- Mark Schlabach, ESPN Senior Writer
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Rivalries. Backyard brawls. Cocktail parties.
From Aug. 30 to Dec. 6, the 2008 college football season is chock full of great matchups from coast to coast. Here's a week-by-week schedule of games to watch:
Aug. 30: Alabama vs. Clemson (8 p.m. ET, ABC)
The Crimson Tide and the Tigers meet in Atlanta's Georgia Dome, where Clemson ended the 2007 season with a 23-20 overtime loss to Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. A loss to Alabama would greatly diminish Clemson's lofty expectations in 2008.
Aug. 30: Illinois vs. Missouri (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Who knew last year's opener in the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis would produce two of college football's biggest surprises? The Tigers have their sights set on a national championship this season; the Illini hope to stay near the top of the Big Ten.
Upset alert: East Carolina over Virginia Tech (Noon ET, ESPN)
Sept. 6: Oregon State vs. Penn State (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
The Nittany Lions, with 14 starters back, might be flying under the radar in the Big Ten. The Beavers have quietly put together the best two-year record in the Pac-10 by a team other than USC.
Upset alert: Central Florida over South Florida (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Sept. 12: Kansas at South Florida (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
The Jayhawks and Bulls play in Tampa on Friday night in a matchup of two of last season's biggest surprises. South Florida climbed as high as No. 2 in the national rankings before slipping badly at season's end. Kansas went 12-1 in 2007, but didn't face a nonconference opponent anywhere near the level of the Bulls.
Sept. 13: Ohio State at USC (8 p.m. ET, ABC)
The Buckeyes, losers in each of the past two BCS championship games, hope to finally silence their critics by beating the Trojans in the Coliseum. USC is going for its seventh consecutive Pac-10 title, but must replace several key pieces and pray quarterback Mark Sanchez is ready to play against Ohio State.
Sept. 13: Georgia at South Carolina (3 p.m. ET)
Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier loves beating the Bulldogs more than any other opponent. South Carolina's 16-12 win in Athens last season cost Georgia a chance to play for the SEC title and possibly a BCS championship. Another loss to the Gamecocks would probably all but end the top-ranked Bulldogs' championship hopes again.
Upset alert: Fresno State over Wisconsin (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Sept. 20: Georgia at Arizona State (8 p.m., ABC)
The Bulldogs make a rare trip west of the Mississippi River. The Sun Devils won 10 games in coach Dennis Erickson's first season, but they'll have to do a better job protecting quarterback Rudy Carpenter against Georgia's defense.
Sept. 20: Florida at Tennessee, (TBA)
The Gators blasted Tennessee 59-20 in the Swamp last season, one of the most embarrassing defeats in coach Phillip Fulmer's tenure. The Volunteers are flying under the radar in the SEC East, with nearly everyone focusing on Florida and Georgia.
Sept. 20: LSU at Auburn (TBA)
The third big SEC game of the weekend could decide which team wins the SEC West. It's a physical, close game each time these teams meet. Defending national champion LSU won 30-24 vs. Auburn last season.
Upset alert: Boise State over Oregon (3:30 p.m. ET)
Sept. 27: Illinois at Penn State (8 p.m. ET)
The Illini beat the Nittany Lions 27-20 last season, one of the first big victories for coach Ron Zook. The winner of this year's game might challenge Ohio State and Wisconsin for Big Ten supremacy.
Sept. 27: Virginia Tech at Nebraska (TBA)
The Hokies are the first big test for new Cornhuskers coach Bo Pelini, who hopes to restore Nebraska's pride on defense. Defending ACC champion Virginia Tech must replace a boatload of talent on defense.
Upset alert: Oregon State over USC (Thursday, Sept. 25, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Oct. 2: Pittsburgh at South Florida (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
The Thursday night game is the Panthers' first opportunity to prove they're finally ready to challenge for the Big East championship again. Pitt must slow down Bulls quarterback Matt Grothe; South Florida must contain tailback LeSean McCoy.
Oct. 4: Ohio State at Wisconsin (8 p.m. ET)
The Badgers get their chance to beat the Buckeyes in a night game at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin was no match for Ohio State last season, losing 38-17 in Columbus.
Oct. 4: Oregon at Southern Cal (8 p.m. ET)
The Ducks beat the Trojans 24-17 in Eugene, Ore., last season and seemed to be on their way to winning the Pac-10 until quarterback Dennis Dixon blew out his knee. Each team has a new quarterback this season.
Upset alert: Rutgers over West Virginia (Noon ET)
Oct. 9: Clemson at Wake Forest (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
The Demon Deacons might be Clemson's stiffest competition in the ACC's Atlantic Division. Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe hopes his team puts up more of a fight than last season -- the Tigers won 44-10 at Death Valley.
Oct. 11: Texas at Oklahoma (Noon ET, ABC)
Oklahoma stopped a two-game losing streak to the Longhorns with a 28-21 victory in last season's Red River Rivalry. The Sooners have won six of their past eight games against Texas.
Oct. 11: LSU at Florida (TBA)
The past two national champions meet in the Swamp, with the Gators still smarting from last season's 28-24 loss in Baton Rouge. The Gators led for all but 1 minute, 9 seconds -- but somehow lost the game.
Oct. 11: Tennessee at Georgia (TBA)
The Volunteers routed Georgia 35-14 at Neyland Stadium last season, the last time the Bulldogs would lose in 2007. Tennessee won 51-33 at Sanford Stadium in 2006, becoming only the second opponent to ever score more than 50 points between the hedges.
Oct. 11: Arizona State at USC (TBA)
The Sun Devils were no match for the Trojans in 2007, losing 44-24 in Tempe. Arizona State might be USC's best competition in the Pac-10 this season.
Upset alert: Notre Dame over North Carolina (TBA)
Oct. 16: BYU at TCU (8 p.m. ET)
If the Cougars are going to crash the BCS party, they'll have to get past the Horned Frogs, who failed to get to the BCS last season.
Oct. 18: Kansas at Oklahoma (TBA)
The Jayhawks didn't have to play Oklahoma or Texas while posting a 12-1 record in 2007. Kansas has to play both teams this season.
Oct. 18: Michigan at Penn State (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Rich Rodriguez takes his spread offense to Happy Valley for the first time, hoping his new quarterback will make the Nittany Lions not-so-happy.
Upset alert: South Carolina over LSU (TBA).
Oct. 23: Auburn at West Virginia (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
The Tigers make a rare trip near the Mason-Dixon Line in a battle of teams with BCS title aspirations. Mountaineers quarterback Pat White gets a chance to beat a team from his home state of Alabama.
Oct. 25: Georgia at LSU (TBA)
The Bulldogs and Tigers have played in two of the past five SEC championship games, and the winner of this game might jump in the driver's seat of the conference race.
Oct. 25: Texas Tech at Kansas (TBA)
Red Raiders coach Mike Leach takes his high-powered offense to Lawrence, Kan., for the first of two very difficult road games in Big 12 play.
Oct. 25: Penn State at Ohio State (8 p.m. ET)
The Nittany Lions might be one of only three Big Ten teams that can challenge the Buckeyes this season. Ohio State blasted Penn State 37-17 at Happy Valley last season.
Upset alert: Alabama over Tennessee (TBA)
Nov. 1: Georgia vs. Florida (TBA)
The Bulldogs finally beat the Gators 42-30 last season, winning in Jacksonville, Fla., for only the third time in 18 meetings. Florida has its sights set on revenge after the Dogs danced in the end zone in one of the most bizarre moments in the storied rivalry.
Nov. 1: Clemson at Boston College (TBA)
The Eagles beat the Tigers 20-17 at Death Valley last season to win the ACC's Atlantic Division. Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski believes his team might be better than everyone else thinks.
Upset alert: Notre Dame over Pittsburgh (2:30 p.m. ET)
Nov. 8: Alabama at LSU (TBA)
Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban returns to Baton Rouge, La., for the first time. The Tigers beat their former coach's team 41-34 in last season's meeting in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Nov. 8: Cincinnati at West Virginia (TBA)
Pat White helped the Mountaineers run the Bearcats out of the Big East race last season by running for a pair of touchdowns in a 28-23 victory.
Nov. 8: Oklahoma State at Texas Tech (TBA)
After beating the Red Raiders 49-45 last season, Cowboys coach Mike Gundy screamed, "I'm a man!" After this year's meeting in Lubbock, Texas, Leach hopes he'll be able to scream, "I'm the man!"
Upset alert: California over USC (8 p.m. ET, ABC)
Nov. 15: Ohio State at Illinois (TBA)
Last season, the Illini upset the Buckeyes 28-21 in Columbus, Ohio, nearly knocking Ohio State out of the BCS championship game. Coach Jim Tressel has to find a way to neutralize Illinois' spread offense.
Nov. 15: Georgia at Auburn (TBA)
The Tigers might be the last roadblock in Georgia's quest for a national championship. These teams have ended each other's championship hopes countless times during the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry.
Nov. 15: USC at Stanford (TBA)
The Cardinal stunned the Trojans 24-23 in the Coliseum last season, ending the Trojans' 35-game home winning streak.
Upset alert: South Carolina over Florida (TBA)
Nov. 19: Ball State at Central Michigan (7 p.m., ESPN2)
The MAC's top two teams play in a game that might decide which team wins the MAC West. Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour and Ball State's Nate Davis are two of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country.
Nov. 22: Michigan at Ohio State (TBA)
Rodriguez can run for governor in Michigan if he ends the Wolverines' recent slide against Ohio State. The Buckeyes have won six of the past seven meetings.
Nov. 22: Texas Tech at Oklahoma (TBA)
The Red Raiders took a 27-7 lead in the first half of last season's 34-27 victory, beating the Sooners for the second time in a row at AT&T Jones Stadium. The loss knocked the Sooners out of the national championship race.
Upset alert: Utah over BYU (6 p.m. ET)
Nov. 28: West Virginia at Pittsburgh (Noon ET, ABC)
Last season, the Panthers stunned the Mountaineers 13-9 in Morgantown, W. Va., knocking the Mountaineers out of the BCS championship game. The 101st meeting of the Backyard Brawl figures to be just as intense.
Nov. 28: Fresno State at Boise State (6 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
If the Bulldogs can get past a tough early schedule, which includes a road game at Rutgers and a home game against Wisconsin, they might still be in the BCS hunt when the play the Broncos on the blue turf.
Nov. 29: Kansas at Missouri (TBA)
The Tigers beat the Jayhawks 36-28 last season to win the Big 12 North. But Missouri still has revenge on its mind because Kansas received an at-large invitation to the Orange Bowl.
Upset alert: South Carolina over Clemson (TBA)
Dec. 6: South Florida at West Virginia (TBA)
The Bulls and Mountaineers both climbed as high as No. 2 in the national rankings last season. Each team is good enough to get that high again this year.
Dec. 6: USC at UCLA (4:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
Bruins coach Rick Neuheisel gets an up-close look at the dynasty he must overcome in Los Angeles. It will probably take a couple of more years until he's ready to compete with the Trojans.
Upset alert: Arizona over Arizona State (TBA)
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