The Top Non-Conference Games - No. 1 to 10
Ohio State QB Craig Krenzel, 2003 Fiesta Bowl
Ohio State QB Craig Krenzel, 2003 Fiesta Bowl
Posted Mar 14, 2010

It might not exactly be a chance for payback for after what happened in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, but it should be one of the best games of the year when Miami gets to go to Ohio State. What non-conference game is bigger? Find out in the final part of the Top 50 Non-Conference Games of 2010.

2010 Spring Preview - No. 20
Top 50 Non-Conference Games

(No. 1-10)

2010 Spring Preview
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 1-10) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 11-20) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 21-30) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 31-40) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 41-50) 
2009 Spring Preview - Top 50 Non-Conference Games 
2008 Spring Preview - Top 40 Non-Conference Games 
By Pete Fiutak
10. Arkansas vs. Texas A&M, Oct. 9 (in Arlington)
One of the more disappointing games of last year should be far, far better. Last season, Arkansas obliterated the Aggies with a 30-point run along with four Ryan Mallett touchdown passes to overcome a 10-0 deficit on the way to the easy win. If nothing else, this year's game should be a shootout with well over 600 yards of combined passing from two of the hottest quarterbacks of 2010. Jerrod Johnson threw for 345 yards in a losing effort and should be just as explosive, while Mallett could use a big performance in a high profile game like this to help his stock. Arkansas will have two weeks off to prepare after dealing with a trip to Georgia and Alabama before and with a trip to Auburn the week after.

9. Notre Dame at USC, Nov. 27
Let's see if Brian Kelly has any better luck than Charlie Weis. The Trojans will be coming off road games at Arizona and Oregon State and has the rivalry battle at UCLA the week after, but for Lane Kiffin it'll be vital to keep the program's current success against the Irish. USC has won eight straight in the series with the last loss coming in 2001, and Kelly can make a huge, HUGE statement by ending the slide. There's a chance the Irish could be could be coming into this rivalry on a run considering this is the first true road game since October 2nd, a span of six games.

8. Georgia Tech at Georgia, Nov. 27
The rivalry has become interesting again. After Georgia won seven in a row, Georgia Tech got back in the mix with a stunning win two years ago. The Dawgs got the momentum back last season with a 30-24 victory, but the Yellow Jackets turned out to be the ACC champs and have raised the profile and the talent level of the program under Paul Johnson. Georgia has a relatively light November leading up to the showdown starting out the month against Idaho State before finishing up the SEC slate at Auburn. And then comes a week off before dealing with Tech, while the Yellow Jackets don't get a week off and will have tried to get by Miami and Duke to close out the ACC season.

7. Michigan at Notre Dame, Sept. 11
Michigan was able to pull off a thrilling 38-34 victory to temporarily get Rich Rodriguez off the hot seat. The loss turned out to not only be the only blip in the first five games for the Irish, but it turned out to be the harbinger of things to come down the road. This year, Brian Kelly will get a little bit of a pass in his first year, but his life would be far easier if his Irish can pull off the win. On the flip side, Rodriguez can't afford a loss and needs as much positive PR as possible. With UMass, Bowling Green and at Indiana coming after, and a home game against Connecticut to start the year, a win in South Bend should mean a 5-0 start if everything breaks right. This is part two of the Irish's Big Ten run starting out against Purdue and with a trip to Michigan State to follow.

6. North Carolina vs. LSU, Sept. 4 (in Atlanta)
These are two teams good enough to be deep in the hunt for their respective conference titles, and this wouldn't be a bad BCS matchup. Is North Carolina really ready to make a big splash in football after falling off the map in hoops? With as much NFL talent on defense as anyone in America, this could be a showcase game for the Heels as well as the ACC. But the SEC has been great over the last few years in this Atlanta opener with Alabama beating Clemson and Virginia Tech, and LSU will look to relaunch itself into national title status with an impressive win. UNC kicks off the ACC season two weeks later, getting a week off between the two showdowns, while LSU starts off the SEC campaign with the easy part of the conference schedule going to Vanderbilt the week after and with Mississippi State to follow.

5. Florida State at Oklahoma, Sept. 11
January 3, 2001 … this was the last time the two big-name programs met and it was for all the marbles. Oklahoma pulled off a shocking national championship win over the Noles in the Orange Bowl that launched Bob Stoops into elite coaching status. Before that, the two played two tremendous Orange Bowls with the Sooners winning an 18-17 thriller in 1981 and 24-7 in 1980. OU is 4-1 all-time in the series with FSU winning the 1965 Gator Bowl. Could this game be bowl level good? It's Jimbo Fisher's chance to put the Noles back up to superpower status, but it would take a major effort to give the Sooners their first loss at home since the 2005 opener against TCU and just the second since late 2001. They get a tune up the week before against Samford and host BYU to follow, while the Sooners shouldn't have a problem with Utah State in the opener and with Air Force after.

4. Boise State vs. Virginia Tech, Sept. 6 (in Landover, MD)
For all of Boise State's crying and whining about not getting the big name phone calls to answer phone calls, it gets to make its big statement early on with everyone watching. Unlike last year when no one seemed to give enough credit for the dominant home win over Oregon, beating Virginia Tech in Landover, Maryland would put the Broncos, who'll likely start out being ranked in everyone's top five with everyone of note returning, into the national title chase. But Virginia Tech is loaded, too, and a win over Boise State would now carry a ton of weight. Of course, that's if the Hokies aren't looking ahead to the James Madison showdown five days later.

3. Florida at Florida State, Nov. 27
There was a time was good enough to not only compete with Florida, but was good enough to pull off a win. That was a long time ago, 2003 to be exact, and the Noles haven't come remotely close over the last three years. Even though the Gators should have the gaps filled by this point in the season, this still might be the one chance to be them considering the talent level brought in with the last recruiting class. The Noles aren't loaded, but they'll be good enough to be dangerous at home after finishing off the ACC season at Maryland. Florida gets a week off to rest and relax playing Appalachian State before going to Tallahassee.

2. Miami at Ohio State, Sept. 11
If nothing else, this will give everyone a chance to relive the greatness that was the 2003 Fiesta Bowl when Ohio State won the national championship in classic and controversial fashion. Miami, especially after the clunker it came up with against Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl and with all the inconsistencies of last year, needs a big road win to finally show that things might be back on national title track. For Ohio State, any big non-conference win is a plus to quiet skeptics that continue to think the program is overrated, but more importantly for the national title dream, a win would almost certainly mean a 6-0 start before going to Wisconsin. Miami gets a week off before back-to-back road trips to Pitt and Clemson, and if that wasn't enough, Florida State follows.

1. Penn State at Alabama, Sept. 11
Alabama has a chance to flex its defending national champion muscle in what doesn't appear to be sure-thing great game on paper, but sure is interesting in brand name. Penn State has a lot of work to do with an offense that struggled to score last year needing the line to be far better than in 2009 right away in 2010, and a defense that has to replace all the top linebackers. Of course, Alabama has some work to do, too, but it has an offense that should be a steamroller with the nation's best set of running backs and a healthy Julio Jones to throw to.

More than anything else, Penn State needs a good showing in a regular season non-conference game considering the last decent one it played on the road was at Notre Dame in 2006 (a loss) and hasn't won a good one since beating Miami in 1999. (On an interesting note, the last five acceptable non-conference, non-bowl road games since the win over the Canes were against USC in East Rutherford, New Jersey in 2000, at Pitt in 2000, at Virginia in 2001, at Nebraska in 2003, and at Boston College in 2004. The Nittany Lions lost all five.)

The last time Penn State and Alabama played was in 1990 with the Nittany Lions winning 9-0, but these two have hardly been strangers to classic games meeting several times including the 42-21 Bama win in 1982 that was the one blip on the Penn State national title run, and, of course, there was the all-timer of a Sugar Bowl with Bama winning 14-7 in the 1979 Sugar Bowl for the national championship.