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We're a shade under six months before the regular season begins and Georgia and USC are still two of the favorites to find their way to Miami for the BCS Championship Game. But who could stand in their way? CSTV.com takes a very early look at what the Bulldogs and Trojans, owners of two of the nine toughest schedules in the country, will face this fall.
It's not the WAC schedule that's going to present the biggest challenge Fresno State -- although that season finale should be a good one for the Bulldogs -- it's those first three games. FresnoState, off that nice win in the Humanitarian Bowl, will start things off with stern tests against BCS teams UCLA, KansasState and Wisconsin, the first two coming on the road.
Consider It A Win: There are more than a few winnable conference games for Fresno, but Idaho at home should not present too many problems.
Circle It: The non-conference games are nice, but the WAC could very well be determined when the Bulldogs return to the blue turf.
Aug. 30 - at UCLA
Sept. 6 - at KansasState
Sept. 13 - Wisconsin
Sept. 20 - at Toledo
Oct. 4 - Hawaii
Oct. 11 - Idaho
Oct. 25 - at UtahState
Nov. 1 - at Louisiana Tech
Nov. 7 - Nevada
Nov. 15 - New MexicoState
Nov. 21 - at San JoseState
Nov. 28 - at BoiseState
You'd be hard-pressed to find a Big Ten team with the toughest schedule in the country because the league always plays an easy non-conference slate. But Wisconsin actually plays some respectable non-BCS schools this year and has a tough trip the third week of the season visiting FresnoState. And the Big Ten did not do Bret Bielema's crew any favors by placing Michigan, OhioState and Penn State as the Badgers first three conference opponents.
Consider It A Win: Hosting Cal Poly is an unusual way to finish out the season, but one of the Great West's best should be easy pickings for the Badgers.
Circle It: Wisconsin played the Buckeyes tough last year until things just fell apart in the fourth quarter. Two of the conference's best teams battle early and winner probably has the inside track at winning the league.
It's a rebuilding year for Randy Shannon as he enters his second season as the Hurricanes head coach and he has to deal with a bear of a schedule. There are very few easy games for Miami, who will start a quarterback with no college experience and that has yet to be named to go along with a defense that will be missing two of its best players from 2007. It was already going to be a frustrating year for `Canes fans before this schedule was finalized.
Consider It A Win: Charleston Southern. After that, it won't be easy.
Circle It: They're not going to win it, but the Florida game the second week of the season will be a great learning experience for the Canes. They'll face one of the best offenses in the country in a hostile environment. Miami may take it on the chin, but it'll be worth it down the road.
Nick Saban and company start off the season with a primetime Saturday night matchup with Clemson, who could easily be a Top 10 team when the polls come out. Then there are trips to Arkansas and Georgia back-to-back along with trips to both Tennessee and LSU.
Consider it A Win: We can only imagine what the spread is going to look like for the Tulane game.
Circle It: There are a bunch you could point to, but we all know it's going to be an absolute circus surrounding the LSU game with Shy Guy Nick returning to the scene of his greatest accomplishment.
Aug. 30 - Clemson (Atlanta, Ga.)
Sept. 6 - Tulane
Sept. 13 - Western Kentucky
Sept. 20 - at Arkansas
Sept. 27 - at Georgia
Oct. 4 - Kentucky
Oct. 18 - Ole Miss
Oct. 25 - at Tennessee
Nov. 1 - ArkansasState
Nov. 8 - at LSU
Nov. 15 - at MississippiState
Nov. 29 - Auburn
The Big East will once again be a distant sixth in the BCS conference rankings, but the Mountaineers, under new head coach Bill Stewart, are going to have their hands full with the likes of Pittsburgh and USF to end the season, along with matchups on the road with Connecticut and an early-season swing to ECU and the ever-improving Colorado.
Consider It A Win: Syracuse. The Mountaineers will have almost two weeks to prepare for Auburn and they'll tear through the Orange at home before taking some time off in anticipation of the Tigers.
Circle It: Clearly, it's the Auburn game. It's a Thursday night, primetime game, both should be highly-ranked and it'll be a fun battle between two unique spread offenses.
That 2-10 season will be nothing but a distant memory for the Buffaloes when the 2008 campaign begins the last Saturday of August. And coming off the bowl appearance last December, things haven't looked this good at Colorado in some time. The only problem is, Dan Hawkins up-and-coming team faces a pretty brutal schedule having to meet both Missouri and Kansas on the road, playing FloridaState at a "neutral" site and welcoming in West Virginia on a Thursday night. Buffaloes have a brutal stretch starting Sept. 18 that doesn't let up until the first weekend of November. But looking on the bright side, they do avoid Oklahoma and Texas Tech.
Consider It A Win: Not many easy ones on this one, but no way Hawkins club falls to an I-AA squad in Eastern Washington like it did a few years back to MontanaState in 2006.
Circle It: Plenty to chose from, and avenging that embarrassing loss to Missouri last season would be a logical choice, but it'll be imperative that Colorado beat Kansas Oct. 11 because going 1-2 against West Virginia, FloridaState and Texas could be a lot to ask for.
Rick Neuheisel will not have it easy during his first year as the Bruins head coach. He starts out with FresnoState, hosts Tennessee and then has to travel to BYU for a very difficult game against what should be a very good team. And then the Pac-10 schedule starts. Have fun with that.
Consider It A Win: Few guarantees on this one, but go with Washington State. The Cougars hung an embarrassing and surprising loss on the Bruins in Pullman last year.
Circle It: Talk of USC will always consume the Bruins, but with a road trip to Arizona State a couple of weeks before their season finale with the Trojans and having just played Washington in Seattle the week before, UCLA could be in big trouble against the Sun Devils.
The Trojans always play a tough slate and this year is no different. Their non-conference schedule is almost always one of the toughest in the country and this year's features Virginia, OhioState and, of course, Notre Dame. They luck out getting ArizonaState and Cal at home this year, but if the Trojans find themselves in yet another BCS title game, they will have certainly deserved it going through this gauntlet.
Consider It A Win: There really aren't any easy ones, but Pete Carroll doesn't lose to Arizona.
Circle It: You have to go with OhioState the second week of the season. The last matchup between the two came in 1990 so it's been awhile, and they're both going to be Top 5 teams.
Aug. 30 - at Virginia
Sept. 13 - OhioState
Sept. 25 - at OregonState
Oct. 4 - Oregon
Oct. 11 - ArizonaState
Oct 18 - at WashingtonState
Oct. 25 - at Arizona
Nov. 1 - Washington
Nov. 8 - California
Nov. 15 - at Stanford
Nov. 29 - Notre Dame
Dec. 6 - at UCLA
Unquestionably one the top teams heading into next year faces the toughest schedule in the country -- bar none. Not only do the Bulldogs have to run through the gauntlet that is the SEC -- and more precisely the SEC East -- but they have to head all the way out West to take on ArizonaState sandwiched between South Carolina and Alabama. If Georgia emerges from this schedule with just one loss -- or dare we say undefeated -- you're going to have a very hard time keeping them out of the national title game.
Consider It A Win: Georgia Southern. No chance of an Appalachian State here, even if the Eagles hail from the same conference as the Mountaineers.
Circle It: The annual showdown between the Gators and Bulldogs will be for the SEC East title and quite possibly an inside track toward the national title.