The Baylor Bears are finally going to be playing a tough opponent in their nonconference schedule. They’ll travel to Wallace Wade Stadium to take on the Duke Blue Devils and David Cutcliffe, who are looking to rebound after a 2016 season that didn’t end how they wanted it to. Duke might not be as strong of a team as they were in the past, but they’re still good, and it’ll be brand new head coach Matt Rhule’s first test with Baylor. The Bears will have to be ready to play serious football by then, because a conference matchup with Oklahoma looms the week after.
This one’s a no-brainer, the biggest nonconference matchup for the Longhorns will be a rematch of the Game of the Century with USC. Both teams have fallen on significantly harder times since then, especially Texas, but a good showing here against a talented USC team could mean that Tom Herman is legit. The Coliseum won’t be an easy place to play, but Texas could potentially pull the upset here.
The Aggies open the year with one of the most evenly matched out of conference games in the entire country: a trip to the Rose Bowl to play UCLA. Last year’s game went into overtime at Kyle Field, and you can bet that UCLA will be looking for a little revenge. In addition to the historic setting, we’ll get to see the new quarterback starter for A&M.
This one is a difficult one to pick, the Red Raiders have two huge matchups in the nonconference season with Arizona State and Houston. Ultimately, I have to give the edge to the Sun Devils, based purely on the fact that last year’s embarrassing loss on the road has the potential to make this one personal. It’s at home, Texas Tech will be coming off its only bye of the season, and a dominating win here could provide some momentum and good feelings going into a tough matchup at Houston.
The Horned Frogs were incredibly close to several wins last year. They lost to Arkansas and Texas Tech in overtime, and they were four points away from upsetting Oklahoma. In the second week of the nonconference schedule, they’ll travel to Fayetteville to take on Arkansas, and they’ll have a great chance at getting a road win against an SEC team.
The Mustangs are looking at a tough nonconference, especially with hated rival TCU lurking at the tail end. However, their biggest game will be against a resurgent North Texas squad, as the two teams battle it out to see who will be the G5 powerhouse of 2017. Both teams are capable of having huge years, and their matchup will provide lots of tells about how each team will perform in the later months of the season.
The Cougars get bonus points for traveling to Arizona to take on the Wildcats, but their biggest matchup will be with the Red Raiders. Why? It’s simple: recruiting. Houston has a chance to beat a team from a bigger conference, one that they blatantly wanted into, in their own backyard. What better way to convince all your players to stay at home than by beating the teams recruiting them in your house?
The Rice Owls probably aren’t going to win their biggest nonconference matchup, but that’s okay. They’re playing the Stanford Cardinal in the season opener, but it’s not who they’re playing, it’s where they’re playing. The Cardinal and the Owls will play in Sydney, Australia. What’s not to love about that?!
The Miners have a unique situation: they get to play Arizona, who went 3-9 last year. Now, Arizona will likely be more talented, but UTEP gets the home field advantage. I don’t want to call anything for certain, but I do think that there’s a significant chance that UTEP can upset Arizona, even after the departure of Aaron Jones.
As previously stated, North Texas will take on SMU in a battle of who can rise from the G5 to have a surprisingly good season. Last year, the Mean Green lost to SMU, and had a losing season, but they were competitive in the vast majority of the games they played in, and only lost to a good Army squad by a touchdown in their bowl game. The game with SMU will tell us a lot about both squads.
The Roadrunners will take on the Baylor Bears in the second game of the season, and it has the potential to get very ugly very quick. However, the Roadrunners signed an excellent recruiting class, and there’s a very real chance that some of them will start this game. It will be very important for them, as some will get thrown into the fire of Baylor’s talent very quickly. The sharpening that happens here could pay dividends down the road for UTSA.
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