Permit me to begin with a friendly reminder that the Ladies . . . have unveiled the National League West, the Mid-Atlantic Conference, the Campbell Conference, and the all-important AFC North in their long-awaited hot blogger bracket.
You'll want to vote for me (and for fellow Georgia weblogger Kanu of Dodgy at Best fame). I'd hate to have to break out a little good old-fashioned voter fraud (although I do have family in McRae!), so let's try doing this legitimately for a change.
If you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'!
In other words . . . go vote for me now, dang it!
Back? Good. Now go vote for me again!
Back? Good. Now we turn to the topic at hand:
Every year, September schedules feature certain key matchups between non-conference opponents, many of which are not traditional rivals. These intriguing showdowns between unfamiliar yet decorated opponents pique the interest of the college football world because they represent departures from expectations yet offer the promise of a good game.
Every year, we look forward to these sorts of clashes . . . and, every year, some of them let us down.
For example . . .
Accordingly, in order to help you avoid a letdown, I am here to offer . . .
The Top Five Non-Conference Games You Think Will Be Good . . . But Won't:
Miami at Oklahoma (September 8): This series got a lot of press when it was announced, and not without good reason. Between 1983 and 2001, these two programs combined to claim seven national championships and the clashes between Barry Switzer's Sooners and Jimmy Johnson's Hurricanes were epic battles between two lawless programs captained by two future Dallas Cowboys coaches. The bloom, however, is off the 2002 Rose Bowl in Coral Gables. The defending Big 12 champions return 16 starters and the 'Canes are in transition under a new head coach and a questionable play-caller. The Sooners will win this early season showdown in a rout in Norman.
Louisville at Kentucky (September 15): The Wildcats are coming off of their best season since at least 1998 and, arguably, since 1984. Kentucky returns 17 starters, including Andre Woodson and Rafael Little, but Rich Brooks's staff was upgraded considerably with the addition of Steve Brown as defensive coordinator. (Rich Brooks's staff would have been upgraded considerably with the addition of Charlie Brown as defensive coordinator.) The Cardinals, on the other hand, are a team in transition and U. of L. must travel to Lexington to break in a new coach in a rivalry game. I ain't buying the hype. Kentucky benefited handsomely from an extremely favorable turnover margin in 2006 and the ball can only bounce your way for so long. I'm taking Louisville to trounce the 'Cats handily.
Kansas State at Auburn (September 1): These Wildcats also showed some signs of life last season, as first-year coach Ron Prince and true freshman quarterback Josh Freeman guided K-State to a bowl berth and a big win over defending national champion Texas. Now, in a dramatic departure from the cupcake-based diet upon the basis of which Bill Snyder built the program in Manhattan, the 'Cats will travel to the Plains to take on a Tiger team notorious for slow starts in early season out-of-conference clashes on Tommy Tuberville's watch. Should Auburn be on upset alert? I wish that it were so, but, sadly, the larger feline is going to maul the visiting kitties from further down the food chain. Auburn will crush Kansas State.
I hate Auburn.
Virginia Tech at Louisiana State (September 8): As always, Frank Beamer will field a smothering defense and bring exceedingly sound special teams play to the table, taking his Hokies into Death Valley to face an exceedingly talented Bayou Bengal squad. Both teams are expected to contend strongly in their respective divisions and each stands at least a decent chance at making it to the conference championship game. This one ought to be good, but I don't think it will be. V.P.I. is 1-2 against Southeastern Conference squads since the 1998 Music City Bowl . . . and the lone win during that period was a 26-8 thrashing of L.S.U. in Blacksburg early in the 2002 campaign. Don't think the Fighting Tigers have forgotten that beatdown. Don't think Louisiana State won't avenge that loss big-time at home.
Georgia Tech at Notre Dame (September 1): After last year's close contest in Atlanta, we should be expecting another brutal battle in South Bend this season, right? Wrong. The bad news for the Fighting Irish is that they lost their starting quarterback. The good news for the Yellow Jackets is that they lost their starting quarterback. The Golden Tornado fields a stout defense and an improved offense despite the loss of Calvin Johnson, whereas the Golden Domers lost a lot of firepower on offense, have been consistently atrocious on defense against good teams under Charlie Weis, and may be reduced to fielding a Clausen at quarterback. I don't expect this one to be close; I think the Ramblin' Wreck is going to roll right over Notre Dame.
Those are my thoughts; we welcome yours.
By the way . . . don't forget to go vote!
Coming Soon: The Top Five Non-Conference Games You Think Won't Be Good . . . But Will.