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10 College Football Teams That Face a Make-or-Break September

Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman

Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman

Oh we are so lucky. Us college football fans have the good fortune of having this opening month of September being the second season in a row where there will be five Saturdays in the month. So by the time the first month is done we will know a lot more about which teams are the contenders and which are the pretenders in our college football landscape. In other words, this five-week month of September will be a make-or-break month for numerous teams.

Judging by last season’s ending and this year’s expectations, we all have teams we are keeping an eye on and those we think will have rebound seasons. This first month will tell a lot about which teams are significant and which will not have our attention for long. With that in mind, here are the 10 teams with the biggest impact on the month of September.

UCF

Aug. 30 at UConn

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Sept. 8 vs. South Carolina State

Sept. 15 at North Carolina

Sept. 21 vs. Florida Atlantic

Sept. 29 vs. Pittsburgh

Nobody will have a bigger spotlight on their “prove-it” season than the Knights, after last year’s 13 wins and self-proclaimed national title. But following the exodus of Scott Frost back to Nebraska and with former Oklahoma QB Josh Heupel taking the reins, the Knights are a program in flux. There is still a ton of talent around, led by quarterback McKenzie Milton, who threw for more than 4,000 yards last season. The September slate isn’t as daunting as it could be but that Friday night matchup with FAU is the most intriguing of the first month. Lane Kiffin’s 11-win team returns nearly everyone on the defensive side of the ball, making that game a stern test for the Knights' prolific offense.

Texas A&M

Aug. 30 vs. Northwestern State

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Texas A&M

Sept. 8 vs. Clemson

Sept. 15 vs. ULM

Sept. 22 at Alabama

Sept. 29 vs. Arkansas (Arlington, Texas)

Holy Caneck Caneck! Apparently whoever put together this football schedule for Jimbo Fisher’s first season in College Station really didn’t like him all that much. In a span of 14 days the Aggies will take on the last two national title winners. Only a masochist would wish that on their own worst enemies. Well ole Jimbo is used to tough assignments. The dude had the audacity to take over for the legendary Bobby Bowdon at FSU, so this won’t faze him too much. The only problem is that the Ags aren’t as talented as the Tigers or the Tide so some of those thousands of ardent Aggie fans won’t sit well with a 2-2 start. Worry not A&M disciples, it is quite possible that this program will get better soon.

Nebraska

Sept. 1 vs. Akron

Nebraska's college football logo

Sept. 8 vs. Colorado

Sept. 15 vs. Troy

Sept. 22 at Michigan

Sept. 29 vs. Purdue

It could be argued that no other team in the country has a more anticipated start to the season than the Cornhuskers. With native son Scott Frost back and breathing new life into the program, long-suffering Big Red fans have been pointing to this being their official turnaround season. Well no doubt, September will be the “easy” part of their schedule. Games with Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State will make October and November a bear for NU to deal with. And in the first month, the trek to Michigan is an opportunity for a springboard game for sure. But at the same time, can you imagine how much pressure there will be if the Huskers drop one of their first three games against either Akron, Colorado or Troy?

Ohio State

Sept. 1 vs. Oregon State

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Ohio State

Sept. 8 vs. Rutgers

Sept. 15 vs. TCU (at Arlington, Texas)

Sept. 22 vs. Tulane

Sept. 29 at Penn State

The Buckeyes won’t have the most arduous road in this first month, but the high-level expectations and the white-hot spotlight of Urban Meyer’s three-game suspension will make for a pressurized beginning to this season. The remainder of the staff has bragged about how focused and intense the practices have remained in Meyer’s absence. It will be interesting to see how the tumult of August translates into September. The game down in Texas against TCU will be one of the most intriguing offense vs. defense matchups of the season. And you know how a good defense can keep upset hopes alive until late in the game. Of course, the showdown at Penn State the end of the month will also be one of the marquee showdowns of the entire college football season. Happy Valley will be LIT that night.

West Virginia

Sept. 1 vs. Tennessee (Charlotte, N.C.)

College Football Top 25 Rankings: WVU

Sept. 8: vs. Youngstown State

Sept. 15 at NC State

Sept. 22 vs. Kansas State

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Sept. 29 at Texas Tech

This is a team to watch in September, with showdown games vs. SEC and ACC teams. Well done WVU. The Mountaineers will have the dynamic Will Grier at the controls, who has shown up on some preseason All American teams. It will be interesting to see how he and his numerous returning targets (including touchdown-maker David Sills at receiver) fare against the Volunteers and Wolf Pack. This is a classic case where the September portion of the schedule could set up nicely for the November portion of the schedule. If the Mountaineers can navigate through two tough non-conference games on the road and can take care of the Wildcats and Red Raiders to open conference play, they are set up for a championship run when Texas, TCU, OU and Oklahoma State come calling at the end of the slate.

Arizona State

Sept. 1 vs. UTSA

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Sept. 8 vs. Michigan State

Sept. 15 at San Diego State

Sept. 22 at Washington

Sept. 29 vs. Oregon State

The entire college football nation is going to be watching how the Sun Devils do from the opening gun since they’ll have former NFL head coach and ESPN talking head Herm Edwards working his first college head coaching job. Fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it – he’ll have his chance to make a big statement in the first four games. Michigan State and Washington are both College Football Playoff contenders and the Sun Devils return enough firepower on offense to give both of those stout defenses plenty of fits. The Devils have won 10 of their last 11 games vs. the Huskies, including last year where they held them to seven points and 230 total yards in a 13-7 home victory. Don’t sell Manny Wilkins and company short.

Boise State

Sept. 1 at Troy

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Boise State

Sept. 8 vs. UConn

Sept. 15 at Oklahoma State

Sept. 29 at Wyoming

Ahhhh, there they are. Our favorite Group of 5 team… ever. These guys from the Potato State are the football version of the bracket busters, if there were a bigger bracket for them to bust that is. The Broncos return 10 starters from a defense that was 15th nationally in yards per play allowed (4.83) last year and also return dynamic quarterback Brett Rypien, along with 1,000-yard rusher Alex Mattison. If the new receiving corps comes along in the first month and they can escape with a W in tough roadies at Troy, Oklahoma State and Wyoming, this team has a chance to make a lot of noise in the national polls for the entire year. If they slip up in September, they’ll be merely a “good” Group of 5 team that doesn’t make many waves. By the way, not to extend their “make or break” status an extra week but their first game in October is at home vs. San Diego State, which could very well decide the Mountain West regular season champion.

LSU

Sept. 2 vs. Miami (Arlington, Texas)

LSU Football Schedule

Sept. 8 vs. SE Louisiana

Sept. 15 at Auburn

Sept. 22 vs. Louisiana Tech

Sept. 29 vs. Ole Miss

Speaking of pressure, you get the feeling that it is already starting to mount on Coach O. However that comes with the territory in Baton Rouge. For 2018, the Tigers will have to strap it up tight right from the get-go. A game vs. the top-10 Hurricanes will be a huge test for a team that lost 26 lettermen from a “disappointing” 9-4 team. Plus, the purple and gold will also be breaking in another new quarterback, most likely Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow. The SEC opener at Auburn won’t be a picnic either, especially since the Plainsmen will be piqued to get some revenge after blowing a 20-0 lead in last year’s loss in Baton Rouge. Don’t overlook the upset potential of Louisiana Tech and Ole Miss, who both have returning QBs and much more experience coming back.

Stanford

Sept. 1 vs. San Diego State

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Stanford

Sept. 8 vs. USC

Sept. 15 vs. UC Davis

Sept. 22 at Oregon

Sept. 29 at Notre Dame

Last year, the Cardinal dropped September games to USC and San Diego State in back-to-back weeks to set their season into a spin cycle. This time around they’ll have Heisman favorite Bryce Love and 58 other returning lettermen back on the roster from a year ago (No. 31-ranked team in returning experience according to Phil Steele). They will also be able to face those two teams this year without going up against Sam Darnold and Rashaad Penny, respectively. But the Cardinal will have to keep focus throughout the month because those road trips to Oregon and Notre Dame are going to be against teams they beat by a combined score of 87-27 last season. Tread lightly smart boys.

Texas

Sept. 1 at Maryland

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Texas

Sept. 8 vs. Tulsa

Sept. 15 vs. USC

Sept. 22 vs. TCU

Sept. 29 at Kansas State

This second season under Tom Herman will begin with a month of revenge games for the Longhorns. Everybody got their shots in on them in last year 7-6 showing, which is why this September will be so interesting for the Burnt Orange. They lost to Maryland, USC and TCU a year ago and will have the horses to exact some revenge on all of them. The Longhorns' first month will also be intriguing to see how Herman handles using both Sam Ehlinger and Shane Buechele at the quarterback position and whom emerges as the permanent starter. This program will be much more sound in its second year of operation under Herman and Co.

-- Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.