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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.