Preseason 2005: The Overlooked Games of September
These are games that it seems like are flying under the radar early in the season. There are some games we can't stop hearing about. These are games it is hard to hear much about. Some will be a load of fun to watch. Some are potential upsets that teams better be on the lookout for. Regardless, these are some of the games you need to be aware of for the first month of the season.
1. Oklahoma at UCLA (September 17)- The Bruins are bound and determined to make this season one to remember. They seem to have a team capable of doing it. But the Sooners have proven virtually unstoppable every step of the way the last few seasons. However, the last time they faced a team from Los Angeles, it wasn't pretty. Admittedly, UCLA is no USC, but this game will tell us a lot about whether or not Oklahoma has bounced back from graduations and the Orange Bowl embarrassment, or if they will be dragged down early in the season. The Texas-Ohio State game gets more press, but this may be just as entertaining of an out of conference game.
2. USC at Oregon (September 24)- The Ducks have proven very tough to beat at home. Just ask Michigan. That seems to be the predominant memory of Autzen Stadium for most of the college football world. They may never have seen a team as good as USC. However, there is some feeling out there that if USC is going to get beat, this might be the week. If it is, that makes this one of the must see games of the year.
3. Texas A&M at Clemson (September 3)- Strangely, this game has not garnered a lot of attention. Of course, neither team was particularly strong last year, though both were bowl teams. Still, this game feels like a very interesting match-up. These teams both think they are sleepers to get into the national championship race, especially Texas A&M. The real sleeper needs to win this game. This should be an incredibly entertaining game that is close down to the very end.
4. Iowa at Iowa State (September 10)- The battle over the state of Iowa is never easy. Iowa State always seems to play Iowa close in these games. The Cyclones are Iowa's biggest out of conference game, and could easily take all of the air out of the balloon for the Hawkeyes early in the season. The lofty national ranking? A loss will take that away. On the other hand, a win for the Cyclones could propel them up the rankings and send their confidence soaring. These are two good football teams. If it were in November, Iowa would win by 17 points. But in September...
5. Virginia Tech at North Carolina State (September 4)- The Hokies are looking to exact a little revenge on the Wolfpack. The Pack had the nation's #1 ranked defense a year ago, and the Hokies will try to beat that with Marcus Vick. This game will become more highly anticipated as the season inches closer and the word on Vick starts to heat up.
6. Bowling Green at Boise State (September 21)- Could these be the two best non-BCS teams in the country this year? Maybe. If Bowling Green upsets Wisconsin and Boise State upsets Georgia on opening day, this game becomes a real barn burner. The winner could be keeping hopes alive for a BCS bowl bid. The loser goes home to lick their wounds and try to focus on winning their conference. This is the type of game that fans of non-BCS schools dream about. It is almost like basketball's Bracket Buster played every February.
7. Notre Dame at Pittsburgh (September 3)- The Irish and Panthers are two really deep sleepers for this season. The Irish schedule is so tough that every winnable game is a must win just to get to a bowl game. The Panthers think they have a shot at stealing the Big East and maybe more. This primetime game will be running at the same time a USC at Hawaii, Georgia Tech at Auburn, and Texas A&M at Clemson. Get your tapes, your multiple TV's, or your remote control fingers ready as that will be one great three and a half hours of football.
8. Arkansas at USC (September 17)- The odds are very slim that the Razorbacks come out of Los Angeles with a win. Of course, the odds were very slim that they would win at Texas in 2003, or keep it close against Texas last year. They did both of those things. The Razorbacks always seem to overachieve in their biggest games, and this would qualify. Beating the two time defending national champs is almost impossible, but few people are talking about it really. The Razorbacks have a lot of experience back despite the loss of Matt Jones. Don't be surprised to see them make this one closer than people are anticipating.
9. Oregon State at Louisville (September 17)- Is this Louisville's best chance to lose a game? The Cardinals could run to the Rose Bowl, but they need to win and win impressively when they get a chance. The Beavers are a good team. They may be one of only two or three teams that will be underdogs by less than a touchdown at gametime against Louisville. That makes this game one of the must watch games of the year. If Louisville is going to make a claim at the right to go to the Rose Bowl, we have got to see them against some decent competition. This qualifies.
10. Wake Forest at Nebraska (September 10)- We're digging deep for sleepers now. The winner of this game has a real shot to get to a decent bowl game. Wake is a possible sleeper for getting to the ACC Championship Game (they'll need a lot of help). Nebraska is a team that could get to the Big Twelve Championship Game. I can't wait to watch this game, which may seem strange. But these teams both deeply intrigue me, and that makes this one of the games I'm looking forward to watching.