Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
With a little less than three weeks to go before the start of the 2008 season, it is time to look at those non-conference games that could make or break a season for BCS contenders.
Appalachian State at LSU (August 30th): When last seen on the gridiron, the Mountaineers and Tigers both captured national titles. Can Appalachian State play the role of David again and slay another BCS Goliath?
Nick Saban and the Tide would like nothing better than to make a statement.
Alabama vs. Clemson (August 30th): There is a lot of hype surrounding Clemson this year, as Tommy Bowden's squad is the favorite to win the ACC. However, getting through the non-league slate will be a feat in itself. The season-opener for both programs will take place in Atlanta and you can bet Nick Saban and the Tide would like nothing better than to make a statement in this one.
Tennessee at UCLA (September 1st): With a new coach in Rick Neuheisel, the Bruins seek a fast start. Trying to prevent that from happening will be the Vols, who are flying a bit under the radar right now, at least as far as the SEC is concerned, despite winning 10 games in 2007.
Miami-Florida at Florida (September 6th): The Hurricanes are improving and renewing a rivalry with the Gators is a step in the right direction. Miami has won the last five meetings and needs a quality win like this to get back on the map. Tim Tebow and company are certainly the better team, but anything can happen in a Sunshine State showdown.
Cincinnati at Oklahoma (September 6th): The Sooners are looking to make a run at another national crown, but must not look past the Bearcats, who should be in the mix in the Big East all season long.
Kansas at South Florida (September 12th): These teams represented two of the better college football stories last year. The Jayhawks and Bulls combined for 21 victories in 2007 so they should put on a good show here.
Michigan at Notre Dame (September 13th): This rivalry may have lost much of its luster of late, but there is usually a great deal of excitement when the Wolverines and Irish get together. The Wolverines are eager to get the Rich Rodriguez era off to a good start and Charlie Weis is trying to turn things around in South Bend. An early season victory will do just that for either team.
Ohio State at USC (September 13th): This game takes place in mid- September, but is likely to decide at least one participant in the national title game. Pete Carroll's Trojans are once again loaded and a big win over OSU could kick start another flawless season. The Buckeyes have come up small with everything on the line the last two years, but this isn't a BCS title game.
Georgia at Arizona State (September 20th): Everyone is concerned about the Bulldogs surviving the SEC slate. That won't matter if they don't escape the desert with a win over a strong ASU squad. The Sun Devils may play second-fiddle to USC in the Pac-10 this year, but could give the Trojans something to think about with a strong showing against the Bulldogs.
Auburn at West Virginia (October 23rd): The Mountaineers are the cream of the crop in the Big East, but making a run at the national crown will only come if the team runs the table. The biggest non-league battle will come against the Tigers, who posted nine wins a year ago.