|SCS.COM COLLEGE FOOTBALL PREVIEW 2007: TOP NON-CONFERENCE MATCHUPS
August 8, 2007
David, SCS.com Staff Writer
The past two years, college football has been blessed with amazing games between the Texas Longhorns and the Ohio State Buckeyes. Both seasons the road team won a tough battle and went on to an undefeated regular season. While 2007 may not have another “#1 vs. #2” titanic September battle, the slate of non-
conference games does not lack in level of prestige and excitement. These games may define a season and could determine who will be fighting for the BCS Championship in New Orleans in 2008.
10. Miami at Oklahoma (9/8)
Five years ago this game would have been as big as the Texas-OSU battles of 2005 and 2006. Oklahoma now tries to defend their Big XII title by beating Texas for the first time in three seasons, while Miami is trying to regain the national prominence they enjoyed as a member of the Big East conference. The Hurricanes are unranked going into this season and could make a large leap back into the positive national spotlight with an upset at Norman, OK. The Sooners are a legitimate national title contender with no off-the-field problems this season, so Oklahoma will be looking to send a message with this game.
9. South Florida at Auburn (9/8)
This pick may come as a surprise, but this could be a big game if either of these teams exceeds expectations in 2007. South Florida is one of the most experienced teams in the Big East and will likely have a say in the outcome of the conference race despite the focus on WVU, Louisville, and Rutgers. Auburn has been a solid SEC contender under Coach Tuberville and might knock off LSU for the SEC West title. A convincing win here could vault the winner to a big season, especially if the Bulls walk out of Alabama with a win.
8. Georgia at Georgia Tech (11/24)
Rivalries are always well-represented on this list, and the battle for Georgia is certainly an important game in 2007. Both teams are looking to improve from bumpy rides in 2006, but both have BCS aspirations again. Georgia will be closely fighting with Florida and Tennessee in the SEC, while Georgia Tech will be chasing Virginia Tech, Florida State, and Wake Forest for ACC top honors. UGA could also be fighting for an at-large BCS berth, and a win on the road at a rival school could be enough. This game will be one of the best, even if there’s nothing but pride on the line.
7. USC at Notre Dame (10/20)
Charlie Weis will really begin earning his salary in 2007, with younger players at skill positions and an absolutely brutal schedule. The Irish know that a ten win season guarantees a BCS bowl, and grabbing an upset here and there will be vital to continue that streak. The Trojans are the runaway favorite for the BCS Championship game to begin the season, and this trip to South Bend may be one of few real threats to that destiny. Expect plenty of points to go on the board with these prolific offensive coaches in Weis and Pete Carroll in charge. If Notre Dame has a workable defense by mid-season, the Trojans will be a true test of how solid the unit really is.
6. Tennessee at California (9/1)
Last season this game made the list and then turned out to be a blowout. Don’t expect the same in 2007 as both teams come in with huge aspirations and a big rival to knock off (Florida and USC, respectively). Expect California to come out of the gate much better than the 2006 version. The Volunteers will have no room for error, but that should prepare them for the usual SEC grind. Both teams could end up being BCS bound, but the loser of this game will have a long road in front of them after the first week of the season.
5. Notre Dame at Michigan (9/15)
This classic annual battle has been extended by contract for a long time, but Notre Dame needs to improve overall to make this a true rivalry. Michigan will again battle for Big Ten and national prominence in 2007, and senior QB Chad Henne and RB Mike Hart are looking to cap their careers in a memorable fashion. Notre Dame has not been the stumbling block for the Wolverines in recent seasons, so the Irish may be overlooked a little this time around. Charlie Weis has enough coaching savvy to pull off a huge upset in the Big House if the boys in Maize and Blue lose focus.
4. Florida State at Florida (11/24)
If the battle for Georgia is large, then the battle for Florida is monumental in comparison. The Seminoles have lost a little national prestige in the past 5 seasons, but any win over a defending national champion and rival can restore some of that Tallahassee luster. This matchup also features one of the greatest college coaches of the past generation, Bobby Bowden, facing off against one of the most promising young coaches for the future, Urban Meyer. Florida might be battling for a spot to defend their national championship, but FSU cannot be overlooked. Mistakes may be the determining factor in this late season battle.
3. TCU at Texas (9/8)
It might not be the Buckeyes coming to town, but the Horned Frogs create a similar big game in Austin for the second week of 2007. TCU could launch themselves to an undefeated season and BCS bowl berth like Boise State in 2006 with a win here, but QB Colt McCoy and the Longhorns have more than enough talent to handle TCU. Nevertheless, the Frogs can get a lot of respect even with a competitive loss here. The Longhorns have everything to lose, and the Horned Frogs have everything to gain. Look for a spirited battle in this one.
2. USC at Nebraska (9/15)
The Cornhuskers certainly have a tougher September than most BCS conference teams with this game following a road trip to Wake Forest in week two. This contest was another USC blowout in 2006, but the tone of the game should change dramatically in 2007. Nebraska should be an important player in the Big XII race this season, and a win over #1 at home would certainly cement that status. Nebraska could also jump into the top 10 of the rankings with a win. The Trojans will certainly have their biggest test here before heading into conference play. In some seasons, this might have been the best game, but there’s one clearly better this season.
1. Virginia Tech at LSU (9/8)
This game has so much to offer even if the rankings do not indicate as much on the line as the largest games of 2006. This is the only game between favorites of two BCS conferences. This game also features two teams playing off huge emotion to rehabilitate their regions after terrible tragedies. LSU may be a heavy favorite by hosting this game and having a little more experience than the Hokies, but Virginia Tech plays a conservative style of football that will keep the game close. Both these teams are really playing for a greater community than themselves in 2007, and there should be fireworks on the field to delight both fan bases. The winner of this game also becomes a very early BCS Championship frontrunner alongside USC, so this game has more to offer than any other on the non-conference slate of 2007.
Honorable Mention – These games just missed the Top 10
Ohio State at Washington (9/15) – Huskies host Boise State and OSU in consecutive weekends; Buckeyes never play well in West Coast September games.
Notre Dame at UCLA (10/6) – Bruins were robbed last season, looking for revenge.
Notre Dame at Penn State (9/8) – Huge game for both teams to get off to the right start.
Nebraska at Wake Forest (9/8) – A nice early battle of Big XII and ACC contenders.
There will certainly be games not on this list that end up being very exciting and important in the story of 2007, but all the games here should be good. This is my personal last turn at the previews before SCS.com moves into its regular season schedule, so we’ll catch up with you once more right before the season begins. Until then, enjoy watching your favorite teams practice, and gear up for what should be one of the most competitive seasons in the last decade.