The first few weeks of the college football season are special. Before most teams begin their conference schedules, we get to enjoy one-off matchups between teams that rarely play. Sometimes those take place in a sterile NFL stadium, but other times we get home-and-home pairings that show off the scope of the sport with disparate fan cultures coming together.
Through the year 2031, we’ve got at least a few big non-conference games already on the schedule for each season. So, let’s go year-by-year and spot the most intriguing games already on the schedules, as posted at FBSchedules.
A couple stipulations: Notre Dame plays a bunch of technically non-conference games against ACC teams, some of which are good. Let’s skip those here but include some other notable Notre Dame games. There are also some standing non-conference rivalries that are often big, like Florida State-Florida in most non-2017 years. Let’s set those aside now while staring awkwardly at Texas and Texas A&M.
- Clemson at Texas A&M
- Miami vs. LSU (in Arlington)
- TCU vs. Ohio State (in Arlington)
- UCLA at Oklahoma
- Florida Atlantic at Oklahoma
- West Virginia vs. Tennessee (in Charlotte)
- Michigan at Notre Dame
- Washington vs. Auburn (in Atlanta)
- Alabama vs. Louisville (in Orlando)
- USC at Texas
The game to get way too excited about now: FAU-Oklahoma.
It’s a farfetched dream, but an undefeated FAU at the end of 2018 would have wins over Oklahoma and UCF in non-conference play. Should that happen, the Owls might just be able to crack the Group of 5’s Playoff glass ceiling, right?
You’re telling me you don’t want to see head coach Lane Kiffin in a Playoff semifinal as a party crasher against Alabama? Kiffin has said he wants Bama, though he’s sorry for his players if the matchup ever happens.
Honorable mention: Alabama vs. Louisville, because the Tide opened as a 30-point favorite eight months in advance. I’m curious how much that line comes down by kickoff.
- Texas A&M at Clemson
- Florida State vs. Boise State (in Jacksonville)
- Duke vs. Alabama (in Atlanta)
- Miami vs. Florida (in Orlando)
- Oklahoma at UCLA
- TCU at Purdue
- LSU at Texas
- Notre Dame at Michigan
- California at Ole Miss
- Notre Dame at Georgia
The game to get way too excited about now: LSU-Texas.
LSU’s Ed Orgeron and Texas’ Tom Herman have waged a recruiting cold war. It’s time to settle it on the field, provided Orgeron can navigate a tricky job-security landscape. LSU likes to boast that it doesn’t have a natural rival, so any LSU game that has actual animus is fun.
Honorable mention: Georgia-Notre Dame, because remember how comprehensively the Dawgs took over South Bend for their 2017 visit?
Your turn, Irish.
- Florida State at Boise State
- Miami at Michigan State
- Virginia Tech at Michigan
- Tennessee at Oklahoma
- Texas at LSU
- South Florida at Texas
- West Virginia vs. Florida State (in Atlanta)
- Michigan at Washington
- Ohio State at Oregon
The game to get way too excited about now: USF-Texas.
It’ll be the Charlie Strong Bowl in my mind, whether Strong’s at USF or not. There is a very real possibility that he’ll have moved on by 2020, but if he hasn’t, here’s hoping the Bulls get a moment like this:
Honorable mention: West Virginia-FSU, because Bobby Bowden is 88 years old now, but it would be cool if he could attend West Virginia vs. Florida State. Those are the only FBS teams he ever coached.
- Alabama vs. Miami (in Atlanta)
- Michigan State at Miami
- Virginia at BYU
- Michigan at Virginia Tech
- Nebraska at Oklahoma
- Texas at Arkansas
- Washington at Michigan
- Oregon at Ohio State
- Auburn at Penn State
The game to get way too excited about now: Nebraska-Oklahoma.
C’mon now, don’t be dense. Nebraska and Oklahoma face off again, as God intended, for the first time since conference realignment. It’s already circled on the calendar.
Honorable mention: Texas-Arkansas. The rematch of the Game Of The Century back in 1969. Richard Nixon won’t be there this time, but another president could show up and award a national championship postgame just for kicks.
- Miami at Texas A&M
- West Virginia at Pittsburgh
- Oklahoma at Nebraska
- Texas at USF
- Ohio State at Texas
- Notre Dame at Ohio State
- Penn State at Auburn
The game to get way too excited about now: West Virginia-Pitt
BACKYARD BRAWL BACK. ‘Nuff said. Maybe you’ve forgotten the white-hot Appalachian rage that fuels this matchup? This will be as good a time as any to remember it.
If you’ll need me, I’ll hopefully be watching it with former WVU fullback Owen Schmitt. He’ll have some opinions on the rivalry. The last time he played in it, a loss to the Panthers cost the Mountaineers a shot a national championship.
“And then you get to the fucking last game of the season and blow it against the shittiest fucking team in the world,” Schmitt said.
Honorable mention: Ohio State-Notre Dame. The Buckeyes play Texas and Notre Dame in a three-week span. How’s that for a schedule?
- Texas A&M at Miami
- Pitt at West Virginia
- Virginia at Maryland
- Texas at Ohio State
- Ohio State at Notre Dame
The game to get way too excited about now: Texas A&M-Miami:
The culture clash of Texas A&M fans and Miami fans? Sign me up. I’ve seen my fair share of road fans, but when A&M came to Gainesville this season, the Aggies traveled as well as any road team I’d seen in a quite a while.
Miami’s a much better locale than Gainesville. You’ve been warned, South Florida.
Honorable mention: Texas-Ohio State, as it’s an excuse to watch this video:
- West Virginia at Pitt
- Oklahoma at Tennessee
- USF at Texas
- Texas at Michigan
- Ohio State at Washington
- Notre Dame at Texas A&M
The game to get way too excited about now: Texas-Michigan.
Texas will visit the Big House for the first time ever. No matter how good either team is, that’ll be a sight for those who love the sport.
Keith Jackson would’ve loved it. He was there the first time these two played:
- Pitt at West Virginia
- Michigan at Oklahoma
- Washington at Ohio State
- Texas A&M at Notre Dame
The game to get way too excited about now: Michigan-Oklahoma.
They’ve only met once, an OU Orange Bowl win in 1976.
- Oklahoma at Michigan
- Washington State at Boise State
- Michigan State vs. Notre Dame
- Tennessee at Nebraska
The game to get way too excited about now: Michigan-Notre Dame.
They will resume pleasantries after nine years off. That will have been the longest interruption in the series since 1948.
- LSU at Oklahoma
- Nebraska at Tennessee
- Michigan at Texas
- Notre Dame vs. Michigan State
The game to get way too excited about now: Nebraska-Tennessee.
1997 called, and it wants its marquee game back. I’m excited to see where these two programs are in another nine years, considering they’re starting from a similar place right now.
- Oklahoma at LSU
- Nebraska at Oklahoma
- Wisconsin at UCLA
The game to get way too excited about now: Wisconsin-UCLA.
There will be a lot of changes between now and 2029 in college football, but it would be a shocking development if the Pac-12 and Big Ten don’t still have Rose Bowl agreements. How about two Rose Bowl trips for the Badgers in 2029?
- Oklahoma at Nebraska
- Rutgers at Kansas State
- UCLA at Wisconsin
The game to get way too excited about now: Rutgers-Kansas State.
I’m convinced Bill Snyder will still be coaching the Wildcats in this game.
- Kansas State vs. Rutgers