Admittedly, the 2019 non-conference slate is not nearly as strong as 2018. However, several high profile games remain that whet the appetite for college football. I decided to give you a quick rundown of the 10 most intriguing non-conference games in college football this year. Certainly, there is a long list of interesting matchups, so narrowing down to 10 was not the easiest thing to do. Regardless, these are the games to put on your calendar as cannot miss affairs.
Most intriguing non-conference games
10) Arizona State at Michigan State – Saturday, Sept 14
Kicking off the list of the 10 most intriguing non-conference games is this matchup between Arizona State and Michigan State. The Sun Devils surprised a lot of people across the country by defeating the Spartans last season in Temple. This year, Michigan State will surely be favored once again. The Spartans have an established quarterback, weapons on the offensive side of the ball as well as a stout defense. Meanwhile, Arizona State will be breaking in new pieces on both sides of the ball, including at quarterback. Given the history of these two, this should be another closely contested ball game. Additionally, it will go a long way in determining the direction these teams will go this season.
Arizona State leads 2-1 including a 16-13 victory last season in Tempe. Interestingly, all three matchups have been decided by single digits. Michigan State won 12-3 in 1985 while Arizona State won 20-17 the following year.
9) Nebraska at Colorado – Saturday, Sept 7
Appearing next on the 10 most intriguing non-conference games is a former Big 12 rivalry, Nebraska versus Colorado. Expectations are certainly different for these two programs coming into this year. Despite having a potential Heisman contender on offense, Colorado is not expected to be a contender in the Pac-12. However, they are a prime candidate to be a surprise team under first-year coach Mel Tucker. Meanwhile, expectations are building quickly for the Cornhuskers in year two under head coach Scott Frost and electric quarterback Adrian Martinez. Expect this game to go down to the wire.
Nebraska leads 49-19-2 with the last meeting being a 33-28 win for Colorado last season.
8) Washington State at Houston – Friday, Sept 13
Simply put, Washington State versus Houston should be one of the most fun games in college football this year. This game lands on the 10 most intriguing non-conference matchups because of the fireworks that will ensue. Houston’s prolific offense is led by quarterback D’Eriq King and a whole host of weapons all over the field. Add in Dana Holgorson’s scheming and you have what will surely be one of the most productive units in football. Washington State is led by Mike Leach and his wide-open, passing, no need to run the ball offense. Defensive play will definitely be optional in this game.
Washington State leads 2-1 with the last matchup coming in 1988, a WASU victory. Prior to that, these two met in 1966 and in 1959, splitting those games.
7) Texas A&M at Clemson – Saturday, Sept 7
Expectations are sky-high in year two at Texas A&M for Jimbo Fisher. The Aggies lost a lot off of last years team, however, especially on defense. On the flip side, Clemson, despite also losing a lot on the defensive side, might be a better overall team this year. Which is certainly a scary statement to make considering what they did to Alabama in last years National Championship Game. The quarterback matchup will be fun to watch as Trevor Lawrence takes on Kellen Mond. Both teams are loaded at wide receiver. Clemson is the clear favorite here, however, we saw what A&M managed to do last season against them. This game has to be on this list of the 10 most intriguing non-conference games.
Texas A&M leads the series 3-2, although Clemson has won the last two, including last season in College Station.
6) Stanford at Central Florida – Saturday, Sept 14
This is easily one of the 10 most intriguing matchups this year, without a doubt. Not very often an established Pac-12 powerhouse travels east, let alone to an AAC school. UCF has obviously made history in recent years while Stanford continues to plug along under David Shaw. This is a classic matchup of pro-style, physical football versus wide-open offense and speed.
Stanford leads 1-0. The only meeting was a 31-7 Cardinal win in Palo Alto in 2015.
5) Florida State vs Boise State (Jacksonville, FL) – Saturday, Aug 31
Perennial national power Florida State matches up with perennial Group of Five powerhouse Boise State. This is one of the most anticipated games on the 2019 docket, thus landing on the 10 most intriguing non-conference games list. Clearly, these two programs come in on opposite trajectories. Florida State shockingly had their worst season since 1982, while Boise State won 10 games, yet again. Boise lost in the Mountain West Conference title game to Fresno State last year, however. Florida State has a lot of questions to answer this season while Boise replaces one of the best quarterbacks in school history, Brett Rypien. This game will be a fun one, guaranteed.
4) Florida vs Miami (FL) (Orlando, FL) – Saturday, Aug 24
First of all, this is an intense in-state rivalry game that we do not get to see often enough. Secondly, the fact that this game is being played in Orlando adds a level of intrigue, considering the importance of recruiting for these programs within the state of Florida. Beyond that, there are several other reasons why this game landed on the 10 most intriguing non-conference games list.
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Florida appears to be ready to take the next step under Dan Mullen. Certainly, the defense will be strong as per usual for a Gator team. Additionally, the offense looks to be much improved with more balance throughout the roster. Feleipe Franks is the straw to the drink for Florida though. If he does not show progression in this game, it could be a long day.
Meanwhile, after showing promise the previous two seasons, the Hurricanes stumbled to a 7-6 finish last year, thus resulting in Mark Richt being ousted. In comes new head coach Manny Diaz with his swagger, knowledge and defensive pedigree. Also, Tate Martell transfers in from Ohio State to take over at quarterback. Defensively, Miami will be strong yet again.
This game will provide a barometer as to how these programs have progressed since last season. Not to mention, it will be an intense matchup.
Miami (FL) leads 29-26 with the last meeting coming in 2013, which was a 21-16 Hurricanes victory in Miami.
3) Notre Dame at Georgia – Saturday, Sept 21
Obviously, this game is highly intriguing, thus landing on the 10 most intriguing non-conference games list. Georgia made the College Football Playoff in 2017, losing to Alabama in the title game. Meanwhile, Notre Dame lost handily to Clemson in last seasons College Football Playoff semifinal. Both programs are certainly ready to take the next step. Clearly, this game will be a determining factor as to which team is ready to compete at the highest level. Plus, anytime we get a marquee matchup like this in SEC country, it is a must-watch.
Georgia leads 2-0 with the last meeting coming in 2017. The Bulldogs won 20-19 in South Bend.
2) Auburn vs Oregon (Arlington, TX) – Saturday, Aug 31
Number two on the 10 most intriguing non-conference games is Auburn taking on Oregon. The last time, and only time, that these two programs met was in the 2011 National Championship Game in Glendale, Arizona. Auburn won that game 22-19 led by Cam Newton and Michael Dyer.
Auburn went 8-5 last season and is looking for improvement this season. They will have a brand new quarterback along with largely unproven receivers. Defensively, Auburn looks to be strong, especially on the line. However, head coach Gus Malzahn is clearly on the hot seat. He needs to win a game like this to cool that down for himself.
Meanwhile, Oregon lost four games last season. Realistically, with Washington having to replace program legends at quarterback and running back, the Ducks think they can win the Pac-12 North. These are two programs with high expectations who would both benefit greatly from a marquee win such as this.
Auburn leads 1-0 (2011 National Championship Game)
1) LSU at Texas – Saturday, Sept 7
Coming in at number one on the 10 most intriguing non-conference games is LSU at Texas. Clearly, this is an important game for both programs as LSU looks to stay relevant while Texas seeks to prove that they are indeed back.
LSU is coming off of a 10 win season. However, they are losing key pieces on defense. Despite that, they appear to be loaded again with players such as Grant Delpit and Jacob Phillips. Certainly, the offense is a concern as they have no proven running back nor is their offensive line particularly developed. Also, let’s be honest, we have no idea how good Joe Burrow actually is.
Texas is flying high after winning 10 games last season, including a Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia. Tom Herman is looking to take the Longhorns to the next level in year three of his tenure. Despite losing many of their defensive starters, Texas has recruited so well that people in Austin do not seem to be concerned. Sam Ehlinger is a legitimate Heisman contender and Collin Johnson could be the top receiver taken in next year’s NFL Draft.
Texas leads 9-7. The last meeting was a 35-20 Longhorn victory in 2003 in Dallas.
Just missed the cut: Houston at Oklahoma, Notre Dame at Michigan
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