Saturday Night Special: Your 15-Week 2008 College Football Road Map

Bleacher ReportSenior Analyst IJuly 7, 2008

The college football season is fast approaching, and 2008 is packed full of stellar games.  After looking at the schedule, the rankings and some of the BCS bowl games and BCS title implications, here is the list of 2008's most significant games.  There are BCS top tier matchups and intriguing storylines, as well as BCS busters that should be on everyone's radar.

Aug. 30: Illinois vs. Missouri (St. Louis, MO)

This is the best opening week game by far, featuring two top 20-caliber teams coming off surprisingly successful 2007 campaigns.  Juice Williams and Chase Daniel will be the centerpieces of this first Saturday matchup, with Arrelious Benn and Jeremy Maclin served up as an exciting side dish. 

The first significant point to note in this game will be seeing Mizzou and Illinois work to replace Tony Temple and Rashard Mendenhall, respectively.  Replacing the leading rushers will be no small task, and neither team returns an experienced ball carrier.

Watching two underrated defenses battle to stop the dynamic and potent offenses each team has will shed some light on how the Big XII and Big Ten seasons may progress.

Other games of interest: Clemson vs. Alabama (Atlanta, GA), Utah @ Michigan, Michigan St. @ Cal, Appalachian St. @ LSU

Sep. 6: West Virginia @ ECU (Greenville,NC)

The first of three tough non-conference games for WVU pits them against an ECU team picked to walk away with the C-USA title.  Bill Stewart brings his high-powered offense into Dowdy-Ficklen, where the Pirates will be looking to avenge last year's 48-7 embarrassment in Morgantown.

This will be 2008's first real test for the rookie coach Stewart as he enters a hostile environment determined to get Skip Holtz a marquee win against a BCS big shot.  The Purple Haze defense returns nine starters and plenty of experience and depth.

Skip Holtz and his quarterback duo of pocket passer Rob Kass and the athletic Patrick Pinkney will look to challenge a young, inexperienced Mountaineer defense.  The sixth of September could shape up to be quite an intriguing matchup.

Other games of interest: Miami @ Florida, BYU @ Washington

Sep. 13: Ohio State @ Southern Cal (Los Angeles, CA)

Without a doubt the marquee matchup of the 2008 season, the storylines for this top five showdown write themselves.

Beanie Wells, the preseason All-American running back, facing off against a defense anchored by Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing, and Taylor Mays.

Mark Sanchez, the unproven talent, against Ohio State's physical and experienced defense.

The fiery, flamboyant, Hollywood Pete Carroll against the stoic, reserved, blue collar Jim Tressel.

The most important storyline is the fact that Ohio State needs this game to retain any hopes for a 2009 BCS title game appearance.  Win this game, and perhaps the demons of '06 and '07 will be muted—lose badly, and forget about booking the January flight to Miami.

Other games of interest: UGA @ S. Carolina, Fresno St. @ Wisconsin, UCLA @ BYU

Sep. 20: Georgia @ Arizona State (Tempe, AZ)

Another great non-conference game pitting the uber-talented Georgia team against a sound, quality Sun Devils squad.  Dennis Erickson against Mark Richt.

In Matthew Stafford and Rudy Carpenter, you've got two tough, aggressive, and passionate quarterbacks who captain solid pro-style attacks.

This is Georgia's lone quality non-conference contest and should prove to be a good litmus test, especially as the 'Dawgs come off an emotional revenge game in Columbia the week before.

ASU should finish near the top of the Pac-10, and winning this game could serve as a springboard, boosting East Coast recognition and giving the Sun Devils some cache on the national stage.

Other games of interest: Florida @ Tennessee, LSU @ Auburn, VT @ UNC

Sep. 27: Tennessee @ Auburn (Auburn, AL)

This is a serious SEC showdown at Jordan-Hare between two top 20 teams that hope to vie for their respective division titles.  Auburn rolls out its new spread attack for Tennessee just a week after playing host to LSU.

Tennessee's Jonathan Crompton will quickly have to learn what a meat grinder the SEC schedule is as he enters this game coming off a home date against the mighty Gators.

Expect Auburn's devastating pass rush to set the tone and Eric Berry and the Vols' D to do the same against an offense that only has five true game weeks in a new scheme.

Other games of interest: VT @ Nebraska, Fresno St. @ UCLA, Penn St. @ Illinois

Oct. 4: Florida St. @ Miami (Dolphins Stadium)

Will either of these teams be ranked in October?  Will the game decide the ACC title or preview the Tampa Bay Championship game?

Probably not is the best answer to both questions, but the athletes, talent, and the intensity make this game a must-watch.

There's NFL talent all over the field.  Seeing all those 4.4s and 40" verticals creates a game filled with brutal hits, jaw-dropping plays, and a year's worth of bragging rights.

FSU and Miami is never a bad show.

Other games of interest: Ohio St. @ Wisconsin, Oregon @ USC

Oct. 11: Oklahoma vs. Texas (Dallas, TX)

The Red River Shootout winner has gone to the last eight Big XII title games, winning five of them.  Under Coach Bob Stoops, the Sooners have really run roughshod through Dallas, having their way with the 'Horns.

This year the pressure will again be on Mack Brown (4-6 against OU) with two disappointing seasons following the '05 national title.  The pressure is also on Colt McCoy to perform, but that'll be no small task with inexperience in the backfield and the departure of his favorite target, Limas Sweed.

Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray, and Jermaine Gresham look to feast on a young Texas defense that gave up 25.3 ppg last season and only returns two starters in their back seven.

Other games of interest: LSU @ Florida, Arizona St. @ USC, Tennessee @ Georgia

Oct. 18: Michigan @ Penn State (University Park, PA)

A quick jaunt into Big Ten country highlights a nice matchup of the old entrenched style of Joe Pa and the new flash that Rich Rodriguez brings to the conference.  Rodriguez has high hopes and expectations for his Wolverine squad, and this midseason contest could help him reach more than the seven or eight wins the experts are predicting.

Ranked in the top 25, Joe Pa's team is going to have to overcome the injury to Sean Lee, as well as the loss of Dan Connor to graduation.  After underachieving in recent years, Paterno's going to have to capitalize on the talent he's got on the lines and at skill positions before the game and the Rich Rodriguez era pass him by.

Other games of interest: Missouri @ Texas, GT @ Clemson, Kansas @ Oklahoma

Oct. 25: Illinois @ Wisconsin (Madison, WI)

This game highlights the battle for second place in the Big Ten and a very real shot at a BCS bowl bid.  Barring slip-ups, both teams should enter this game with one loss and a ton of momentum.

Wisconsin, by late October, should have established a solid option at quarterback to compliment P.J. Hill.  Allan Evridge is the leader, and having Travis Beckum as a safety blanket should keep Bret Bielema from going insane.

Illinois needs to find their running back to compliment Juice Williams, and having Arrelious Benn will definitely loosen up eight-man fronts.

In late October, this Big Ten battle should feature solid, fundamentally sound football and stingy defenses pushing to stay in the Big Ten title picture.

Other games of interest: Georgia @ LSU, Oregon @ Arizona St.

Nov. 1: Georgia vs. Florida (Jacksonville, FL)

The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party—aside from Ohio St. at SoCal, this is the most anticipated game of the year as Richt's antics have only served to stir up all the ire of Gator nation.

Even without field storming, mud slinging, and the proximity of the schools, this game would be tops on any list.  Four Heisman candidates in Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno, Tim Tebow, and Percy Harvin, along with two aggressive, highly talented defenses and fiery young coaches that push the all the right buttons.

Get ready for mayhem—this game should not only decide the SEC East Champion, it will have serious SEC title and BCS championship implications.

Other games of interest: Nebraska @ Oklahoma, Clemson @ Boston College

Nov. 8: Clemson @ Florida State (Tallahassee, FL)

The Bowden Bowl should be special this year as the tables are turned and Clemson looks to have designs on an Orange Bowl bid.  Bobby Bowden and Jimbo Fisher will need this game to try and secure a quality second tier bowl berth.

Both teams will trot out attacking, physical defenses, but only Clemson has the offensive fire power to be a threat on every play.  Cullen Harper and company are going to to be the biggest test to date for the 'Noles, and it'll take all of Mickey Andrews' faculties to thwart a Clemson offensive outburst.

Should Christian Ponder to Greg Carr emerge as a formidable duo and Antone Smith build upon last year's success, FSU could make this a very troubling game for Tommy's Tigers.

Other games of interest: Alabama @ LSU, Kansas @ Nebraska

Nov. 15: Georgia @ Auburn (Auburn, AL)

Back in the SEC for yet another weekend, and with good reason—UGA vs AU looks to be a very probable preview of the SEC title game.  The Tigers, settling into their spread attack, are talented and fast enough to give the Bulldogs defense a lot of problems.

On the flip side, Auburn also has the depth on the defensive line and the experience at linebacker to try and make Georgia one-dimensional.  If Paul Rhoads is able to stop Moreno on the ground, he won't think twice about pinning back Antonio Coleman's ears and sending him after Stafford.

This game will be a heavyweight fight, with both teams limping in proudly after running through a brutal SEC schedule.

Other games of interest: Ohio St. @ Illinois, USC @ Stanford, Texas @ Kansas, Rutgers @ USF

Nov. 22: Brigham Young @ Utah

This battle of the two Utah powers is a great game off the BCS conference path and could have some serious BCS possibilities.  There's a chance, albeit unlikely, that both teams can navigate their first eleven games successfully and head into this final week undefeated.

Should Utah escape Michigan in their opener, and BYU not stumble against a questionable UCLA squad, this game would be for all the marbles, making it must-see TV.

Either way, the Mountain West's two best programs will be squaring off in Salt Lake City, and with BYU's potent offense against Utah's solid pass defense, this Saturday should be a true battle in the Rockies.

Other games of interest: Texas Tech @ Oklahoma

Nov. 29: Missouri vs. Kansas (Kansas City, MO)

It wasn't long ago that this game was completely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.  Now it will undoubtedly be deciding who earns the right to return to KC for the Big XII Title Game.

Todd Reesing and Chase Daniel will have to prove to be more than one-year wonders.  This game will pave the way to solidifying their legacies in the Big XII North.

The defenses will have their hands full as both teams look to spread the field and create mismatches between linebackers and safeties, as well as get players into space.  Expect safety William Moore of Mizzou to play a major part if the Tigers look to repeat as Big XII North Champions.

Other games of interest: Florida @ Florida St., GT @ Georgia, Auburn @ Alabama, South Carolina @ Clemson

Dec. 6: SEC Title Game (Atlanta, GA)

If you're only going to watch one of the Conference Title Games this Saturday, watch the SEC's.  An event averaging well over 70,000 spectators, the atmosphere and the pageantry of the SEC is on full display at the title game.

Expect some combination of Florida or Georgia out of the East to play LSU or Auburn from the West for all the chips down in Hot-lanta.  The biggest draw for this game is that the last two years the BCS Champion has emerged from the field down in Georgia.

Other games of interest: Big XII Conference Championship Game (Kansas City, MO), ACC Championship Game (Tampa Bay, FL), Cincinnati @ Hawaii, USF @ WVU

Coming soon: Weeknight Games Worth Watching...


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