10) East Carolina At Virginia Tech
The Pirates will be heading into Blacksburg with plenty of offense to give the Hokies some trouble. Virginia Tech finished 2013 sporting one of the top 10 defenses in the country, as is their custom. That contrast in style should make for an interesting viewing experience, and that is what this list is about. The other side of the ball might be a nighmare between a consistently under acheiving offense that is starting over at QB (Virginia Tech) and a defense that played fantastically well for most of last season to little fan fare. Its not unheardof for the Pirates to notch a win against the Hokies.
9) Temple At Penn State
This game makes the list because the Owls have very quietly given the Nittany Lions all kinds of trouble in their recennt match ups. Penn State played the Owls 7 straight years from 2006 through 2012 with the Owls inching progressively closer in each meeting. The fact that it is in State College makes it likely to be the 38th straight loss in the series for the team from Philly. But they do have P.J. Walker, so I am saying there is a chance.
8) Texas A&M At SMU
Texas A&M returns to the birth place of Johnny Football. Manziel didn't play his first game against the Ponies, but that is where his Heisman season started. Both of these teams are starting over at quarterback, and at this point no one has any idea who will be under center for either team. But if you tell me that June Jones and Kevin Sumlin are going to be coaching on the same field I will watch it. Chances are good that something bannans will happen.
7) Temple At Vanderbilt
The Owls were obviously going to be playing James Franklin at some point in 2014, but I expected it to be in this game. Derek Mason is as good a bet to continue to build and expand upon what Franklin did in Nashville, even if it took everyone a while to get that sorted. The real reason I am looking forward to this game is that it will be one of the first games of the year. It will also be a chance to get a good look at a bigger, stronger and more experienced P.J. Walker who was magnificent as a freshman last season.
6) TCU At SMU
I am really a sucker for these kind of match ups. A battle of a metroplex is always going to be interesting. But a battle for a metroplex in which an iron skillet is at stake. A skillet that looks capible of knocking someone unconcious with a well placed blow, count me in.
As discussed above the Mustangs are starting over at QB, while TCU is just starting over in general on offense. Maybe with Trevon Boykin at the controls of the offense, but perhaps not. TCU is clearly the more talented team, but SMU always seems to give them hell of late.
5) Cincinnati At Miami (FL)
This is the game that gave the Bearcats all kinds of scheduling trouble, but it will be worth it for the Bearcats profile* this year. Miami had an up and down year in 2013, and are moving on from the Stephen Morris era. But they have a ton of talent, particularly at the skill positions. I would venture that Miami has as much or more pure offensive talent as anyone else on UC's schedule. For the conference this game matters as well, for the simple reason that there are not many match up's with "name" programs on this years schedule.
*A friendly reminder that in the Bearcats new life in a group of five league that we need to be concerned with things that were never really a concern in the Big East, namely caring about how the outside world views this team.
4) UCF At Missouri
Yes, the Knights are basically starting from scratch on offense and could be brutal to watch on that side of the ball absent Blake Bortles and Storm Johnson. But that defense is legit, and watching them try to match up with what should be a pretty damn explosive offense with Maty Mauk at the helm, and no shortage of available weapons, will be fascinating.
3) BYU At UCF
Basically all the reasons that have me interested in the UCF/Mizzou contest are why I am interested in this game as well. BYU's offense last year did not get a whole lot of attention nationally after reducing Texas to a husk of charred bones and burnt flesh, which is a shame. The Cougars have a really unique scheme on offense. They play as fast as anyone in the country, they didn't really bother with the pass and instead ground teams into dust with power. Seeing them match up with UCF's defense will be one of the more compelling offense v. defense match ups in the AAC's non conference slate.
2) Cincinnati At Ohio State
The build towards this game has already started to build, so there is no denying the obvious. UC would gladly love to become the first in state team to beat OSU since Oberlin did so in 1921. That outcome is probably going to be in play if the Bearcats stay healthy, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. I am not predicting it, I am not expecting it, merely acknowledging that it is a possible, if improbable outcome.
1) Houston At BYU
The Cougars and the Cougars had a classic game last season and will try to run it back with most of the major cogs from both offensive attacks coming back. Houston was a crazily young team a season ago, and while they played well for long stretches they simply ran out of steam. That will not be a problem this season. As for BYU, I find them fascinating. Sign me up for Taysom Hill vs. John O'Korn anytime.