Ready For Some Football?: The 50 Biggest College Football Games of '09
With the start of the 2009 college football season a little over a month away it's time to really start getting excited. The news is a little slow right now, so hopefully this list highlighting the biggest and best games of the upcomming year will hold you over until things start to pick up a bit. Are you ready for some football?
East Carolina at West Virginia (Sept.12), TCU at BYU (Oct. 24), Georgia Tech at Miami, FL (Sept. 17), Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (Dec. 5), Notre Dame at Michigan (Sept. 12)
50. East Carolina at North Carolina (Sept. 19): Skip Holtz and Butch Davis clash in an intriguing in-state battle. If North Carolina is really serious about becoming a national player in the near future, they'll have to take care of a scrappy East Carolina team not afraid of playing anyone.
49. Boston College at Notre Dame (Oct. 24): Notre Dame gets a rebuilding but still pretty good Boston College team a week after facing the mighty Trojans, which could be a good or bad thing depending on how they fare. In any case, Boston College looks to continue its recent success in the Holy War; Charlie Weis and the Irish can't afford to let that happen.
48. Cincinnati at Oregon State (Sept. 19): A west coast/east coast battle between two pretty evenly matched teams from the Big East and Pac-10. Head coach Brian Kelly will want to prove that his Bearcats are no one-year wonder.
47. Florida State at North Carolina (Oct. 22): Florida State heads to Kenan Memorial for a Thursday night meeting with the Tar Heels. Both teams have ACC Championship aspirations and every win is huge in such a competitive conference, especially one over a team likely ranked in the top 25.
46. Army vs. Navy (Dec. 12): So maybe the Army-Navy Game hasn't exactly been what it once was lately, it's still one of the best traditions in all of college football. Army hopes to have a better showing in '09 than the 34-0 beat down Navy handed them last year; a win would be the Black Nights' first since 2001.
45. Florida State at BYU (Sept. 19): If the Mountain West wants to add some sustenance to their BCS argument, they'll need all the wins they can get over ranked BCS conference teams. Max Hall and BYU can help with a win over Florida State, but the Seminoles are for real this year and won't go down easily.
44. Ohio State at Michigan (Nov. 21): Until head coach Rich Rodriguez figures out how to get the Wolverines back on track, this game just won't have that much allure to fans outside of Ohio State and Michigan. That doesn't mean the Buckeyes can overlook a Michigan team which should be improved by the end on November and playing in the friendly confines of the Big House.
43. BYU vs. Oklahoma (Sept. 5): If a win against Florida State is big for the Cougars, a win over Oklahoma would be astronomical. BYU shocking the Sooners would drastically change the college football landscape in '09, but you probably shouldn't hold your breath.
42. Miami, FL at Florida State (Sept. 7): The front portion of Miami's schedule has got to make them feel like a kid who slept through class all year and is now facing the start of finals. However a win over rival Florida State to kick off their journey through hell would have to feel pretty good.
Could be a rough (or great) start for Hurricane fans.
41. North Carolina at Georgia Tech (Sept. 26): The Tar Heels visit Georgia Tech for an ACC Coastal division battle which will likely feature two teams ranked inside the top 20. In what figures to be an extremely tight divisional race, both teams realize the importance of any win over another Coastal foe.
40. Iowa at Penn State (Sept. 26): Calling Penn State's schedule soft might be giving it too much credit, with their two toughest conference games at home and a non conference schedule consisting of four sub par teams, they have to like their chances. After three straight weeks of virtual byes, the Nittany Lions get their first real test when Iowa comes to town. If Iowa is serious about contending for the Big Ten crown, stealing one in Happy Valley would be a great start.
39. Florida State at Florida (Nov. 28): What used to be a highly anticipated rivalry game has become lopsided in the Gators' favor recently with Florida winning the last five games including 2008's 45-15 drubbing. Besides a road trip to LSU, there's really not much standing in the way of an undefeated regular season for Florida. Florida State would be the last obstacle in that path; the Seminoles only chance to stun the Gators would be to play mistake-free football and hope for some luck.
38. Oklahoma at Nebraska (Nov. 7): Bob Stoops and the Sooners travel to Lincoln to take on an improved Nebraska team in what could be a preview of the Big 12 championship. The Cornhuskers have a good defense but Oklahoma will score points and Nebraska probably still lacks an offense capable of keeping up.
37. Auburn at LSU (Oct. 24): LSU catches Auburn a week after squaring off with Florida and could be on upset alert in the Tiger Bowl. Auburn should be a lot better than last year's disappointing team and could surprise LSU in Baton Rouge if the Bayou Bengals aren't focused come game time.
36. Pittsburgh at NC State (Sept. 26): The Wolfpack host Pittsburgh in what could be a terrific game between two teams that many are calling this year's sleepers. Both teams are a lot better than advertised and are going to turn some heads in '09. The Panthers' trip to NC State should provide a great Big East/ACC game.
35. Utah at Oregon (Sept. 19): Utah heads to Eugene looking to prove themselves by shocking the Ducks in Autzen; a win would go a long way for the Utes and the Mountain West as a whole. If Oregon wants to still be in the national picture by the end of the year they can't let that happen.
34. TCU at Clemson (Sept. 26): Many people seem to think TCU has a good chance to finish undefeated and crash the BCS this year; Clemson is probably the most talented team they'll face and you don't give a stadium the nickname "Death Valley" for being warm and cuddly.
33. Oklahoma at Miami, FL (Oct. 3): The smart money is on Oklahoma leaving the less-than-daunting LandShark Stadium with a win, but Miami has enough young talent on the field to possibly make things interesting. A surprise win for the Hurricanes would announce to the nation that "The U" may just be back.
32. Alabama at Auburn (Nov. 28): The Iron Bowl will likely be a crucial game for Alabama's hopes of a second straight SEC West crown. Auburn isn't going to roll over and let an arch-rival come into their home and embarrass them again like the 36-point beat down 'Bama handed them in Tuscaloosa last year.
31. Virginia Tech at East Carolina (Nov. 5): Virginia Tech always seems to get the Pirates' best but if the Hokies are serious about getting to Pasadena, they can't let Patrick Pickney's methodical passing attack beat them again. Though Skip Holtz' ECU team could care less about Virginia Tech's dreams, they're out to prove they can play with anyone.
ECU's not afraid to play a little Beamerball themselves.
30. NC State at Florida State (Oct. 31): NC State is going to surprise people this year and a Halloween trip to Tallahassee could have serious Atlantic division implications for the Seminoles and Wolfpack alike. The winner should gain the inside track to the ACC title game.
29. Notre Dame at Pittsburgh (Nov. 14): Unless the Irish are undefeated at this point which would include an surprising win over USC, Notre Dame's BCS dreams are likely going to rest in this game. Pittsburgh will be a tough out, but the Irish probably don't want to put their BCS hopes on a 10-2 record without a single win over a ranked team.
28. LSU at Georgia (Oct. 3): If Georgia can win at Oklahoma State to start the year this could be a matchup between two undefeated teams ranked in the top ten. Both teams have the SEC title in the back of their minds and every conference win is huge toward getting there.
27. Oregon State at Oregon (Dec. 3): The Civil War could be a crucial game in realizing the Ducks' goal of unseating USC as Pac-10 champs; Oregon gets the conference's best teams at home and could be in a great position but the Beavers don't mind messing things up, just ask Pete Carroll's 2008 Trojan team.
26. Georgia at Georgia Tech (Nov. 28): Last year Georgia Tech snapped a seven-game losing streak to their hated rival, stunning the Bulldogs with a terrific halftime comeback. If the Yellow Jackets can make it two straight, people might start questioning who exactly rules Georgia football.
25. Iowa at Ohio State (Nov. 14): Ohio State gets a very solid Iowa team a week after a trip to Penn State and a week before traveling to arch-rival Michigan's house. That said, not sure you should even call this a trap-game when the Hawkeyes have their own ideas about who's going to win the Big Ten.
24. USC at Notre Dame (Oct. 17): October 17th has Irish fans drooling over the possibility of knocking of the rival Trojans for the first time since 2001. USC should enter the game pretty big favorites, but maybe no one would love a win more than Notre Dame would this one. Play Like A Champion Today.
23. Nebraska at Virginia Tech (Sept. 19): Blacksburg plays host to a talented Nebraska team looking to avenge last year's loss to the Hokies. Virginia Tech should enter the game favorites and will be in anyone's national title discussion if they're still unbeaten by the end of the day.
22. Georgia Tech at Florida State (Oct. 10): Georgia Tech heads to Florida State for great ACC battle which could feature two undefeated teams ranked somewhere in the top 15 by the time they face each other. Until proven otherwise Virginia Tech has to be the favorite in the ACC, but the winner of this game should be labeled the number one contender.
21. LSU at Mississippi (Nov. 21): It appears to be a three horse race in the SEC West between Alabama, LSU, and Mississippi; the Tigers visit Oxford wanting to redeem themselves after the beating Ole Miss handed them in Death Valley last year, but the bigger goal for both clubs is the West crown.
20. Oklahoma at Kansas (Oct. 24): Oklahoma takes a trip to Lawrence, Kansas for a conference battle with quarterback Todd Reesing's Jayhawks just one week after squaring off with Texas in maybe the game of the year. To beat the Sooners you've got to play sound football and be able to score a ton of points which Kansas can do. While Oklahoma definitely has the superior talent, playing on the road with the high (or low) they may have after facing the Longhorns makes this a scary game for the Sooners.
19. California at Oregon (Sept. 26): USC has ruled the Pac-10 since 2002, but Oregon and Cal believe 2009 will be different as they both try to steal the throne from the Trojans. The Golden Bears venture to Eugene for a pivotal game with the Ducks which should produce Southern Cal's biggest challenger.
18. Georgia vs. Florida (Oct. 31): Things have gotten nasty the last two times these teams have faced each other; first it was Georgia dancing in the Gators' end zone, then Urban Meyer calling two timeouts to bask in the utter destruction of the Bulldogs. A very meaningful SEC East battle in Jacksonville could produce more of the same in 2009. Florida should enter the game solid favorites but can't let hubris get in the way.
Georgia's now infamous end zone celebration.
17. Utah at TCU (No. 14): BYU could very well have two losses before they even make it out of September, which would mean if the Mountain West wants to crash the BCS again, they'll likely be sending one of these two teams. You definitely can't rule out the Cougars before the season has even started, but it wouldn't be surprising if the Horned Frogs game with Utah was for more than the Mountain West title.
16. USC at California (Oct. 3): What is already a huge game for Cal every year, could be a top ten brawl if they manage to knock off the Ducks at Autzen a week before hosting the Trojans. If the Bears truly want to challenge USC for the Pac-10 title in '09, dropping Southern Cal at home would be a pretty good idea.
15. Nebraska at Kansas (Nov. 14): With the departure of Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin a lot of people think the Huskers trip to Kansas will determine the Big 12 North champion. Kansas probably has the tougher Big 12 schedule but gets Nebraska at home likely making this game a must-win for both teams' title hopes. Will it be the Jayhawk offense or Corn Husker defense that wins out?
14. Georgia at Oklahoma State (Sept. 5): One of the marquee non-conference matchups in 2009 pits the SEC against the Big 12 when the Bulldogs travel to Stillwater to battle Oklahoma State. September 5th should be a real test for both teams to start the season and provide some bragging rights for the winner's conference. As a bonus, the winner probably moves into the top ten if they aren't already there.
13. Pittsburgh at West Virginia (Nov. 27): The Backyard Brawl tends to get especially rowdy in Morgantown and with the Big East title likely on the line for at least one of these teams, don't expect a very friendly affair. Pittsburgh hopes their dominant front line holds the Mountaineers rushing attack at bay while West Virginia hopes Noel Divine has a field day with the Panthers.
12. LSU at Alabama (Nov. 7): LSU probably has the most daunting conference schedule of the three SEC West contenders, so it goes without saying that escaping Tuscaloosa with a win would be, at the very least, huge. It's also unlikely that Alabama will have wrapped anything up by this point, and might need a win just as bad as the Tigers. This could be an SEC barn-burner with possibly both teams ranked in the top 15.
11. Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (Nov. 28): The Bedlam Series could again feature two top ten teams each gunning for the Big 12 South crown. If you like offense, a battle between Zac Robinson's Cowboys and Sam Bradford's Sooners shouldn't disappoint; just remember you're watching college football, not an Arena Football game between the Philadelphia Soul and San Jose Sabercats.
10. USC at Oregon (Oct. 31): Although Cal might have something to say about it, looking at Oregon's schedule it appears the Ducks have the best chance of dethroning USC. For Oregon to make that happen they'll have to take care of the Trojans at home; Autzen is known to get loud and the Ducks will need it to beat a reloaded USC team that should be firing on all cylinders by Halloween.
9. Alabama at Mississippi (Oct. 10): If not for LSU's exceptionally tough conference schedule they'd probably be the favorites to take the SEC West. While there's no reason to rule the Tigers out, the winner of this game might have the best shot at the West title. Last year Alabama nipped Ole Miss in Tuscaloosa, now Jevan Snead and the Rebels get a second chance to drop 'Bama, this time in Oxford.
8. Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech (Oct. 17): The Hokies make their second trip to Atlanta for what might be the biggest game in the ACC this year; if Virginia Tech's first visit there goes well there's a good chance both teams could be unbeaten and ranked in the top ten. Not only would the Hokies' national title hopes be on the line but quite possibly the ACC Coastal division crown too. Miami and North Carolina will certainly be factors but right now it looks like by the end of the 17th, we'll have a clear favorite in the Coastal.
7. Texas at Oklahoma State (Oct. 31): Last year Texas barely escaped their top ten battle with the Cowboys despite playing at home. Now the Longhorns must head to Stillwater in their last really big game of the regular season. Both teams already have to compete with the Sooners for the Big 12 South crown so any win against another contender is crucial. Oklahoma State hopes that playing at home this time around will be just what they need to put them over the top and knock off Texas.
6. Ohio State at Penn State (Nov. 7): November 7th should definitely be the most anticipated game in the Big Ten this year and probably decide who wins the conference title. Penn State is lucky enough to play their toughest game at home; looking at their a rather soft schedule, the Buckeyes might be the only obstacle in the way of an undefeated season for Joe Pa's Nittany Lions.
5. Oregon at Boise State (Sept. 3): A Thursday night game in Boise kicks the 2009 college football season off with style. Oregon and Boise State have big dreams this year and a win against a fellow top 15 team would be a nice way to start. Boise State will be playing in one of the most hyped games in school history and if they can knock off the Ducks on the blue turf, they'll have a pretty good chance at running the table. Hopefully the myriad of oddly mixed colors don't cause too many headaches.
Bronco fans can hardly wait for Oregon on the blue turf.
4. USC at Ohio State (Sept. 12): USC pays a visit to Columbus for one of the most anticipated non conference match ups in '09. No doubt a win would be huge for either team but it would probably show more about Pete Carroll's ability to keep the Trojans "rebuilding year" proof. On the other hand, if Ohio State wins a lot of people might talk about how USC was breaking in a new quarterback and retooling their defense. That said, anytime you can take down the Trojans you've got to feel pretty good, home or away.
3. Florida at LSU (Oct. 10): Possibly the only thing Tim Tebow has yet to accomplish is leading his Gators through a season undefeated. A road trip to Baton Rouge to square off with LSU in what should be an absolutely raucous atmosphere, might be the biggest challenge to a perfect season for Florida. Death Valley is consistently one of the toughest places to play in all of college football; the Gators better hope this isn't a night game or they may not be able to hear themselves think on the field.
2. Alabama vs. Virginia Tech (Sept. 5): The Chick-fil-A College Kickoff should provide an entertaining ACC vs. SEC battle in Atlanta to start the college football season. Both teams will be ranked in the top ten to start the season and the winner should move into the top five if they're not already there. A Virginia Tech win would be a huge boost for the ACC's image, but both teams realize they need the win if they want to be considered legitimate National Championship contenders.
1. Oklahoma vs. Texas (Oct. 17): If LSU manages to stun Florida seven days prior to these two squaring off in Dallas, this game could possibly become a No. 1 vs No. 2 play-in game for a spot in the national championship. Even if they're "only" ranked second and third when they meet this is still arguably the biggest game in 2009. October 17th could make or break Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford's Heisman Trophy run as well as their team's shot at the Big 12 South crown, never mind national title hopes.
*Hopefully you enjoyed the list and I didn't miss too many big games. Wow, I'm ready for some college football.
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