Besides Notre Dame-Ohio State, the 10 best non-conference games this year

We are less than a month away from the start of the college football season. While there are more and more conference games being played near the start of the season, many of the games will be seen in the first few weeks of the college football season. Most of the top teams around the country plan mostly for weaker competition in the non-conference portion of the season to try to iron out any issues they may have before their conference games begin, but they usually go in and in a tougher match to see where they stand. Then there’s Michigan, which plays against formidable opponents Colorado State, Hawaii and UConn.

So what are the best non-conference games on the schedule this year? One that tops the charts across the country is Notre Dame-Ohio State in Columbus on Sept. 3. It’s easy to see why the matchup between the Fighting Irish and the Buckeyes is highly anticipated. Ohio State has national championship aspirations. Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman is returning to his alma mater to begin his first season as head coach of the Fighting Irish. The battle between two of college football’s most historic programs definitely deserves the prime-time slot it gets.


Here are 10 other non-conference games I’m excited to watch this year:

10) Iowa State vs. Iowa | September 10 at 4pm ET on the Big Ten Network

No list of the best non-conference games is complete without El Assico. Honestly, not much else needs to be said about this game. Just sit back and embrace everything that is given to you during this game.


9) BYU vs. Arkansas | October 15, time and network to be confirmed

This has all the makings of a very fun game. It’s not often that we get such strong non-conference games in October. Then again, when you’re BYU, every game is a non-conference game. At least for now.

BYU returns all of its starters on defense, while Arkansas is extremely talented on offense. It will be interesting to see which unit wins. Both teams will have brutal schedules early in this one. BYU will now face Baylor, Oregon and Notre Dame. Then again, not only will Arkansas battle Cincinnati, Texas A&M and Alabama, but it will be the middle of a three-game road trip that begins at Mississippi State and ends two weeks later at Auburn.


8) Oklahoma vs. Nebraska | September 17 at 12 noon ET on FOX

The old Big 12 foes squared off in Lincoln after the Sooners managed a 23-16 victory in Norman last year. A lot has changed for Oklahoma since Brent Venables is now the head coach after Lincoln Riley did what anyone would do and took a bunch of money to avoid having to live at Oklahoma. It feels like Riley pretty much left the cupboard bare at Oklahoma, but at least Venables was able to land transfer quarterback Dylan Gabriel from UCF.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Sept. 18 Nebraska at Oklahoma

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This is a game that Scott Frost absolutely needs if he wants to be Nebraska’s head coach after this season. The Cornhuskers have lost so many close games over the last few years that it’s time to win some close games. Texas quarterback Casey Thompson transferred to the program, so maybe some new blood under center is just what Nebraska needs.


7) Notre Dame vs. USC | November 26, time and network to be confirmed

Not only do the Fighting Irish begin their regular season with a very tough contest, but they also end the regular season with their biannual trip to Los Angeles. Who knows what the situation will be in this match? Maybe the Fighting Irish find a way to beat the Buckeyes and Clemson and need a win to secure a playoff spot. Or maybe Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams take control of the Pac-12 in their first season with the Trojans. I have a feeling that if anything, this will be the last of those scenarios.


6) Cincinnati vs. Arkansas | September 3rd at 3:30pm ET on ESPN

How does Luke Fickell react after leading Cincinnati to their best season in school history and a spot in the College Football Playoff? It seems like Cincinnati had so many players drafted last year that Fickell had to replace his entire team. The Bearcats do have a former Ohio State player on their roster in defensive end Noah Potter, who transferred to Cincinnati. Another transfer that will be worth keeping an eye on for the Bearcats is running back Corey Keener, who began his college career at LSU.

Arkansas feels ahead of schedule under head coach Sam Pittman, who is in his third season with the Razorbacks. Last year, Arkansas was one of the most exciting teams in the country, finishing the season 9-4. Pittman took advantage of the transfer portal, bringing in a number of four- and five-star recruits to add to an already talented squad. Cincinnati will have to bring it if they want to beat Arkansas in Fayetteville.


5) Penn State vs. Auburn | September 17 at 3:30pm ET on CBS

It’s a rematch of last year’s contest in State College, in which Penn State beat Auburn 28-20. The Tigers didn’t do Penn State any favors by scheduling this on a September afternoon in Alabama, so it could get pretty toasty for the Nittany Lions. The Tigers have running back Bigsby, but it will be interesting to see who fills the quarterback position after the transfer of Bo Nix. Zach Calzada joined the program from Texas A&M, while TJ Finley saw some time at center last year after transferring from LSU.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Sept. 18 Auburn at Penn State

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If Penn State can get past Auburn, it could lead to huge matchups at Michigan and against Ohio State in October. Other than the game in Ann Arbor against the Wolverines, this is the toughest road game on the Nittany Lions’ schedule this year. At least Penn State has Sean Clifford at quarterback who can use his 47 years of college experience to try to keep the Jordan-Hare Stadium crowd from touching him.


4) Oregon vs. Georgia | September 3 at 3:30 PM ET on ABC

The only thing that would be great in college football would be if the previous year’s champion got the game that opened the season like the NFL does. Instead, the Bulldogs will open their 2022 campaign at their second home as they host Oregon in Atlanta.

Not only does Georgia have to face an Oregon team that has a lot of talent, but they will also face an Oregon team that is led by Dan Lanning, who was an assistant on Kirby Smart’s staff. While Lanning may not have as many athletes at his disposal as he did when he was with Georgia, he knows many of the secrets of Smart and the Bulldogs. We also saw that the Ducks aren’t afraid to go into a tough environment, so this game could end up being closer than the pundits think.


3) Utah vs. Florida | September 3rd at 7pm ET on ESPN

If the Utes want a seat at college football’s big table, this is a must-win game. Utah took Ohio State to the limit in the Rose Bowl to end last season. They now begin this season with one of the toughest non-conference games they have played in school history. If Utah can win here, they will definitely have a leg up in their quest to reach the College Football Playoff.

They might as well name Urban Meyer as the special guest referee for this game, as Meyer came to Gainesville to coach the Gators after spending a year in Salt Lake City, where he led the Utes to an undefeated season. Florida will be playing its first game under new head coach Billy Napier, so they could be ripe for a loss as it will take time for Napier to clean up the mess Dan Mullen made.


2) Miami (FL) vs. Texas A&M | September 17 at 9pm ET on ESPN

This has all the makings of a game of the year contender. Mario Cristobal is already restoring some pride to the Miami program, even though he has yet to coach a game, while Jimbo Fisher’s strategy at Texas A&M looks like he’s splashing around ZERO money like he’s the boss of one of Europe’s top soccer clubs and the transfer window has just opened.

Although it looks like Cristobal will have Miami back near the top of the ACC (or wherever Miami ends up after all the smoke clears from the conference realignment) in no time. The Hurricanes have quarterback Tyler Van Dyke returning, which should help them stay competitive in a game that will be played in a very tough environment. Just ask Alabama what it’s like to play in front of all those freaks in College Station.

Not only will this game tell you where both teams could be headed for the rest of the season, but it could also set the table for a huge rematch in 2023 in Miami, where both teams feel they have even higher expectations . As a fan of either team, it will be great to just sit back and watch what will hopefully be a great game.


1) Alabama vs. Texas | September 10 at 12 noon ET on FOX

Will this game be competitive? Probably not. Will it be fun? Absolutely.

I can already imagine how this game will play out. Texas will bring out Matthew McConaughey to give a pep talk, and then Bryce Young and Alabama will destroy Texas on what will likely be a 150 degree day in Austin. Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt won’t be able to stop talking about Arch Manning as Will Anderson pursues Quinn Ewers and the other Longhorn linebackers.

In a few years, this won’t be a non-conference game, as Texas will be a member of the SEC. This game will give former Alabama assistant Steve Sarkisian and the Longhorns an idea of ​​where they are right now. Obviously, Texas is making waves in recruiting, so the score here won’t tell the whole story, but at least the start of the game should give Longhorn fans a reason to be excited. Who knows, maybe Texas can even do the unthinkable and beat Alabama…..and in true Texas fashion, lose next week to UTSA.