17 Non-conference college football games to get excited about in 2022

By Amy Daughters -

And just like that, the 2021-22 College Football Playoff National Championship is in the books and we’ve all suddenly become NFL enthusiasts.

Before you bid farewell to the fairest sport in the land, feast your eyes on the following handful of matchups, a cornucopia of non-conference goodness that lies just seven months into the hazy future.

Friends, there’s lots to look forward to.

Week 1 – Saturday, Sept. 3

NOTRE DAME at OHIO STATE

Despite being located a reasonable 250 miles apart Notre Dame and Ohio State have only met six times previously, four of which occurred during the regular season. The last two meetings came in the Fiesta Bowl – most recently the 2015/16 edition and before that the 2005/06 game. Prior to that it was home-and-homes in 1995/96 and 1935/36. The Buckeyes lead the all-time series 4-2 and have won four-straight. The pair are scheduled to meet again in 2023, this time in South Bend.

GEORGIA vs. OREGON (at Atlanta, Ga.)

These two have only met once previously, 44 years ago, in the 1977 season opener, a 27-16 win for the Bulldogs in Athens. While Oregon played an SEC opponent as recently as 2019 (a 27-21 loss to Auburn in the opener), Georgia hasn’t played a current Pac-12 member since 2010, when it traveled to Colorado (which was still one year from leaving the Big 12 for the Pac-12) and fell 29-27. The Bulldogs haven’t played an opponent that was a Pac-12 member at gametime since 2009, a 20-17 home win over Arizona State.

UTAH at FLORIDA

Though this one might not have blockbuster written all over it, it’s the 2021 Pac-12 champs visiting a talent-rich Florida squad that skidded to a 6–7 mark last season. It’s also Billy Napier’s debut as the Gators’ head coach. In a weird twist of fate Utah and Florida – like Georgia/Oregon – have only one previous meeting, a regular-season game in…1977. The Gators came out on top 38-29 at home. The pair have plans to meet again in 2023, this time in Salt Lake City.

WEST VIRGINIA at PITT

After an 11-year break, the Backyard Brawl is back. West Virginia and Pitt – located a convenient 75 miles apart – played consecutively from 1943-2011, the streak ending when the Mountaineers left the Big East for the Big 12 in 2012 and the Panthers sailed on to the friendly shores of the ACC in 2013. Pitt leads the all-time series 61-40-3 but WVU has won three-straight and five of the last seven. Not only do the two schools have plans to meet again next season, this time in Morgantown, they’ve got another a home-and-home booked for 2024/25.

CINCINNATI at ARKANSAS

This matchup is a great early barometer for the first-ever Group of 5 member to make the CFP bracket and an SEC-West squad that’s fresh off its best season in over a decade. It’s also the first-ever football meeting between the Bearcats and Hogs. Cincy faced an SEC squad as recently as 2021, falling to (1) Alabama in the Cotton Bowl/CFP Semifinal. The Cats haven’t beaten a current SEC member since downing Vanderbilt 31-24 in the 2011 Liberty Bowl. It hasn’t scored a win over an SEC opponent in the regular season since beating Kentucky 24-3 in 1996.

Week 1 – Sunday, Sept. 4

FLORIDA STATE vs. LSU (at New Orleans, La.)

These two have met nine times previously but not since 1991. After the first meeting in the 1968 Peach Bowl all subsequent eight matchups occurred during the regular season. FSU leads the all-time series 7-2 and has won four-straight – the Tigers’ only wins coming in the first meeting and in 1982, a 55-21 triumph in Baton Rouge. Though the game is the season-opener for LSU – and Brian Kelly’s debut as the Tigers’ new head coach – it’s the second game of the 2022 season for the Seminoles, who open with a Week Zero (Saturday, Aug. 27) home game vs. FCS Duquesne.

Week 2 – Saturday, Sept. 10

ALABAMA at TEXAS

A rematch of the 2009/10 BCS National Championship, the 1981/82 and 1972/73 Cotton Bowls as well as the 1964/65 Orange Bowl, the 1960 Bluebonnet Bowl and the 1947/48 Sugar Bowl, this is Alabama and Texas’ ninth overall meeting and only the fourth time they’ve ever clashed during the regular season. The Longhorns lead the all-time series 7-1-1, the Tide’s only win coming in the last meeting, the BCS title game, a 37-21 victory. The two haven’t met in Austin in 100 years, a 19-10 win for the ‘Horns in 1922. The pair have plans to meet again in 2023, this time in Tuscaloosa.

BAYLOR at BYU

The back end of a home-and-home that cranked up last season, Baylor’s visit to BYU is also a glimpse into the future landscape – and long travel plans – of the next generation Big 12. Prior to last season’s 38-24 Baylor win in Waco, the Bears and Cougars had met just twice, a home-and-home in 1983/84 that was an even split, the home club winning on each occasion. BYU is 16-22 all-time vs. the Big 12 and while it’s seen action vs. all ten current members, it only holds winning records against two which are…wait for it…drum roll please, super-duper ironically – Oklahoma (2-0) and Texas (4-1).

MISSOURI at KANSAS STATE

These two rivals met consecutively from 1927-2011 as members of the Big 6, 7, 8 and finally 12. This is their first meeting since Missouri jumped ship to the SEC in 2012. The Tigers lead the all-time series 60-32-5 but the Wildcats won the most recent clash, snapping a five-game losing skid. The old foes will meet again in 2023, this time in Columbia.

Week 3 – Saturday, Sept. 17

MIAMI FLA. at TEXAS A&M

These two have met three times previously – a home-and-home in 2007/08 (both wins for the Hurricanes) and the regular-season finale in 1944 (A&M’s only victory in the series, a resounding 70-14 decision). From a coaching standpoint, it’s also Mario Cristobal’s first matchup vs. a Power 5 opponent as the head coach at Miami and Jimbo Fisher’s eighth overall meeting with the Hurricanes as a head coach – the last being a 24-20 loss in Tallahassee, Fla, as the head man at Florida State.

PENN STATE at AUBURN

The back end of a home-and-home that kicked off in 2021, this is only the second time in history that Penn State and Auburn have met during the regular season. A rematch of the 2002/03 Capital One Bowl (the Tigers’ only win in the series) and the 1995/96 Outback Bowl, the Nittany Lions are 2-1 all time vs. Auburn.

OKLAHOMA at NEBRASKA

While this is a historic rivalry (and the back end of a home-and-home that started last season) it’s also a coaching matchup between a guy trying to keep his job and a guy with an opportunity to prove he’s right for the job. In one corner it’s Nebraska’s Scott Frost, who in four tries has yet to lead his alma mater to a winning season and in the other it’s Oklahoma’s Brent Venables in his first-ever Power 5 matchup as a head coach. A rematch of the 2009 and 2006 Big 12 Championships (both wins for the Sooners), OU leads the all-time series 46-38-3 and has won six of the last seven. The two also have dates booked in 2029/30.

CALIFORNIA at NOTRE DAME

While the Irish play two of the four Pac-12 teams from the state of California annually (USC and Stanford), they haven’t played UCLA since a home-and-home in 2006/07 and haven’t clashed with Cal since a home-and-home in 1965/67. The Fighting Irish and Golden Bears have met four times previously, all resulting in double-digit wins for Notre Dame.

UTSA at TEXAS

While this pairing is unlikely to result in an actual upset, who wouldn’t want to watch Texas – which struggled to a 5-7 finish last season – take on a UTSA squad who is fresh off a 12-2 campaign that included a C-USA crown? Will the Longhorn’s scheduling department regret booking a “sure thing” against its satellite campus in San Antonio? Also, if the ‘Horns shock Alabama – and the world – in their Week 2 clash, will this Week 3 game become the hangover loss of the century? This is Texas and UTSA’s first-ever football meeting. The Roadrunners, which didn’t field a team until 2011, are 2-14 vs. Power 5 opponents, the only wins coming at Baylor (17-10 in 2017) and at Illinois (37-30 in 2021). The Longhorns have subsequent home dates vs. UTSA scheduled for 2024, 2026, 2028 and 2030, they’ll alternate these games with visits from UTEP in 2025, 2027, 2029 and 2031.

Week 4 – Saturday, Sept. 24

TCU at SMU

Though these two – who play for The Iron Skillet – have met 100 times previously, this is the first meeting since SMU’s head coach moved across the DFW metroplex to become the new head coach at TCU. Sonny Dykes posted a 30-18 record in four seasons as the Mustangs’ head coach, a number that included a 2-1 mark vs. the Horned Frogs. SMU will be led by first-year head coach Rhett Lashlee who played QB at Arkansas (2002-04) and then served as the OC under Gus Malzahn at Arkansas State (2012) and Auburn (2013-16) before making stops in the same role at UConn (2017), SMU (2018-19) and most recently, Miami Fla. (2020-21). TCU leads the all-time series 51-42-7 but SMU has won the last two, also the first back-to-back wins for the Mustangs since 1992-93. The two schools are currently scheduled to meet through 2024.

Week 12 – Saturday, Nov. 19

COASTAL CAROLINA at VIRGINIA

After scoring three straight wins over Kansas, this year Coastal Carolina upgrades to Virginia, a program that hasn’t lost to a Group of 5 opponent during the regular season since getting edged 13-10 at UConn in 2016. The Chanticleers are 0-1 all-time vs. the current ACC (a 49-3 loss to Clemson in 2009) while the Cavaliers are 1-0 all-time vs. the Sun Belt (a 24-0 win over Troy in 2003). As the only Power 5 opponent on the slate, Virginia is CCU’s most critical game in 2022. A win would be another step towards relevance for a team that’s skyrocketed to a 22-3 mark over the last two seasons. The pair have a future home-and-home slated for 2024/25.

Week 15 – Saturday, Dec. 10

ARMY vs. NAVY (at Philadelphia, Pa.)

The traditional regular-season finale for the entire nation, Army-Navy returns to Philadelphia in 2022 after a two-year hiatus that took it to West Point (2020) and East Rutherford, N.J. (2021). The Midshipmen lead the all-time series 62-53-7 but the two have split the last four.

Historical data courtesy of Sports Reference/College Football.

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Comments (15)

Notre Dame’s ACC games blur the line of “non-conference”, as they’re scheduled by a conference.

I’m always fascinated when SEC Teams leave their region. 2022 also features Arkansas at BYU and Tennessee at Pittsburgh (the reigning ACC Champ)

I am interested to see how the Tennessee @ Pittsburgh game goes in the second week. Pittsburgh might be a team to watch out for in 2022. Brigham Young will be a very difficult opponent for Arkansas.

The SEC never schedules any really interesting non-conference games like LSU vs. Milsaps College or Alabama vs Eastern Kentucky U. It doesn’t seem like the SEC is interested in fair competition. Please explain.

While that has been the case for much of the past 20 years or so, that philosophy is changing. Check out the upcoming OOC schedules for Alabama, Florida, Georgia, etc.

The SEC changed their philosophy the last 18 mos. Pushed by Saban. Since they only play 8 conference games. I think it is to get in preparation if CFP expands to 12 teams.

I mean, I saw…Florida playing at Notre Dame in mid Nov in a few years in a home and home? Most are taking all comers for home and homes. A few it is hard because they already have old rivalries and end of season rivals that are OOC (USC, UF, UGA, KY has one against Louisville, not always end of year). UF likes to fit in Miami, UGA Clemson. They are old rivals as well. But they are loading up on home homes against the likes of the BiG10 now.

Saban actually wants to get rid of all D1AA scheduling.

Amy Daughters,

IMO, the only really interesting ND Game is on the Road @ Columbus & I’m no oHIo State Fan.
Cal hasn’t won the PAC 8, 10, 12 since 1958 & ND isn’t traveling to Cal1st,

ND signed an agreement in 2010 to play a 2 for 1 with my Cougars. BYU played both their Games in South Bend. Then ND signed it’s Associate ACC member agreement & didn’t negotiate to play BYU in Provo. They kept their weak Sister Games with the 3 Teams below & many other MAC, Middle of the Pack & bottom of the ACC Teams.
Their solution is the ND Invitational in the Vegas NFL Venue in 2022. BYU would rather Play than be paid off so I’m glad “The Contracted Series” will be over in 2022.
It took ND 11 Years to return a 2 for 1 Game.
The Irish superpower seems to be to convince most opponents to play them in South Bend or @ a “neutral Site”, bigger paydays from the NFL Venues & weak opponents @ a majority of these NFL Stadiums. Navy every Year @ an NFL Stadium. Purdue, Indiana in South Bend.

The ACC “Associate membership” in FB preferentially lets ND cherry pick undeniably weak ACC opponents who have to travel to South Bend.
Assemble almost all of the ACC VS ND Games since ND became an Associate member & the Teams playing the Irish have overwhelming losing Seasons those Years.

Notre Dame’s most interesting Season was the 2020 Coronavirus Season when they had to play as an ACC Member.

Arkansas vs Cincy? Wishful thinking. Cincinnati faces a big rebuilding year as many seniors stayed this past year and graduated. No QB experience at all to be competitive in the early season.

I disagree about Notre Dame arranging a weak schedule. First of all the ACC picks Notre Dame’s 5 ACC opponents and all the teams rotate (though not with any regularity)playing Notre Dame. This leaves Notre Dame with 7 games left to schedule. 3 of these games are almost always Stanford, USC, and Navy. So now you have 4 games left, usually there are already 4 away and 4 home games. You can bash Notre Dame for playing Navy, but this game still happens annually because the Navy saved Notre Dame from closing during World War II and Notre Dame has agreed to play the Midshipman until Navy no longer wishes to do so. When Navy is the “home” team the game is usually played in an NFL stadium because a crowd usually double Navy’s 30,000 seat stadium holds attends the game.

With those 4 games Notre Dame usually plays 1-2 teams home and home that is considered a “power” team. In 2022 Ohio St. is that team. Some years like 2022 there is only 1 such opponent available so Notre Dame is playing 2 “home only” opponents Marshall and UNLV. Then one game left Shamrock Series BYU in Vegas.

If you look at Notre Dame’s schedule this year like many other Power-5 teams that project to be in the top 25 there are 2-4 games that Notre Dame would be the underdog or it wouldn’t be a huge upset if they lost. To me those games are Ohio St., USC, Clemson, and BYU.

Then you have games that are against Power-5 teams that 9 of 10 times the favorite wins. For Notre Dame those games are California, North Carolina, Stanford, Syracuse, and Boston College. Usually for most Power-5 teams these are conference games that aren’t page turners such as Alabama vs. Vanderbilt, Mississippi St., Tennessee etc

Finally most power-5 teams have about 3 games that they are heavy favorites in the games for Notre Dame this is Marshall, UNLV and Navy.

Notre Dame schedules just like similar Power-5 teams don’t say it manipulates its schedule anymore than other Power-5 schools do.