One of my favorite traditions in college football each year is the non-conference games that fill each team's schedule. Usually around March or April, I start to hit different team's sites and see if there are any intriguing games to get me excited for late August and early September.
A lot of the time I am left disappointed as teams eager to boost their win totals schedule local 1-AA squads or bottom of the barrel Division 1 teams.
Let me point out that my favorite team, Boston College, is as guilty of this as the next team. The Eagles have Kent State, Central Florida, and 1-AA Rhode Island lined up for the early portion of the season.
Despite the fact that the early season is littered with a bunch of duds, each year seems to provide a handful of games that capture the attention of the college football world.
If a fan is patient enough they may get lucky enough to see a year like 2005 in which we saw 2 classics (Texas-Ohio State and USC-Notre Dame). Now I can't promise any of the following games will reach anywhere near that level, but part of the fun in the off-season is to look at games on paper and see which have the potential to be gems.
With all that said, let's take a look at some of the more intriguing non-conference games involving ACC teams this season.
Top Non-Conference Match-Ups for 2008
August 28: NC State at South Carolina
August 30: Alabama vs Clemson (at Atlanta)
August 30: USC at Virginia
September 6: Miami at Florida
September 11: North Carolina at Rutgers
September 27: Florida State vs Colorado (at Jacksonville)
I only chose half a dozen match-ups, and there are several others I would give consideration to, but instead I figured I would let any readers with a suggestion throw it in to the comments section and get a little debate going. To get that going I will provide my reasons for the games that I chose.
NC State-South Carolina and Alabama-Clemson I chose because they could serve as early season statement games for the conference. Both games are against SEC teams, and even though neither South Carolina or Alabama would be considered in the top tier of the SEC, it would provide some respect for the ACC if they could knock off some SEC squads early on.
USC-Virginia and Miami-Florida are two high-profile reach games. They are each against top teams in the nation, and while no one would predict either Virginia or Miami to win, if they could compete and represent the ACC well then that also would go a long way towards garnering some respect for a conference in dire need of some.
UNC-Rutgers intrigues me because UNC is a potential sleeper and Rutgers expects to be a force in the Big East.
Florida State-Colorado matches up two teams that have been national powers in the past but have fallen off in recent years. Both teams look to rebound and begin climbing back towards their former perch among the nation's elite. A win in Jacksonville could be just what one of those teams needs to do that.
So there are my choices and explanations and I hope to get some responses and suggestions from some of you!