Top non-BCS/Independents games to watch

August, 25, 2008
8/25/08
11:18
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

With 54 teams in the fold, there are a tons of choices for top games in the non-BCS and independents. I will break those down week-to-week, but the following is a list of the games I think are must-see regardless of your conference affiliation (in order of date):

Utah at Michigan, Aug. 30: No one knows what to expect from either of these teams, but both have a lot riding on this game. If Utah wins, it will send shockwaves through the BCS and make Utah a major player in the race for both the Mountain West title and a potential BCS bowl.

Florida Atlantic at Texas, Aug. 30: Florida Atlantic has never beaten a Big 12 team (0-5), but this matchup is intriguing because of all the off-field yammering that has been going on by Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger. Whether he said anything or not, the bad blood has started.

East Carolina at West Virginia, Sept. 6: The Pirates have a ton of tough non-conference games this season, but West Virginia is the best team on the slate. If ECU beats the Mountaineers, the nation will sit up and take notice. It's not a make or break for the season, but important for the mentality of this team.

Central Michigan at Georgia, Sept. 6: With as much press as Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour has been getting over the last month, this will be his first test of the season on the national stage. LeFevour's never beaten a BCS opponent, but winning at Georgia would solidify him as one of the nation's best quarterbacks.

Notre Dame vs. Michigan, Sept. 13: Forget San Diego State. This will be the first test to see if Notre Dame is a better team than it was a year ago. Michigan might be subpar, but it will be a much better gauge than the Aztecs will provide.

Tulsa at Arkansas, Nov. 1: This is Gus Mazahn's return to his home state and he's bringing with him the offense that Arkansas wasn't interested in using a couple years ago. If Tulsa enters this game undefeated, it will prove its BCS merit in Fayetteville.

East Carolina at Central Florida, Nov. 2: These two teams should be duking it out for first in the Conference USA East Division late in the season. Even though the Pirates won last year's game by 14 points, Central Florida went on to win the conference championship.

BYU at Utah, Nov. 22: Regardless of whether there's a conference championship or a BCS bowl berth on the line, this game is always entertaining, BYU has won the last two games, but 10 of the last 11 meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less.

Fresno State at Boise State, Nov. 28: If both of these teams have the seasons that many expect, this game will determine the WAC champion. Boise State was in this same position last year and failed, and I think it will be a similar situation as Fresno State earns its first modern WAC championship.

Notre Dame at USC, Nov. 29: Because this game is at the end of the season, there's no telling what to expect. It's probably a fair assumption that USC will be near the top of the national rankings, but Notre Dame could be anywhere and this game could be like sending a lamb to a lion.

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