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Each college football conference's biggest 2016 game, ranked

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Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Hello! Here are some football games that are going to happen, ranked by their likely importance. Let's discuss in the comments!

1. (tie!) SEC: Alabama at LSU, Nov. 5
ACC: Clemson at Florida State, Oct. 29

Basically the same game. Both have become season-defining rivalries over the last decade, and Bama-LSU has the edge over any other game there.

Any of these teams could be No. 1 at the time, with winnable early schedules that include big-name out-of-conference opponents. All four have Playoff talent and have played for championships in the last five years. Pencil these in as GameDay games with a pencil that is especially difficult to erase.

3. Big Ten: Michigan at Ohio State, Nov. 26

If a reloading Ohio State wins at Oklahoma in September, this immediately shoots to the No. 1 group, because Michigan has a very good chance to be undefeated in November anyway. If both OSU and Michigan have Playoff hopes, there would be nothing bigger.

4. Big 12: Oklahoma's first eight days in October

Who are the Big 12 favorites? OU and who else? I'd say TCU, at the moment (Bill Connelly probably would too, and he's smarter than me). The Sooners travel to Fort Worth on Oct. 1, then play in the Team Quality Doesn't Matter At All Alternate Dimension that is the Red River Shootout, which also carries the conference's biggest subplot: Charlie Strong's hot seat.

Around this time, OU also plays the year's biggest out-of-conference game and the year's biggest game involving a non-power (see below). As we discussed on this week's Shutdown Fullcast, Bob Stoops will either be elected governor or banished to Wichita by mid-October.

5. Pac-12: Stanford at Washington, Sept. 30

No one knows what to make of the Pac-12, as is custom. Stanford seems like the consensus favorite. I'm among those picking Washington. You can find people taking Oregon, UCLA or USC and probably others. Throw a dart board at the helmet schedule and call that the biggest game.

This is early, but if Stanford's 3-0, it'll have beaten Kansas State and USC and won at UCLA. UW's got a much easier road to showing up undefeated.


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6. American: Houston vs. Oklahoma, Sept. 3

Not a conference game, but the conference's most important game ... ever?

If UH wins, it's in the Playoff until it loses. An undefeated season in a decent conference with wins over OU and Louisville would be a no-doubt Playoff résumé, but 11-1 is probably not gonna do it. Expectations for the Cougars are towering, and the likeliest scenario might be a disappointing-but-shouldn't-be 10-2 or so, but this game could reset everything.

7. Utah State at Boise State, Oct. 1
or Boise State at Air Force, Nov. 25

If Houston slips up after week one, the Broncos could be the New Year's Day favorite right away, and it's not crazy to think they already are.

San Diego State is likely the other conference favorite, but the Aztecs and Broncos won't meet in the regular season. Air Force and USU look like the top division competition, though, and both are potential revenge games after bizarre Boise collapses last year.

8. (tie!) Conference USA: Western Kentucky at Marshall, Nov. 26
MAC: Northern Illinois at Western Michigan, Oct. 8
Sun Belt: Georgia Southern at Arkansas State, Oct. 5

The AAC and MWC are clearly ahead of the rest of mid-majordom over the past couple years, and even longer, if we count the Big East and Boise State's WAC run. Someone could emerge from this group and take the New Year's spot, but we won't count on it.

WKU doesn't play likely West favorite Southern Miss in the regular season, so a growing rivalry will do.

Arkansas State doesn't play Appalachian State, but GS is probably a co-favorite anyway. App State at Southern could be bigger, especially since it's a rivalry.

NIU-Toledo could end up being the MAC game, but WMU's built a lot of hype with its recruiting, and the Rockets lost their head coach again.

Your turn!