Non-conference showdowns

There's a good chance Tennessee and UCLA will have a classic confrontation on the basketball court during March Madness; there's an even better chance the Vols and Bruins will have a classic confrontation on the football field in September.

In fact, it's a done deal. Tennessee and UCLA are scheduled to collide Sept. 6 at Pasadena in what promises to be one of the most engaging football games of the 2008 NCAA season. One nationally respected sports writer rates it No. 9 on his list of the top 40 non-conference showdowns of '08.

That would be Pete Fiutak of collegefootballnews.com. Here's what he has to say about the early-season showdown between the Vols and the Bruins:

9. Tennessee at UCLA, Sept. 6

If the hoops teams if they play in March, will the showdown on the football field take a back seat? Tennessee got blasted at Cal in last year's opener in the first road trip against a Pac 10 team since a 30-24 win over UCLA in 1997. The Vols get a tune-up against UAB while UCLA has to get by a nasty first game against Fresno State. Beating the Bulldogs will be better than it might appear, if Rick Neuheisel can pull it off, but a win over Tennessee would really get the Bruin crowd moving. These two used to play all the time in the mid-80s and early 90s, but this battle will have even more intrigue than some of those classics.

Predictably, Fiutak ranks the Sept. 13 showdown between Big Ten power Ohio State and Pac 10 power Southern Cal No. 1 on his non-conference list for 2008. After that, the Southeastern Conference pretty much takes over, with eight of the next 10 games involving SEC schools.

They are:

3.Auburn at West Virginia, Oct. 13

4.Georgia at Arizona State, Sept. 20

5.Alabama vs. Clemson, Aug. 30 in Atlanta

6.Miami at Florida, Sept. 6

7.Georgia Tech at Georgia, Nov. 29

8.Florida at Florida State, Nov. 29

9.Tennessee at UCLA, Sept. 6

11.Arkansas at Texas, Sept. 13

Two other non-conference shootouts involving SEC teams grace Fiutak's top 40. They are the South Carolina at Clemson game (Nov. 29) and the Kentucky at Louisville game (Aug. 30). The SC-Clemson game checks in at No. 15, the UK-Louisville game at No. 23.

Fiutak's complete list can be viewed at collegefootballnews.com. Just click on the story entitled "2008 Spring Preview - Top 40 Non-Conference Games."


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