The top-25 non-conference games I'm excited for in 2024

Here are the best non-conference matchups this season you need to watch.

The top-25 non-conference games I'm excited for in 2024

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Hey, everybody! I've woken up from my post-Running Back Respect Month™️-induced hibernation to drop some new content for you! Before we get to that - I realize that I put out a ton of stuff last month, so I don't blame you if it was tough to keep up with it all. If you want to go back and read any of the RBRM profiles, I've made a dedicated page for all 31 days you can find here:

RBRespectMonth - Two Stripes with Colton Denning
A college football website for people who actually like college football.

We're less than 150 days away from the start of the 2024 season, and it's time to get hyped for what this new era of college football with the expanded playoff has in store for us. This year is chock-full of fantastic non-conference games, and I'm giving you the top 25 that I'm most excited for!

The top-25 non-conference games I'm excited for in 2024

25. Duke at Northwestern - September 7

Laugh if you want, but I'm ready for a repeat of what their 2022 game gave us:

24. TCU at SMU - September 21

Ah, yes! A classic Big 12-ACC matchup! In all seriousness, the Iron Skillet Battle is a slept-on rivalry. It's a shame conference re-alignment's putting it on hold after they meet in 2025. Enjoy it while you can.

23. Florida at Florida State - November 30

I'm not buying Florida AD Scott Stricklin's statement about Billy Napier not being on the hot seat. Napier needs results in a bad way to make it to year four. Just walking into Tallahassee in November with his job still intact would be a good sign, but leaving with an upset win is the type of ironclad W he's looking for.

22. Notre Dame at USC - November 30

Notre Dame beating the breaks off USC last year sent these teams on two opposite paths. The Irish won four of their last five games, while the Trojans lost four of their next five, before winning their bowl. Lincoln Riley and Marcus Freeman have split their first two meetings. Who takes the third?

21. Penn State at West Virginia August 31

This rivalry took place every year from 1947-1992 before a 31-year hiatus kept it from us until last year. That game featured maybe the most bizarre play call of season:

Hopefully this is in prime time, because Morgantown will be on fire (metaphorically) for it.

20. Arkansas State at Iowa State - September 21

I spent all year making fun of Arkansas State Head Coach Butch Jones in the Hot Seat Rankings column, but he had the last laugh. The Redwolves went .500 in Sun Belt play, making their first bowl since 2019. They return the majority of their offensive production, and I wouldn't be shocked to see them at least put a scare into the Cyclones.

19. South Dakota State at Oklahoma State - August 31

The back-to-back FCS National Champions have put the rest of FCS in a body bag the last two seasons:

Add that to never knowing what you're gonna get from Oklahoma State –especially early in the season– and you've got an underratedly tantalizing week one matchup.

18. UNLV at Kansas - September 14

Imagine me telling you a few years ago that Kansas and UNLV would walk in 2024 both fresh off nine-win seasons. 2023 was Kansas' first year with a ranked finish (No. 23) since 2007. UNLV was never ranked, but had their best year since an 11-win 1984. What's the ceiling for both in 2024? For Kansas, it probably depends on the health of quarterback Jalon Daniels, but the Jayhawks offense should be explosive once again. UNLV most likely takes a big step back after losing star quarterback Jayden Maiava to USC in the transfer portal, but I'm still keen to see how they build off last year's success.

17. UCF at Florida - October 5

Billy Napier's not making it to the aforementioned Florida-Florida State game on November 30 if the Gators lose here. UCF disappointed last season, but this has potential to be a building-block win for Gus Malzahn's program.

16. Liberty at Appalachian State - September 28

I thought Liberty had the chance to do some damage in Jamey Chadwell's first season, but going 13-0 before a Fiesta Bowl loss to Oregon definitely wasn't even on my radar. The return of electric quarterback Kaidon Salter (for now?) makes the Flames a top G5 option to make the expanded playoff. A late-September showdown with App State on the road will be a huge test.

15. Tennessee-NC State - September 7, Charlotte

It's always interesting to me when power five programs in neighboring states rarely play each other. This will be just the fourth meeting between the Vols and Wolfpack, and I'm willing to put my disdain for neutral site games to the side for it.

14. North Dakota State at Colorado - August 31

Coach Prime's second season in Boulder begins against the most recognizable brand in the FCS. I'm not picking against the Buffs, but I'm letting you know now that this will be the trendiest upset pick of week one.