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Rank ’em: Top 10 Non-Conference Games in 2017

Lindyssports.com Staff

August 21, 2017 at 3:44 pm.

Nov 26, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) scrambles up the field against the Auburn Tigers during the fourth quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama defeated the Auburn Tigers 30-12. Photo Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 26, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) scrambles up the field against the Auburn Tigers during the fourth quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama defeated the Auburn Tigers 30-12. Photo Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Top 10 Non-Conference Games

1. Alabama vs. Florida State (Atlanta), Sept. 2 — How do you like this kick-off to the season? How would you like it as the ending? You just might get it on Jan. 8, but the loser of this one will lose lots of its margin for error.

2. Oklahoma at Ohio State, Sept. 9 — Why do teams schedule blockbusters like this? Ohio State showed the upside last season, when it used a win in Norman to elevate into the playoff, despite losing its division to Penn State. On the other hand, the Sooners never recovered from early losses at Houston and to the Buckeyes, even though they ran the table in the Big 12. What we’re saying is, this is a major tone-setter, either way.

3. Auburn at Clemson, Sept. 9 — The defending national champs get their first big test of the new season, when they will have to get used to sometimes not having the best quarterback on the field. Auburn is better than last year, when it opened the season by having two late shots into the end zone in the 19-13 loss to Clemson.

4. Texas at USC, Sept. 16 — The Longhorns can announce “they’re back” under new coach Tom Herman. USC can say the brilliant run at the end of 2016 was no fluke. We can all hope for a game merely half as good as the last time these programs played, for the 2005 national title.

5. Georgia at Notre Dame, Sept. 9 — Kirby Smart didn’t dazzle in his debut at Georgia. That’s fine. Give the man some time. Time, though, is not what Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has the luxury of. Cue the South Bend meltdown if the Irish lose their first big game of 2017 after a 4-8 dumpster fire.

6. Texas A&M at UCLA, Sept. 3 — Josh Rosen returns at quarterback for the Bruins, which is a pretty big headline in itself. But the main storyline is that one of these teams will launch its way into the season, while the other will have to settle for a superheated seat for its coach upon leaving the Rose Bowl (A&M’s Kevin Sumlin or UCLA’s Jim Mora?).

7. Florida State at Florida, Nov. 25 — This rivalry should be getting back to getting great after FSU’s recent dominance, winning six of the past seven. Four times in the stretch, the Gators failed to reach double-digit points.

8. Florida vs. Michigan, Sept. 2 (Arlington, Texas) — Love defense? Two of the top five units from last season test their offseason rebuilds in Jerry’s World.

9. USC at Notre Dame, Oct. 21 — Weird: This hasn’t been a Top 25 matchup since 2009, which tells you about each program’s recent rollercoaster rides.

10. Army vs. Navy, Dec. 9 (Philadelphia) — The Black Knights snapped a 14game losing streak in the series last season, when it was the most watched Army-Navy game since 1992.