Each and every year, stand out players make the jump from the high school level to the college football scene. The diversity creates a unique environment as schools try as they may to position themselves to win championships. With championships come national recognition as well as the dream of establishing a dynasty that kids will flock to. On the flip side of that, others are looking to resurrect a once prominent program and reaffirm their place on the throne.
However, an outside factor and game changer comes at the hands of the non-conference schedule. These days, high profile programs are playing early and often. The upcoming 2012 season is no different. Here are three games that will have national title implications riding on them as well as pride over another conference.
1) Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Michigan Wolverines - Arlington, Texas on September 1st
The Crimson Tide are coming off of a BCS National Championship run that many thought they shouldn't be playing for. After the embarrassment that was titled "The Game of the Century" as the LSU Tigers took on Alabama in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide went on a tear. Their season earned them a second chance to avenge their regular season loss while being crowned champions. However, Bama loses a key part of their offense in RB Trent Richardson.
Michigan has been on the up and up while Denard Robinson has soared becoming a household name to college sporting fans everywhere. They certainly have the talent to mix things up this season and will most likely come in as a top 10 team looking to dash the hopes of a repeat from Bama in week one. A reworked defensive line coule be the difference and will have the potential to make or break this game played in Jerry World.
Only one will prevail and I'll bet that most will be rooting against the SEC once again.
2) Boise St. Broncos vs. Michigan St. Spartans - August 31st
Boise St. has never backed down from a challenge. Year after year, they are willing to play on the road against some of the better teams in the nation. No matter what happens, the Broncos seem to be able to reload with overlooked talent and have made quite the name for themselves. They have been set up as the giant slayers in the classic David and Goliath story. Now in a rebuilding year, after losing Kellen Moore amongst others, will they be able to rise to the occasion once again?
Despite losing Jerel Worthy, Sparty is returning eight starters on what proved to be one of the best defenses in the nation in 2011. Worthy was the anchor of this highly touted defense. This upcoming season, the defense will be just as feared and should be equally effective. The loss of Kirk Cousins will mean this offense will be hindered. The game will be played in East Lansing and should give Sparty the upper hand.
3) Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs Oklahoma Sooners - October 27th
Under the direction of Brian Kelly, Notre Dame has been set on the right track. Last season saw a ton of inconsistency especially in quarterback play. Now, the Fighting Irish have stacked their schedule and will come into Norman with one of two situations playing out. If the Irish can remain undefeated, they will most likely come in with a top five ranking. The other side of that reality is the probability that ND will come in bruised and banged up after a tough first half of the season.
Oklahoma will be looking run the table this season after a disappointing 2011 campaign. Notre Dame is just another obstacle in the path of a juggernaut on a mission. Many players will not have any recollection of the fact that ND is intertwined with Sooner history as the Irish not only gave birth to the longest winning streak in history but also ended it. For some fans, it will be a redemption game as ND leads the series 8-1 all time. The Sooners have a ton of talent with a couple of new coaches on the defensive side of the ball and a second year offensive coordinator. Oklahoma has their fair share of tough games this season but this could possibly be another top 10 non-conference matchup.