College football season has arrived and those of us fanatical enough to re-arrange at least some of our evenings (if not our lives at large) need to have a plan, so here it is. For the next month, these are the games you’ll want to watch or at minimum have an eye on. Plan accordingly! If this doesn’t get you excited for college football, you may need to visit a professional.
Saturday, August 27
12:30 - Nebraska v. Northwestern (Dublin, Ireland)
5:00 - Duquesne at Florida State
Week 0 is meant to be a slow start to ease you into the pressure cooker of must-win college football. A day game in Ireland thus seems fitting. Nebraska is a team I find myself pulling for. Perhaps it is because they were Clemson’s opponent in the 1982 Orange Bowl that gave the Tigers their first National Championship. Perhaps it is how they fought with Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren during 2020 or it may just be pity for the fall from grace they’ve suffered since their late 90s dominance. Either way, they are projected for 7.5 wins and worth watching in an otherwise bare slate.
If Florida State is making the kind of progression they’re expecting, their opener against Duquesne will only be worth watching for one half. There’s a little bit of hype building for dual-threat QB Jordan Travis entering his junior season and I’m buying it. It will be worth checking in to see how FSU looks prior to their Week 2 bout with LSU.
Thursday, September 1
7:00pm - West Virginia at Pittsburgh
Saturday, September 3
12:00 - NC State at East Carolina
3:30 - Oregon at Georgia (Atlanta)
7:00 - Utah at Florida
Sunday, September 4
7:30 - Florida State at LSU (New Orleans)
Monday, September 5
8:00 - Clemson at Georgia Tech (Atlanta)
We get to the true opening week and it provides an amazing slate of matchups. Clemson doesn’t play until Monday which allows us to enjoy it all.
On Thursday you have the Backyard Brawl. A lot of ACC media-types think Pittsburgh can be good again despite losing QB Kenny Pickett and WR Addison Johnson. I expect the offense to take a big step back, but the defense to carry them to a solid year. A loss to West Virginia would rapidly lower expectations.
On Saturday, the noon slate is barren. I can’t cheer for NC State, despite how embarrassing it would be for the ACC if the supposed second-best team lost to ECU. Still, it’ll be a good opportunity to scout them and see if Devin Leary looks like the second coming of Philip Rivers. After that things get really fun with Oregon playing Georgia in Atlanta and then two excellent night games with Utah playing at Florida at 7pm and Notre Dame going to Ohio State at 7:30pm. If Utah wins at Florida, they immediately become a serious playoff contender.
Notre Dame at Ohio State may be the most compelling game of the season’s first month. Ohio State is 4-0 vs Notre Dame since WWII and I don’t really expect that streak to be broken, but the Irish making it competitive can keep them in the playoff conversation and impact expectations for their November matchup with Clemson. The winner of this game should leapfrog Alabama for No. 1 in the nation, at least until the Tide plays Texas on the road in Week 2.
Finally, after all this great content, Clemson has a prime-time game on Labor Day. Georgia Tech isn’t expected to be a tough opponent, but this will be an excellent showcase to see how much the Tigers’ offense has improved. How the offense looks in this early showcase will go a long way in impacting expectations for fans and the media narrative for Clemson.
Friday, September 9
7:30pm - Louisville at UCF
Saturday, September 10
12:00 - Alabama at Texas
3:30 - Furman at Clemson
3:30 - Tennessee at Pittsburgh
8:00 - Boston College at Virginia Tech
Louisville, with super senior QB Malik Cunningham, has a lot of upside this season. That makes their weekday road game at UCF especially interesting. They had an incredibly exciting 42-35 that ended with Cunningham throwing an interception with under a minute left only to get bailed out when UCF’s Dillon Gabriel (now at Oklahoma) threw a pick-six with 0:13 remaining. A Cardinals win would set them up to have a decent chance to be 8-1 when they visit Clemson as their schedule is mostly back-loaded.
On Saturday the big game is at noon when Alabama visits Texas. This could end up being a blowout, but it will be must-watch TV either way. At 3:30 Clemson has its annual appointment with an FCS foe. This will be a good opportunity to watch DJ Uiagalelei and Cade Klubnik and assess their accuracy, decision-making, and chemistry with the wide receivers. At the same time, Tennessee and Pittsburgh will be playing and that’ll be one to monitor.
The night slate is a little bare, but Boston College vs. Virginia Tech is an ACC matchup worth watching. Boston College will have one of the best QB-WR duos in the country with Phil Jurkovec and Zay Flowers. Virginia Tech is in its first year under Brent Pry. BC is probably the most likable fellow ACC member from a Clemson perspective and one that the ACC needs to be strong for the sake of the conference. Night games at Lane Stadium always provide a good atmosphere which makes this one a little more interesting.
Friday, September 16
7:30 - Florida State at Louisville
Saturday, September 17
12:00 - Georgia at South Carolina
3:30 - Penn State at Auburn
3:30 - BYU at Oregon
8:00 - Louisiana Tech at Clemson
9:00 - Miami at Texas A&M
Louisville is back at it on another weeknight, this time against Florida State. Most view the Atlantic division as being a battle between NC State and Clemson, but these two will be right there behind them (along with Wake Forest pending the health of QB Sam Hartman) so this one will go a long way in determining the divisional pecking order.
The Saturday slate gets going with Georgia going to South Carolina. While I think U of SC will make some big strides this season, I don’t think they have the personnel to hang with Georgia. The Gamecocks beat the Bulldogs 20-17 in 2019 so maybe they’ll give us a fun game with major upset potential. If Georgia is undefeated, you’d like to see them lose one before the SEC Championship game to prevent two SEC teams from making the playoff.
At 3:30 Penn State goes to Auburn which should be a fun matchup and BYU visits Oregon. Oregon plays Georgia opening week so the outcome of that game will impact the hype around this one. Clemson plays at 8pm on ACCN and I’m not happy about it. As a student, I bemoaned the early season noon games in the heat, but as an adult, it is tough to justify getting home at 2am for a “cupcake” game like this. Meanwhile, Miami vs. Texas A&M is awfully interesting and has merited a little attention and certainly a close viewing after the Clemson game wraps up.
Thursday, September 22
7:30 - West Virginia at Virginia Tech
Friday, September 23
7:00 - Virginia at Syracuse
Saturday, September 24
12:00 - Clemson at Wake Forest
3:30 - Florida at Tennessee
3:30 - Notre Dame at North Carolina
7:30 - Wisconsin at Ohio State
The ACC provides two weekday games and Saturday brings a road trip to Winston-Salem for the Tigers. Wake Forest’s offensive line historically struggles with Clemson’s D-line talent and I expect this year to be no different. We don’t know if Sam Hartman will be back for this contest, but this could be uglier than last year’s 48-27 Tiger victory if he is out.
Florida at Tennessee caught my eye. Tennessee’s offense looks to be excellent, but Florida beat them 38-14 last year. My sister went to Tennessee and I remember how hot her hatred for Florida burned back in the late 90s. That rivalry may have cooled down some, but I still remember it as one of the fiercest in the South.
UNC gets to host Notre Dame. Bringing the Irish to play at some of these mid-tier ACC teams is a key part of the ND/ACC agreement and spices up schedules that otherwise would be packed full of teams like Old Dominion, ECU, and Marshall.
The marquee nature of Wisconsin vs. Ohio State is emblematic of why divisions need to go. Wisconsin generally represents the best in the Big Ten West, but that doesn’t mean they’re the second-best team in the conference or that they can compete with Ohio State. Hopefully, this year is different and we’re treated to a fun matchup.
We’ll plan to give October’s schedule a look when we get a bit closer, but as you can see, there is a ton to look forward to already!