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Early Ranking of the 10 Best Games of Week 1 of the 2022 College Football Season

Marcus Freeman, Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football

The start of college football's 2022 season is still months away, but it's never too early to flip the calendar to next fall and start thinking about the games on tap. Luckily for college football fans, the 2022 calendar is loaded with interesting matchups in Week 1. Notre Dame at Ohio State ranks as the top game on the opening Saturday of action, while Oregon-Georgia, Florida State-LSU and Utah-Florida also bring a significant amount of intrigue in early September.

The next few months are sure to bring roster and schedule changes that may alter this ranking, but let's take an early look at the best matchups for the first full Saturday of action in 2022:

Early Ranking of the 10 Best Games of Week 1 of the 2022 College Football Season

1. Notre Dame at Ohio State (Saturday, Sept. 3)
In addition to this being a likely showdown between top-10 teams, this matchup is also a homecoming for new Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman. The former Ohio State linebacker started his tenure in South Bend with a loss in the Fiesta Bowl, but the opener in Columbus marks the beginning of his first full year at the helm. The Buckeyes have all of the pieces to contend for a national title next season, but the matchup versus the Fighting Irish is a good early test for a defense under construction for new coordinator Jim Knowles.

Related: College Football's Way-Too-Early Top 25 for 2022

2. Oregon vs. Georgia (Atlanta – Saturday, Sept. 3)
The Bulldogs begin their title defense with a neutral-site matchup in Atlanta against projected Pac-12 North front-runner Oregon. Any Pac-12 versus SEC matchup carries intrigue, but there’s even more with former Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning taking over in Eugene. Lanning’s first squad will also feature a name familiar to Georgia, as former Auburn signal-caller Bo Nix could get the nod under center after transferring in this offseason. The Bulldogs will have several new starters on both sides of the ball, but coach Kirby Smart should quickly find the right answers to keep this team in contention to win it all ’22.

3. Florida State vs. LSU (New Orleans – Sunday, Sept. 4)
It’s a battle of two programs looking to get back on track in the 2022 season opener. Florida State is headed in the right direction under coach Mike Norvell, but there’s certainly pressure to get the team into a bowl game after just missing out at 5-7 in ’21. The Seminoles return dynamic quarterback Jordan Travis, and an infusion of transfers is set to bolster both sides of the ball. LSU is coming off a disappointing 6-7 season that cost coach Ed Orgeron his job, with Brian Kelly coming from South Bend to direct the program in Baton Rouge. Similar to Norvell, Kelly is loading up through the transfer portal in hopes of a quick turnaround in ’22. How much can LSU improve in Kelly’s first year? An opener against an improving Florida State squad should tell us a lot about both teams.

4. Utah at Florida (Saturday, Sept. 3)
Utah is set to open 2022 as the favorite in the Pac-12, and coach Kyle Whittingham’s squad should be in contention for a playoff spot, especially with quarterback Cameron Rising and running back Tavion Thomas back next fall. The Utes have some turnover to address on both sides of the ball, but Whittingham should quickly reload – especially on defense. New Florida coach Billy Napier inherits a team coming off a disappointing 6-7 season, but the roster isn’t lacking for talent. Quarterback Anthony Richardson’s development is worth monitoring under the new staff, and Napier is adding pieces through the portal this offseason. If Utah wants to contend for the playoff, this is an excellent opportunity to start the year off on the right note. On the other sideline, a win by the Gators would show just how far this team has come since Dan Mullen’s firing and give Napier some much-needed early momentum.

5. Cincinnati at Arkansas (Saturday, Sept. 3)
Cincinnati loses a handful of its key cogs from the run to the playoff in 2021, including quarterback Desmond Ridder, cornerback Ahmad Gardner, defensive end Myjai Sanders and running back Jerome Ford. However, the Bearcats will still be a tough out for the Razorbacks in the opener. Arkansas quarterback K.J. Jefferson is a rising star and a big reason why the Hogs are projected as an early top-25 team by most this offseason.

6. West Virginia at Pitt (Saturday, Sept. 3)
The Backyard Brawl is back on the schedule for the first time since 2011.

7. Penn State at Purdue (Saturday, Sept. 3)
The Boilermakers will be a sleeper team to watch in the Big Ten West title race next year, and a win over the Nittany Lions in the season opener would be a great start for coach Jeff Brohm’s squad. The trek to West Lafayette is an early test for a rebuilt Penn State squad.

8. Houston at UTSA (Saturday, Sept. 3)
A key in-state battle between two of the top Group of 5 teams could loom large later in the year for a New Year’s Six bowl.

9. Clemson at Georgia Tech (Monday, Sept. 5)
You know the standards at Clemson are high when an “off year” is a 10-3 finish with a win over Iowa State in the Cheez-It Bowl. The Tigers need to get their offense back on track, and the opener against an ACC opponent (Georgia Tech) should provide some early insight into how far that unit has progressed. The Yellow Jackets have won just nine games over the last three seasons, putting coach Geoff Collins squarely on the hot seat in 2022.

Related: College Football's Way-Too-Early Top 25 for 2022

10. Boise State at Oregon State (Saturday, Sept. 3)
The Beavers are coming off their best finish under coach Jonathan Smith and should be picked near the top of the Pac-12 North in 2022. But an improving Oregon State team won’t have the easiest of openers with Boise State coming to town on Sept. 3. The Broncos return quarterback Hank Bachmeier and are expected to take a step forward after a 7-5 mark in coach Andy Avalos’ first season.

Other Intriguing Week 1 Matchups

TCU at Colorado (Friday, Sept. 2)
Arizona at San Diego State
South Dakota State at Iowa
Memphis at Mississippi State
Rutgers at Boston College
Army at Coastal Carolina
NC State at East Carolina
North Carolina at Appalachian State
Illinois at Indiana
Miami (Ohio) at Kentucky

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