2016 College Football Picks & Predictions: Top Non-Conference Games: While a majority of the top rivalries in college football are between conference opponents, out-of-conference battles between top teams can be just as exciting. The need for a signature out-of-conference win has only become more important with the advent of the College Football Playoff, and if two conference champs are both vying for one spot, a big win against a power team from another conference can often tip the scales. With that in mind, here is a closer look at the top non-conference games on tap for the 2016 college football season. Don’t forget to check out NSAwins.com all season long for the nation’s best 2016 college football picks and expert college football predictions against the spread.
2016 College Football Picks and Predictions: Top Non-Conference Games
- Alabama Crimson Tide vs. USC Trojans
The defending champs will take on a traditional power September 3 in Arlington, Texas, and believe it or not, this will be the first time the Crimson Tide have faced a Pac-12 team since 2001. Former USC coach turned Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin adds some extra drama, but this game is all about which side opens the year with a statement win. Alabama will be favored, but the Trojans will be playing with nothing to lose, and an upset could fuel a USC resurgence while an Alabama loss would all but force Nick Saban and company to run the table in the vaunted SEC in order to reach the College Football Playoff.
- Ohio State Buckeyes at Oklahoma Sooners
This September 17 showdown between national title hopefuls could have major playoff implications down the road, especially if both sides slip up once in conference play. Bottom line, a win will be a huge resume booster for whichever side comes out on top. Oklahoma will be playing at home with a ton of firepower back from last year’s playoff team, but despite losing a ton of talent to the NFL Draft, underestimating the retooled Buckeyes would be a huge mistake. Digging deeper, Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield and OSU QB J.T. Barrett could also use the game to jumpstart a serious Heisman push.
- Ole Miss Rebels vs. Florida State Seminoles
In another opening weekend battle of juggernauts, the Rebels and Seminoles will meet September 5, in Orlando, Florida. Both teams are in similar spots this year with FSU looking up at Clemson in their division and Ole Miss stuck in the brutal SEC West. However, a big out-of-conference win could give both sides some wiggle room to make the playoffs with one loss, particularly the Rebels. Plus, Florida State RB Dalvin Cook and Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly should put on a show as they try to bolster their own Heisman resumes while helping their teams notch a huge statement win.
- Clemson Tigers at Auburn Tigers
The last time Clemson took the field, the Tigers fell short of defeating Alabama for the national title. When Clemson opens this season, they will again face an SEC West foe. Of course, the Auburn Tigers aren’t exactly the Crimson Tide, and Clemson should and will be favored in this game. The question is can Deshaun Watson and company take care of business on September 3, or will Auburn use home-field advantage to fuel a massive upset and potentially derail Clemson’s title hopes before it begins. Watson and Clemson better come ready to play.
- Oklahoma Sooners vs. Houston Cougars
The Sooners are coming off an appearance in the College Football Playoff, and they have the pieces in place to make a return trip. However, the Houston Cougars represent a potentially tricky opponent in a September 3 opener. Keep in mind that Houston went 13-1 last year, knocking off Florida State in a bowl game. Of course, Oklahoma has better athletes, but if an underdog is going to spring an upset, the first game of the year is the perfect time to do it. Houston could easily run the table in the AAC, and if they also have a win over the Sooners on their resume, a playoff spot is a real possibility.
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