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2009 Spring Preview - Top Non-Conf. Games 4
BC's Mark Herzlich & Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen
BC's Mark Herzlich & Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen
Posted Mar 2, 2009

Part 4 of the 50 Top Non-Conference Games, No. 31 to 40, in the 2009 CFN Spring/Off-Season Preview.

Spring Preview 2009

The 20 Big Questions ... No. 20 (Part 4)

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. 31 to 40) ...

40. California at Minnesota, Sept. 19
As last year’s
sleepwalking loss to Maryland showed, Cal doesn’t always do well when it has to travel to a different time zone. This is the team’s first road trip of the season, and while it has the talent and athleticism to win in a walk, Minnesota should be pumped up in the first really big game in its bright, shiny new stadium after opening it up the week before against Air Force. If the Gophers can’t handle the Falcon running game, it could be a sign that Cal’s Jahvid Best could be due for a huge day.

39. Louisville at Kentucky, Sept. 12
To say the start of the Steve Kragthorpe era in Louisville has been a bit rocky would be just a wee bit of an understatement. He needs something positive in a big way to start to change things around, and nothing would do that like a win over Kentucky. It’s one thing to have two straight disappointing seasons, but it’s another for UofL die-hards to have to deal with Wildcat fans after two straight bitter losses. The Cards get a warm-up against Indiana State, arguably the nation’s worst FCS team last season. The first half of the season could be a disaster for the Cats if they lose to the Cards. Kentucky kicks off the SEC season two weeks later with Florida and Alabama followed up by road trips to South Carolina and Auburn.

38. South Carolina at NC State, Sept. 3
When last we saw South Carolina, it was stinking up the Outback Bowl in a blowout to cap an ugly three game stretch of losses to Florida, Clemson and Iowa by a combined score of 118 to 30. The USC season started out well with a 34-0 win over NC State with Pack quarterbacks combining to complete 5-of-20 passes for 49 yards and two interceptions. The Wolfpack improved by leaps and bounds as the season went on, and now the program can show just how good it has become under Tom O’Brien. For South Carolina, a loss could be disastrous with a trip to Georgia coming up the next week.

37. Arizona at Iowa, Sept. 19
Call this a bit of a prove-it game for two programs that came up with 2008 seasons that were key to the future of their respective coaching staffs. Arizona starts out the season with home games against Central Michigan and Northern Arizona before going on the road for three nasty games. A loss in Iowa City could be devastating with Pac 10 battles against Oregon State and USC to follow. This is a sandwich game for Iowa between two road trips of varying degrees of difficulty. The Iowa State rivalry game is always tough, made more so this year with the new Cyclone coaching staff, while the game after the visit from Arizona is the revenge game for Penn State in Happy Valley.

36. East Carolina at North Carolina, Sept. 19
The Pirates will be coming off a trip to West Virginia that’ll either put them in the national spotlight early on, or will make them need the win in Chapel Hill that much more. North Carolina will be one of the chic bandwagons to jump on early this year, and it’ll be an even hotter team if it wins at UConn the week before the ECU game. The Tar Heels can’t get caught looking ahead to the ACC opener at Georgia Tech the following week.

35. Arizona State at Georgia, Sept. 26
Last year’s big showdown between the two turned out to be a dud. Arizona State, fresh off a shocking overtime loss to UNLV, didn’t have any offensive punch, and didn’t have any answers for Knowshon Moreno, in the 27-10 loss that was part of a six-game losing streak. For Georgia, things would fall apart the following week with a 41-30 loss to Alabama. This year, the Sun Devils make the trip to Athens after warming up with Idaho State and UL Monroe, but the Dawgs aren’t taking it easy in any way. This game is part of one of the most brutal starts to the 2009 season that anyone has to deal with. At Oklahoma State, South Carolina, at Arkansas, Arizona State, LSU, at Tennessee, at Vanderbilt, Florida … yeeeeeeesh.

34. Virginia Tech at East Carolina, Nov. 5
There will be plenty of talk about payback from Virginia Tech after getting a punt blocked for a touchdown to lose last year’s opener to East Carolina 27-22. However, the defending ACC champion might not simply be able to show up and beat the defending Conference USA champion so late in the season. The Hokies will be coming off tough ACC battles with Georgia Tech and North Carolina, and will need to get ready for a tough finishing kick with a date at Maryland to follow. ECU will be jacked up for the nationally televised Thursday night game to close out a nasty non-conference slate that includes trips to West Virginia and North Carolina (along with the home opener against FCS superpower Appalachian State).

33. Boise State at Tulsa, Oct. 3
These two played a whale of a game in 2004, with Boise State winning 45-42 in Tulsa. This year’s matchup should be just as entertaining, and it might have been a bowl game last year had things broken the right way. Tulsa is sort of a Boise State wannabe. It hasn’t had the long-term success the Broncos have had, but they’ve put up big numbers and have been a dangerous non-BCS program on the verge of big things. However, there hasn’t been the big, splashy win to get everyone’s full and undivided attention. Boise State is big time now with double-digit win season after double-digit win season, but this could be a major trap game with the WAC schedule about to kick in. Tulsa will also be about ready to get into the meat of the Conference USA slate after a non-conference schedule against New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Sam Houston State.

32. East Carolina at West Virginia, Sept. 12
The 24-3 ECU win over West Virginia early last season wasn’t necessarily a stunner after the win over Virginia Tech the week before, but it turned heads. It turned out to be the low point of the Mountaineer season with two of the other three losses coming in overtime, and the other defeat a 19-15 battle against Pitt. There can’t be a slip for West Virginia with a date at Auburn to follow, while ECU has just as big a road trip the following week to North Carolina.

31. Boston College at Notre Dame, Oct. 24
The USC game is the one Notre Dame types seem to point to as the one that defines the program on a yearly basis, but Boston College has been every bit as thorny, if not more so. The Eagles have won six straight in the series, seemingly always in tight defensive battles, and this year’s game might take on even more meaning for Charlie Weis and the Irish considering it comes the week after the USC game. This shouldn’t be the same BC team that’s been so strong over the last several seasons, there’s work to be done on both sides of the ball, but by midseason, the team will be as good and as tuned up as it’s going to be.