While some of these games might not live up to hype as they get closer, it still is fun to take a look at what potentially are the best matchups of the season. If you haven't already, be sure to take Nov. 8 off from any social obligations that you might have, because Ohio State/Michigan State, Alabama/LSU, and Baylor/Oklahoma all fall on that date. And if you have any friends that are getting married that day, well disown them. Feel like any games are missing? State your case in the comments.
1) Michigan State v. Oregon, 9/6
This is shaping up to be the best non-conference game of the season, and could even possibly be a preview of a matchup in the College Football Playoff. A loss here doesn't eliminate either team from contention for the playoff, but they won't be able to afford anymore setbacks the rest of the way. Michigan State's physical, grind-it-out style against Oregon's up-tempo Playstation offense. Should be interesting to see which style of play will win out here.
2) Alabama v. LSU, 11/8
Last year I ranked this matchup as the number two matchup nationally, and while Alabama won 38-17 in Tuscaloosa, this matchup is always a hotly contested contest. Both teams have questions coming into the season, but Nick Saban going back to Baton Rouge is always a treat. We could be in store for a tasty running back battle with T.J. Yeldon for the Crimson Tide looking to out-duel LSU super freshman Leonard Fournette. Alabama has won the last three meetings in this series.
3) Baylor v. Oklahoma, 11/8
The Big 12 spotlight game of the year comes on the stacked November 8th card, with Oklahoma looking to get some revenge for the drubbing that they suffered in Waco last year. The Sooners are one of the favorites to make the College Football Playoff, but the Bears must be thinking "what about us?". The Trevor Knight/Bryce Petty quarterback matchup should be electric to watch, with Petty hoping to lead Baylor to their first win in Norman ever.
4) Oregon v. UCLA, 10/11
The 42-14 scoreline that Oregon beat UCLA by in Eugene last year wasn't indicative of how close the game was through three quarters. Heading into the fourth quarter the Ducks only held a 21-14 lead before scoring three touchdowns in the final 15 minutes. UCLA has tough early season games against Texas and Arizona State before hosting Oregon, The winner of the Marcus Mariota/Brett Hundley quarterback matchup could get a leg-up in the Heisman Trophy race.
5) Wisconsin v. LSU, 8/30
Had this game been on campus of one of these schools it might find itself higher in the rankings, but even with the setting being in Houston, it is still one of the most intriguing games all season. With the amount of running that both these teams should do in this game it might resemble a National League baseball game. Should be fun to watch Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon try to crack the LSU defense. If it comes down to the wire do we see Les Miles take a cue from Arizona State last year and run out onto the field to lay on the football as the clock ticks towards zero?
6) Auburn v. Alabama, 11/29
After how last year's classic played out you must think I'm crazy for not having this higher on the list. The last five winners of the Iron Bowl have gone on to play in the BCS National Championship game, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see the winner of this matchup make the College Football Playoff. I think Auburn might be a little bit overrated this year and could come back to earth a little after their tremendous string of luck last year. Still this game is going to be one of the games this year that you're not going to want to miss.
7) Stanford v. Oregon, 11/1
Last year Oregon looked to be firing on all cylinders coming to Palo Alto for the Thursday night showdown between these two squads, but the Cardinal jumped out to a 23-0 lead before holding on for a 26-20 win to ruin the BCSNCG dreams of Oregon. Stanford has won the last two meetings in the series, including a 17-14 win in overtime at Autzen in 2012 to hand Oregon their only loss of the season. Can David Shaw and company make it three in a row against the Ducks?
8) Michigan v. Notre Dame, 9/6
It'll be a sad day on September 6th for college football when we see one of the best rivalries in college football come to an end for the immediate future. The Wolverines and Fighting Irish have met 42 times over the years, including the last 12 years. The last meeting in South Bend saw Michigan throw five interceptions on five consecutive passes, as Notre Dame clawed their way to a 13-6 win. The game will be played under the lights at Notre Dame Stadium, which should add some magic to the matchup.
9) Auburn v. Georgia, 11/15
Last year 'The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry" looked to be well in-hand for Auburn as they held a 37-17 lead, but Georgia stormed back to take a 38-37 lead with just under two minutes to go. A 4th & 18 prayer by the Tigers was answered for the game-winning touchdown with just 25 seconds to go to give Auburn a 43-38 win. Could we see more drama this year? It definitely wouldn't surprise me. The Bulldogs are itching for the rivalry to come back to Athens after the last two meetings have taken place at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
10) Florida State v. Louisville, 10/30
Will it be trick or treat for Florida State on Halloween weekend? When I saw this matchup the first thing I thought of was the 2002 matchup between the teams where a fourth-ranked Florida State team came into Papa John's Stadium on a Thursday night and dropped a 26-20 decision to a unranked Louisville team. What a statement that Louisville could make in their first year in the ACC if they spring another upset on the Seminoles.
Big Ten Games
1) Ohio State v. Michigan State, 11/8
Michigan State is involved in my best national game AND the best Big Ten game of the year. Who would've thunk it? While this matchup might have lost a little of its luster with Braxton Miller being out for the season, it still is a monster of a matchup within the Big Ten. The winner of this game figures to have a leg up in the Big Ten East race. Last time the Buckeyes were in East Lansing they squeaked out a 17-16 victory on their way to a undefated season in 2012. Michigan State got some revenge with their win in the Big Ten Championship Game last year. Can the Buckeyes respond and derail the high hopes of Sparty?
2) Michigan v. Ohio State, 11/29
Last year this topped the rankings of the Big Ten games, and it lived up to the hype with an exciting contest between the bitter rivals. It would've been number one again this year had it not been for the possible colossal implications that Ohio State/Michigan State has on the national title race. Can Urban Meyer keep his record perfect against Michigan as Ohio State head coach?
3) Wisconsin v. Iowa, 11/22
This matchup in Iowa City on the Saturday before Thanksgiving could decide who will represent the Western Division in the Big Ten Championship Game. Both teams have manageable schedules in the Big Ten, so we could see two teams undefeated in conference squaring off late in the season. Last year Iowa was able to hold Melvin Gordon to only 3.6 yards per carry, but they were victimized by the 132 yards from James White in a 28-9 Badger victory. The Hawkeyes can't afford to lose Jake Rudock to injury this year like they did in last year's meeting if they have any designs on winning.
4) Nebraska v. Wisconsin, 11/15
If Wisconsin hopes to head into the Iowa game on a high note, they'll need to dispatch Nebraska in Madison the week before. The teams split their 2012 meetings with Nebraska winning 30-27 in Lincoln in late September, but Wisconsin responded with a 70-31 whooping in the Big Ten Championship Game. With Ameer Abdullah, Kenny Bell, and Randy Gregory, Nebraska has the talent to keep up with the Badgers, but winning in Madison is no easy task. The running back battle between Abdullah and Gordon should be fantastic to watch
5) Ohio State v. Penn State, 10/25
After these teams faced off under the lights in Columbus last year, they'll square off again in primetime this year, this time in Happy Valley. Ohio State put last year's edition of the rivalry to bed early with a 63-14 domination at Ohio Stadium, so you know that new coach James Franklin will use payback as a rallying cry for his troops ahead of this year's matchup. Even with Penn State dealing with NCAA sanctions, going into Beaver Stadium under the lights is never a easy task, and was made a little more difficult without the steadying leadership of Braxton Miller.
6) Michigan State v. Maryland, 11/15
The schedule for Maryland in their first year in the Big Ten is brutal, and while they get Ohio State at home earlier in the year, a game against Michigan State under the lights at Byrd Stadium provides the most intrigue. The week before the Spartans host Ohio State under the lights, and if Michigan State does happen to win that game they could be in for a letdown against the Terps. Add in that Maryland has a bye week before this matchup and you could have a recipe for an upset.
7) Penn State v. Michigan, 10/11
It's not very often that we see night games at Michigan Stadium, so whenever you get one it is hard to keep it off the list of best Big Ten games of the year. This is the marquee home game on the schedule for the Wolverines this year and you can believe there will be a lot of Michigan Men shaking their keys. While both teams might be in the second tier of Big Ten teams this year, you know the atmosphere will make for one of the most exciting Big Ten contests of the season.
8) Nebraska v. Michigan State, 10/4
Ohio State taking on Michigan State might get top billing as the best Big Ten game of the year, but this is another night game at Spartan Stadium that fans can't sleep on. Nebraska had won the first two meetings in the Big Ten between the two teams before Michigan State took home a 41-28 victory in Lincoln last year. The defensive ends for both teams should be great to watch, with Nebraska's Randy Gregory looking to outperform Michigan State's Shilique Calhoun.
9) Michigan State v. Penn State, 11/29
Should Michigan State be able to navigate their Big Ten schedule up to this point, they'll have one last hurdle before the Big Ten Championship game, and a potential appearance in the College Football Playoff. With a bowl ban this year, Penn State probably will be treating this as their bowl game, and the chance to play spoiler in front of their home crowd should only add to their adrenaline. Last year Penn State went into Wisconsin on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and beat the Badgers, so don't sleep on the Nittany Lions in this one.
10) Nebraska v. Iowa, 11/28
Another matchup between teams on the final weekend of Big Ten regular season play sees Nebraska head into Iowa City and depending on the outcomes of some the games in the weeks prior, there could be a lot at stake. It'd be great if the winner of this game earned a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game, because what better way would there be to spend the day after Thanksgiving than with a meaningful game between these two rivals? If it doesn't play out to be as important as I'm hoping at least there will be leftover turkey to eat, and hope the tryptophan to do its magic.