The must-see games of 2009 

July, 6, 2009
Since we're all in that can't-wait-till-the-season-finally-gets-here mode, there are dozens of matchups I'm really fired up about this season. This week's Top 10 list tackles the biggest must-see events in the upcoming season.

  1. Texas vs. Oklahoma, Oct. 17: You won't find a better QB battle this year than when Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy get together. It's no stretch to think the Heisman, the Big 12 title and possibly a BCS title game berth will be on the line here. Oh, and there's also the jilted feeling from the Longhorns for being passed over by the Sooners last year, a team they beat in this one in 2008. The Sooners, who have lost three of the past four, need to reassert themselves in the rivalry.
  2. Florida at LSU, Oct. 10: This game features the schools that won the past three BCS titles. It also appears to be the toughest regular-season game the Gators will play. The Tigers beat Florida in the Gators' previous visit to Baton Rouge. This, though, will be a much better UF team. Les Miles' team is probably still smarting from the 51-21 butt-kicking Urban Meyer's team put on them in The Swamp. It was the worst loss of Miles' time at LSU. In the Gators' favor: They have a bye week coming into the game, while LSU will be coming off a road game at Georgia. In the Tigers' favor: UF has lost to a team from the SEC West every year since 1999.
  3. USC at Ohio State, Sept. 12: I'm not sure this game is as much a proving-ground battle as last year's at USC was for Ohio State. My sense is that if the Buckeyes handle the Trojans here, it'll still be a big win, but not monumental in the pollsters' eyes. It'll be too easy for critics to write it off, saying that this was the first road game the Trojans' new QB (Aaron Corp or Matt Barkley) ever played. Plus, USC lost so many guys to the NFL on defense. That wouldn't be fair to the Buckeyes, given that they lost a ton to the NFL as well. If OSU does win, they figure to cruise to a 9-0 start before facing Penn State in Happy Valley. This might be the game in which Terrelle Pryor emerges as a superstar.
  4. Alabama at Ole Miss, Oct. 10: The SEC West title chase should go through Oxford this year with both LSU and Bama having to play at Ole Miss this season. The Rebs' schedule sets up very favorably for a top-five run. The team is loaded. Keep in mind this was the team that went to The Swamp and beat Florida. Jevan Snead also can maneuver his way into the Tebow-Bradford-McCoy Heisman act with an impressive showing against a terrific defense. How will Ole Miss deal with expectations? The Tide has dominated this series for years, but the past four meetings have been decided by three points or less.
  5. Oklahoma State at Oklahoma, Nov. 28: Bedlam. I expect big things from the Cowboys this season, but they'll probably need to win in Norman to have a chance to get to a BCS bowl this season. This game also might feature the winner of the Heisman (Bradford, Dez Bryant, Zac Robinson, DeMarco Murray); the Doak Walker (Murray or Kendall Hunter); the Biletnikoff (Bryant), the Mackey (Jermaine Gresham), the Outland Trophy (Russell Okung) and the Lombardi (Gerald McCoy). My bet is there will be at least three guys who win those awards this season playing in this game. (I could have picked Texas @ Oklahoma State just as easily but opted for this one because of the in-state animosity.)
  6. Alabama vs. Va. Tech, Sept. 5: A huge opportunity for the ACC to grab some credibility early. Both teams should enter the season in the Top 10. The Tide will get a lot of respect for its salty defense and for the way Bama thumped another supposed ACC power, Clemson, in Atlanta a year earlier. These are dangerous games. Get blown out early as Clemson did and you risk a season-long tailspin. I have my doubts about whether this Alabama team can be as physical on its O-line and take over the game like it did last year. I also think Tech has a more solid O-line than the Tigers and probably won't come out as flat as Clemson did.
  7. To see the rest of Bruce's choices -- one Pac 10 vs. indy, one Big 10 battle, one nonconference skirmish, and others -- and to read the rest of his blog, including thoughts on Tyler Perry in college football, you must be an ESPN Insider. Insider