College Football season is still months and months away but the excitement for the sport is a 365-day obsession for many fans.
With the Big Ten and SEC each expanding their ranks with the start of the 2024 season, we have seen the Power Five become the Power Four and honestly there really is a Power Two with those two conferences taking the lead.
It got us to thinking, what is going to be the best game every week? Leagues are starting to roll out conference games in each week of the season, but sometimes those non-conference games outshine league games, even if both leagues are now division-less and each conference game means that much more.
Let’s take a look at each week of the season and pick the best game from each conference and weigh which game will be the one to watch.
The season gets right out of the gates with some big games and it would be easy to pick the same game for both leagues with LSU and USC meeting in Las Vegas. What does life look for each team with a new quarterback after the departure of Jadyn Daniels and Caleb Williams? We are still going to pick this one for the Big Ten, even with games like Penn State and West Virginia along with North Carolina and Minnesota on the schedule.
For the SEC, let’s go with Notre Dame and Texas A&M. Yes, we know that Notre Dame will be dramatically overrated but Texas A&M has been known to get a little bit of a preseason boost as well before the season starts. Georgia vs. Clemson and Miami (Fla.) vs. Florida are also worthy of keeping an eye on but when it comes to a national watch, that Notre Dame factor draws a lot of additional eyeballs (more so than ND vs. UVA or BC or Wake or most of the ACC).
For our money, give us LSU vs. USC as the game to watch though.
With apologies to games like Michigan State vs. Maryland, Colorado vs. Nebraska and South Carolina vs. Kentucky, this was a pretty simple decision and the first of two weeks that we have the same game on both sides.
Texas made the College Football Playoff and stumbled to Washington while Michigan took care of business and won the games on its schedule (that’s all I am willing to say here).
Michigan will be a new team, many familiar faces are gone including Jim Harbaugh. Texas will be a new league as a brand new member of the SEC and while that shouldn’t have an impact in this game in particular, sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know.
We will save our pick in this game until we get closer to it, but there will be no lack of anticipation for this one.
This is the second time we will overlap games but there were plenty of option in the Big Ten with Washington taking on Washington State, Oregon taking on Oregon State and Notre Dame versus Purdue. But Alabama and Wisconsin is going to be an interesting litmus test for both leagues.
Bama will be a brand new team with massive portal defections and the retirement of Nick Saban. Luke Fickell will be in year two of his job with the Badgers, trying to get his squad more competitive on a weekly basis. This game looks different now than it did just six weeks ago.
Throw in Texas A&M vs. Florida and UGA vs. Kentucky as other games we considered, but we all know what everyone is going to want to watch.
We really have some choices to make here, not because it is a deep week of games, but there are a pair of games that have about the same amount of interest.
The Big Ten offers up USC vs. Michigan, two teams that we have already seen on this trip, USC is coming in, thinking it can have success in year one of its run in the conference, and as we have said about Michigan, things are going to be different and if the Wolverines fall in this game, 8-4 may be a ceiling for the defending (for now) national champs.
On the other side you have Tennessee and Oklahoma. Both teams feel they should be in the conversation for the league, UT has its moments but is Nico Iamaleava ready for the prime time? Oklahoma is coming into the league with Texas and hearing all the noise for the Longhorns and not as much about themselves. This could be a big game for the Aggies if they are going to make noise in 2024.
But we like the Big Ten game here a little bit more, we know USC will have some offense and again, this will be a major referendum on Michigan before the end of the month.
UCLA vs. LSU and Iowa vs. Minnesota both got notice but couldn’t make the cut.
There are a lot of great games this weekend and when you go through the list of games that didn’t make the cut, it is pretty obvious that this is the weekend to get the extra television(s) out.
Ohio State/Michigan State, Illinois/Penn State, Oregon/UCLA and Oklahoma/Auburn were all games considered, but the Big Ten offers up Wisconsin at USC and that isn’t even the game of the week in our travels.
UGA vs Bama is going to be a huge game for a lot of reasons. Georgia didn’t make the playoffs last season and will have a ton to prove and beating Alabama is not enough, Kirby Smart will want to make a statement, if his team can. On the other hand, Alabama is being counted out by many and if the Crimson Tide under Kalen DeBoer can win this game, it is not only big in the standings but in the court of public perception as Bama is at a crossroads that could determine the future of the program for the remainder of the decade.
The calendar moves into October and we get into the thick of conference games as most teams have played their allotment of three non-con opponents, at least in the Big Ten.
Iowa/Ohio State and UCLA/Penn State were both considered here but questions about the Hawkeyes and Bruins just couldn’t get these games across the line the way that Michigan vs. Washington did. Yes, we saw this game and no, it did not go the way that most Big Ten fans wanted. Neither team will have its head coach from the previous meeting, nor its quarterback and a bunch of other players.
The SEC offers up Auburn and UGA… could the Dawgs come into this game with a hangover from the previous week? Does Hugh Freeze have things righted with his team to get War Eagle soaring again? Other games we looked at include Ole Miss/South Carolina and Missouri/Texas A&M.
But we are taking the Big Ten game here.
We have now hit another weekend with a lot of great games. The games not making the cut include Penn State/USC, Washington/Iowa, Ole Miss/LSU and Florida Tennessee.
The SEC offers up Texas vs Oklahoma, the Red River Shootout (don’t censor me, that’s what the game was called and I am not changing for you). The State Fair of Texas will just mean more with this game taking place as an SEC conference game.
But can anything come close to touching Ohio State at Oregon? We were robbed of this game the COVID season and now it is back and while things are different with each of the two teams, this could be one of the biggest games in the conference, more than ‘The Game’ if you really believe that Michigan is going to take several steps backward.
Inject this game into our veins, we are ready.
There will be a chance to catch your breath this week as the number of quality games takes a step back. USC/Maryland and Alabama/Tennessee were considered but didn’t beat out the other games.
The Big Ten will see a more traditional game with Iowa and Michigan State. Will Iowa with OC Tim Lester join the 2000s in terms of offense? Will Michigan State with Jonathan Smith join the party in being a stable team after the rollercoaster that Mel Tucker had them on?
But we are giving the edge to the SEC game with UGA and Texas. We have already gone into why each of these teams are exciting for 2024 and Georgia will want to show first-year conference mate Texas that they don’t take too kindly to interlopers. If Texas wins this game, the whole balance of power in the SEC is in chaos and hold on tight for the next several weeks.
There was a lot of struggle here for the Big Ten game, Nebraska coming to Ohio State has drama as Dylan Raiola faces the team that he was committed to for a hot minute while Penn State and Wisconsin has a lot of traditional drama in its own right.
Michigan and Michigan State gets the nod however with the bad blood between these two programs, a new head coach in Ann Arbor and a new head coach in East Lansing. This game just screams “Sparty Win” for so many reasons, but we have seen a lot of silliness through the years in this one and you never know how each team is going to respond.
There are some really strong games in the SEC this week too with LSU/Texas A&M and Missouri/Alabama but we are going to go with Ole Miss and Oklahoma. There is a strong belief that Ole Miss could be a sleeper for the SEC title and while this may not be the best Oklahoma team in recent memory, Ole Miss seems to sleepwalk through a game or two and this is a game that Mississippi can’t afford to drop, especially the CFP rankings will start to come out in November.
We are going to go with the SEC game here, no matter what kind of craziness happens in the state of Michigan, the SEC game is better.
In another “biggest game of the year” entry, the Buckeyes travel to Happy Valley to take on Penn State. We are not sure where the Nittany Lions will be at this point of the season, but we do know that former Ohio State wideout Julian Fleming would love to show out against his old squad.
Florida and Georgia sounds like a great name just based on the brands but is Florida going to be any good this year? Probably not, but we still picked that one over Texas A&M/South Carolina because the Gamecocks probably won’t be any good, either.
We are taking the Big Ten game without reservation though… it is to the point of the series where something dumb could happen in this game. Hopefully nobody tries to rush out for an ill-advised field goal at a key moment without thinking things through.
As we are now well within CFP rankings, teams will feel more pressure, even if a loss doesn’t take you out of consideration, seeding will mean a lot and nobody can afford a November trip-up.
We are going to go with Washington vs. Penn State in this one as the Nittany Lions cannot let up focus after the Ohio State game. A loss to Ohio State and then Washington would be catastrophic for the Nittany Lions and if Penn State does beat Ohio State, there can’t be any let up in this one. We also thought about Iowa and UCLA, but both of those teams are big question marks and by this point of the season, every game matters.
If what we are expecting to play out does, this is going to be the SEC game of the year with UGA and Ole Miss matching up. Georgia is not used to having to play this many high-leverage games during the regular season while Ole Miss is, coming from the now-defunct SEC West. Georgia is the better team on paper, but an upset here again really changes the forecast of who is going to Atlanta.
Other games we looked at included heavyweight games like Alabama/LSU and Texas/Florida.
It sure feels as if Wisconsin has made the cut a lot in this exercise and does once again with its game against Washington. We have to remind ourselves that the Big Ten West does not exist anymore and one half of the league doesn’t get a walkover to Indy, but this game really feels as if it could be important in the grand scheme of things.
Not quite as important however as Tennessee and UGA. UGA is “top dawg” in the SEC until it is otherwise proven (sorry, last year’s outcome doesn’t change our long-range trajectory of the league) and while Tennessee is a complete unknown, UGA has to play bigger name teams week-after-week-after-week and does UGA have the heart of a marathoner?
This weekend was made famous by the SEC not playing anyone the week before its rivalry games. There have been colorful barnyard names used for the week, but that is not as much of a thing here as there are some solid games on the schedule. Texas A&M/Auburn and Ole Miss/Florida were noted but don’t make the cut as Alabama vs Oklahoma gets the nod.
We could look back at this in nine months and call this a considerable miss as we don’t know what 2024 will look like for either team but traditionally through the years, this is a premium-plus type of game that fans would clear their schedules for.
On the other side, USC and UCLA, both wearing their home jerseys, what is better than that? Sure, we have Nebraska and Wisconsin, but c’mon… let me embrace this game as a Big Ten game, at least for the first year.
We are going with tradition here, give me the Big Ten game.
The Game. Period.
You know my pick here. Sure, Michigan may have fallen off the table by this point. Then again, maybe not. Maybe the reports of the demise of the program are premature.
But there is no shortage of intrigue in this year’s edition of the game and there are more things on the line than you can even imagine. Apologies to Nebraska/Iowa, Washington/Oregon and Notre Dame/USC.
On the other side, you would think we are picking the Iron Bowl.
You would be incorrect.
Also not making the cut are Florida/Florida State and Oklahoma/LSU.
We are going with Texas and Texas A&M. There actually may be more hate in this game than the Big Ten’s offering. Texas A&M left a conference to get away from Texas. And here come the Longhorns following them to the SEC.
We love the hate, but we love The Game more. Give us that one.