The vast majority of the time, non-conference games are set years in advance, long before recruiting classes are signed and expectations develop. Sometimes they develop into classics, like a Texas visit to Ohio State on a night in 2005. Vince Young's talent was on full display as the Longhorns took care of business en route to their national title.
Sometimes they just sting. Nothing crushes a fan base more completely than a good, old-fashioned stomping from a team from another league. Unless, perhaps it's on your own turf.
Here are a few games that are making athletic directors wish they could go back in time and call up someone from the FCS.
Note to the Cincinnati Bearcats: You'll be just fine if you stay in the confines of the Big East.
Wander too far outside of the nation's easiest BCS Conference and bad things tend to happen. Virginia Tech whacked the Bearcats in the Orange Bowl two years ago. Florida destroyed them in last year's Sugar Bowl.
The Oklahoma Sooners didn't have their best year in 2009, but they should be just fine here. Landry Jones got valuable experience in relief of the injured Sam Bradford. That doesn't spell good things for the University of Cincinnati, even at home for this game.
At least they got the BCS money for serving as a punching bag for the big boys.
Obviously the home Tigers will be favored in this classic SEC vs. ACC matchup. Don't be surprised if Dabo Swinney's team walks away with a win at Jordan Hare Stadium here.
Gene Chizik looked like the hottest new coach in the country early in 2009. Auburn certainly is capable of putting up a ton of points, but can their defense really stop anyone? Lowly Northwestern came back and almost clipped them in the Outback Bowl.
Add on the fact that Auburn will be starting highly touted, yet untested quarterback Cam Newton, along with a slew of new running backs in Chizik's second year.
Clemson fans were able to exhale when Kyle Parker decided to return for another year on the gridiron, and just may have a stud in speedster Andre Ellington, who served as an excellent complement to C.J. Spiller in 2009. Clemson also boasts a nasty defense, with perhaps the best safety tandem in the nation. DeAndre McDaniel is a pre-season Thorpe Candidate.
It's all risk and little reward for the home team. The pressure will be entirely on Auburn.
How do you ruin a Heisman campaign? The answer is simple. Just have the Cornhuskers come to town and pummel your Washington Huskies in Week Three.
Jake Locker could certainly throw up some gaudy numbers against the porous defenses of the Pac 10, but he may struggle in this one. Nebraska might not light up the scoreboard on offense, but they just might feature the best pass defense in the nation. Corners Prince Anukamara and Alfonzo Dennard must be licking their chops thinking about derailing Jake Locker's end of the year trip to New York.
If Nebraska is able to get an early lead in this one, forcing Washington and Locker to throw, this could get ugly. Only four opposing quarterbacks completed over fifty percent of their passes against Nebraska in 2009.
It makes great sense for ratings, but you can bet that neither team is happy that this game is on the schedule. Both programs feature single-digit rankings, but that could easily change following this tilt.
For Boise State, a loss leaves them out of the national championship and BCS picture. The current conference structure almost assures us of that. Virginia Tech is a team they would much rather face later in the year. Memories of a season opening drubbing by Georgia in 2005 are still familiar.
The problem for the Hokies is that they just may get beat. Boise State has made a habit of winning the games that they aren't supposed to win. This one looks like a toss up. If they drop this opener, they can still make a BCS bowl by winning the ACC, but that's about it. The loss of national respect for their program and the ACC will be tangible at this point.
College football has had overtime for more than a decade and a half now, so there will be a winner in this showdown. There will also be a loser, who sees a great deal of their season flushed away when the clock runs out.
What's on the line in Columbus on September 11? For Ohio State, little more than a lofty pre-season ranking, huge expectations from Buckeye Nation, and percieved national title hopes. The home team had better be well prepared for this one.
Miami will feature a healthy Jacory Harris, a myriad of options at wide reciever, and a defensive line that goes eight deep. There's no lack of speed on the roster for the Hurricanes, and that may just spell trouble for Ohio State.
Is this the year that Miami's program is fully resurrected? The visit to Columbus will speak volumes as to how far they have come in the Randy Shannon era. The prospect of Miami returning to form wasn't even on the radar when Ohio State signed the contract on this game.
Kudos to both schools for setting this one up. These games are what college football is all about, even if it means a bunch of nervous fans at the Horseshoe in early September.
Once upon a time, this looked like an early season marquee matchup. Coach Lane Kiffin had the Tennessee back on the rise, and all of Vol Nation was ready to show the rest of the SEC that they were back.
Then Kiffin pulled his magical disappearing act, leaving Tennessee scrambling for a coach. Former top recruit running back Bryce Brown simply left town for parts unknown. A fight in downtown Knoxville left other players dismissed or suspended. Injuries in practice have depleted the Vols on the defensive line, their only position of strength.
Oregon has had troubles of its own, but they bring a lot more back from a team who went to the Rose Bowl last season.
Neyland Stadium will probably start out at capacity when this one kicks off. Will anyone be around midway through the third quarter?