Here’s a look at the 12 best non-conference games of the 2017 season

We’re still almost 20 weeks from the start of the 2017 season, but it’s never too early to start getting excited.

And while the season certainly has its share of gag-inducing non-conference matchups, there also are a few extremely intriguing non-conference contests. Here are the season’s 12 best non-conference games.

This does not include non-conference games that are played annually; some of those games would’ve made the list, but the idea here is to show that occasional two-game series can lead to some really good football. And away we go …

OREGON RB ROYCE FREEMAN, by Scott Olmos/USA Today Sports

OREGON RB ROYCE FREEMAN, by Scott Olmos/USA Today Sports

12. Nebraska at Oregon

When: September 9
TV: To be announced
The skinny: Oregon opens with FCS opponent Southern Utah, so this will be the first real game for new Ducks coach Willie Taggart. Nebraska opens with Arkansas State, and this is the only road game for the Huskers in their first four contests. And while Taggart and his staff are tweaking the Ducks’ offense and defense, the same goes for third-year Huskers coach Mike Riley and his staff. Riley will have a quarterback more attuned to his style of play, and new defensive coordinator Bob Diaco is installing a 3-4. Senior RB Royce Freeman figures to be the focal point of Oregon’s offense. He had a relatively disappointing junior season (945 yards and nine TDs), but remember that he rushed for a combined 3,201 yards and 35 TDs in his first two seasons. With 4,146 career yards already, he has a great chance to finish as the second-leading rusher in Pac-12 history. He’s not going to catch USC’s Charles White (6,245), but he can catch former Oregon star LaMichael James, who currently is second with 5,082 yards. Riley, of course, has a long history with Oregon from his days as Oregon State’s coach, so at least he’ll be ready for the rowdy fans at Autzen Stadium. Truth be told, this is a big game for both coaches. Neither of these teams is expected to contend for its respective division title, so any marquee win – and this almost certainly would count – would be important. Nebraska edged the Ducks 35-32 in Lincoln last season.

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