Top 20 Non-Conference Games to Watch in 2022

Non-Conference Games to Watch in 2022: Notre Dame at USC, Florida at Florida State, BYU at Boise State, Clemson at Notre Dame, Arkansas at BYU, TCU at SMU, North Dakota State at Arizona, Penn State at Auburn,,,,,,

Here are Top 20 non-conference games to watch in 2022.

Notre Dame at USC (November 26)

No stranger to major college football rivalries, Lincoln Riley sees the Notre Dame-USC rivalry for the first time. New Irish head coach Marcus Freeman got his first glimpse of him as his defensive coordinator last year and is now bringing his squad to Los Angeles for hopefully a reinvigorated fight. It will be interesting to see how far Riley’s offense will go against Freeman’s tough defense.

Florida at Florida State (November 25)

The Gators-Seminoles game has lost some of its flavor in recent years, but there is hope that a renaissance will begin now. Florida welcomes former Louisiana coach Billy Napier to run the program, while FSU is trying to get the Mike Norvell era off the ground. Another tough season and this could be Norvell’s last game as Noles’ head coach. Meanwhile, Napier is all about quality control and building an infrastructure to be successful now and in the long term. So what does that mean for what happens in the field after Thanksgiving? Well, by the time we get to this game, Florida should be a more fine-tuned unit that limits mistakes and can take full advantage of quarterback Anthony Richardson’s skill set. Florida State has been preparing for this season as the turning point of Norvell’s rebuild. He has his quarterback (Jordan Travis) and a solid offensive line that has been reshaped. The calling card will be on defense, improving dramatically from the second half of 2021. The point is we need to get both teams at their best and hopefully the great rivalry will be reborn.

BYU at Boise State (November 5)

There is a scenario where BYU and Boise State are undefeated heading into their Nov. 5 matchup. For BYU, that means beating Baylor, Oregon, Notre Dame and Arkansas. Boise State would have to beat Oregon State, San Diego State, Fresno State and the Air Force. A win over the Cougars would be a huge boost to the Broncos’ resume. At worst, this game will be between two of the best non-Power 5 programs in the West, with quarterbacks Hank Bachmeier and Jalen Hall lighting up the Idaho sky on the blue turf.

Clemson at Notre Dame (November 5)

In 2020, Clemson and Notre Dame played two games that made a big impact in the College Football Playoff. The Tigers and Irish regressed a bit last season but are looking to turn the corner and get back into the playoff mix. If Clemson takes care of things before this game (especially if it takes care of NC State on Oct. 1), a win at South Bend could put the Tigers in the driver’s seat for one of four playoff spots. . Notre Dame could have wins over Ohio State and Clemson by the end of the night and have a firm grip on a playoff spot. Even if you forget the playoff implications, this should be a great old-fashioned game between two of the best defensive units in the country.

Arkansas at BYU (October 15)

Neither team may be in the running for the college football playoffs by the time this game rolls around. Arkansas will be coming off a stretch in which they played at Texas A&M, Alabama and Mississippi State before heading to Provo (BYU would have played at Notre Dame the week before). Still, this should be a blast to watch. Quarterbacks K.J. Jefferson and Jaren Hall are two of the best quarterbacks under the radar. Watching a good SEC team go on the road to play a top 20 team in October is fun for everyone.

Notre Dame vs. BYU (October 8)

Notre Dame vs. BYU in Las Vegas. How cool is that to say? Yes, Notre Dame and BYU are playing in Sin City so it could be a big game for both programs and their playoff chances. The two independent heavyweights will be battle-tested heading into this one, with the loser likely to be out of any playoff talk.

TCU at SMU (September 24)

While not a national rivalry, the TCU-SMU series has (almost) always found a way to happen despite the two schools bouncing in conferences over the years. After TCU won 17 of 19 meetings earlier in the century, the Mustangs are currently on a two-game winning streak, with both wins coming at TCU. This year, TCU’s new coach is the guy who beat him those two times. Sonny Dykes left SMU to take over TCU, so expect an interesting reception for his return. His former QB, Oklahoma transfer Tanner Mordecai, threw for more than 3,600 yards and 39 TDs for the Mustangs last season, and his favorite target, Rashee Rice, is back with him. His new guy, Max Duggan, hopes to see the influence of Sonny Dykes in his game. The Battle of Dallas-Ft. The value must be good.

North Dakota State in Arizona (September 17)

End a great day of college football with a game that may not initially appeal to you, but you’ll want to watch. North Dakota State, one of the best FCS programs of the last two decades, travels to Arizona to take on an FBS program that finished 1-11 last year. The last time the Bison played a Power 5 opponent was when they beat Iowa in 2016, so defending FCS champion North Dakota State isn’t afraid to play in this kind of atmosphere. The Arizona Sun Devils know this has a chance to turn them into a joke, but kudos to Jedd Fisch for scheduling this game while his schedule is rebuilding.

Penn State at Auburn (September 17)

If the SEC and Big Ten are going to run this sport, wouldn’t it be nice to see more regular season games between the conferences? We have one here as the Nittany Lions head south to finish the home-and-home series with the Auburn Tigers. A year ago in Happy Valley, the Nittany Lions beat the Tigers 28-20 and looked like a player in the playoff race. Then, they lost six of their last eight games and crashed out with a 7-6 record. Auburn had started the season 6-2 before losing its final five games of the season. Both teams are looking to bounce back while playing in two of the most competitive divisions in college football. Auburn has been through a lot of changes, and coach Bryan Harsin has some pressure on him. James Franklin welcomes back quarterback Sean Clifford for his super senior season and has all of his favorite targets back, plus Jahan Dotson.

Oklahoma at Nebraska (September 17)

This once-great rivalry was renewed last season, when Oklahoma narrowly eliminated Nebraska in Norman. As we head back to Lincoln, there’s a lot to unpack. Nebraska went 3-9 last year, but was in every game. The Cornhuskers never lost by double figures. Oklahoma unexpectedly had to replace its head coach, Lincoln Riley, with Brent Venables, a long-time Clemson assistant who ultimately decided to take over as head coach. Meanwhile, Nebraska’s Scott Frost has a lot of fire in his seat, and a win over his old rivals would be a huge boost for his program. I mean, it’s Sooners and Huskers!

Miami at Texas A&M (September 17)

Texas A&M has one of the toughest schedules in the nation, starting with an early non-conference tilt against a program that has struggled to change the culture (or bring back the culture of the old days) to be a winner again. This will be Miami’s first real test of the season to see what head coach Mario Cristóbal has in his first season. The Canes went 7-5 last season but lost all three of their ACC games by three points or fewer. Texas A&M almost got a playoff berth in 2020, beat Alabama in 2021 and now welcomes the top recruiting classes in 2022. It should be a good scene at Kyle Field.

Iowa State at Iowa (September 10)

The recent golden era of Cyclones football failed to produce a win over state rival Iowa. Last year’s matchup was the first time both teams qualified, with both ranking in the top 10. The Hawkeyes have won six straight in the series, and Matt Campbell’s Iowa State is now in the post-Brock Purdy/Breece Hall era. Iowa is more or less in the same boat, but Kirk Ferentz’s program has been consistently strong for two decades. Campbell is looking for the same thing in Ames.

Tennessee at Pitt (September 10)

The Vols turned the ball over three times in their 41-34 loss to Pittsburgh in Knoxville last year. The game helped make the Panthers contenders for ACC champions and showed Tennessee that they still had work to do. This game will come down to quarterbacks. Pitt replaces Kenny Pickett with transfer from USC Kedon Slovis and will try to win with a more physical style. The Vols go like QB Hendon Hooker goes this year. He threw for nearly 3,000 yards last year (and an incredible 30 TDs for just 3 INTs) while rushing for 616 yards.

Alabama at Texas (September 10)

The names alone make it a must see. I mean, does Alabama travel to Austin to take on the Texas Longhorns?!?! Sign me up. Of course, Alabama is, well, Alabama, and Texas is trying to become nationally relevant again. You also have former Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian facing off against Nick Saban. It should be fun now that Saban’s other former assistants (Jimbo Fisher, Kirby Smart) finished his unbeaten record over them last season. Soon this will be just an SEC conference game, so enjoy the news now.

Florida State vs. LSU (September 4)

While it’s not technically a home game for LSU, the game is in New Orleans, so expect a big turnout from Tiger. Both shows are trying to bounce back after a couple of rough seasons. This is Brian Kelly’s first game as LSU head coach, so he’s hoping the Bayou Bengals get off to a good start. The Seminoles are slowly rebuilding the program, but Mike Norvell is a bit on the sidelines and needs to capture a meaningful win.

Utah at Florida (September 3)

Call this the Urban Meyer Bowl. Meyer, of course, excelled in Utah and Florida, and both programs expect big things in 2022. Utah, the defending Pac-12 champion, played in the Rose Bowl last season. (They lost to another Urban Meyer program: Ohio State.) The Utes have plans for their first berth in the college football playoffs this season. Florida is on the brink of contending with Georgia for an SEC East title, but it will be interesting to see how new head coach Billy Napier has his group lined up for his first appearance in Gainesville.

Cincinnati at Arkansas (September 3)

One complaint about a Group 5 team’s playoff resume is that they haven’t played anyone. Last season, the Bearcats entered Notre Dame and Indiana and beat two Power 5 programs (though Indiana has fallen down the Big Ten pecking order). The Bearcats were pushed by Alabama in the Cotton Bowl last year and will start their 2022 season in the South against an SEC team again: Arkansas. The Razorbacks are a dangerous team this year behind quarterback K.J. jefferson Meanwhile, the Bearcats must replace quarterback Desmond Ridder and several stars from last year’s solid defense. A win is a must for Arkansas, which will face the challenge of the SEC West; a win at Cincinnati will be his trademark restart point for another playoff run.

Oregon vs. Georgia (September 3)

This game will be in Atlanta, so it’s essentially a home game for the defending champion Bulldogs. New Oregon head coach Dan Lanning was the defensive coordinator for the Georgia Bulldogs’ punishing defense last season and he knows his character and schemes better than anyone. While the Ducks have aspirations to get back into the national title hunt, they haven’t done it yet. Or maybe they are? Still, a great intercontinental game that we love to see.

Notre Dame in the state of Ohio (September 3)

Two of the most legendary programs in college football history square off in a big game to open the season. Notre Dame begins a tough schedule by traveling to Columbus to take on a Buckeyes team that may be the most talented in the nation. CJ Stroud may be the preseason Heisman favorite and he can take on a Fighting Irish team led by one of the stingiest defenses in the country. The loser of this game has a chance to work his way back to a playoff spot, but he puts a lot of pressure to be perfect the rest of the way. A Notre Dame victory would be monumental in building a playoff resume.

West Virginia at Pitt (September 1)

This may not resonate on the national scene, but the once-vibrant Backyard Brawl has been on hiatus for over a decade. The rivalry ended its run of 68 straight years (and 104 games overall) in 2012, becoming one of the unfortunate casualties of college football’s realignment. It’s back, and people in southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia are thrilled to try it again. This reunion kicks off a four-year deal to continue Brawl, which became official in April 2022. Interestingly, two former USC quarterbacks (Pitt’s Kedon Slovis and WVU’s JT Daniels) will square off in the Battle of I-79.

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20 non-conference games to watch in 2022

Non-conference games are a lot of fun. College football is generally defined by conference styles and bragging about who is the top league. The SEC has been showing its strength as the top league for the last two decades. The Big Ten imagines itself in the same stratosphere. The Big 12 is the happy passing league where defense is just a suggestion. The ACC is Clemson and everyone else.

Those are stereotypes, and when schools come out of those conferences, it creates great opportunities to break those narratives. Remember what it looked like when Oregon beat Ohio State last year? A win instantly made the Pac-12 look like a better league.

This year, we have some great non-conference matchups. Some will go a long way in determining who plays for a national championship, while others are just fun battles with interesting storylines. We’ve got the revamp of one of the biggest rivalries in college football, a national championship-winning defensive coordinator playing his old boss, rivalries across the state, and a head coach playing the team he just left.

The 8 non-conference games to watch in 2022


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2 thoughts on “Top 20 Non-Conference Games to Watch in 2022

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