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College Football Preview 2008College Football Free Pick'Em Contest 2008
July 30, 2008 When Division I-A teams added a 12th game a few years ago, most teams have added a D-IAA team instead of a big game. However, in recent years there has been an effort for most teams to put at least one good non-conference game on the slate. With the dominance of the SEC in recent bowl seasons, it is clear that taking on a tough schedule overall is important. The proliferation of better games has made the overall job easier for the BCS and the voters, since most of the top teams are tested in one or more inter-region games before bowl season. Let's look at the top ten non-conference battles slated for 2008. Pick'Em Contest

10. Missouri vs. Illinois at St. Louis, August 30

Last season this game game down to the last few seconds, with Missouri getting a very important win. Missouri went on to the #1 ranking going into the last week of the regular season before dropping to Oklahoma and missing out on the BCS inexplicably. The real injustice was that Missouri beat Kansas and Illinois, both BCS bowl teams. The Tigers bring back more than the Illini this season and will probably be out for revenge for the BCS slight. Both quarterbacks Juice Williams and Chase Daniel will be fun to watch in this one.

9. Utah at Michigan, August 30

Do you remember the last time Michigan had a tough opener on opening weekend? It was last year against Hawaii...oh wait, they cancelled that and scheduled an easier game against Appalachian State...oh wait, that did not work out so well. The bad news is that Utah is possibly as good as Hawaii was last year, and this will be the first game breaking in the Rich Rodriguez regime. The possibility is ripe for another upset in the Big House, but this time the non-BCS school will not be underestimated.

8. Clemson vs. Alabama at Atlanta, August 30

These two teams are Southern teams that seem to be an enigma every season. Both have solid coaches in Tommy Bowden and Nick Saban, but neither has immediately lived up to huge expectations to join the BCS party. This is one of the more intriguing opening games, much like California and Tennessee last year. We will find out in all likelihood which of these teams is legitimate and which is a pretender in Week 1 this year instead of Week 10.

7. Kansas at South Florida, September 13

Much like #10 on this list, this game would have been a lot better last year when both programs were surprising top 10 teams. Kansas won their first ever BCS bowl game last season, and South Florida was in contention for the BCS late into the season by beating West Virginia. The fans in Lawrence are hoping for another banner year after that BCS victory and a NCAA basketball championship. Expect both teams to come down to earth a bit this season, but both are now officially in contention for the BCS from the start of the year. This game will determine which team is back with more.

6. Virginia Tech vs. East Carolina at Charlotte, August 30

Outside of BYU and maybe Utah, the most serious non-BCS conference team with BCS aspirations may actually be the Pirates of East Carolina. ECU plays a tough non-conference slate every season, and this year is no different with this game, Virginia, and West Virginia all on the schedule. Still, the Pirates were very close to winning this game last year and return more talent than the Hokies do. This could be the sleeper game of the opening weekend.

5. Wisconsin at Fresno State, September 13

While there are many good games on this weekend, this one stands out. Fresno State has, for better or for worse, been willing to take on anyone, anywhere, anytime. Now teams are respecting the Bulldogs with return visits, and a cross-country trip for Wisconsin will be a tough test early. Wisconsin is the best chance the country has of knocking off the Buckeyes in the Big Ten this season, so quite a few eyes will be keeping tabs on this game to see if the Badgers can handle the heat of a tough road game. Of course there's another game that day that may get more attention, more on that later.

4. Tennessee at UCLA, September 1

Yet again the Volunteers open up against a tough Pac-10 opponent, and they hope this roadtrip goes better. It is tough to open up across the country away from the huge home-field advantage in Knoxville. UCLA has a real chance to improve with the upgrade to Rick Neuheisel after a few good years under Coach Karl Dorrell. This may be too tough of an opener though, as the Volunteers seem to have better players on paper. If UCLA can take advantage of early-season mistakes, perhaps this Monday night game will be a classic.

3. Georgia at Arizona State, September 20

The jump to the top 3 games is big from 4-10, primarily because the top dogs of the college football are involved. Georgia is the favorite to overcome the past two national champions Florida and LSU to win the SEC and likely go to the BCS Championship game. Before tackling the SEC schedule, the Bulldogs must survive a trip to the desert to take on last season's surprise in the Pac-10, the Sun Devils. Dennis Erickson will look to improve even more and maybe give USC a real run for their money this season, but a win over Georgia would be huge to their BCS aspirations.

2. Auburn at West Virginia, October 23

There always seems to be one of these games in the top 10 that happens late in the season, and this one comes in the thick of the Big East and SEC season. This Thursday night showcase in Morgantown will be a good opportunity for West Virginia to really gauge how they stack up in the country. Some might write West Virginia off nationally, but they are extremely tough to beat in Morgantown and are BCS bowl champions now. Expect a good game.

1. Ohio State at USC, September 13

Just like the OSU-Texas matchups of 2005-06, the Buckeyes have added another two-year gem to the schedule against the challenge-anybody USC Trojans. This pairs probably the two most dominant teams of the decade, with USC having two national titles and six BCS bowls while Ohio State has one national title and 5 BCS bowls. This is classic Big Ten - Pac 10 rivalry, and these could settle once and for all the best program of the decade. Great talent returns for both teams and both have a couple of the top 5 coaches in the game. You absolutely do not want to miss this game for anything, except maybe the birth of your child! Let's hope like the first OSU-Texas game, this one lives up to the hype.

So there's the list of the best games from the 2008 non-conference season. There are many more gems in the conference season, but there will be plenty to watch for in September including the best game of the season overall. We'll see you in a couple weeks after my bar exam, and we'll get into the best of conferences in the Big Ten and SEC. See you in August!

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