The college football schedule offers a weekly selection of marquee games between the top teams, and some will be hitting fast this year.
Two matchups on Sept. 3 could quickly change the preseason AP Top 25 as No. 5 Notre Dame, under new coach Marcus Freeman, visits No. 1 State. Atlanta.
Getting to the Power Five lines for these games seems to have escalated in recent years, but then long-held bitter rivalries take over later in the season as teams battle for championships and bowl positioning. Here are just six of the exciting games this season:
NO. 5 NOTRE DAME NO. 2 OHIO STATE, SEPT. 3
Freeman’s debut against his alma mater will set the tone for both teams, of course, and will see Heisman Trophy candidate CJ Stroud under center for the Buckeyes. There will be nine preseason AP All-Americans on the field between the two teams. A little added intrigue: High school star Keon Keeley could be among the estimated 103,000 fans in attendance. Keeley previously committed to the Irish, then de-committed after a coaching change. The Buckeyes and No. 1 Alabama are among the teams vying to bring him to their five-star lineup.
NO. 11 OREGON VS. NO. 3 GEORGIA (ATLANTA), SEPT. 3
The Bulldogs lost five first-round NFL draft picks from last year’s team on defense, but they regained QB Stetson Bennett, potentially adding to his remarkable story as a former wide receiver who was the MVP in a win in the national championship game. However, the Bulldogs’ tendencies are familiar to former defensive coordinator Dan Lanning, who will make his Ducks coaching debut after Mario Cristobal left to take the Miami job.
NO. 13 NORTH CAROLINA STATE AT NO. 4 CLEMSON, OCT. 1
Last year, the Wolfpack ended an eight-game skid against the Tigers by prevailing 27-21 in double overtime. NC State held Clemson to just 214 yards, its lowest total of the season, and the loss ultimately helped Wake Forest end the Tigers’ six-year stranglehold on the ACC’s Atlantic Division title. The Wolfpack has 10 starters on defense, so Clemson has its work cut out for it. The programs are picked to finish 1-2 in the division, with Clemson first.
NO. 6 TEXAS A&M AT NO. 1 Alabama, October. 8
This SEC West matchup might as well be called the “Beef Bowl” after the heated offseason comments on recruiting between Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher and Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban. More importantly, this could be the deciding game in the division race. Trainers say they’ve buried the hatchet, but the winner could give it a twist. Texas A&M last won the national championship in 1939; The Crimson Tide has six with Saban alone.
NO. 14 USC AT NO. 7 UTAH, October. 15
The Trojans’ ranking is likely more of a tip for new head coach Lincoln Riley after a 4-8 finish last season. Riley used the transfer portal in hopes of quickly rebuilding the program, bringing in 24 new players. The Utes look to return QB Cam Rising to continue their push toward their first Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl appearance. How quickly Riley’s new systems settle in will be huge for USC.
NO. 12 OKLAHOMA STATE NO. 9 OKLAHOMA, NOV. 19
The Cowboys return 10 offensive starters, including QB Spencer Sanders, to a team that came within an eyelash of the playoffs last season. The defense has always looked a strength and should remain so with Derek Mason taking over as coordinator for Jim Knowles, who filled the same spot at Ohio State. The Sooners saw their six-year streak of Big 12 titles end last season thanks to a loss to the Cowboys. They’re hoping former Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables can lead them back behind QB Dillon Gabriel, who passed for more than 8,000 yards and 70 touchdowns at Central Florida.