College Football Predictions: The Winners of 2011's Top 10 Non-Conference Games
A BCS title contender can have their hopes and dreams crushed because of just a single bad game. One loss, and their entire season can be ruined.
The games on this list have those types of implications. Most of these teams plan on playing for a BCS bowl this season and will have to prove it in these non-conference showdowns.
The winner will gain national respect, while the loser will be searching for answers.
The following are the top 10 non-conference games of the 2011 college football season and the winners of each.
10. Missouri at Arizona State (9/10)
The names of these two teams don’t exactly jump off the page at you, but this game will be huge for both programs.
For Missouri, they need to prove that they can survive without quarterback Blaine Gabbert and get this tough road win against the ranked Sun Devils.
The Tigers are losing defensive end Aldon Smith along with Blaine Gabbert, but they still return a very experienced team for their 2011 campaign.
This is one of the biggest games in Arizona State football history. The program has unveiled a new look and are enjoying one of their most hyped offseasons in years.
Like Missouri, Arizona State is very experienced. They return nine starters from both sides of the ball and are early favorites to win the Pac 12 South.
Arizona State: 27
Arizona State has one of the fastest teams in the nation and Missouri is in for a surprise.
They have the talent to hang with anyone in the country, and should be able to outlast the Tigers at home.
9. Florida State at Florida (11/26)
You got to love a rivalry like this to close out the regular season.
Both teams will probably know what they are playing for at this time, so it could be a game of big implications.
There is a lot of confidence in Florida State’s locker room this season. They are thinking a possible BCS title as Jimbo Fisher continues to work his magic down in Tallahassee.
Florida, on the other hand, is a team surrounded with doubt. They had a disappointing 8-5 season last year and are relying on a new coaching staff to turn their fortunes around.
Last season, Florida State show up their rivals with a 31-7 rout. I am sure that game has been engrained in their memories and they want to seek revenge on their hated rivals.
Florida State: 38
The last time the Seminoles managed to defeat the Gators in their own house was in 2003.
I expect this streak to end and for this game to represent the passing of power in the state of Florida.
8. Michigan State at Notre Dame (9/17)
Last season, this game had one of the most exciting and unexpected finishes in college football history.
In overtime and down by three points, Michigan State lined up for a field goal that would have sent the game into a second overtime.
The ball was snapped and suddenly the Michigan State holder roles out and throws a touchdown pass to win the game.
It doesn’t get much better than that.
This season, both of these teams are entering the season ranked in most preseason polls. Notre Dame is thinking BCS bowl game and the Spartans are thinking about another Big Ten Championship.
Notre Dame: 31
Michigan State 28
I love what Brian Kelly has done at Notre Dame thus far.
I expect another step in the right direction for the Irish, starting with this big win at home.
7. Alabama at Penn State (9/10)
This game had plenty of hype last season, but it ended up being a dud. Alabama won the game 24-3 and dominated from start to finish.
It is hard to believe that a team losing Julio Jones, Marcel Darius and Mark Ingram could possibly be the most talented team in the country, but the Crimson Tide might be.
Alabama returns 17 starters from a season ago, including 10 from one of the best defensives in the country.
Penn State should be better then they were last year, but are no where near the level of Alabama.
They are a starless squad, but have plenty of experience that will help them out in tough games like this.
Penn State: 13
I could see the Nittany Lions hanging around for the first half because they are playing at Happy Valley.
However, Alabama should be outclass them by the second half.
6. LSU at West Virginia (9/24)
The LSU Tigers play an absolutely brutal schedule this year, but they can usually handle tough non-conference games like these.
Actually, the Bayou Bengals have not lost a non-conference regular season game since 2002.
These two teams met last season and LSU took the Mountaineers down by a score of 20-14.
It was a game in which both offensives stalled and LSU’s dominance on special teams ultimately decided the outcome.
West Virginia is the early favorite to win the Big East. They are led by quarterback Geno Smith, who has been dubbed a Heisman dark horse for the 2011 season.
LSU finds themselves in the top five of most preseason polls.
They have struggled in the passing game for the past few season, but they rest of the team is usually strong enough to overcome their woes.
I want to predict the upset so bad in this one, but I cannot will myself to write it. At the end of the day, LSU does not lose games like this.
They should stifle the Mountaineers offense again as their defense leads them to another victory.
5. Ohio State at Miami (9/17)
This game would not be so high on this list if it were not for the suspensions at Ohio State.
The Buckeyes will be without quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan Herron, three additional key players and head coach Jim Tressel.
Even without these suspensions, the Buckeyes are a not the team they were a season ago. They are losing plenty of depth and will most definitely be enduring a rebuilding year in 2011/
Miami had a disappointing 7-6 record last season and looks to have a bounce back year in 2011. They are a team led by their defense, who features linebacker Sean Spence.
It will be interesting to see who will start at quarterback for the Canes, Jacory Harris or Stephen Morris. Neither has shown too much promise, but both will be vital for Miami to achieve success.
Ohio State: 27
I want to pick Miami, but I lack too much confidence that their offensive will flow against the Buckeyes.
Ohio State will have all offseason to prepare for the absence of Tressel and the five suspended players, so they should be well prepared for this game.
4. Georgia vs. Boise State (9/3)
This game is technically be played at a neutral site, but that “neutral” site just happens to be the Georgia dome. The Bulldogs will have the home field advantage in this game.
This game is set for opening week of the college football season and should live up to the hype.
Georgia is trying to bounce back from a disappointing 6-7 season, while Boise State wants to prove that they can still run with the big dogs.
Expect plenty of passing in this matchup. Boise State returns quarterback Kellen Moore, who has been one of the best quarterbacks in college football for the past two seasons.
While Aaron Murray will try to avoid a sophomore slump and show why people are calling him one of the next big things.
Boise State: 31
The Cinderella story will end early for the Broncos this season.
Georgia will use their "home field" advantage and show Boise State what SEC football is all about. This will be Aaron Murray’s coming out party.
3. Texas A&M vs. Arkansas (10/1)
This was a rivalry renewed in 2009, and now it will be one of the most pivotal games ofthe 2011 season.
This is a game in which neither team is technically the home team, but it will be played in Arlington, Texas.
Texas A&M ended as one of the hottest teams in the country last season. They return quarterback Ryan Tannehill an one of the most experienced groups in the country.
They have already proven they can win big games and look to gain national respect in this one.
Arkansas is not returning quite as many players as the Aggies, but still are a talented bunch. Quarterback Ryan Mallett has moved on to the NFL, but Tyler Wilson appears read to replace him.
Along with great quarterbacks, these teams also feature some of the best running backs in the nation.
Knile Davis of Arkansas is a freak of nature that should make a case for the Heisman trophy next season. Likewise, Cyrus Gray of Texas A&M is earning plenty of national recognition as well.
Texas A&M: 31
Last season the Razorbacks took care of the Aggies 24-17, but that was before Tannehill was starting at quarterback for A&M.
Tannehill is the difference in 2011 and Texas A&M comes away with a huge win here.
2. Oklahoma at Florida State (9/17)
This is the game in which Florida State needs to prove that they are ready to become an elite team.
It will likely be key in deciding who gets the golden ticket to the BCS title game.
Oklahoma is considered by most to be the best team in the country heading into the 2011 season.
They seemingly have no overwhelming weakness and return one of the most potent offensives in college football.
With Landry Jones at quarterback and Travis Lewis anchoring their defense, the Sooners roster is as star-studded as they come.
Florida State is returning 16 starters from a season ago, but loses a key one in quarterback Christian Ponder. E.J. Manuel will likely take control of the offense, but has been turnover prone in the past.
Head coach Jimbo Fisher has turned around this Florida State team, this game could be his marquee win.
Florida State 21
Last season, the Sooners embarrassed the Seminoles by a score of 47-17.
I do not feel like this was a fluke, but rather an indication of how great Oklahoma has the potential to be.
Florida State might win the ACC, but are not quite at the BCS title level yet.
1. Oregon vs. LSU (9/3)
This is what college football is all about.
A Week 1 showdown that could knock one of the top teams out of BCS title contention to start off the season.
Oregon features one of the smoothest offenses in football history led by quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James.
Both are Heisman contenders and key reasons why most people see the Ducks repeating as Pac 12 champions this season.
LSU is different from Oregon because they win games by punishing teams on defense. Under head coach Les Miles, the Tigers always have one of the toughest defensive units in the nation.
So in the matchup against the unstoppable offense and the impenetrable defense, who will win?
I feel that this game will live up to all the hype.
Being played at the Cowboys stadium in Arlington, the media surrounding this will be like a BCS game.
I believe Oregon will inch this one out and beat LSU with their overwhelming speed on offense.