The Top Non-Conference College Football Games in 2016

With the season just a few months away (72 days to the day from the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff), it’s time to take a look at some of the top games in college football in 2016. These are the top non-conference games in 2016, minus the match-up of OU and UH. The AdvoCare Texas Kick is for sure number one on the list, but I didn’t want to let my bias show.

  1. Ohio State at Oklahoma (Week Three) – OU plays both Houston and Ohio State in the same season? What other team plays two non-conference opponents of that caliber? Zip. Nada. No…one.
  1. Ole Miss v. Florida State (Orlando – Week one – Labor Day night) – Not sure what Florida State will do at quarterback given Sean Maguire’s injury situation, but there will be a TON of NFL talent on that field on Labor Day night.
  1. Michigan State at Notre Dame (Week Three) – This is a major statement game for both teams in South Bend. Michigan State will pound the rock on offense but what Notre Dame will do offensively will depend on the decision at quarterback – Malik Zaire or Deshone Kizer?
  1. Alabama v. USC (Arlington – Week one) – Alabama loves this opening weekend game because it has all off-season to prepare for a non-conference opponent. USC has a ton of talent at key positions, but it’s not entirely settled on quarterback. Neither is Alabama. That could make for an intriguing game. Or a sloppy one. Or both.
  1. Tennessee v. Virginia Tech (Bristol – Week Two) – These two teams are playing at a NASCAR race track. A. NASCAR. RACE. TRACK. That’s enough to get mentioned in the top five and I’m not even a NASCAR fan.
  1. LSU v. Wisconsin (Lambeau Field – Week one) – There’s never been a college game at Lambeau Field and when these two met at NRG Stadium a couple of years ago, it was a compelling, competitive game. Can Wisconsin move the ball on an LSU defense that is loaded with future NFL talent, though?
  1. South Carolina at Clemson/Georgia Tech at Georgia/Florida at Florida State (Week 14) – Rivalry week, people!! Not sure any of the three games are completely memorable on paper, but two or three of these teams could be in the national championship chase at this point in the season.
  1. UCLA at Texas A&M (Week one) – Noel Mazzone was UCLA’s OC in 2015 but he’ll be on the other sideline in 2016, directing the Aggies offense. He won’t have the luxury of coaching QB Josh Rosen, as Mazzone will attempt to resurrect the career of former OU QB Trevor Knight.
  1. Clemson at Auburn (Week one) – This could be a fun one that flies under the radar. The Auburn defense has plenty of talent, including arguably the best edge rusher not named Myles Garrett – DE Carl Lawson. These two teams have had some tight, tough, down to the last minute games in the past and as long as Lawson and company keep it close early, it could be another one of those nailbiters.
  1. Washington State at Boise State (Week Two) – WSU QB Luke Falk led the nation in a number of different passing categories last year and he’s got some firepower to work with at WSU. But, winning on the blue turf isn’t easy for Pac-12 teams. Just ask Oregon (2009) and Washington (2015).
  1. Arkansas at TCU (Week Two) – Southwest Conference re-united!! Both teams will be breaking in new quarterbacks and a bunch of inexperienced offensive talent. But, BUT, the defenses are old school tough and should dominate the game.
  1. Georgia v. North Carolina (Atlanta – Week one) – Will UGA HBC Kirby Smart start a true freshman (Jacob Eason) in Smart’s first game as head coach and Eason’s first as a player? That’s a tall order against an experienced and talented UNC secondary.
  1. Notre Dame at Texas (Week one) – The Texas offense had better figure things out and that ultimately could mean starting a true freshman at quarterback for Charlie Strong’s Longhorns. Then again, it can’t be any worse than it was in South Bend last year (38-3)
  1. Penn State at Pitt (Week Two) – It’s about time.
  1. Texas Tech at Arizona State (Week Two) – This should be higher on the list, to be completely honest. Of all the great matchups in week two, I might be locked into this one more than any other. TT QB Patrick Mahomes and company running wild in the desert against an excellent ASU defense is worth the price of admission.

16. Oregon at Nebraska (Week Three) – Oregon is replacing its quarterback (again) and Nebraska is trying to build off a bowl win over UCLA in Mike Riley’s first year.

By: John Harris

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