Most Important Non-Conference Games For 2008
by Robert Ferringo - 07/10/2008
Some folks say that the only thing better than sex is the anticipation.
I, respectfully, disagree.
However, that mode of thought could be applicable to college football betting, particularly the biggest and brightest non-conference games on the 2008 schedule. There are a host of titillating interconference clashes on tap and at least two or three of them will have drastic and direct implications on the BCS Championship.
Here are, in reverse order, the games that I believe represent the Top college football non-conference matchups of 2008:
10. North Carolina at Rutgers (Sept. 11)
We're going to start right off with a sleeper game between two sleeper teams in their respective conferences. North Carolina has a solid stable of athletes and was able to gain some valuable experience under Butch Davis last year. I think they are the favorites to win the ACC's Coastal Division, which would put them one game away from a BCS bowl. Rutgers slid back after a breathtaking 2006, but return 16 starters from a team that staged its second-straight bowl game blowout last year. Rutgers is legit and will make noise in the Big East. I always say that the Beast is better than the ACC and I think it gets proven once again here.
9. Oklahoma at Washington (Sept. 13)
The Sooners are definitely in the BCS Title hunt but they need to avoid a potential trap in Seattle. Ohio State wandered to UW last year and played a lackluster three quarters before finally shaking the Huskies. Jake Locker may be the best player on the field and I think this Pac-10 rep could be primed for an upset.
8. South Carolina at Clemson (Nov. 29)
This is a rivalry that is as fierce as they come and should be one of the better games of the season. Both schools bring heavy, soul-crunching brutes on defense to the table and this should be an absolute grinder. Expect one of the hardest hitting games of the year. And keep your eye out for one of the premium one-on-one tussles as well as Clemson RB James Davis and USC LB Jasper Brinkley face off.
7. Wisconsin at Fresno State (Sept. 13)
Completely random game, but this one could have a ripple effect that reaches every corner of the BCS Kingdom. Last year the Badgers were somewhat of a disappointment and they nearly lost at UNLV as a mammoth favorite. This matchup reminds me of that game. Fresno is a sheik pick to crash the BCS party and, because of their schedule and 10 returning offensive starters, they just may make that happen. But to do so a win here is a must. Also, if Fresno does pull the upset that could effect Ohio State's bid for a spot in the BCS Championship because of the way the numbers are affected.
6. Illinois vs. Missouri (in St. Louis, Aug. 30)
These two squads played one of the better non-conference games of 2007 and are back for the encore. Chase Daniels and Missouri got the better of that matchup and should have the upper hand when these schools meet in St. Louis to start the season. The Illini actually have the speed to keep up with Mizzou, but can Juice Williams take the reigns of this team and prove that he can guide them to victory over elite competition? It's a tall order and I think this game sets the tone for both clubs' seasons.
5. Auburn at West Virginia (Oct. 23)
My only wish was that this game was being played earlier in the year - before West Virginia is exposed. WVU returned just two starters from last year's defense and I'm still expecting a huge letdown from A) their unconscionable loss to Pitt to deny themselves a shot at a national title, B) the Rich Rodriquez Saga, and C) the loss of some key physical and emotional leaders. Auburn is an SEC sleeper and its defense will be up to the task of stomping Pat White and Noel Devine. Then again, the Big East can be sneaky good in non-conference games….
4. Florida at Florida State (Nov. 29)
If the Gators are going to get a national title this is likely a must-win game - especially because it's late in the year and it will be one of the marquee games of that weekend. The Gators rolled the 'Noles, 45-12, in The Swamp last year. Florida has won four straight in this series, but their last two trips to Tallahassee were grinders. FSU could be looking ahead to the ACC Title Game and a potential BCS Bowl. If that's the case, the onus might be off this game. But if not, you can bet that they will want nothing more than to salvage their season by toppling the title dreams of an in-state rival.
3. Georgia at Arizona State (Sept. 20)
This is just one step on UGA's path to a potential national title. And it's a big step. Arizona State struggled against elite competition last year but still dominated at home. Rudy Carpenter has a plethora of weapons (as long as his line keeps him upright) and the Sun Devils defense has proven itself opportunistic. The Bulldogs enter the year as the most talented crew in the nation. But Mark Richt will have his hands full trying to keep his kids from believing The Hype. And that job could get much tougher if the Dawgs roll into Tempe and lay the smack down on one of the best Pac-10 teams.
2. Kansas at South Florida (Sept. 12)
This game may be sliding under the radar of some prognosticators but it has my undivided attention. South Florida is absolutely loaded and I believe that they, not West Virginia, are the favorite in the Big East. Kansas, much like USF, is coming off a dream season but could avoid a Letdown Year because of the fact that so many starters (15 for KU and 16 for USF) and so much experience returns. This should be a physical game and should be a fourth-quarter duel between two of the most creative and charismatic quarterbacks in the land.
1. Ohio State at USC (Sept. 13)
This is clearly the marquee non-conference game of the entire season and the winner has the inside track to the BCS Championship Game. The Trojans have made a habit out of humiliating Big Ten teams in the last two Rose Bowls. Now they'll take a crack at a talented, motivated, and physical OSU team. It's nearly impossible to erase the memory of two straight national title meltdowns from the Buckeyes. But this is still a very, very talented club. And they will have the benefit of attacking USC before it has a chance to find a rhythm on an offense in flux. But home field is everything in college ball and it could be too much to overcome.