6/24 Roundtable - 3 Top Non-Conference Games
USC CB Josh Pinkard & Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor
USC CB Josh Pinkard & Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor
Posted Jun 23, 2009

6/24 Roundtable - The three top non-conference games are ... ? It's the Wednesday topic in the CFN Daily Roundtable Discussion.

CFN Daily Roundtables

June 24

The Three Biggest Non-Conference Games

Over the next several weeks, as part of the CFN 2009 Preview, we'll examine some of the key questions going into the year with a daily discussion of the big topics.

Past Roundtables
June 23 The Coach On The Biggest Hot Seat Is ... ?
June 22 The No. 5 team will be ... ?

June 19
The most underrated team will be ... ?

June 18 The most overrated team will be ... ?
June 17 The sleeper national title teams
June 16 Do 40 Times Really Matter?
June 15 Does college football need a Rooney Rule?
June 12 Should Alabama vacate wins?
June 11 Should college football players be paid?
June 10 Is the recruiting hype too much?
June 9 If you were starting an NFL team ...
June 8 Where would you take over as head coach?
June 5 Who does the least with the most?
June 4 Who does the most with the least?
June 3 The star players of September
June 2 The star teams of September
June 1 The coach you'd want for one game
May 28 Should the Big Ten expand, and if so, then what team should be added?
May 27 Should the Pac 10 expand? If so, then what two teams should be added?
May 26 Chizik, Kiffin or Mullen?
May 25 Heisman race sleepers 
May 22 2009's most interesting teams

May 21 Is Tebow the best QB ever?
May 20 When should preseason polls come out?
May 19 Does 2008 Utah have a beef?
May 18
No BCS, No Weis?

Pete Fiutak, CFN

Yes, I'm part of the problem. You can check me out at twitter.com/CFN_Fiu and find out future roundtable topics and other random musings.

Q: The three non-conference games you're most looking forward to are ... ?

Forgive me for rehashing what I wrote in the Spring Preview on this topic, but I got hit with the flu and I'm a wuss. Here are my top ten.

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 hosing 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.

Richard Cirminiello, CFN

Q: The three non-conference games you're most looking forward to are ... ?

3. Alabama vs. Virginia Tech, Sept. 5 – Is it just me or does this feel like the movie Groundhog starring Bill Murray? This is eerily reminiscent of last year, when the Tide was facing a team from the ACC looking to make some national waves. This time around, it’s the Hokies, who’ll be toting the banner for a beleaguered conference. If you like good defense, coaching, and special teams, you might want to consider booking a flight to Atlanta for this opener.

2. USC at Notre Dame, Oct. 17 – When both of these schools are ranked, this is one of the game’s most delicious rivalries. The Trojans should hold up their end of the bargain, and so should the Irish, thanks to a very manageable schedule. The atmosphere in South Bend ought to be bananas, rivaling the scene four years ago, when USC prevailed 34-31 in the waning moments on the famed Bush Push. Notre Dame hasn’t won this game since 2001, and this will be its best chance for redemption in years. The Friday night pep rally alone might belong in the top 10.

1. USC at Ohio State, Sept. 12 – Don’t you just love these early-season elimination games for national title contention? I do. Who doesn’t? This is like the Rose Bowl without the parade or the hangover. The Buckeyes got schooled in Los Angeles last September, but this showdown will be in Columbus and in primetime. Oh, and the quarterback scales have shifted somewhat. Mark Sanchez is now a New York Jet and Terrelle Pryor is no longer a pup. Does this game elevate Trojan true freshman QB Matt Barkley much the way it did for Pryor last year? Has the USC front seven had enough time to regroup? Storylines galore in the most anticipated non-conference clash of 2009.

Matthew Zemek, CFN

Q: The three non-conference games you're most looking forward to are ... ?

USC-Ohio State is certainly the headliner, and Alabama-Virginia Tech has to be on the short list as well. While last year’s Trojan-Buckeye battle fizzled out late in the second quarter, and Alabama took Clemson to the woodshed in the Georgia Dome, these new incarnations of familiar formulas nevertheless represent attractive and coveted confrontations. The third non-conference game I’m really interested in is Oregon’s season opener at Boise State. The Broncos ambushed the Quack Attack in Eugene last year, and if Chip Kelly’s first season at UO is to fulfill its considerable share of promise, the Ducks will have to bring their A-game to the smurf turf of Idaho.

To appreciate all three of these September showdowns, one must sadly realize that top-shelf non-conference matchups are becoming more and more of an endangered species in college football. One can only point to the guts and fearlessness (yes, guts and fearlessness are terms best applied to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan; that point is not lost on this correspondent…) of the schools that put themselves on the line, risking reputations as premier football programs ought to. You only get 12 Saturdays a year to make a name for yourself in FBS college ball; taking the narrow way, instead of the broad and easy path to added revenues, is a mark of nobility. Unfortunately, cupcakes (and other financial concerns) almost always have a way of trumping nobility in the world of college pigskin.

Hunter Ansley, Publisher, DraftZoo.com

Q: The three non-conference games you're most looking forward to are ... ?

A: I like three things when it comes to interconference contests:  1.)  Revenge Games  2.)  Top Ranked Teams  3.)  New Matchups.

So, I’ve picked one of each.

New Matchup:  Miami at South Florida, November 28 – The Bulls have enjoyed some pretty nice success in Tampa in their short time at the D-1 level.  Of course, until recently, Miami ruled south Florida for longer than Matt Grothe’s been alive.  But I want to see if Grothe can engineer another win against a storied program, especially one with a defense that should be much improved.  Plus, it would be a strange torch-passing moment if USF invited the Canes across the panhandle and proceeded to slap them around.  And finally, as far as individual matchups go, I’m dying to see USF DE George Selvie try to revert to sophomore form against Miami OT Jason Fox.  Both have the potential to be top prospects in next year’s draft.

Revenge Game:  Missouri vs. Illinois, September 5 – For the last two years, it’s been the big bad Missouri offense that has rolled into this game and just managed to outscore the Illini.  Well, that shouldn’t be the problem in 2009.  Gone are Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, and Chase Coffman.  It’s the first game of the year for both teams, and while Mizzou’s young replacements may eventually pan out, they’ll be thrown directly into the fire against a squad with some heavy experience.  Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn could be one of the most underrated QB-WR combos in the nation.  Of course, that’s mostly Williams’ fault, but Benn hasn’t put up that big-time season yet either.  I have a feeling that after two years of playing the rag doll, Benn could be primed for a breakout type game in this one.

Top Ranked Teams:  USC at Ohio State, September 12 – This game should be on everyone’s list.  And it really fits into two of my categories:  revenge and top ranked.  But I’m pretty curious to see how much Terrelle Pryor can “modernize” the Buckeyes in his second year.  I still think Ohio State could have been more competitive in this one with him as the clear-cut starter last year.  And all those linebackers that ruined the OSU offense in 2008 are gone.  Of course, this is USC, and it’s not like the talent won’t be there.  Maybe a more experienced Ohio State playing against a relatively green USC will even the playing field a bit.  Plus, I’m looking forward to seeing the Trojans play a major out of conference game on the road.  If the Trojans win this one, then I think it will give them the same kind of boost they got when an unknown Matt Leinart went into Auburn and whooped a highly-ranked Auburn team. 

Jon Miller, Publisher, HawkeyeNation.com

Q: The three non-conference games you're most looking forward to are ... ?

Week One, it's Virginia Tech and Alabama. That game is going to answer some questions, such as is Virginia Tech a legit national title contender or not? I don't think Alabama has a chance at that this year, but they do have a chance to play spoiler in the SEC and certainly be in the mix for a BCS bid.

Some folks like the Miami-FSU game, but not me. It's two defenses that blitz on every play and offenses that are no where near ready enough to handle the speed on the field. BORING...

Week two, we have USC at Ohio State. I think the loser is out of the national title picture, and the winner holds on by the skin of his teeth. I don't think USC has it this year, and Ohio State might, only due to their schedule and the health of Terrelle Pryor.

The first two were fairly easy, but the third is a tough one for me, because there are several I can't wait to see; Georgia at Oklahoma State, Oklahoma vs. Miami...but Oregon at Boise State in Week One makes my third pick. I think Oregon is a sleeper BCS player this year, and Boise State will be in the mix for this year's BCS buster, as they have been routinely in recent years. A good measure for Boise State as to whether they belong in that debate this year, and a chance for Oregon to make an early statement win...or a dose of reality in defeat.