Worthy Non-Conference Games - Part 2

Yesterday, I pointed out that the SEC has made at least some progress with its non-conference scheduling for the upcoming football season. There are 13 games that I think are worthwhile contests that will serve to help us compare the strengths of the conferences this fall.

First, let's remember the first seven games in our baker's dozen.

Sept. 2 South Carolina vs. Southern Miss
Sept. 4 LSU vs. North Carolina (Atlanta)
Sept. 4 Kentucky @ Louisville
Sept. 11 Florida vs. South Florida
Sept. 11 Tennessee vs. Oregon
Sept. 11 Alabama vs. Penn State
Sept. 18 Auburn vs. Clemson

Sept. 25 LSU vs. West Virginia ----
This is not the season for LSU to have two significant non-conference challenges, but that's the way it is. The Mountaineers have a legit shot at the Big East title led by sensational RB Noel Devine, a studly line and plenty of skilled receivers. The defense should be very strong up front. This one ends a challenge first month of the campaign for coach Les Miles and company.

Oct. 2 Georgia @ Colorado ---- Dan Hawkins is 16-33 in his four years with the Buffs and probably would have been fired if the cash-strapped school could afford it. This team might be Hawkins' best, but that may not be saying much. The team still has a QB controversy between Hawkins' son Cody and Tyler Hansen. The offensive line blocks well for the run, but the QBs were sacked 44 times. The defense is making some progress but not nearly enough as evidenced by allowing 28-plus points in four of their last five games. It's hard to see this unit slowing down Georgia's running game and A.J. Green.

Oct 9 Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (Arlington) ---- Jerry Jones' remarkable new stadium will be the site of this one as old rivals from the Southwest Conference get together again. Mike Sherman (10-15) has to make some progress in his third season at the Aggies' helm. Actually it's his defense that has to make progress. Last year A&M allowed 30-plus points nine times, including a 47-19 drubbing at Arkansas. The offense is loaded with QB Jerrod Johnson, a stable of capable RB and a gifted receiving corps led by Jeff Fuller. If the defense makes major strides, this game could be very interesting. If not, their may be a vacancy in College Station.

Nov 27 South Carolina @ Clemson ---- We'll start rivalry weekend with two teams we've already discussed. Clemson got clobbered in this game last year but overall has done well against the Head Ball Coach. This one is bound to have a significant impact on where each team goes bowling.

Nov 27 Georgia vs. Georgia Tech ---- One of the biggest reasons for Mark Richt's extreme makeover of his defense was the futility of the unit against Paul Johnson's version of the wishbone even though Georgia survived last year's game 30-24. Joshua Nesbitt returns to run the option but playmakers must be found to replace RB Jonathan Dwyer and WR Demaryius Thomas. The defense was not very good last year and lost DE Derrick Morgan and DB Morgan Burnett. It's likely to be another shootout.

Nov 27 Florida @ Florida State ---- Florida's recent dominance and FSU's slide from the upper tier of college programs has made this game less special in recent years. Urban Meyer has not lost to the "school out west" but this might be the most talented FSU squad he'll have faced. QB Christian Ponder returns as does RB Jermaine Thomas and WR Bert Reed. The offensive line is older and more experienced, but time will tell if it's ready to become an elite unit. Defensively, Mark Stoops takes over and will try to improve a unit that was in the bottom third of every meaningful NCAA category. CB Greg Reid is a playmaker in the making and a terrific return man, too. There's nothing Jimbo Fisher could do this year that would help more than winning this game would.

So there you have it. There's nothing better than SEC Football, but at least this year most weeks will give us a chance to see a quality game featuring an SEC team playing outside the league.

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