2009 Spring Preview - Top Non-Conf. Games 5
La Tech's Phillip Livas & Auburn's Kodi Burns
La Tech's Phillip Livas & Auburn's Kodi Burns
Posted Mar 2, 2009

Part 5 of the 50 Top Non-Conference Games, No. 41 to 50, in the 2009 CFN Spring/Off-Season Preview.

Spring Preview 2009

The 20 Big Questions ... No. 20 (Part 5)

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. 41 to 50) ...

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.

50. Louisiana Tech at Auburn, Sept. 5
The first game of the Gene Chizik era isn’t exactly going to be a walk in the park. Louisiana Tech is loaded with a strong defense, what will be an improved offense, and dreams of coming up with a second straight season-opening upset of an SEC team (the Bulldogs beat Mississippi State to kick off 2008).

49. Missouri at Nevada, Sept. 26
69-17.  Missouri got 405 yards and four touchdown passes from Chase Daniel, with Jeremy Maclin getting three of the scores, in last year’s embarrassing rout in Columbia. Daniel and Maclin are gone as Missouri has some major rebuilding and retuning to do, and it could be ripe for the picking with the Big 12 opener against Nebraska coming the week after. Nevada will finish with the season with one of the top five offenses in America. It’ll already have faced Notre Dame and Colorado State, but this will be a game in its own house against a big name. This is where QB Colin Kaepernick and the Wolf Pack ground game have to shine.

48. Fresno State at Illinois, Nov. 21
By this point in the season, Fresno State will have already have played Wisconsin and Cincinnati in tough non-conference road trips, and it’ll have the bulk of the WAC season behind it. This game could turn out to be a make or break point for head coach Pat Hill, depending how the conference campaign is going. Illinois came up with an unfocused mega-clunker of a loss to Western Michigan last November, and with the team’s Big Ten season over at this point, and with a trip to Cincinnati to close things out, focus on Senior Day will be the key.

47. LSU at Washington, Sept. 5
The Pac 10 gets the SEC in its house as the Tigers make the trip up to Seattle for the season-opener. LSU will be the heavy favorite, but if there’s ever going to be an upset, it would come in the season opener before anyone has had a chance to tune up (think UCLA’s win over Tennessee). If nothing else, the Huskies will see exactly where they stand to kickoff the Steve Sarkisian era.

46. Kansas State at UCLA, Sept. 19
It’s Kansas State with Bill Snyder back at the helm with a chance to show early on just how much things have changed. After starting out with a tune-up against UMass and taking a tougher-than-it-appears trip to UL Lafayette, the Wildcats head west to face a UCLA team that could be on desperation alert after coming back from a road trip to Tennessee and with the Pac 10 opener at Stanford two weeks later.

45. Colorado vs. Colorado State, Sept. 5
This might be the most entertaining under-the-radar rivalry in college football. Every game is an interesting battle, including last year’s 38-17 Colorado win that saw back-to-back kickoff returns for scores. The previous six meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less, and this year’s game should be another tight battle. A loss for Colorado would instantly turn the flames up on the Dan Hawkins hot seat, while Colorado State can make a huge early statement for the Mountain West and in year two of the Steve Fairchild era with a win.

44. Rutgers at Maryland, Sept. 26
In the on-going fan debate about the place in the overall pecking order for the Big East and ACC, games like this matter. Maryland can’t take Middle Tennessee lightly after losing last year’s matchup, but realistically, there shouldn’t be too much of a problem after starting off the year at California. This is the Terps’ final game before the ACC season kicks off against Clemson, and it needs to be a win over a rebuilding and retooling Scarlet Knight team. Rutgers will have time to tune-up with Howard and FIU on the early slate.

43. Fresno State at Wisconsin, Sept. 12
When the Badgers came away from Fresno with a hard-fought, entertaining 13-10 win last year, it was supposed to be the spark for a big season. The big road test was supposed to prove the team had the mettle to handle the hostile, fired up environment, and then the wheels flew off the bandwagon with a four-game losing streak. After the way last year ended, with an ugly 42-13 loss to Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl, Bret Bielema needs this win. Fresno State always likes to take on the big programs, and this would be a nice victory with trips to Cincinnati and Illinois still to deal with.

42. Navy at Ohio State, Sept. 5
Ohio State was dangerously close to losing early season games against Ohio and Troy last year, needing to pull away late to put those two games away. The Buckeyes don’t always come roaring out of the gate, and with USC coming to town the week after, there’s a good chance they won’t be fully focused to kick off the rebuilding season. Navy’s offense is just dangerous enough to make things very, very interesting with so many new starting faces on the OSU D.

41. Pitt at NC State, Sept. 26
Doesn’t this seem like it should be the Meineke Car Care Bowl? Pitt can’t seem to get over the hump and become a major player under Dave Wannstedt, and while a win over NC State wouldn’t exactly fire up the college football world, it would be a nice victory for the team and the Big East. On the flip side, NC State will have already played South Carolina before getting two layups against Murray State and Gardner-Webb. After having a hard time getting off to a good start in the two years under Tom O’Brien, and then having to scramble over the second half of the year, a win here could mean things have changed.