Ranking the Best College Football Games in September 2016

Take a look past Week 1 for a moment and get ready for these huge games

Week 1 of the college football season is a good time to remember that the best games of the season won’t all be like this.


And by “like this” we mean in sterile neutral-site stadiums rather than on college campuses. Some of the best games in Week 1 are being played in Arlington, Orlando and Atlanta rather than Tuscaloosa, Tallahassee and Athens.


College Station and Austin will host key opening weeks games, but games later in September will feature critical showdowns in Norman and Knoxville.


Here’s a look at what’s ahead in the first month.



  Game Date Location
1. Sept. 17 Norman, Okla.

A game between a team that made the Playoff and one that may have just missed if not for a three-point loss to Michigan State. By kickoff, OU would have already faced Houston while young Ohio State will have to grow up in a hurry.

2. Sept. 24 Knoxville, Tenn.

There may be other games between two higher ranked teams, but few will have quite as much riding on it. Neyland will be rocking as Tennessee sees the end of an 11-game losing streak to Florida within its grasp.

3. Sept. 3 Houston (NRG Stadium)

The anticipation for this game began shortly after Houston beat Florida State in the bowl game. It’s a huge game for the trajectory of Houston’s program, but OU should be looking to erase the sting of a 20-point loss to Clemson in the Playoff.

4. Sept. 3 College Station, Texas

UCLA’s Josh Rosen takes on a stingy defense on the road. Texas A&M pass rusher supreme Myles Garrett will try to throw the sophomore off his game.

5. Sept. 17 Palo Alto, Calif.

Time for Act III for Christian McCaffrey against USC. The first meeting featured 249 all-purpose yards, the second featured 461 yards and three total touchdowns. Has USC found an answer.

6. Sept. 24 Los Angeles

Want to win the Pac-12, UCLA? The Bruins may need to knock of Stanford first. The Cardinal have won the last eight meetings by an average of 18 points per game.

7. Sept. 4 Austin, Texas

Off-field issues and a lukewarm response to the quarterback battle between DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire has brought drama to Notre Dame. Meanwhile, Charlie Strong seems more and more comfortable as the Texas coach. 

8. Sept. 17 Oxford, Miss.

The last team to beat Alabama three times in three years was Auburn when the Tigers won six in a row from 2002-07. Ole Miss will try duplicate — and given Alabama’s stature now, exceed — that feat.

9. Sept. 24 Waco, Texas

What exactly are we getting out of Jim Grobe’s Baylor this season? With the Bears’ paltry non-conference schedule, this is the first chance to find out. Oklahoma State is also trying to prove it’s a Big 12 contender.

10. Sept. 5 Orlando

The conventional wisdom on this game is that Florida State will announce itself as a national title contender. Don’t forget: Ole Miss has a salty defense, and FSU will be starting a redshirt freshman quarterback. Oh, and the Rebels’ Chad Kelly can put up some numbers.

11. Sept. 3 Arlington, Texas

USC is as talented as any team in the country when it comes to front-line starters, but it’s still a team that doesn’t have much of a margin for error. Alabama will have new personnel, especially in the backfield, but should be the same old ‘Bama.

12. Sept. 17 South Bend, Ind.

This series resumes for two seasons after taking two seasons off. Michigan State’s defense was down last year in part due to injuries. DeShone Kizer and/or Malik Zaire will prove the first big test for Sparty.

13. Sept. 17 Louisville, Ky.

Strange things have happened in FSU’s last to visits to Louisville — a wild 42-31 win in 2014 and a 26–20 loss in 2002. The upstart Cardinals will be looking to make a statement in the ACC Atlantic.

14. Sept. 3 Green Bay, Wis

LSU’s Leonard Fournette is facing the No. 4 rush defense from 2015. Will that be enough to make the first FBS game at Lambeau a classic?

15. Sept. 3 Atlanta

New Georgia coach Kirby Smart is under pressure in the long-term to deliver a title to Athens. North Carolina’s Larry Fedora is under pressure this season to follow up an 11-win season against a tougher schedule.

16. Sept. 10 Bristol, Tenn.

Virginia Tech may be getting its sea legs under new coach Justin Fuente in what’s sure to be a spectacle at Bristol Motor Speedway.

17. Sept. 3 Auburn, Ala.

This game might be more competitive in other seasons. Auburn will try to shock Clemson by playing the national runners-up tough.

18. Sept. 24 Auburn, Ala.

Before the rise of Alabama, the LSU-Auburn series used to decide the SEC West. After the rise of Alabama, the series will determine whose seat is hotter between Les Miles and Gus Malzahn.

19. Sept. 10 Boise, Idaho

We feel comfortable in saying this should be one of the more fun games of the first month of the season. It will also go a long way in proving Boise State’s mettle as a major bowl contender and Washington State’s role in the Pac-12 North race.

20. Sept. 17 Lincoln, Neb.

Both fan bases will be expecting a signature win to turn the page after disappointing 2015 campaigns. Nebraska coach Mike Riley had a 4-11 mark against Oregon when he was at Oregon State.

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