It is that time of the year! Time for all of the college football preview magazines to come out and forecast who are the top teams, who will win the conferences, who will win the BCS, and who will pull the big upsets!
While all the anticipation is fun, nothing beats the games themselves. However, one bad thing about the opening weeks are the weak non-conference games many of the big boys play, especially against I-AA teams: Auburn vs. Tennessee-Martin, Florida vs. The Citadel, Ohio State vs. Youngstown State.
Yes, they may be easy wins—except when they backfire (see picture above).
Instead, here are the top 10 non-conference games that are really worth watching in 2008:
10. Arkansas at Texas, Sept. 13 - An old Southwest Conference rivalry with a new face, as Bobby Petrino has to call on the Hogs to take care of Colt McCoy and the Longhorns
9. Florida at Florida State, Nov. 29 - While this game has lost a bit of luster the past few years, it is still a hostile game that can make and/or break each team's season.
8. Tennessee at UCLA, Sept. 1 - Rick Neuheisel makes his Bruins debut, and the Volunteers bring Dave Clawson's new offense to the Rose Bowl in a Labor Day brawl. Who starts the season on a good note?
7. Kansas at South Florida, Sept. 12 - Two of 2007's great stories do battle on a Friday night in Tampa.
6. Michigan at Notre Dame, Sept. 13 - Another great early season matchup where both coaches desperately need to win.
5. Illinois vs. Missouri (St. Louis), Aug. 30 - A hot basketball rivalry has moved to the gridiron. There were 864 yards in last year's shootout, a 40-34 Tigers' win. Who knew they would both make such an impact on the national stage in 2007? Can they top that game in 2008?
4. Alabama vs. Clemson (Atlanta), Aug. 30 - Why they don't do a home and home at their two great stadiums, I have no idea. If Clemson wants to finally contend for a championship after falling short too many times, they need to stem the Tide in this opening weekend matchup.
3. Auburn at West Virginia, Oct. 23 - Pat White is a master of the spread offense, while the Tigers are headed that direction. This is a great mid-season non-conference tilt. I wonder what would have happened if Auburn had played this game in 2004?
2. Georgia at Arizona State, Sep. 20 - If the Bulldogs want a chance at a BCS title, they need to watch out for this tough early-season road trip to the desert where Rudy Carpenter and the Sun Devils await.
1. Ohio State at Southern California, Sept. 13 - The biggest of them all. Every Buckeye hater (myself included) will be united in wanting to see the Trojans win big—vastly decreasing the chances the Buckeyes will make fools of themselves for the third straight year in the BCS title game.