1). Clemson at Florida State [Oct. 29] In all likelihood, two ACC favorites and potential playoff candidates arrive for this game. These are two well coached teams in what may just be an elimination game for a berth in the playoffs. Clemson and Florida.State have turned into programs that reload, instead of rebuild.
2). LSU vs. Alabama [Nov. 5] Both teams will enter this game coming off a bye week. Both could be undefeated, or, at least, still relevant in the SEC West race. Les Miles barely survived last season. What’s the mood like if LSU still doesn’t have a quarterback and loses its sixth straight to Alabama? If LSU doesn’t find a QB this game becomes irrelevant, but I believe these are the two deepest rosters in college football.
3). Oklahoma vs. Houston [Sept. 3] The Sooners are playoff favorites in a weak Big 12. The Cougars have playoff hopes, if they run the table and get some luck. An Oklahoma win sends Houston back to the drawing board. A Houston upset makes Cougar coach Tom Herman the hottest coach in America. The Sooners with a win here have a clear path to another playoff bid.
4). Stanford at UCLA [Sept. 24] The Pac 12 Media Day favorites square off in September. Mora and his recruits have resurrected UCLA into a possible national contender. But, the Bruins have not even joined the conference’s upper echelon yet. Mora is 0-5 against Stanford. Win and UCLA may be 4-0 with two big-ish wins and a reasonable playoff route. A Stanford win, and the Cardinal could be on their way to the final four.
5). Tennessee vs. Florida [Sept. 24] The Vols are SEC East favorites for the first time in a long time. Proving it begins with Florida. The Gators have won 11-straight against Tennessee and 24 of the past 30. The last two games in this series were decided by a point. Beating Florida removes a weight from the Vols heading into a decisive stretch of games. Losing, again, has to turn up the heat under Butch Jones. If Florida can find any kind of offense to go with their high powered aggressive defense, things could get interesting in the swamp again.
6). Alabama at Ole Miss [Sept. 17] The Tide have lost two straight to Ole Miss. A loss here would not define Alabama’s season. It didn’t in 2014 or 2015, with Ole Miss reaching the title game both years. It will alter the narrative. Nick Saban won’t be able to cork the “Alabama dynasty is over” talk until probably the Tennessee game. Ole Miss needs to win and then follow it up with wins to show they can handle success.
7). Miami vs. Florida State [Oct. 8] Miami opens with Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic, App State, and Georgia Tech. This game is where the games become serious for Mark Richt. Win and it could be “5-0 look out for the new look U” and fans in the stands. Lose and it could be a seventh-straight stadium emptying for the rest of the season loss. Make no doubt about it, this is a huge game for the Canes.
8). Notre Dame vs. Stanford [Oct. 15] The Irish feast on some mediocre ACC fare this season. Multiple service academies. Just three games in an opposing team’s stadium. Texas and USC are not what they used to be. The toughest games are at home. It’s a schedule set up for a playoff run. Of course, it’s not hard to come up with a scenario where Stanford is Notre Dame’s only potential quality win and this game is all or nothing. A Stanford win could solidify a playoff berth for the Cardinal.
9). Michigan at Michigan State [Oct. 29] Michigan will enter the season hyped. The Wolverines should be 7-0 before heading on the road to East Lansing. Win and we’re talking playoff for Michigan. Lose and the Spartans have won eight of nine. The discussion switches to Harbaugh can’t beat the Spartans or the Buckeyes.
10). Michigan v.s Ohio.State [Nov.26] If Michigan gets the win over Michigan.State and Ohio.State takes care of Oklahoma, this could be a battle of unbeatens.