Are you starting to get the itch?
It may still be July, but college football will be here before we know it. The season kicks off Thursday night, Sept. 3, and while that first month's unquestionably heavy on snoozers like Florida versus Charleston Southern and Texas versus Louisiana-Monroe, there are more than a few juicy intersectional matchups sure to get the blood pumping.
Here are the 10 best nonconference matchups over the season's first three weeks:
Yes, last year's blowout at the Coliseum proved anticlimactic, and yes, both teams lost a bunch of big names from the past few years. But these two tradition-laden programs rarely have trouble reloading and will both be ranked in the top 10 yet again.
The Buckeyes should stand a better chance than last year, what with sophomore QB
Following up on last year's 'Bama-Clemson matchup, the new Chick-fil-A College Kickoff in Atlanta is quickly establishing itself as a prime-time reincarnation of the old Kickoff and Pigskin Classics. (Organizers have already booked Tennessee and NC State for 2012.)
Both teams figure to sit in the top 10 -- possibly as high as No. 5 -- come kickoff, and both figure to field dominant defenses. Last year, the Tide's 34-10 rout of the then ninth-ranked Tigers set the tone for a surprising 12-0 run. An impressive showing by this year's victor could elicit similar expectations for the rest of the season.
For whatever reason, ESPN has tapped South Carolina-NC State for its Thursday night opener yet again, but this year the nightcap (10:15 p.m. ET) is a far bigger attraction. It's
It's an even bigger game for Boise, which rarely hosts such high-profile contests on Bronco Stadium's blue turf. Coming off a 12-0 regular season in which then freshman QB
Imagine if this game had been played last year. Georgia NFL first-rounders
As it is,
The Cougars entered last season with BCS aspirations before getting demolished by TCU and Utah. This year's team may be better suited to handle high expectations thanks to a more experienced defense and prolific QB
The first college game at the Dallas Cowboys' new $1.1 billion stadium will also be the first opportunity to watch returning Heisman-winner
College football's two all-time winningest programs both suffered a 3-9 record in one of the past two seasons, yet the curiosity factor will inevitably beckon most of us to our TV sets anyway. This game will allow one of these rebuilding programs to make an important statement about its future and cause further indignation among the other squad's followers.
The Irish, behind junior QB
No one could accuse the Hokies of scheduling lightly; in addition to this game and the opener against Alabama,
This will be an important contest for second-year Nebraska coach
In September, Oregon plays Boise State, Purdue, Utah and Cal. No wonder
Meanwhile, the Utes will surely be under the microscope coming off their second undefeated season in five years and the BCS political controversy that followed. After starting with Utah State and San Jose State, this will be their first big test. Utah lost nearly every big offensive star from last year's 13-0 team, but returns seven starters from last year's No. 11 defense.
Give the Seminoles credit. Yes, they still schedule some patsies (including Jacksonville State this season), but over the past three seasons they've played road or neutral-site games against Alabama and Colorado (in addition to the annual Florida game), and now they're traveling all the way to Provo to face a dangerous BYU team.
FSU's defense will feature a bunch of new faces this season, which will undoubtedly cause nightmares for defensive coordinator
For the second straight year, the Pirates are taking on all comers. Last year they knocked off Virginia Tech and West Virginia but fell to NC State and Virginia. The Mountaineers and Hokies are back on the schedule this fall, but so, too, is the state's flagship program.
The teams last met in 2007, and ECU won, 34-31.