since a 26-3 Florida win in 2008. Before that, the Hurricanes came up with a 27-10 win in the 2004 Peach Bowl. Prior to 2008, Miami had won the last six games in the series with the last Gator victory coming in the 1985 season opener. This time around, Florida will be coming off an interesting opener against Toledo and has Tennessee to follow, while the Canes have it easier kicking things off against Florida Atlantic and with two weeks off to prepare for Savannah State after.

6. Clemson at South Carolina, Nov. 30

This seems like it should be a huge deal considering Clemson's win over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, and considering the rivalry aspect, but the game itself has been a stunning dud over the last few seasons with South Carolina winning each of the last four games by double digits and the last close game coming in a 23-21 Tiger victory in 2007.

5. Alabama vs. Virginia Tech (in Atlanta), Aug. 31

Considering the big name matchup, this seems like it should be a huge deal, but Alabama's complete and utter destruction of Michigan in last season's opener in Arlington is still too fresh. This is a huge chance for the Hokies and quarterback Logan Thomas to make a gigantic statement, and with a win, all of a sudden the narrative of the 2013 season would make a 180-degree shift. But it's Alabama with time to prepare – uh oh. 

4. Oklahoma at Notre Dame, Sept. 28

After losing at home to the Irish, the Sooners need to come back roaring after starting out the season with three dangerous home games against ULM, West Virginia and Tulsa. Fortunately for them, they get two weeks off to get ready for the rematch and the first trip to South Bend since losing 34-30 in 1999. Notre Dame won't have any chances to breathe after finishing up its Big Ten tour with Michigan State at home after dealing with road trips against Michigan and Purdue in the two previous weeks. With Arizona State – with the game played in Arlington – and USC to follow, there's no rest over the first half of the season.

3. USC at Notre Dame, Oct. 19

If USC is able to step up its play just a little bit, and play a little bit stronger than it did at any time throughout last season, it should be able to get through Hawaii on the road, Washington State, Boston College and Utah State without a problem. However, if the Trojans lose at Arizona State or gaffe at home against Arizona, the pressure will be crushing on Lane Kiffin going into the midseason showdown in South Bend. The Irish will have already have faced Arizona State two weeks before USC comes to town, and they'll also have dealt with Oklahoma and Michigan State at home and Michigan on the road. If they're 6-0 at this point, even with a road date at Stanford and a home game against BYU to deal with, the hype will be off the charts.

2. Florida State at Florida, Nov. 30

While the rivalry hasn't exactly been scintillating lately, the games have become important. The brutally ugly 2011 Florida State win over Florida might have set college football back several years, but last season's gut-check 37-26 Gator victory in Tallahassee mattered. Beating the eventual ACC champion on the road was a key part of the Florida résumé, giving the SEC yet another huge win for its Best Conference By Far case and killing any of the ACC's national mojo – what little there was. This year, Florida State should come in on a roll with Wake Forest the only road trip after going to Clemson on October 19th, while the Gators will have a nice and breezy tune-up against Georgia Southern after closing the season out the week before at South Carolina.

1. Georgia at Clemson, Aug. 31

When last we saw Clemson, it was exorcising its Orange Bowl vs. West Virginia demons and putting on the big boy pants with a terrific late drive to beat LSU in a fantastic Chick-fil-A Bowl. However, instead of that being the end of a year-long journey to try to win back a little bit of respectability, the most important win in the Dabo Swinney era – even bigger than the 2011 ACC championship – served as a jumping off point. With QB Tajh Boyd and WR Sammy Watkins returning, along with several good recruiting classes maturing, the Tigers are going to be red hot this offseason with the spotlight on for its big game in Death Valley to kick off 2013. There's still Florida State to deal with in the middle of the year and a trip to South Carolina to finish things off, but a win over Georgia would set the tone for the rest of the season, while a home loss would be a deathblow to any national interest in the Tigers and the ACC.

For the Dawgs, this is the start of its four game regular season. With all due respect to road games to Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Auburn and Georgia Tech – actually, with little respect to those games if Georgia is good enough to beat Clemson at Clemson – 2013 comes down to this game, the SEC opener against South Carolina the week after, the battle with LSU at the end of September and the Cocktail Party – yes, it is and will always be the Cocktail Party – against Florida. The SEC might be nasty again, but a loss to Clemson means the national title dreams could go bye-bye before September kicks off.

These two used to play all the time, with the first matchup a 36-0 Georgia win in 1902, but the last meeting was a 30-0 Bulldog victory in 2003. The last Clemson victory was 34-3 blasting in 1990.