2009 Spring Preview - Top Non-Conf. Games 3
Tennessee's Eric Berry & UCLA's Reggie Carter
Tennessee's Eric Berry & UCLA's Reggie Carter
Posted Mar 2, 2009

Part 3 of the 50 Top Non-Conference Games, No. 21 to 30, in the 2009 CFN Spring/Off-Season Preview.


Spring Preview 2009

ThThe 20 Big Questions ... No. 20 (Part 3)

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. 21 to 30) ...

30. North Carolina at Connecticut, Sept. 12span>
Go ahead and insert your comment about how this would be a fantastic national championship game to end March Madness. On the football field, it’ll be a statement game for both conferences. North Carolina will be the hot pick by many to come up with a big season, but UConn can show that it belongs in the top 25 discussion with a win. UNC can prove that it belongs among the top 15 or so teams in the nation with a convincing early road win.

29. Clemson at South Carolina, Nov. 28
Is it a rivalry if one side keeps winning? Clemson has won six of the last seven in the series, including a Dabo Swinney-job-sealing 31-14 victory last year. In the final six games of the year, South Carolina plays at Alabama, Vanderbilt, at Tennessee, at Arkansas, and Florida before dealing with the rivalry date with the Tigers … this could be an ugly finishing kick. Steve Spurrier has a good team that needs to have hit its stride by this point, while Clemson will be looking to keep the momentum of the rivalry going.

28. Cincinnati at Oregon State, Sept. 19
Oregon State has been hit or miss in big games over the past several years with the 2007 trip to Cincinnati one of the big misses. The Bearcats beat the Beavers 34-3, and now comes the return trip two years later. OSU should be able to start out 2-0 against Portland State and UNLV before dealing with the Bearcats. Cincinnati gets Fresno State at home the week after before diving into the Big East schedule.

27. UCLA at Tennessee, Sept. 12
Both teams stunk it up over the 2008 season, but they played a whale of an opener with the Bruins coming up with the 27-24 overtime win in Rick Neuheisel’s debut. The Lane Kiffin era at Tennessee will start up against Western Kentucky as a tune-up before UCLA comes to town, and there will be plenty of grumbling if the new guy can’t pass his first big test. Lose to the Pac 10ers, and it’ll almost certainly be a 1-2 start with the trip to Florida coming up the week after. The Bruins host Kansas State the following week.

26. Colorado at West Virginia, Sept. 26
Give Colorado credit for not ducking the big game considering it already has its annual non-conference war with Colorado State to deal with, but the program has to start winning games like these on the road. Last year, the Buffs beat the Mountaineers in a strange 17-14 overtime win with Cody Hawkins throwing two touchdown passes in the first five minutes for a 14-0 CU lead. The Colorado offense did absolutely nothing the rest of the way, while the Mountaineers rolled up 311 yards of rushing offense. With a trip to Texas next on tap, CU has to win this game, while West Virginia will be coming off a date at Auburn.

25. Maryland at California, Sept. 5
California was flying high after beating Michigan State and Washington State to start the season, and then it travelled east, had an early start against the Terps, and didn’t wake up in time losing 35-27.  The win set the tone for Maryland after it clunked in a loss to Middle Tennessee the week before, and this year it’ll be a big game for the program that needs to show it can be more than just competitive on the road. Cal can’t lose this game with four road games and a battle with USC by October 17, while Maryland gets five home games in its next six after going to Berkeley.

24. Nevada at Notre Dame, Sept. 5
The last time was saw Notre Dame play a WAC team, Jimmy Clausen was basically throwing against air as he ripped apart the non-existent Hawaii defense in the Hawaii Bowl. The season opener against a team that finished dead last in the nation in pass defense might not seem like anything to sweat over, but QB Colin Kaepernick and the high-powered Nevada offense have enough juice to pull off the upset. With a trip to Michigan to follow, the last thing the 2009 Charlie Weis Life Support Tour needs to is to get run over right out of the gate.

23. Texas Tech at Houston, Sept. 26
It’s game two against the Big 12 for Houston, with a date at Oklahoma State a few weeks earlier, and it should be every bit as thrilling. It’s Texas Tech, so the non-conference schedule isn’t exactly a push with North Dakota and Rice to start things off and New Mexico to follow, but this game should be dangerous. The Cougars were second last year in the nation in total offense and second in passing offense, while Texas Tech led the nation in passing and was fourth in total offense. This should be a whole bunch of fun … is 1,000 yards of passing possible?

22. Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (in Dallas), Oct. 3
The former Southwest Conference rivals square off in an interesting non-conference, midseason matchup that each team might need to go bowling. Bobby Petrino’s Hog team gets one week to figure out all its issues with a layup against Missouri State, and then it’s the SEC season with Georgia and Alabama to deal with before the trip to Dallas to face the Aggies. A&M might be considered by some to be the preseason No. 6 pick in the Big 12 South, or maybe No. 5, but it’ll likely be 3-0 going into the key date with the Razorbacks after starting out at home against New Mexico, Utah State, and UAB.

21. Houston at Oklahoma State, Sept. 12
GeGet ready for the track meet. Oklahoma State won a fun 56-37 shootout last year with the two teams combining for 1,182 yards of total offense. The Cowboys ran for 379 yards and have an even more explosive attack this season with all the key parts returning, while Case Keenum and the Houston attack that finished second in the nation last year should be just as dangerous. This will be game two for OSU after hosting Georgia.