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Top 10 2015 Pac-12 non-conference games: Oregon and Michigan State clash again

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The Pac-12 has a number of non-conference games to look forward to in 2015.

Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

1. Oregon at Michigan State - September 12

A rematch of last year's dream non-conference showdown in East Lansing is going to be another virtual Playoff game right off the bat between two Top 10 teams that play complete opposite styles again. There are a ton of reasons that make this the Pac-12's best non-conference game, but none maybe more interesting than getting to see the heir to Marcus Mariota get his first true test and a big one, on the road in a hostile Big Ten environment against a program known for nasty defenses.

2. Washington at Boise State - September 4

This one might not be as marquee as some of the other match-ups on this list, but man is it going to be interesting and fun. Chris Petersen opens just his second season away from Boise with his new team, where he holds godlike status, in Boise on a Friday night and the nation will be watching. The Huskies are expected to have a down year in 2015 and Pac-12 teams have fared poorly in Boise in recent history, but you have to think that Petersen will have his team ready to play in a competitive one to open the season.

3. USC at Notre Dame - October 17

The pressure is building at USC to produce a big season in 2015 and this one is probably going to be a must-win if the Trojans hope to make the Playoff. Throw in the rivalry factor, the venue and the fact that Notre Dame looks like a borderline Top 10 team in 2015 and this one looks like it could be one of the best USC/ND games in a while.

4. Notre Dame at Stanford - November 28

These two seem to always play tight ones in recent history and with both teams looking like they belong in the 11-20 range nationally, I would expect another close one in Palo Alto to close out the season. Also, there is a very outside chance that this one could have some Playoff implications.

5. Arizona State vs. Texas A&M (In Houston) - September 5

There are not that many non-conference true Top 25 showdowns like this anymore and this one should be a good barometer for both of these teams to prove that they belong as darkhorse Playoff candidates. I also like the slight neutral venue and the fact that Todd Graham and his staff have to not be happy about the fact that Texas A&M has been raiding Phoenix for top recruits including Aggie quarterback Kyle Allen.

6. Michigan at Utah - September 3

Like the Boise State/Washington game, the coaching intrigue adds a lot of luster to an already really good on-field match-up. Jim Harbaugh opening up his return to college in the Pac-12 against a coach that was rumored to be considered for the job makes this one incredibly intriguing. On the field, this will be an excellent test for Utah to prove that they are going to build off of a very good 2014 season and remain a Top 25-level team.

7. Cal at Texas - September 19

Expectations are starting to build in Berkeley for 2015 and the Bears have a chance to make a national statement in their non-conference slate when they head to Austin to take on an expected to be improved Texas team. The Longhorns have a ton of talent, but are still a very questionable team and the Bears and their Bear Raid should be able to make a game of it in Austin with the opportunity to get themselves into the Top 25 with a win.

8. Oregon State at Michigan - September 12

Jim Harbaugh will follow up his opener on the road against an old Pac-12 foe with a home game against a Big Ten coach that will be making his pilgrimage back to the Big Ten. This will be a very interesting match-up to see how quickly Gary Andersen can get things rolling at Oregon State as the Beavers should be able to at least compete with a Michigan program that still has a long ways to go, even in The Big House.

9. Colorado vs. Colorado State (Denver) - September 19

The Buffs and Rams have pushed their Mile High rivalry game back from its usual Labor Day slot, but this should still be a very hard fought game between bitter rivals that should be pretty evenly matched. This game will be especially important for Mike MacIntyre as he tries to avenge a tough loss to the Rams last season and needs to get a win here to help give his team a decent shot at bowl eligibility.

10. BYU at UCLA - September 19

The Cougars looked like one of the best mid-major teams in the nation before quarterback Taysom Hill went down with a serious leg injury and if Hill can be ready to go by the time that the Cougars come to Pasadena, the Bruins could be in for a game. Actually, not even considering if Hill is going to play, this still could be a great game as BYU perpetually fields a good team and UCLA will be breaking in a green quarterback.

Others to watch

Washington State at Rutgers - September 12

Stanford at Northwestern - September 5

UCF at Stanford - September 12

Utah State at Utah - September 12

Virginia at UCLA - September 5