10 non-conference games we'd like to see
Here are 10 non-conference games sure to whet the appetite of college football fans … if only they would actually happen.
Florida State vs. Texas A&M
Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher left Florida State after eight seasons for a substantial pay hike (a 10-year, $75 million guaranteed contract), but not necessarily a better team. The Seminoles may have had more talent, but Fisher's final season in Tallahassee was forgettable. FSU fans likely had enough of hearing Fisher complain about facilities, so they turned to former Oregon head coach Willie Taggart to replace him. At his introductory news conference in December 2017, Taggart called Florida State his "dream job" and promised to bring "lethal simplicity" to the offense. The result was a 5-7 campaign in 2018 and Florida State's first losing season since 1976. Meanwhile, the Aggies won nine games, finished tied for second place in the Southeastern Conference Western Division and crushed North Carolina State 52-13 in the Gator Bowl. FSU hasn't played Texas A&M since a 23-14 win in the 1998 Kickoff Classic.
Florida State vs. Oregon
OK, so this is a grudge match. The Seminoles were on the wrong end of a lopsided 59-20 meeting against Oregon in the inaugural College Football Playoff semifinal in the Rose Bowl to conclude the 2014 season, ending Florida State's 29-game winning streak. Although Taggart only spent the 2017 season at Oregon, now seems as good of a time as ever for a payback game.
Texas vs. Texas A&M
This once storied rivalry has been dormant since 2012. Texas and Texas A&M met annually from 1915-2011, but it came to an end when the Aggies bolted for the SEC. Texas won 12 of the last 17 games between the state rivals, including the final meeting -- a 27-25 victory in College Station on a game-winning field goal as time expired. A Texas legislator filed a bill in an effort to force the teams to play, but it died in committee. Like most things in Texas, this game just feels bigger with A&M's Fisher and Texas head coach Tom Herman at the helm of the programs.
Clemson vs. Georgia
This classic southern rivalry was a regular fixture on both teams' schedules. Clemson and Georgia met all but twice from 1962-87, but only eight times since. The last home-and-home series was during the 2013-14 seasons. Georgia leads the series 42-18-4 all-time, including a 45-21 win in the last meeting. Despite the lopsided history, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney recently said he'd "have no problem" if the Tigers played Georgia annually. So what's the problem? The teams are scheduled to meet again in the 2024 season opener in Atlanta.
Pittsburgh vs. West Virginia
The "Backyard Brawl" needs to be played. This border war was played annually from 1944-2011, but the long-running rivalry was discontinued when West Virginia left the old Big East Conference in favor of the Big 12 Conference. Pittsburgh later joined the Atlantic Coast Conference, creating a scheduling conflict for both schools. The Mountaineers outlasted Pittsburgh 21-20 in the final meeting, but the Panthers hold a 61-40-3 edge since the first meeting in 1895. Both schools, located about 70 miles apart, agreed to a four-game series from 2022-25, but it really shouldn't take that long, should it?
Nebraska vs. Oklahoma
This once-important rivalry began when Nebraska and Oklahoma were members of the defunct Big Eight Conference and later the Big 12. This game often decided the Big Eight's Orange Bowl representative. Then there was the 1978 season, when the Cornhuskers beat Oklahoma but lost to the Sooners in the Orange Bowl rematch. After the 'Huskers and Sooners were split into the Big 12's North and South divisions, respectively, they only met 10 times, twice in the conference championship game. Oklahoma won both, including a 23-20 victory in 2010. Nebraska left for the Big Ten Conference in 2011. The rivalry is coming back briefly for a home-and-home series in 2021-22 and 2029-30, but the future beyond that is uncertain.
Florida Atlantic vs. Southern California
Lane Kiffin has found new life as a head coach at Florida Atlantic. Kiffin spurned Tennessee after a 7-6 season in 2009 for Southern California, leading the Trojans to a 28-15 overall record before he was fired on the tarmac after a 62-41 loss to Arizona State just five games into the 2013 season. He spent three seasons as Alabama's offensive coordinator under Nick Saban before FAU came calling. The Owls had their best season in school history during Kiffin's debut season, finishing with an 11-3 record, a Conference USA championship and a victory in the Boca Raton Bowl. But the Owls slumped to 5-7 last season. Boca Raton has already given Kiffin a key to the city. Maybe it will unlock a game against his former employer.
Alabama vs. Central Florida
Alabama beat Georgia in the College Football Playoff National Championship to conclude the 2017 season. Central Florida beat Auburn to win the Peach Bowl. Auburn handed Alabama its only loss of the season, while UCF finished undefeated. Auburn beat Georgia in the regular season but lost to the Bulldogs in the SEC title game. Therefore, the Knights are the 2017 national champions. At least that's the way UCF athletic director Danny White sees it. The team was rewarded with national championship rings and a sign touting such at UCF's stadium. Prove it. Play this game and see which team wins. The Knights are actually 1-0 against Alabama, beating the Crimson Tide 40-38 in Tuscaloosa in 2000.
Central Florida vs. Florida
Speaking of UCF, remember when White passed on a two-for-one deal with Florida? White issued a statement in December explaining why he rejected an offer by Florida to play a game in Orlando in exchange for two games in Gainesville. "Top-10 programs don't schedule two-for-one series where the balance is not in their favor," White said. "Our growing fan base and our student-athletes deserve better than that." Maybe, but after being shut out of the College Football Playoff despite consecutive undefeated regular seasons, perhaps bolstering the schedule is something White should consider. Florida head coach Dan Mullen and athletic director Scott Stricklin have made it clear they'd be open to adding UCF to the schedule, but only on their terms. It sounds like a stalemate. For the record, the only previous meeting between the teams was a 42-0 win at "the Swamp" for the eventual national champion Gators in 2006. Then UCF paid Florida $100,000 to back out of a scheduled game the next year.
Missouri vs. Nebraska
The third-oldest rivalry west of the Mississippi River has been dormant for almost a decade now. Missouri and Nebraska met every year from 1922 to 2010, but conference expansion put an end to the rivalry. The Cornhuskers bolted to the Big Ten in 2011 and the Tigers joined the SEC in 2012, effectively ending the rivalry for the foreseeable future. Missouri fans with a long memory may be happy to be rid of Nebraska, recalling 24 consecutive losses from 1979 to 2002. But college football purists who yearn for a return of the traditional rivalries would welcome such a revival.
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