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10 Must-Watch Early Non Conference College Football Games

Non Conference College Football Games – Even though the late-season drama surrounding conference championships, title games, and playoff positions may grab most of your attention, September or even August can provide fun games as well.

Imagine 2016 when Ohio State beat Oklahoma in mid-September, and still made the College Football Playoff despite not having a conference title. Even a win before the leaves turn colors can be important come December.

As the College Football Playoff will be a four-team format for the final year in 2023, let’s look at 10 non-conference games early in the season that can have a big impact on CFP hopes and also provide great entertainment. The upcoming college football regular season is going to be action-packed with both conference and non-conference games.

Non Conference College Football Games: Florida at Utah – Thursday, August 31st, 8 p.m.

Florida will be returning to Utah to say goodbye to August. Last year, the Gators beat Utah with a late Anthony Richardson touchdown. The Gators looked to be on the verge of something great, but Utah won the Pac-12 by beating USC and went to the Rose Bowl. Florida, meanwhile, slumped down to a 6-7 record. Billy Napier could use a win over a Pac-12 team in the brutal SEC East.

North Carolina vs. South Carolina – Charlotte, North Carolina. 7:30 pm ET Saturday, Sept. 2

UNC reached 9-1, putting them in the top 15, but a four-game slump brought about a disappointing end. Drake Maye (4321 passing yards) is expected to have a great sophomore season for a program that still needs a big season during Mack Brown’s 2nd stint as coach. While Georgia and Tennessee dominated the SEC East for much of 2022, it is understandable that the Gamecocks were able to crush the top-5 Vols with a 63-38 score and beat rival Clemson during an 8-5 season. Spencer Rattler, the Gamecocks’ QB is back. He may need to have a big season if Shane Beamer’s Gamecocks can surprise us again. This will be ESPN’s very first College Gameday.

Florida State vs. LSU (in Orlando, Florida) – 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 3

The game last year was wild, with a blocked extra point giving FSU a win of 24-23 in a match between two unranked teams. The Seminoles won a Bowl and had a 10-win campaign, while LSU improved to 10-4 in Brian Kelly’s first year. We’ll have to wait and see which team can perform even better in the upcoming season. The winner will confirm its status as a CFP contender.

Nebraska at Colorado – 12 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9

It’s unlikely that this will have a big impact on the CFP race unless preseason predictions are way, far off. It doesn’t, however, mean that there isn’t any anticipation. Matt Rhule, the new head coach of Nebraska, and Deion Sands with Colorado are both notable additions to their respective teams this season. This one is going to be a fascinating matchup, since both Nebraska (at Minnesota) and Colorado (at TCU), have brutal openings. The hype would increase dramatically if either one or both could surprise.

Ole Miss at Tulane – 3:30 pm Saturday, September 9

What can Tulane achieve as an encore? The Green Wave have lost some talent, but they do return QB Michael Pratt (3,000 passing yards, 37 touchdowns total) and are confident after a 12-2 year that culminated in a thrilling victory against USC at the Cotton Bowl. Tulane won’t likely match its top-10 ranking from last year, but a win in early September at home against an SEC team would be huge. Tulane will also have to face UTSA and Memphis in the AAC’s new look. In fact, UTSA’s trip to Tennessee on September 23 could be added to this list.

Texas A&M in Miami (Fla.) – 3:30 pm Saturday, September 9

The interest in this game is more about curiosity than CFP prospects. Texas A&M was ranked in the top 10 at the beginning of last season but missed out on a bowl due to five losses that were by six points or less. This is despite a 15-point win over LSU. The Aggies are expected to be better but will have to prove it. Miami went 5-7 as well in 2022, but they hope to see Tyler Van Dyke perform better at quarterback. The winner would be someone who is thinking big.

Texas at Alabama – Saturday, September 9th, 7 p.m.

Last year, the Longhorns came agonizingly near to beating Alabama’s top-ranked Tide. But they lost 20-19 due to a field goal made late. Steve Sarkisian is now in his third year at Texas. He and the Longhorns are looking forward to a breakthrough in 2023. It would be a great way to do that. The Tide did not win the CFP in 2014, as Georgia’s two years as national champions led to a shift in the SEC pecking order. Alabama could use this to return to the top.

Oregon at Texas Tech – 7 p.m., Saturday, September 9

Sometimes you want to see good teams score lots of points. Oregon is one of the top Pac-12 contenders with QB Bo Nix (3.593 passing yards, 43 touchdowns total) and many returning starters. Texas Tech’s first year under Joey McGuire was 8-5, and the QB Tyler Shough (an Oregon transfer) is hoping to be fully healthy. Last season, the Red Raiders averaged over 34 points per game despite having three quarterbacks who threw for more than 1,000 yards.

Pitt at West Virginia – 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16

You have to pay attention when it’s Backyard Brawl. Pitt won the first series meeting since 2011 38-31. The two teams will now head to Morgantown, West Virginia for the WVU game. Pitt’s first-half schedule is manageable, but Neal Brown could cause problems for the rivalry early on.

Ohio State at Notre Dame – Saturday, Sept. 23

Last year, the Buckeyes beat the Irish as OSU began the season 11-0. The first season under Marcus Freeman was a little sour. A loss to Marshall made things worse. The Irish fought through a 9-4 season and a win in a bowl game against a South Carolina team ranked high. It will be interesting to see how the quarterback situation plays out, with Wake Forest transfer Sam Hartman taking over for Notre Dame while Ohio State replaces C.J. Stroud. The college football Week 1 betting lines will be open soon for bettors to start placing their bets.