A couple of weeks ago we looked at the worst of the Big 12's non-conference games. These were the games that we thought would draw the least appeal from around the nation and some of them that just shouldn't have been scheduled. Today we're turning the dial in the complete opposite direction and looking at the best of the Big 12's non-conference games. Of course, like most things when there's more than one person's opinion involved agreements are hard to come by. JTE and I do our best at breaking down our Top 10 but we'd sure like to know how you'd rank them.
1 - Florida State at OU - This game draws my number one ranking for several reasons. First, there is little doubt this game would be anticipated even more by OU fans had Bobby Bowden been able to hang on for one more year. That said, I think most OU fans are still really looking forward to this game and I know I am. I hope they beat the Noles by "half a hundred" and someone, anyone has the nerve to come out after the game and say "That was for Mike Balogun." I hope even if it's a one point victory that somebody still says it, margin of victory doesn't matter. FSU played a significant role (at least in this Sooner fan's opinion) of costing that kid a chance at his senior year and the word petty doesn't even do what they did justice.
2 - OU at Cincinnati - The trend you'll see here is that outside of CU, OU is the only school in this conference with the cajones to schedule a legit non-con (one cupcake aside). Therefore, they draw my #2 ranking for going on the road to take on a BCS opponent (I mean we can't all play such brutal road games like @ Wyoming can we?). Cincy is replacing an excellent coach in Brian Kelly as well as a majority of their offense, so while this game won't be as tough as initially expected it certainly won't be a game OU can look past either. These are the kind of games OU has struggled with in the past, so coming in with the right mindset to dominate and set the tone early will go a long way in determining the final outcome.
3 - Texas A&M/Arkansas - Both of these teams have more than enough self appointed hype to fool me into putting this game in my top 3. I'll never buy into the aTm hype until they prove they can stop someone, but any team with a potential #1 overall draft pick at QB is going to be a challenge. Petrino may be one of the biggest scum bags in CFB, but no one can question his ability to coach up an offense so expect the Jerry World scoreboards to be lit up early and often when these two take the field.
4 - Illinois/Missouri - the Arch Rivalry (one of the worst made up rivalry game names ever) will pit two potentially very average teams against each other for the final year. If I'm not mistaken, the schools have chosen not to renew the contract for this "rivalry" game so all you fans of mediocre football get your Kleenexes ready. Illinois has yet to win a game in this "rivalry" series, so they'll have the Zooker all fired up to get one in the W column before the series ends. Look out for former OU QB recruit Nathan Scheelhaase who should start the season under center for the Illini.
5 - Georgia at Colorado/ Colorado at Cal - Normally I'd give a road game preference in my rankings, but Colorado is going to be so crappy this year I think even an annually overrated Cal team will annihilate them. So be default I'll give CU a chance at home against UGA, which could be a dangerous game if you believe the coaching hot seat rumors surrounding Mark Richt.
7 - Georgia Tech at Kansas - KU gets this spot simply for not having yet another cream puff on their non-con schedule. I almost couldn't believe my eyes when I read this so I had to go online and confirm that this wasn't a misprint. Under Mangino, KU became almost as well known for scheduling cupcakes (I'm skipping the fat joke there fellas, no need to kick a guy when he's down) as the king himself who just so happens to also reside in this conference, Bill Snyder.
8 - UCLA at Kansas - Clearly this game was put on the schedule well before Bill Snyder decided to come back to Manhattan. He never would have signed off on this game and here in Kansas, there was a considerable amount of speculation when he announced he was coming back that K-State would buy their way out of this game. Alas that clearly hasn't happened so Coach Snyder will have no choice but to line up against the Bruins. Given that the game is in the Little Apple, I could definitely see K-State topping UCLA.
9 - Iowa State at Iowa - Bob Stoops' alma mater is going to have a very good team this year and will very likely destroy the Cyclones this year. If it was in Ames, I'd probably give ISU a puncher's chance as I'm a fan of their coach Paul Rhodes. However, @ Iowa will be no easy chore and I expect the Hawkeyes to enforce their will on ISU early and cause the channel flippers to start searching for a better game early that Saturday.
10 - UCLA at Texas - There aren't going to be very many lists I author that don't have texass at the bottom. This is the kind of game (or a neutral field showdown with a juggernaut like Rice) that texass fan points to on their schedule and says "See, see, we don't have a cake walk of a non-con!" Meanwhile they likely won't be challenged and win big, but still with that priceless wHorn logic will argue vehemently that UCLA should improve their strength of schedule. All the while refusing to acknowledge that their non-con is so inept that they're arguing that a middle of the road Pac 10 team is a "really tough" matchup. It'd be funny if it wasn't so predictable and the wHorns are nothing if not predictable.
(#10) 9/4 - UCLA at Kansas State - There certainly are a lot worse games than this on Big 12 schedules come opening weekend (Looking at you, OU/Utah State) but when it comes to the Top 10 this one is easily #10 in my book. Kansas State finished last season at 6-6 and even though the Bruins were just one game better than that you know that this isn't they type of match-up that Bill Snyder likes seeing on his schedule.
(#9) 9/11 - Georgia Tech at Kansas - Georgia Tech returns just about everyone from an offense that led the ACC in points per game (35.3). Meanwhile, Kansas is losing a starting quarterback, running back, receiver and about six players on defense. Oh yeah, and there's the matter of the new coach. After the Jayhawks man handle North Dakota State this will be the first big test of the Turner Gill era.
(#8) 9/4 - Illinois/Missouri - This is always a fun game to watch. Both teams were down last season according to their standards. Missouri will have an offense that will allow them to compete for the Big 12 North title in 2010 and this first game of the season will be a solid test of each team's merit.
(#7) 9/11 - Iowa State at Iowa - You have to appreciate what Paul Rhodes did in his first season as the head coach of Iowa State. He can give Cyclone fans even greater expectations in his second year with a win over a team that will be pushing for a Big 10 championship.
(#6) 10/2 - Georgia at Colorado - Colorado was most thankful for the down year Kansas had in 2009 because it kept them from finishing dead last in the North Division. This game comes just a week before the Buffs open conference play at Missouri and could be the difference between arriving in Columbia 2-2 or 1-3.
(#5) 9/25 - UCLA at Texas - Well, at least Texas tried. I don't think that you can compare `09 results in prepping for this game because of the turnover that both teams experienced following the season. Give Texas the edge with the game being played in Austin but don't be surprised if UCLA makes it interesting.
(#4) 9/11 - Colorado at Cal - This is where we should pause for a moment and give Colorado props for a banging schedule. The Buffs may have the most brutal stretch the first month of the season of any Big 12 school. Meanwhile, Cal is sandwiching this game in between UC Davis and Nevada.
(#3) 9/25 - OU at Cincinnati - This game is HUGE for Oklahoma. It comes the week before Texas and caps off a non-conference slate that also includes Utah State, Florida State and Air Force. We most likely won't see Cincy playing at the same level as `09 but no one should expect this to be a cake walk. This game could set the pace for OU's 2010 road trips.
(#2) 10/9 - Texas A&M/Arkansas - Both programs are looking for long awaited break out season in 2010 and this game is strategically set close enough to mid-season to be either a catalyst for run in their respective conferences or a nail in the coffin.
(#1) 9/11 - Florida State at OU - This is the biggest non-conference game in Norman since September 8, 2007 when Miami came to town. Oklahoma fans will be out for blood due to the Mike Balogun situation from last year. While the actual Oklahoma football team may be tight lipped about that particular situation you know they're chomping at the bit to welcome the Seminoles to town.