The best college football games in 2022; Alabama-Texas A&M, Notre Dame-Ohio State lead
Much of the conversation this college football season has revolved around realignment, rosters, and TV deals — all topics that have called into question what will happen to the future of the sport.
Once the 2022 season begins, however, we can put that aside.
Let’s talk about games. There are some great Week 1 games, rivalry games, conference and non-conference games, and top-five matchups to look forward to this season.
MORE: SN’s 2022 Preseason All-America Team
It’s the regular season games (not counting the conference championship games) that we’re most looking forward to with Week 1 (and Week 0!) fast approaching. Here are 11 games that fit that description:
Best game of week 1
Notre Dame at Ohio State (September 3)
Should Notre Dame go to the Big Ten? Wait to see the TV ratings on this one for confirmation. The Buckeyes are heavy favorites with an offense led by Heisman Trophy favorite CJ Stroud. Former Ohio State linebacker Marcus Freeman will coach his first regular season game with the Irish. Those schools only met six times, and the Buckeyes swept the last home and away game of the regular season in 1995-96. A new generation of fans on both sides will be able to experience this intensity in prime time.
MORE: Could Ohio State have the best offense ever?
Best Game of Week 2
Alabama to Texas (September 10)
Kick off the big noon in Austin. Texas is in the spotlight under second-year coach Steve Sarkisian, Nick Saban’s former offensive coordinator at Alabama. Quinn Ewers will be the center of attention if he wins the starting job. Can the Longhorns’ powerful offense make it a four-quarter game against Alabama — which features Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young and All-American linebacker Will Anderson? These teams have not met in the regular season since 1922.
DECOURCY: Arch Manning offered Steve Sarkisian needed time in Texas
The next best non-conference game
Utah at Florida (September 3)
The Utes are 2.5-point favorites at The Swamp, where Florida hasn’t lost a first home game since 1989. Billy Napier is making his Gators coaching debut, and there’s an intrigue of quarterback with point guards Cam Rising and Anthony Richardson. It’s one of two huge Pac-12 games on opening weekend; with the other in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game between Oregon and Georgia. The Ducks are 17.5-point underdogs. Florida-Utah will likely be a tighter game, and the CFP implications could last all season.
Best Neutral Site Game
Texas A&M vs. Arkansas (September 24)
“Jerry World” will once again host this classic rivalry, and the winner of this SEC West challenger game will be named the team that gets the most out of Alabama later in the season. The Razorbacks snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Aggies last season, and KJ Jefferson is one of FBS’ most exciting QBs. Jimbo Fisher is 10-5 in August/September with the Aggies, and he didn’t reach October with an undefeated record (not counting 2020). Five of Arlington’s seven matchups since 2014 have been one-score games.
September’s Best Conference Game
Georgia to South Carolina (September 17)
You don’t buy it? This could be the defending national champion’s toughest road game until November. Oklahoma transfer quarterback Spencer Rattler adds to the intrigue, though the Gamecocks are coming off a tough road game in Arkansas. Williams-Brice Stadium can be a tough place to play, and the Bulldogs have been 3-3 there since 2010 — albeit with three straight wins.
MORE: SEC predictions, impact transfers and more
Best Conference Game of October
NC State at Clemson (October 1)
This is the most important game on the ACC schedule. NC State has some playoff appeal around quarterback Devin Leary, who passed for 238 yards and four touchdowns in a 27-21 overtime win last season. Clemson is looking to reestablish its dominance over the ACC, and they have the longest home winning streak in the nation at 34 games.
Best Conference Game of November
Baylor at Oklahoma (November 5)
Baylor coach Dave Aranda added heat to that rivalry with a last-second field goal in a 27-14 win last season, but it’s a different chapter with the freshman coach of the ‘Oklahoma, Brent Venables, now. The Bears are the defending conference champions. The Sooners have topped the series all-time, but the teams are tied at 4-4 when both are ranked in the Top 25. This should be a preview of the Big 12 championship game.
Clemson at Notre Dame (November 5)
We could have gone Oklahoma-Nebraska here considering the old-school rivalry will be in Lincoln, but we like this game better. Clemson and Notre Dame didn’t play last season, so this is the first meeting since 2020 The Irish beat No. 1 Clemson 47-40 in the regular season that year, but the Tigers returned the favor with a 31-14 win in the ACC Championship Game. The last three matchups have been top-five matchups, and this one will have implications for the CFP and ACC playoffs.
Best Potential Top 10 Match
Notre Dame at USC (November 26)
Let’s have a little fun. Let’s say Notre Dame comes into the final weekend of the season with a loss, and they head to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where a one-loss USC team prepares for the Pac-12 Championship game awaits. Freeman and Lincoln Riley are just what this rivalry needs. The Irish and Trojans haven’t played in the top 10 since 2006, a year after the ‘Bush Push’ game.
Best Best for a Game of the Century
Michigan at Ohio State (November 26)
Of course, this is the real best rivalry game. Ohio State-Michigan was the most-watched regular season game of 2021, and the Wolverines’ 42-27 win breathed much-needed life into a one-sided rivalry. Michigan hasn’t won at Ohio State since 2000, and there’s a chance both teams are 11-0 here. If that happens, it could be No. 1 against No. 2. The other, more realistic chance? Alabama meets Georgia in the SEC Championship game with corresponding undefeated records the following week – but it’s not a regular season game.
DECOURCY: Michigan’s big win reinvigorates fading rivalry
SN’s Game of the Year
Texas A&M in Alabama (October 8)
This is a deciding game in the SEC, and it should be a top-five showdown at a minimum. Saban and Fisher will spend the week downplaying this game, but given the back and forth of the offseason, the heat will be there. Fisher became Saban’s first assistant to beat the Professor last season, and the Aggies’ 41-38 victory still reverberates. This game will garner the most viral overreaction of the season, regardless of the outcome, and it will determine who wins SEC West – and possibly the national championship.