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2007 Spring Questions - Top Non-Conf. Games

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Feb 17, 2007


Could Tommy Blake's TCU team be this year's Boise State? What happened to the clock rule changes? What are the 30 biggest non-conference games to get fired up about? With spring ball starting up soon, Pete Fiutak answers 20 questions starting with the first five.

By Pete Fiutak 

Spring ball with Texas, Auburn and UCLA starting soon. Here are twenty questions heading into this important time to keep you going during this brutally painful time before March Madness.

- 2006 Spring Questions
14-20 | 7-13 | 4-6 | 1-3

20. How's this season going to be?
It won't be 2005, but it'll be far better, far more interesting, and far better played than last year when the ACC was awful, the Big Ten was miserable, the Big 12 was rebuilding (especially at quarterback), the Pac 10 wasn't anything special, Conference USA was a snoozer, and the overall play wasn't anything to get excited about.

USC's defense should be the best in the Pete Carroll era, LSU might be even better than the national title team of a few years ago, Florida continues to stock the shelves with NFL talent, Michigan's offense should score on everyone, Virginia Tech's defense should stop everyone, Texas has all the pieces for a championship run, the Big East should be top-to-bottom better than even last year, teams like Wisconsin, UCLA, Arkansas, and Oregon State ahave the experience and talent to be killers, and TCU, Hawaii and Boise State will be more than just "mid-majors."

Expect better big games, more good storylines, better conference races, and more teams fighting for the BCS than ever. This is going to be a fun, exciting year.

19. What are the new rule changes and what's the deal with the time-clock rules to speed up the games?
After coaches couldn't adjust and whined way too much over the first several games of last season, the NCAA is likely to change the rules to the way they were before 2006 when it comes to starting the clock on the change of possession and when the ball is kicked off . The rules shortened the games and made things a bit more efficient, but they also meant the games were all but over with around three minutes to play since it was so much easier to run out the clock.

Everyone's knee-jerk reaction will be of pure joy, but it's much ado about nothing. When all was said and done, there were still comebacks, there were still heart-stopping finishes, and there were still upsets. Much was made of the loss of roughly 14 plays a game, but the quality of play and the excitement of the games weren't effected. The coaches figured out how to handle the rules, and everything actually turned out fine.

The NCAA rules committee will bow to the coaches, so the time off the games has to come from somewhere to keep them tighter and more efficient for TV. Expect a 15-second play clock instead of a 25-second clock coming off of timeouts, and for those timeouts to only be 30 seconds instead of 65. More importantly, the kickoffs will come from the 30 instead of the 35, which should mean plenty of big runbacks and a lot better field position for teams that work hard on special teams.

18. Considering the new world of the BCS, which "mid-major" will likely be this year's Boise State?
TCU. Think a better, more talented Boise State from a better conference. Beat Oklahoma? TCU did that two years ago in Norman. Wins? Try 22 in the last two seasons, four double-digit win campaigns in the last five. Experience? With the return of ends Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz, the defense is loaded with nine starters coming back from last year's 11-2 squad, while enough talent returns on offense to be the class of the Mountain West.  Gary Patterson's crew would've been in the BCS two years ago had the current rules been in place, and if it comes up with an early season upset at Texas, it'll be a near-lock to get in.


17. At the end of the day, did Boise State's Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma really change anything?

The jury's still out, but nothing will change as far as a playoff. While everyone is still in awe of what Boise State did, and everyone emphasizes how well the "team" played over the individual, there's still a general lack of respect for the Bronco talent compared to Oklahoma's. Hook up all the talking heads, analysts and most importantly, pollsters, and asked them how many times out of ten the Sooners would beat the Broncos, the combined answers would be average around 8.5. Even so, Boise State's win might have broken though the perceptions when it comes to what the little guy might be able to do.

If a one-loss Boise State, TCU, Southern Miss, or some other team from a non-automatic BCS league gets into the BCS, then you know things have truly changed. On the positive side, any time a "mid-major" goes unbeaten from here on, it'll get a spot in a BCS game somewhere.


16. 30 non-conference games to get really, really excited about ...

Along with the always great conference rivalry games, there are more than enough good non-conference games to get fired up about. If these don't give you a few special feelings, you're reading the wrong publication.

30. Boise State at Washington, Sept. 8
It's Boise State's first shot to show 2006 wasn't a fluke.

29. BYU at UCLA, Sept. 8
If BYU wants to show it reloaded, this is the game to prove it.

28. Ohio State at Washington, Sept. 15
It's not OSU at Texas, but it's a long trip for the rebuilding Buckeyes and a chance for the Ty Willingham era to take off.

27. Utah at Louisville, Oct. 6
If the Mountain West wants to get on the national map, this is a game it must have. Utah might really be that good.

26. Nebraska at Wake Forest, Sept. 8
The Huskers will be looking ahead to the showdown with USC the week after. Wake Forest will be looking to show it's still the real deal.

25. Florida State at Colorado, Sept. 15
Colorado hasn't been afraid to go on the road and face some good teams. Now it has to show it can beat them.

24. Washington State at Wisconsin, Sept. 1
A sneaky-tough game for the Badgers in its first real, live regular season non-conference game since going to West Virginia in the 2003 opener.

23. Louisville at Kentucky, Sept. 15
This will be one of the most exciting shootouts of the early season. UK is desperate to prove it's on par with its in-state rival.

22. Kansas State at Auburn, Sept. 1
It's not a misprint. Kansas State is going on the road to face a non-conference opponent with a pulse.

21. Maryland at Rutgers, Sept. 29
The two teams should be excellent, but for Rutgers, this is a must-win before Big East play starts.

20. Boston College at Notre Dame, Oct. 13
Catholics vs. Catholics. This is a sandwich game for the Irish between a trip to UCLA and the showdown against USC.

19. South Florida at Auburn, Sept. 8
South Florida is the team no one will want to face. It's just good enough to ruin Auburn's season before it gets going.

18. West Virginia at Maryland, Sept. 13
Growing into a good interconference rivalry, Maryland will look to get the upper hand again after losing the last three years.

17. Notre Dame at Penn State, Sept. 8
Can you say payback? Penn State is still smarting from last year's 41-17 embarrassment in South Bend.

16. Alabama vs. Florida State (in Jacksonville), Sept. 29
It might not be the best game of the year, but it's a fascinating matchup. Alabama won the last showdown between the two ... in 1974. FSU went 1-10 while Bama went 11-1.

15. Clemson at South Carolina, Nov. 24
The Gamecocks broke through in the rivalry last year for the first win since 2001.

14. Notre Dame at UCLA, Oct. 6
If this is half as good as the final minute of last year's game, this'll be one of the most competitive games of the year.

13. Georgia at Georgia Tech, Nov. 24
Georgia Tech will likely be better than last year when it lost/gagged a tough battle with the Dawgs. This could easily be a BCS game type of matchup.

12. Texas A&M at Miami, Sept. 20
It's unlikely the Canes are still holding a grudge from the last time they played the Aggies ... a 70-14 defeat in 1944.

11. Oklahoma State at Georgia, Sept. 1
Shhhhh. Oklahoma State has the potential to be one of the nation's biggest sleepers. The offense should be phenomenal.

10. Georgia Tech at Notre Dame, Sept. 1
The Yellow Jackets were good enough to win last year's showdown and didn't get it done. They have to take jump-start what could be a great year by taking advantage of the rebuilding Irish.

9. TCU at Texas, Sept. 8
This is TCU's dream shot. A win over the Longhorns would likely springboard a run to the BCS, while this would be a great victory for Texas in the eventual BCS rankings.

8. Oregon at Michigan, Sept. 15
Michigan has lost its last three games against Pac 10 teams including a 31-27 defeat in Eugene. Oregon's good enough to win this.

7. Notre Dame at Michigan, Sept. 15
The Irish have to play four road games in five weeks and has to go to Ann Arbor after playing Georgia Tech and traveling to Penn State.

6. Florida State at Florida, Nov. 24
The Noles have lost three in a row to the Gators. Each team might have a conference championship to prepare for the following week.

5. USC at Notre Dame, Oct. 20
USC should be far, far better than the Irish, but strange things happen in this rivalry. The Trojans have won the last five.

4. Miami at Oklahoma, Sept. 8
The last time these two superpowers met, Miami won the national title in the 1988 Orange Bowl. The Canes have won three in a row over the Sooners.

3. Tennessee at California, Sept. 1
Tennessee announced it was back with a 35-18 win over a great Cal team in the 2006 opener. The Bears can show they belong in the spotlight, and in the national title hunt, with a win in Berkeley.

2. USC at Nebraska, Sept. 15
If Nebraska wants to be back to superpower status, this is the game it has to win. The Trojans will likely be No. 1 and can cement themselves in the spot with a victory.

1. Virginia Tech at LSU, Sept. 8
While Virginia Tech vs. LSU might not get the national attention this off-season like USC vs. Nebraska will, the two should be among the five best (at worst, ten best) in the country. This will have national title implications. The Hokies beat the Tigers 26-8 in the 2002 opener.