2009 Spring Preview - Top 50 Non-Conf. Games
Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant & Georgia's A.J. Green
Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant & Georgia's A.J. Green
Posted Mar 2, 2009

Ready to get fired up for the 2009 season that's still six months away? As spring ball kicks in, here's part one of the 20 big off-season questions beginning with the 50 Top Non-Conference Games. It's not No. 1, but Dez Bryant and Oklahoma State vs. A.J. Green and Georgia is close.

Spring Preview 2009

The 20 Big Questions ... No. 20 (Part 1)

By Pete Fiutak 

2009 Spring Questions - Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 1 to 10)
2009 Spring Questions - Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 11 to 20)
2009 Spring Questions - Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 21 to 30)
2009 Spring Questions - Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 31 to 40)
2009 Spring Questions - Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 41 to 50)
2008 Spring Questions - Top 40 Non-Conference Games

With spring ball underway, it's time to start diving into the 2009 season ... no, it's not way too early. Here are the 20 Big Questions to start off the offseason, beginning with the top non-conference games.

20. 50 non-conference games to get really, really excited about (No. 1 to 10) ...

10. BYU vs. Oklahoma (in Arlington), Sept. 5
It’s an interesting season opener to see exactly where the two teams are at as they dive into promising seasons. Oklahoma will likely be everyone’s preseason No. 3 (behind Florida and Texas) or will at least be in the top five, while BYU will look to erase memories of a rough end of 2008 with losses to Utah and Arizona. Can the Sooners put up 60+ points on the board to get the ball rolling again after the fun was interrupted by Florida? Can BYU’s high-octane offense keep up the pace? There will be plenty to analyze.
9. Georgia at Georgia Tech, Nov. 28
Chan Gailey had a successful run as the head coach of Georgia Tech, but he struggled against Georgia hastening his firing. The Dawgs had won seven straight in the rivalry, and then came Paul Johnson and his option attack. One thrilling 45-42 win later, it’s game on. Now the Yellow Jackets should know what they’re doing on offense, and now the Dawgs will have to work on preparing for it even though the SEC season ends for them the week before against Kentucky. Georgia Tech closes out its ACC regular season with a date at Duke, and then it gets two weeks off to rest up and prepare for the showdown.

8. Nebraska at Virginia Tech, Sept. 19
Last year’s battle between the two was a fun 35-30 Virginia Tech win that flew slightly under the radar. It was a bit of a coming-of-age moment for Hokie QB Tyrod Taylor and it was a fantastic road win in what turned out to be a strong non-conference showing for the ACC. The Hokies start out the season against Alabama and kick off the conference slate after the visit from the Huskers against Miami. Nebraska is looking for the same type of big, impressive non-conference road win in year two of the Bo Pelini era after closing out last season with four straight wins including a thrilling Gator Bowl victory over Clemson. This is the first test of the year after starting out against Florida Atlantic and Arkansas State from the Sun Belt.

7. Oregon at Boise State, Sept. 5
Did Boise State catch Oregon at just the right time, when the Ducks were trying to find its footing after injury problems, or was the 37-32 Bronco win in Autzen Stadium really an indicator of how things are changing? Before the bowl games, the Pac 10 took a hit in the PR department because of losses like this, and now Oregon has to make amends on the blue turf. It’s the season-opener for a Duck team that was scorching-hot to close out 2008, but there’s plenty of turnover in key areas. Boise State is loaded and is more than good enough to win this game, and if it does, it’ll be a hit for the Pac 10, considering Oregon is supposed to be the league’s second best team. On the flip side, Boise State has the national respect at this point to make it a great road win for the Ducks if they can pull if off. It’s the second meeting between the two schools.

6. Oklahoma at Miami, Oct. 3
In 2007, Miami found out just how far it had to go to be among the elite again after being embarrassed 51-13 in Norman. This year, “Da U” will see this as its national breakout game, but it has a lot of work to do, A LOT of work to do, beforehand with at Florida State, Georgia Tech, and at Virginia Tech to open up the season. Oklahoma has lost its last two games played in Miami, the national title game against Florida last year and the 2005 Orange Bowl, the national championship, against USC, but it was also the site of the national championship win over Florida State in the 2001 Orange Bowl. The Sooners will have to deal with BYU to start out the year, but games against Idaho State and Tulsa should get them ready for the Canes.

5. Florida State at Florida, Nov. 28
Florida has won five straight in the series with blowouts in the last two, and Florida State, at the end of the year, has to prove that the gap has closed between the two programs. Considering the league the Gators play in, the schedule isn’t all that bad with one brutal road date (LSU). With Georgia rebuilding a bit and no Alabama or Ole Miss from the West on the schedule, it’s all there for yet another run to the national title, or at least the SEC title game. Florida State might have a hard time screwing up the Gator BCS title hopes if everything is humming for the defending champs, but it’ll be the key late November game that everyone will be watching.  If nothing else, this might be a key final argument for Tim Tebow in the Heisman race.

4. USC at Notre Dame, Oct. 17
Simply put, this game will all but define the future of Notre Dame football. The schedule isn’t all that bad, even with all the big names on it, so there’s no real reason the Irish can’t be 4-1, or even 5-0 if they can get by Michigan State, before hosting the mighty Trojans. USC will still be rebuilding a bit, so if Notre Dame ever wanted to come up with the upset in the series, this would be the time. Since the Bush Push game of 2005, USC has beaten Notre Dame by a combined score of 120 to 27 in the last three meetings. The games weren’t even that close, including the nightmare of last year’s 38-0 win when the Irish couldn’t get a first down until midway through the second half. USC will have a revenge game against Oregon State the week after.

3. Alabama vs. Virginia Tech (in Atlanta), Sept. 5
Last year, Clemson came into Atlanta as the hot team of the preseason before Alabama changed that around. This year, the Tide will be looking to erase memories of the Sugar Bowl loss to Utah by beating up Virginia Tech, the two-time defending ACC champion and Orange Bowl winner. The Hokies have had some fantastic moments in the Frank Beamer era, but for all the great things they done and for all the wins, they need to win this game to show the world that the ACC really might be emerging in the discussion of the best BCS conferences. Alabama will take the following few weeks off with FIU and North Texas coming to town for the Sun Belt Invitational, while this game starts off an interesting September for the Hokies with home games against Marshall, Nebraska, and Miami to follow.

2. Georgia at Oklahoma State, Sept. 5
This is a BCS caliber game to kick off the year, and it’ll be the type of game that fans of the two power conferences will point to all season long. The bowls weren’t kind to the Big 12, especially against the SEC, with Texas Tech losing to Ole Miss in the Cotton Bowl and Oklahoma losing the national title to Florida. Oklahoma State was stunned by Oregon in the Holiday Bowl in a game that got the message board debates rolling. This is a big chance to make amends. Oklahoma State gets almost everyone back from the nation’s No. 6 offense, while Georgia has to replace Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno, and just enough parts to be the underdog. If OSU really is a top ten team, this is a game it has to win. If Georgia wins, get ready for the SEC chest-thumping to be deafening.

1. USC at Ohio State, Sept. 12
It’s the Rose Bowl that still has yet to happen in the Jim Tressel/Pete Carroll era. Last year, Beanie Wells was out injured and the Ohio State coaches appeared to be the only people in America who didn’t know that Terrelle Pryor was the better full-time quarterback option as USC came up with a 35-3 pasting of the Buckeyes. This year, USC is reloading on defense while Ohio State is a major overhaul to deal with. Even so, the Buckeyes have to view this game as a chance to redefine the program. Once the biggest bad boy on the block when it came to the big games, now the Ohio State University has become the big dud when it comes to prime time (with Oklahoma pushing hard for the honor). USC is the preeminent big game team in college football, especially on the road, and a win in Columbus would only strengthen the brilliant reputation.  The Trojans kick off Pac 10 play the following week at Washington, while OSU, or tOSU to its fans, get to play Toledo.