It’s time to start clearing your Saturday schedules, as college football is right around the corner. There are some great non-conference games early in the season, and we’ll outline the best in this article.
The college football season officially kicks off on August 28, but there are only a handful of less intriguing games playing in the first week or what many are calling Week 0. Nebraska vs. Illinois serves as the best matchup on that slate. It won’t be the best college football has to offer, but we’ll take it as a light appetizer before the real season gets underway.
That happens on September 4, where there are several games with CFB Playoff implications. We’ll outline those matchups and other non-conference games to watch in the section below. Take note that these tilts are listed in chronological order.
Alabama vs. Miami – September 4 – 3:30 ET – ABC
This game will be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. The Crimson Tide don’t really care where it’s played, they are ready to kick some tail. FanDuel Sportsbook has Alabama listed as an 18.5 point favorite, and that could increase as we move closer to kickoff.
As mentioned in the introduction, this serves as the real start to college football. We have a pair of Heisman Trophy hopefuls, Bryce Young and D’Eriq King, squaring off on a neutral field.
If this one gets out of hand, you can always turn it to another top 25 matchups being played at the same time: Indiana-Iowa. Let’s see if the Canes come to play first.
Louisiana @ Texas – September 4 – 4:30 ET – FOX
The Louisiana Rajin’ Cajuns are a legitimate college football team this season. They are ranked #23 in the AP Poll, and we can’t forget that they upset Iowa State 31-14 to begin their 2020 campaign. Maybe they could do the same to Texas this time around?
The Longhorns, who welcome Steve Sarkisian as their new head coach, enter the season ranked #21. They are breaking in a new quarterback, but having one of the most electric running backs in college football should help. I’m talking about sophomore Bijan Robinson, who is listed as a Heisman hopeful after racking up 8.2 yards per carry last season.
FanDuel Sportsbook has Texas favored by 8.5, which seems somewhat steep against a solid Louisiana team. Don’t be surprised if the Rajin’ Cajuns keep this one close to the end.
Clemson vs. Georgia – September 4 – 7:30 ET – ABC
The previous two games serve as nice appetizers compared to this one. Clemson and Georgia are two legitimate title contenders who will fight for a massive victory in the season-opener.
Played at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC – this game has everything you want to start the season. Frankly, I’m surprised both of these teams agreed to this matchup. Most powerhouse programs schedule cupcakes to begin the season, so they can warm into their conference schedule.
We have another pair of legitimate award-seeking quarterbacks dueling it out: Clemson’s DJ Uiagalelei and Georgia’s JT Daniels. Uiagalelei has the second-best odds to win the Heisman Trophy, while Daniels checks in with the third-best odds to begin the season.
This should be a great game. Clemson is favored by 3.5 points on FanDuel Sportsbook.
Notre Dame @ Florida State – September 5 – 7:30 ET – ABC
Florida State has fallen off over the last few years, but this is still an intriguing game to watch in the first week. The fact that it’s played on Sunday night (before the NFL starts) certainly enhances the viewability.
Notre Dame, who is ranked #9 in preseason polls, will enter a raucous environment at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, FL. Florida State is pinning their hopes and dreams on QB transfer McKenzie Milton, who you may remember for leading the undefeated UCF Knights several years ago. That certainly adds intrigue to this one.
Notre Dame steps in as an 8.5 point road favorite despite replacing several key positions (including QB) from last year’s team.
Louisville vs. Mississippi – September 6 – 8:00 ET – ESPN
Neither team is ranked, but this should be a fun matchup between a couple of good offenses.
Similar to the Alabama-Miami game, this one will be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Good news for everyone attending this game, it’s played on a Monday! That means the Chick-fil-A stands will actually be open, as they rarely make an appearance for Falcon games.
Let’s be honest here. After being inundated with Chick-fil-A commercials for two days straight, we’ll all be eating a chicken sandwich with waffle fries while watching this game.
Behind the arm of Matt Corral, who is a legitimate first-round NFL Draft pick, Ole Miss is favored by 9.5 points on FanDuel Sportsbook.
Oregon @ Ohio State – September 11 – 12:00 ET – FOX
This has all the makings of a Rose Bowl preview. Of course, that’s assuming one of these teams doesn’t make the college football playoff. Ohio State is heavily favored to win the Big 10 conference, and a non-conference win over Oregon would certainly pad their resume to the postseason.
CJ Stroud will take over for the Buckeyes, and he’s already labeled as a Heisman contender despite never taking a collegiate snap. He has the mold of his predecessor, Justin Fields, which pretty much says everything you need to know about him.
BetMGM actually has Ohio State listed as 10 point favorites. I’m thinking that could tighten up in the week leading up to this. Either way, we are looking at a great game.
I’m planning on hooking this one up to my veins and taking it in.
Iowa @ Iowa State – September 11 – 3:30 ET – ABC
This rivalry didn’t happen last season, so it will be nice for this in-state clash to be renewed.
I propose that they play this at the “Field of Dreams Stadium” they built for the MLB. Might as well get the most bang for your buck out of it. It can serve as the Mercedes-Benz Stadium of the Midwest. Play games every other day there. Have the Chicago Bears play the Minnesota Vikings in the cornfields. Who do I need to pitch this to?
Iowa State is a legitimate playoff contender this season. That is not a typo. They are loaded with one of the best backfields in the country. The Cyclones are ranked 7th, while Iowa checks into the season ranked 18th.
Iowa State is favored by 3.5 points in the early lines.
Nebraska @ Oklahoma – September 18 – 12:00 ET – FOX
This matchup is more about sentimental value from the good ole days of the Big 12. That especially holds true after hearing that the Big 12 will effectively dissolve (or at least be realigned) with Oklahoma and Texas dropping out in the future.
To be honest, nobody expects this game to be competitive. That includes Nebraska. It was reported that the Huskers tried to back out of this game, which I’m sure will serve as bulletin board material for the Sooners. They probably won’t need it, as Oklahoma QB Spencer Rattler will have plenty of chances to pad his Heisman Trophy numbers en route to a comfortable victory.
Auburn @ Penn State – September 18 – 7:30 ET – ABC
Auburn has one hell of a schedule this season. They’ll play at Penn State, then start their SEC schedule two weeks later with LSU and Georgia. It’s not like the Tigers will get a break either, finishing things off with Texas A&M and rival Alabama. Did we mention that Bama might be good again this year?
Penn State is ranked 19th entering this season, and night games at Beaver Stadium are always tough. It will be nice to see that massive crowd in State College, PA get hyped for this marquee non-conference matchup. That’s something we missed in the strange 2020 season.
Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin – September 25 – 12:00 ET – FOX
This looks like a fun game on paper, but it becomes even more intriguing when we dig into the storylines. Jake Coan, who transferred out of Wisconsin, is slated to become the starting QB for Notre Dame. Seriously, this reads like a scripted Netflix show.
Now let’s throw in the fact that this will be played at Soldier Field in Chicago. I love it.
The cheapest ticket is going for nearly $300 according to Stubhub. Why don’t these teams play every year? I could get behind it.