Going Pro: College Football Games That Will Be Played at NFL Stadiums
Neutral site games are becoming all the rage in college football these days and there seems to be no better place to stage these contests than the luxurious gridirons of the NFL.
No longer are the grand stages of NFL fields reserved for just conference championships and major bowl games. They are now playing an integral role in the regular season.
These games allow programs the chance to connect with alumni that may live outside the traditional boundaries of the school's town, and they are also a nice recruiting tool for coaches.
If done right, the game can have an absolutely electric atmosphere. The key is to stage a game that involves two teams from different conferences who are relatively close enough geographically. This usually means that the crowd will be even, and that the game will be meaningful.
Here's a look at the sixteen regular season college football games that will take place at NFL stadiums this year.
September 4th: LSU vs. North Carolina (Atlanta)
This is by far the most interesting contest of the first Saturday of the season. Both LSU and North Carolina have the talent to compete for a conference championship, but both teams also face a fair share of uncertainties as well.
People have been hyping up the North Carolina defense to an almost mythical level throughout the offseason and now it's time to put up or shut up.
The Tar Heels may have an intimidating defense, but don't expect LSU to be too rattled.
Many of the LSU players were on the team when the Tigers throttled another highly regarded ACC team, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, back in the 2008 Chick-fil-A Bowl. That game also took place at the Georgia Dome.
This one could come down to which of the quarterbacks - LSU's Jordan Jefferson or UNC's T.J. Yates - makes the fewest mistakes.
In last year's opening weekend ACC vs. SEC game in Atlanta, Alabama was able to outlast Virginia Tech 34-24.
September 4th: Missouri vs. Illinois (St. Louis)
This will be the final meeting between these two teams in St. Louis. Missouri has beaten the Fighing Illini by a combined 44 points over the last three years.
Ron Zook's squad will have to toughen up on defense this year if they want to pull out the victory. Illinois gave up almost 450 total yards to Blaine Gabbert and the Missouri offense in last season's meeting.
Illinois hasn't won an "Arch Rivalry" game since 1994, when the game was played in Champaign.
Septbember 4th: Colorado vs. Colorado State (Denver)
The Rocky Mountain Showdown heads back to Invesco Field in Denver after being played in Boulder last season.
Colorado State was only able to topple their in state counterpart three times in the fifteen years preceding the Dan Hawkins era, yet they have managed to beat Hawkins' squad twice in his four years as coach.
The Buffaloes look like an improved team this year, and the pressure is now on Hawkins to make sure he brings home the Centennial Cup in 2010.
September 4th: Oregon State vs. TCU (Arlington)
TCU showed they could play with the boys from the BCS conference by beating Virginia and Clemson in 2009. Now they have an oppurtunity to do it again, but on an even bigger stage.
Oregon State is a tricky team and has enough on both offense and defense to present major problems for the Horned Frogs. Beavers running back Jacquizz Rodgers, a Texas native, should be extra hyped up in front of his home state crowd.
September 4th: Rice vs. Texas (Houston)
This game will be played at Reliant Stadium, home of the Houston Texans. Rice is located in Houston, but expect their fan base to be largely outnumbered by the Longhorn faithful.
The Owls are just 1-38 all time against Texas, and the last few games haven't been very competitive.
The bright spot for Rice could be running back Sam McGuffie's return to his home state, where he was once hailed as a superstar recruit.
September 6th: Virginia Tech vs. Boise State (Landover)
The most intriguing match up of opening weekend will take place on Monday night at FedEx field in Washington.
Boise State has beaten four out of the last five BCS oppoents they've faced, but they will have a stiff test in the form of the Hokies, not to mention the cross country travel that they'll have to deal with.
Virginia Tech opened up the 2004 season against the USC Trojans at FedEx Field, a game which they lost 24-13.
September 6th: Maryland vs. Navy (Baltimore)
These two met once before in M&T Bank Stadium back in 2005. Maryland edged out Navy 23-20 in that meeting.
Navy is coming into this opener off one of their most successful seasons ever (10 wins) and the high of a bowl win over Missouri. On the other hand, Maryland enters this one looking to forget about a dismal two win 2009 campaign.
It will be interesting to see if the Terps defense can contain Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs.
Navy is 14-6 in the all time series, which is affectionately known as the Crab Bowl.
September 11th: Florida Atlantic vs. Michigan State (Detroit)
Florida Atlantic is the only Sun Belt team given the treat of playing at an NFL Stadium this season. The size of the crowd should be a major step up from what the Owls are used to seeing at their 20,000 seat Lockhart Stadium back in Boca Raton.
Spartan fans are hoping the football team can have a little more success than the basketball team has had at Ford Field recently. But they better not count out FAU just because they hail from a smaller conference.
The last time these two teams met in 2008, Michigan State was only able to beat the Owls 17-0. And in 2007, Florida Atlantic upset MSU's conference counterparts, the Minnesota Golden Gophers, by a score of 42-39.
September 18th: Kansas State vs. Iowa State (Kansas City)
This will be the second consctuive meeting between these two at Arrowhead Stadium. In last year's contest, Kansas State blocked a game tying extra point in the waning seconds to pull out the 24-23 victory.
Neither of these teams may be favored to win the Big 12 North, but this game could definitely be crucial for bowl implications.
October 9th: Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (Arlington)
Last year's match up was supposed to be a shootout between A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson and Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, but it was not to be. Arkansas slaughtered the Aggies 47-19.
Expect Texas A&M to come back strong this season and make this one into a much more competitive affair.
October 16th: Rutgers vs. Army (East Rutherford)
Rutgers has never played a regular season neutral site game under coach Greg Schiano. But that will change when the team makes the short trip up to the Meadowlands this season.
Rutgers will play the first ever major college football game at the New Meadowlands Stadium (Small schools Howard and Morgan State will faceoff on September 25th).
Conincidentally, they also played the first ever college football game at the old Giants Stadium back in 1976 when they shut out Columbia 47-0.
The "Battle of the Knights" has taken place nine times at the Meadowlands, with the last meeting occurring in 1996.
October 23rd: Notre Dame vs. Navy (East Rutherford)
A week after the Rutgers vs Army match up, the Meadowlands will host the battle between Notre Dame and Navy.
These two squads met on a neutral field back in 2008, when they played at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
The Irish have lost two out of the last three contests against the Midshipmen after beating them 43 straight times.
October 30th: Florida vs. Georgia (Jacksonville)
The "World's Largest Cocktail Party" has been a mainstay in Jacksonville for the better part of seven decades. The rivalry between Florida and Georgia is considered one of the best in the sport, and the game is one of the only times EverBank Stadium fills all the way to capacity.
The Gators have won ten out of the last twelve contests, including the last two by a combined 63 points.
Georgia will have payback on their mind this year as they will try and take advantage of a Tebowless Florida team.
November 20th: Indiana vs. Penn State (Landover)
Indiana moved this game to FedEx field, home of the Washington Redskins.
Penn State is a perfect 13-0 all time against Indiana, but the last time these two teams met on a neutral field, the RCA Dome in Indianapolis back in 2000, the Lions were only able to escape with a three point victory.
The Hoosiers have a sneaky talented squad this year, so don't be surprised if they give Paterno's bunch a run for their money in this one.
November 27th: Kansas vs. Missouri (Kansas City)
The "Border War" between Kansas and Missouri dates back all the way to the late 1800s.
The war was finally brought to the big stage of Arrowhead Stadium three years ago.
In their first meeting in Kansas City in 2007, both teams came in ranked in the top five, and the game had National Championship implications on the line.
Missouri was able to beat the Jayhawks 36-28 in that contest. But the two games since have been close affairs and each team has come away with a two point victory (Kansas in 2008 and Missouri in 2009).
December 11th: Navy vs. Army (Philadelphia)
The annual Army-Navy game is one of the most historic and storied in all of college football. It's pagentry and tradition are hard for any other rivalry to compete with.
The game has mostly been played in Philadelphia over the years, but it has also been held at venues in New Jersey and Baltimore recently. The game will be moved to FedEx Field in Washington for a one year stop in 2011 before returning back to Philadelphia.
Navy leads the all time series 54-49-7, including victories in the last eight meetings.
College Football will also invade professional baseball stadiums during the 2010 season.
On November 20th, in-state rivals Northwestern and Illinois will compete for the Land of Lincoln Trophy at Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs.
And on that same day, Notre Dame and Army will play the first ever football game at the new Yankee Stadium, which will play host to the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl later in the year. The two teams met 22 times at the old Yankee Stadium in the 20s, 30s, and 40s.