Early Look at the Top 25 College Football Games of 2017

Nick Saban's Alabama team will once again be a part of several marquee matchups this fall

Clemson will enter the 2017 season as college football's reigning national champion, but it’s the Tigers’ division rival, Florida State, along with — dare we say — Clemson’s national title game rival, Alabama, who have the game to watch in 2017. And fortunately for us all, we won’t have to wait all that long to see this potential No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup.


Related: Early Ranking of the Best 10 Games of Week 1 of the 2017 College Football Season


But the Seminoles-Crimson Tide clash in Week 1 is just one of many high-profile games we’re anxious to see. And yes, Clemson finds itself featured in plenty of those contests — from its annual face offs with FSU, and Louisville, to less familiar opponents like Auburn and Virginia Tech.


Next season will bring us no shortage of interesting inter-conference matchups, but four of our top five games to watch will be between familiar faces. And if 2016 was any indication — especially in the Big Ten — you just never know which game may end up mattering than most.


Really, Really, Ridiculously Early 2017 Top 25

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With that, here are the top must-see college football games of 2017. Start planning your fall weekends now.


  Game Date Location
1. Sept. 2 Atlanta, GA

It is very possible this Week 1 matchup will feature the preseason’s No. 1 and No. 2 teams.

2. Nov. 25 Ann Arbor, MI

How long do you think Jim Harbaugh’s had this one circled?

3. TBA Clemson, SC

Can the defending national champs handle the likely ACC favorites for a third straight year?

4. Sept. 30 Tuscaloosa, AL

Clemson aside, which team has played Bama better the past three years than Ole Miss?

5. Nov. 25 Auburn, AL

Will the Tigers be the only thing standing in the way of the Crimson Tide’s fourth straight trip to Atlanta?

6. Sept. 9 Columbus, OH

These two figure to be preseason title contenders once again, but will the Sooners show more in this rematch?

7. Sept. 16 Los Angeles, CA

Didn’t these two play a fairly memorable game in 2006?

8. Sept. 5 Tuscaloosa, AL

Whatcha got, Coach O?

9. TBA Louisville, KY

Last year’s classic featured the top two Heisman vote-getters, one of whom is back and looking for revenge.

10. Oct. 14 Dallas, TX

It’s Tom Herman’s first taste of the Red River Showdown, where anything can happen.

11. Oct. 21 State College, PA

Michigan helped keep the Big Ten champs out of the College Football Playoff, but the Nittany Lions should be loaded in 2017.

12. TBA Tallahassee, FL

Lamar Jackson embarrassed the Seminoles in 2016, and FSU surely hasn’t forgotten.

13. Nov. 28 Columbus, OH

It’s Michigan and OSU back-to-back for PSU, which is no longer sleeping on anyone.

14. Nov. 18 Madison, WI

Playing Wisconsin and Ohio State back-to-back is no picnic for the Wolverines.

15. TBA Tallahassee, FL

Can FSU make it eight in a row against its Sunshine State rival?

16. Sept. 9 South Bend, IN

The Irish face an SEC team in the regular season for the first time since 2005.

17. Oct. 7 College Station, TX

Will Kevin Sumlin’s squad finally turn the corner in another high-profile matchup?

18. TBA Palo Alto, CA

Think David Shaw will have his guys ready after a 44-6 loss last year?

19. Sept. 9 Clemson, SC

It’s Tigers at Tigers in the defending champs’ first true test of the 2017 season.

20. Dec. 9 Philadelphia, PA

Arguably the best rivalry in sports has even more juice to it now after the Black Knights’ upset win in 2016.

21. TBA Blacksburg, VA

A rematch of the ACC title game is always worth checking out.

22. Sept. 9 State College, PA

Last year’s rivalry renewal was memorable. Can this one match it?

23. TBA Seattle, WA

It’s Willie Taggart’s first test vs. new Pac-12 chief Chris Petersen.

24. Nov. 4 Ann Arbor, MI

P.J. Fleck vs. Jim Harbaugh? Sign us up!

25. TBA Winston-Salem, NC

What, like this one needs an explanation?

Best of the Rest:


26. Washington at Colorado (TBA)

27. Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (Nov. 4)

28. Tennessee at Alabama (Oct. 21)

29. Florida vs. Michigan (Sept. 2)

30. Stanford at USC (TBA)

31. Clemson at South Carolina (Nov. 25)

32. USC at Notre Dame (Oct. 21)

33. Florida State at Florida (Nov. 25)

34. Michigan State at Michigan (Oct. 7)

35. USC at Colorado (TBA)

36. Notre Dame at Miami (Nov. 11)

37. Wisconsin at BYU (Sept. 16)

38. Tulsa at Oklahoma State (Sept. 2)

39. BYU vs. LSU (Sept. 2)

40. Wisconsin at Minnesota (Nov. 25)

41. Tulsa at USF (TBA)

42. Louisville at North Carolina (TBA)

43. Oregon at Stanford (TBA)

44. Utah at BYU (Sept. 9)

45. Nebraska at Oregon (Sept. 9)

46. TCU at Arkansas (Sept. 9)

47. Notre Dame at Stanford (Nov. 25)

48. Western Michigan at USC (Sept. 2)

49. Navy at Florida Atlantic (Sept. 2)

50. Cincinnati at Miami (Ohio) (Sept. 16)


— Written by Matt Fortuna, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and spent six seasons covering college football for ESPN.com. Fortuna’s work has been honored by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) seven times. Follow him on Twitter @Matt_Fortuna and like his Facebook page.


(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Event Date: 
Thursday, January 12, 2017 - 17:33

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