2009 Spring Preview - Top Non-Conf. Games 2
USF's Matt Grothe & Miami's Jacory Harris
USF's Matt Grothe & Miami's Jacory Harris
Posted Mar 2, 2009

Part 2 of the 50 Top Non-Conference Games, No. 11 to 20, in the 2009 CFN Spring/Off-Season Preview.

Spring Preview 2009

The 20 Big Questions ... No. 20 (Part 2)

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. 11 to 20) ...

20. Florida State vs. BYU, Sept. 19
BYU has some face-saving to do after the problems at the end of last year, and that’s not going to happen with the season-opener at Oklahoma. It’ll be statement time a few weeks later when Florida State, who has never been afraid to go anywhere, comes to Provo. This will be a big game for the Mountain West, and a bigger game for BYU. The Noles will start out the season against Miami and get a layup against Jacksonville State before making the trip to Utah, and if their pass rush is as deadly as ever, they could come away with a nice non-conference win.

19. Michigan State at Notre Dame, Sept. 19
The Spartans dominated the last two meetings between the two, but this was a blast of a showdown from 2000 to 2006 with all seven games decided by a touchdown or less. The Irish have a sneaky-tough opener against Nevada before dealing with a Michigan team that’ll desperately need the win. If Charlie Weis and company can get to 2-0, Michigan State might be the only real barrier to 5-0 with Purdue and Washington to follow before the USC showdown. MSU might need to do some tuning up, and it’ll get the time with Montana State and Central Michigan coming to East Lansing before the trip to South Bend.

18. TCU at Clemson, Sept. 26
Be careful, Clemson. The Tigers might not have their full focus on the always dangerous Horned Frogs after diving knee-deep into conference play with games against Georgia Tech and Boston College in the first three weeks and with a trip to Maryland coming up the following week. TCU will have already dealt with an ACC road trip, starting off the season at Virginia, and if this year’s team turns out to be as nasty as last year’s, the Clemson battle could be the one that turns out to be the true jumping off point for a big season. This is a huge game for the Mountain West in terms of national respect.

17. Illinois at Cincinnati, Nov. 26
It’s a nice bowl-like game to close out the regular season for the Illini. If Illinois is decent enough to have a bounce-back season, it should come in to this game on a roll with a relatively light and breezy second half of the year to build on. Ron Zook’s club will be coming off a date with Fresno State, who comes to Cincinnati in late September. The defending Big East champions aren’t expected to be quite as strong as last year, but if they’re on any sort of a winning streak, the nationally-televised Thursday night game should be a must-see for bowl positions.

16. Notre Dame at Michigan, Sept. 12
No, this doesn’t have anywhere near the juice it did nearly two decades ago (yes, we’re all old), but it’s a vital game for the two monster programs and it’ll be a major tone-setter for the rest of the season. Notre Dame will be coming off a game against a Nevada team that’ll finish the season with one of the five best statistical offenses in the country, while Michigan will have battled a Western Michigan team that’ll be good, but will be rebuilding. If Rich Rodriguez can get the desperately needed early win, Michigan will likely get off to a 4-0 start before going to Notre Dame. The Irish will face the Spartans the week after going to Ann Arbor.

15. South Florida at Florida State, Sept. 26
It’s been said that South Florida could be the new Florida State or the new Miami. The talent and recruiting bases are there, the school is big and ready to take the step up and be a consistent star, and the expectations are rising. Now it’s time to come up with the Sunshine State statement win needed to get more and more of the top state players to come to Tampa instead of Tallahassee. This is the first meeting against FSU, who’ll be coming back from a dangerous trip to BYU and will be eying a key ACC game at Boston College the following week. There will be no excuse for South Florida to not be 100% tuned up after a ridiculous opening three games against Wofford, Western Kentucky, and Charleston Southern.

14. Illinois vs. Missouri (St. Louis), Sept. 5
These two teams have played some tremendous shootouts to kick off the last two seasons. Missouri won both games, 40-34 and 52-42, with the Illini making interesting comebacks in each. With the Tigers rebuilding, and with Illinois looking to bounce back after missing out on a bowl game, this is a big chance for Ron Zook’s club to get much-needed early season win. The second half of the season isn’t all that bad, but the Illini play Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State, the three best teams in the Big Ten, before mid-October. If Mizzou wins this, it’s 3-0 with Bowling Green and Furman to follow before travelling to Nevada.

13. Miami at South Florida, Nov. 28
South Florida faces Florida State on September 26th in the first meeting of the two schools. The game against Miami late in the year might be even bigger because it’s being played in Tampa. The atmosphere should be electric in what might be seen as the most important non-conference home game in USF’s brief history. In the regular season finale, the Canes will be coming off a home game against Duke that should allow for a bit of a breather after dealing with a trip to North Carolina. Their intensity level had better be there or they could be walking into a beartrap. Miami won the only meeting between the two schools 27-7 in 2005.

12. Utah at Oregon, Sept. 19
This would’ve made for an interesting BCS game last year. Oregon starts off its season with a battle at Boise State, and doesn’t take it all that easy the rest of the way. Utah got by Oregon State at home last year, and now it has to go to Eugene to deal with a Pac 10 team bent on making a big splash before dealing with California in the Pac 10 opener. The Utes beat Oregon in 2003 and will need to do it again to show continue the success from last year. On a 14-game winning streak, it should be up to 16 with Utah State and San Jose State to start the season.

11. West Virginia at Auburn, Sept. 19
The 34-17 loss in Morgantown last year was part of the ugly second half of the season for Auburn and helped push forward the end of the Tommy Tuberville era. For West Virginia, it was a strong win that led into a big 35-13 win at Connecticut the week after. This year, Auburn hosts the Mountaineers a week after kicking off the SEC season against Mississippi State, while West Virginia will be coming off a revenge-game against East Carolina.