We are under 50 days until the start of the college football season. It is never too early to take a peek at the upcoming season and identify some key games. Not all of these games will have national title or even conference championship implications. We identified what we believe to be the best matchup of each week during the season. Let us know which games you agree with and which weeks have better matchups.
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Week 0: Ohio vs San Diego State – Did you expect us to skip week 0? Absolutely not. The sooner we can reach August 26th, the better for all of us. We only have seven games in week 0. If you read Justin’s post, you would know to take the over on Ohio’s win total. Kurtis Rourke and Sam Wiglusz are the best quarterback-wide receiver combo you have yet to hear about. The duo was a primary reason why the Bobcats were able to reach 10 wins last season. Ohio has an excellent chance to win the MAC behind Rourke and Wiglusz. San Diego State’s season was a story of trial and error. Jalen Mayden was inserted as the starting quarterback midseason and helped the Aztecs find consistency. Mayden won five of his first six starts, giving San Diego State bowl eligibility. USC and Notre Dame are bigger names playing in week 0, but both of their games are expected to be blowouts. Tune into Ohio vs San Diego State for an actual competitive game.
Week 1: LSU vs Florida State – Last season’s game between LSU and Florida State was an exciting one, finishing with LSU missing an extra point. Florida State and LSU each finished the season with 10 victories. Both programs return a large core of their production and should be ranked in the top 15 to start the season. Jordan Travis and Jayden Daniels are preseason Heisman candidates. This game will give both quarterbacks a chance to start the season on the right foot for their campaign and to become legitimate College Football Playoff contenders. The game being played on Sunday night will draw extra attention to the matchup.
Week 2: Texas vs Alabama – Another rematch from last season, which should be an excellent game. Alabama had a late comeback to defeat Texas. The Crimson Tide will look different this season with numerous players off to the NFL. Alabama will be breaking in a new quarterback after Bryce Young was taken with the first overall pick. Nick Saban always finds a way to be a national contender on the field, so there is no reason to think this season would be different. Texas, on the other hand, is looking to reach national contender status. The offense lost Bijan Robinson, but the combination of Quinn Ewers and Xavier Worthy should be one of the best in the Big 12. The Longhorns’ trip to Alabama will be one of the most anticipated games of the entire season.
Week 3: Minnesota vs North Carolina – Week three is pretty light in terms of big matchups. Minnesota vs North Carolina may not jump off the screen, but let me break it down before you jump to conclusions. Athan Kaliakmanis played in 11 games last year for the Golden Gophers and is now the entrenched starter for PJ Fleck. The offense should continue to be one of the best in the division. The defense is where the biggest questions remain for the Golden Gophers. They struggled to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and they will need to pressure Drake Maye to have a chance at winning. North Carolina continues to be a program with hype but fails to get over the hump of expectations. The Tar Heels could be 2-0 or 0-2 entering this game with how consistently they tend to perform. Maye is considered one of the best quarterback prospects for the 2024 NFL Draft. Fleck’s visit to tobacco road will set the tone for his season.
Week 4: Ohio State vs Notre Dame – Rarely do we have regular-season matchups between two teams who can make the College Football Playoffs. Marcus Freeman is entering his second season at the helm for the Fighting Irish. Freeman’s first year was full of ups and downs. Notre Dame defeated Clemson and North Carolina but also suffered losses to Marshall and Stanford. The fan base expects the Fighting Irish to compete for titles, and losing to Marshall does more to hurt the program’s credibility than help. Sam Hartman transferred in from Wake Forest and will be the best quarterback for the Irish since Brady Quinn was under center. Ohio State reloads once again. The offense replaces CJ Stroud at quarterback, but every other playmaker on offense is back. Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka are the best wide receiver duo in the country. An offensive shootout is not out of the question if Notre Dame can find consistent contributors at wide receiver.
Week 5: Kansas vs Texas – Go ahead and laugh all you want. Kansas is a legitimate threat in the Big 12 with Jalon Daniels under center. The Jayhawks were one of the most exciting teams in the country before he was injured in the TCU game. If Daniels does not get injured against TCU, they may have defeated the national runner-up. Daniels is healthy and looking to put Kansas back on the map this season. The first four games are winnable for the Jayhawks, putting them in an excellent position to be undefeated when traveling to Austin. Bijan Robinson was the difference-maker in last season’s blowout victory for the Longhorns. Robinson ran for 243 yards and crossed the goal line four times. Texas only threw for 112 yards in the game. Without Robinson, the Longhorns will need to find someone else to step up in this game for them. Kansas has defeated Texas in two of the last six matchups, so do not count out the Jayhawks.
Week 6: Washington State vs UCLA – Can I pick a game purely based on my gut? Neither of these teams is going to be contenders in the Pac-12, but I like what both teams have on their roster. UCLA found a groove last year for the first time under Chip Kelly. The Bruins brought in five-star quarterback Dante Moore, who will likely be the starter by this point in the season. Carson Steele could be the breakout player in the Pac-12. The former Ball State running back was one of the best players in the MAC before transferring to UCLA. Steele should provide Moore a consistent offensive threat to lean on this season. Washington State finished last season with a 7-6 record and was competitive in nearly every game. Cameron Ward transferred from Incarnate Word and took some time to transition and learn at the FBS level. His second season starting for the Cougars is where many expect to see improvements. This Pac-12 game may not have postseason implications but should be an exciting matchup.
Week 7: Oregon vs Washington – The Pac-12 has some serious contenders this season. Washington had one of the best offenses in the country and returns most of its contributors. Michael Penix Jr. is a Heisman contender after throwing for over 4,600 yards while totaling 35 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Top targets Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan return after combining for over 150 receptions last season. The defense needs to force more takeaways, especially against a talented quarterback like Bo Nix. The Ducks registered 10 wins with their only losses coming against Georgia, Washington, and Oregon State. Nix helped lead Oregon to an 8-1 start where he played well enough to be in consideration for the Heisman. The defense is going to be the key for Oregon in this game. Replacing Christian Gonzalez is vital to slow down Penix and the passing attack. Oregon needs to find corners to compete with opposing wide receivers and edge rushers to make Penix uncomfortable. This game should have plenty of star power and hype by the time it arrives.
Week 8: Penn State vs Ohio State – The Nittany Lions vs. Buckeyes has been one of the most competitive matchups of the past decade, with each game featuring iconic moments. Penn State needs to get over the hump, as they have only secured one win over the Buckeyes since 2012. James Franklin has arguably his most talented team since he took over in State College. Drew Allar is unproven but incredibly talented; he flashed at times when coming off the bench in relief for Sean Clifford. He will rely heavily on his running backs, Kaytron Allen and Nick Singleton, who are an underrated duo, having combined for over 2,000 yards from scrimmage last season. Penn State largely held Ohio State in check but allowed too many big plays. Ohio State scored 28 points in the final 10 minutes while running just 11 offensive plays. Penn State cannot afford to fall apart when the game matters most this season.
Week 9: Tennessee vs Kentucky – Did you know Devin Leary is the starting quarterback for Kentucky this season? With Will Levis off to the NFL, Mark Stoops brought in Devin Leary from NC State to play under center. He will fill the void at quarterback, but the Wildcats have other issues that need to be solved. Kentucky struggled with consistency last year; they gave Georgia all they could handle but also lost to Vanderbilt. The defensive line is a concern after Justin Rodgers transferred out of the program. Facing a program like Tennessee will be vital to control the line of scrimmage. Tennessee is also replacing their quarterback. Former Michigan quarterback Joe Milton is expected to take over for Hendon Hooker, but watch out for Nico Iamaleava. Milton and Iamaleava will battle in fall camp, but the person who starts the season may not be the same to finish the year. Josh Huepel knows how to create an explosive offense. Bru McCoy, Ramel Keyton, Squirrel White, and Donte Thornton will be responsible for replacing the production left by Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman. Tennessee’s defense is still a major concern and needs improvement, or this game may not matter when the day comes.
Week 10: South Alabama vs Troy – Bet you thought I was going to pick LSU vs. Alabama here. I decided to switch it up for a Thursday night game you all should be watching: South Alabama vs. Troy. South Alabama went 10-2 in the regular season, which included a one-point loss at UCLA and a four-point loss at home against Troy. The Jaguars’ defense was stifling, holding opposing rushers to just 3.3 yards per carry. Carter Bradley was consistent under center and should improve with another year of experience. On the other side, Troy relied heavily on their defense. The Trojans went 12-2 while finishing 81st in scoring offense. Troy’s scoring defense finished 8th in the country, allowing just 17 points per game. TJ Jackson and Richard Jibunor each registered eight sacks and should continue to be a force on the defensive side of the ball. Can Troy’s defense shut down South Alabama for consecutive years?
Week 11: Baylor vs Kansas State – Remember when Kansas State won the Big 12 last season? Well, neither does anyone else. The Wildcats defeated TCU in the Big 12 Championship game, handing the Horned Frogs their first loss of the season. Will Howard took over in the middle of the season for Adrian Martinez and will now be the undisputed starter heading into the 2023 season. Kansas State will have a difficult schedule, and a matchup against Baylor could be what stands between them and another appearance in the Big 12 Championship game. Baylor’s last four seasons have been confusing, to say the least. The Bears have won 31 games over the span, including seasons with 12 wins and 11 wins. If they are keeping the every other year trend, then expect them to contend for a Big 12 championship. Baylor has a roster to hold up their end of the bargain. Dave Aranda addressed the offensive line, bringing in Clark and Campbell Barrington from BYU. Both should find their way to the top of the depth chart. Figuring out who is going to be the starting quarterback is a main concern, but by week 11, the competition is hopefully concluded. Blake Sharpen and Sawyer Robinson will both vie for the starting spot. Baylor avoids Oklahoma and gets Texas at home, resulting in an easier Big 12 schedule. Do not be surprised if this is a top 20 matchup when week 11 arrives.
Week 12: Georgia vs Tennessee – I considered picking Abilene Christian vs. Texas A&M, but I decided the Georgia vs. Tennessee matchup is probably slightly better. Georgia will likely enter this game undefeated, and Tennessee is the biggest threat to Georgia’s potential undefeated regular season. The Bulldogs have 11 weeks to figure out the quarterback position with Stetson Bennett off to the NFL. No other team on the schedule should pose a serious threat due to the lack of playmakers in the SEC East. Tennessee’s roster is built for explosive plays and has the highest chance to upset Georgia. No matter how many players Georgia loses off of their defense, they continue to reload. The secondary lost Kelee Ringo and Christopher Smith but still retains Malaki Starks, Javon Bullard, and Tykee Smith. Daylen Everette will also take on an expanded role, filling Ringo’s shoes. Georgia will likely go undefeated once again, but if they do not, it will be because of this game in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Week 13: Clemson vs South Carolina – Rivalry week has fantastic matchups, giving plenty of choices for this game. Spencer Rattler finished the 2022 season in spectacular fashion, defeating Tennessee and Clemson in back-to-back weeks while throwing for over 800 yards across the two games. Clemson had won the previous seven matchups, tying the longest stretch in the rivalry’s history. South Carolina could be in a position to spoil Clemson’s season. The Tigers are expected to be a contender in the ACC and be in position for a College Football Playoff spot. South Carolina will not win the SEC East but should have a strong season once again. The Gamecocks were raided by the transfer portal and will spend the early part of the season figuring out roles and rotations. Clemson, on the other hand, knows exactly where they stand. The offense will run through Will Shipley, who is one of the most talented running backs in the country. Dabo Swinney will hand the keys to Cade Klubnik as the undisputed starting quarterback. Clemson should once again have a strong defense led by Barrett Carter and Jeremiah Trotter Jr. The Palmetto Bowl is alive and well.