The Top 10 2014 Pac-12 non-conference games: Oregon vs. Michigan State showdown leads the way

Jonathan Daniel

Almost a third of the Pac-12's best non-conference games feature Notre Dame.

1. Michigan State at Oregon - September 6

In an age where teams shy away from marquee non-conference match-ups that can knock them out of the BCS title chase early in the season, this is about as good as it gets. The preseason Pac-12 and Big Ten favorites square off with styles that couldn't be any more different in a national make-or-break game for both teams in one of the most intense venues in the country. This is the absolute must-watch game of the Pac-12 non-conference season.

2. UCLA vs. Texas (Arlington, TX) - September 13

This is the make-or-break season for the Bruins in what is likely their last season with Brett Hundley and this will be their showcase game to start the season, underneath the big lights in the Jerry Dome with the whole country watching. This will be Texas' first reel challenge under Charlie Strong and they have a young team loaded with talent that will poise a great challenge to the Bruins.

3. Stanford at Notre Dame - October 4

The last time these two met in South Bend, it was an epic overtime battle that greatly shaped the national title chase and with both teams looking similarly strong going into 2014, expect something similar this time around as well. Don't expect a ton of points in this one, but expect a hard-fought, bloody battle between two old school programs loaded with toughness, tradition and strength.

4. Notre Dame at USC - November 29

The best non-conference rivalry in the Pac-12 will be Steve Sarkisian's first in his tenure and likely a very important one for USC as they look to bounce back from a disappointment season and became a player on the national level. This game could also make a difference in the race for the Pac-12 South if USC does well and things are tight enough up top.

5. Notre Dame at Arizona State - November 8

Another match-up with the Irish, this one is a re-match of a tough loss for the Sun Devils last year whose up-tempo offense provides an interesting match-up against Notre Dame's powerful defense. This will also be an excellent chance for Taylor Kelly to show his skills off to the nation and give the Sun Devils momentum heading into the home stretch of the season.

6. Utah at Michigan - September 20

The Utes get a fantastic chance to shine on a national stage and turn the direction of their program around against a very beatable Michigan team. Seeing a Pac-12 team play in The Big House is always an exciting undertaking for Pac-12 fans.

7. Rutgers vs. Washington State (Seattle) - August 28

The Cougars get an excellent match-up against an underrated program in Seattle on the opening night of the college football season when everyone is starving for college football. The Cougars can bounce back from their nightmarish New Mexico Bowl performance and kick off their 2014 in a big way with a win in this one.

8. USC at Boston College - September 13

This one could be better than expected with the Trojans flying completely across the country and Boston College being an improving program. This could end up being a great early test for Sarkisian and the Trojans and a great barometer for how they are doing under their new head coach.

9. Fresno State at USC - August 30

An immediate re-match of USC's romp in the Las Vegas Bowl, this one might not be a close contest as USC should be better than they were last season and Fresno State much worse, but it will still be the first chance to see USC play under Steve Sarkisian and you never know what could happen with a grudge match like this. Interesting that the last two Las Vegas Bowls have been immediately followed up with re-matches with the two teams involved.

10. Colorado vs. Colorado State (Denver) - August 30

Neither of these teams are going to draw national interest, but this is an underrated rivalry and the teams should be pretty evenly matched.

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