With five games on tap this Saturday in what’s Week Zero of the 2021 season, college football is officially back.
Before Week 1 gets underway next Wednesday – a smorgasbord featuring a delicious 84 contests over six days – here’s a look at some of the wacky and wild caveats of the larger 2021 schedule.
It’s 21 facts pulled from the approximately 1,560 regular-season games that will ultimately define the season – a tasty appetizer for a 13-week meal that will leave us all patting our collective bellies.
1. BOSTON COLLEGE plays two roadies at Group of 5 schools
Though a handful of Power 5 members will visit a Group of 5 venue in 2021 (including No. 2 Oklahoma’s Week 1 game at Tulane), Boston College is the only such program that will double down. After opening with a home date vs. FCS Colgate, the Eagles will play at UMass on Saturday, Sept. 11 and then travel to Temple the following Saturday. The upside is the first of the two trips will be short (and hopefully sweet) – the Minutemen’s McGuirk Alumni Stadium is only 88 miles away in Amherst, Mass.
Of the 64 Power 5 clubs participating in 2021, a mere three (or 4%) won’t play a Power 5 foe outside of league play. Check out each schools’ non-conference schedule:
Indiana: FCS Idaho, (8) Cincinnati and at Western Kentucky
Oklahoma State: FCS Missouri State, Tulsa and at Boise State
Texas Tech: Houston (at NRG Stadium), FCS Stephen F. Austin and Florida International
3. ULM will play 11 straight games
After kicking off its season with a game at Kentucky, ULM gets Week 2 off. After that, it’s 11 straight games – FCS Jackson State, Troy, at (22) Coastal Carolina, Georgia State, Liberty, South Alabama, at App State, at Texas State, Arkansas State, at (16) LSU and at (23) Louisiana. It’s the most consecutive games any FBS team will play in 2021. (12) Wisconsin, TCU, BYU, Liberty and WKU tie for second, each with a run of ten-straight games.
The last time the Beavers scored a road win over the Trojans Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy were just ten days away from squaring off in the first-ever presidential debate to be televised. Oregon State was unranked coming into the game, the season opener for both teams, blanking then (6) USC 14-0. Since that Friday night, the Beavers have dropped 24 straight road games to the Trojans including suffering a 63-0 blowout – the most lopsided outcome in series history – in 1985. This year’s game is slated for Saturday, Sept. 25.
Of the 59 Group of 5 members coming into 2021, four – all Sun Belt programs – are scheduled to play three members of the preseason AP Top 25. That’s the most of any G5 program.
Appalachian State: at (14) Miami Fla., at (23) Louisiana, vs. (22) Coastal Carolina
Arkansas State: at (20) Washington, vs. (22) Coastal Carolina, vs. (23) Louisiana
Georgia State: at (10) North Carolina, at (23) Louisiana, at (22) Coastal Carolina
ULM: at (22) Coastal Carolina, at (16) LSU, at (23) Louisiana
6. KANSAS is on an 0-72 run vs. its 2021 schedule
The Jayhawks are the only team in the nation to be on the wrong end of a losing streak against each and every one of its FBS opponents this season. They’ve lost 16-straight to (2) Oklahoma, 12-straight to K-State, 11-straight to both Baylor and Oklahoma State, seven-straight to West Virginia, six-straight to (7) Iowa State, three-straight to (21) Texas, two-straight to both (22) Coastal Carolina and TCU and one-straight to Duke and Texas Tech.
7. (1) ALABAMA is on a 70-0 run vs. its 2021 schedule
The antithesis of Kansas, (1) Alabama is one of only three FBS teams currently enjoying a winning streak against each of its FBS opponents in 2021. What gives the Tide top billing is that where (2) Oklahoma is on a 61-0 run vs. its field and (9) Notre Dame is 29-0 vs. its 2021 foes, Alabama has won a nation-leading 70 straight – 14 over Tennessee, 13 over both Arkansas and Mississippi State, eight over (6) Texas A&M, seven over (13) Florida, six over Southern Miss, five over Ole Miss and one each over Auburn, (16) LSU, (14) Miami Fla., and New Mexico State.
The Razorbacks are slated to open the 2021 season with back-to-back home dates vs. Rice and (21) Texas. After a visit from Georgia Southern in Week 3, the Hogs will travel to Arlington, Texas to take on (6) Texas A&M. As for the Owls, they open at Arkansas, host Houston in Week 2 and then make the trek to Austin to face Texas in Week 3.
Arkansas called the SWC home for 76 years (1915-91) – or until they bolted for the SEC – while Rice was a card-carrying member for 80 years (1915-94), or until the league disbanded.
While the Razorbacks have played the Aggies 12 times and the Longhorns on six occasions since leaving the SWC, it hasn’t faced Rice since it’s final year there. The Owls have met Houston (its cross-town rival) 17 times since the SWC broke-up and has played Texas on 13 occasions.
Though 11 of the 64 Power members are scheduled to play at least five teams ranked in the preseason AP Top 25, only three will play six such opponents.
Colorado: vs. (6) Texas A&M, at (25) Arizona State, vs. (15) USC, at (11) Oregon, vs. (20) Washington, at (24) Utah
Stanford: at (15) USC, vs. (11) Oregon, at (25) Arizona State, vs. (20) Washington, vs. (24) Utah, vs. (9) Notre Dame
UCLA: vs. (16) LSU, vs. (25) Arizona State, at (20) Washington, vs. (11) Oregon, at (24) Utah, at (15) USC
10. TCU plays the first half of its season in the state of Texas
Not only do the Horned Frogs get their first four opponents at home in Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth they won’t cross the Texas state line until Saturday, Oct. 16. TCU opens with back-to-back visits from FCS Duquesne and Cal, takes Week 3 off and then hosts SMU and (21) Texas. In Week 6 – Saturday, Oct. 9 – the Frogs make the trek to Lubbock to play Texas Tech. Their first out-of-state game is a Week 7 visit to Oklahoma. Though that’s a lot of home cooking, it also means TCU will play three of its final five games out of state.
11. WASHINGTON STATE is playing all three FBS teams from the state of Utah
The Cougars open their 2021 campaign with a visit from Utah State, travel to Salt Lake City to take on Utah in Week 4 and then host BYU in Week 8. It marks the first time a team has played the trio of FBS teams hailing from Utah since 2017, when San Jose State suffered losses at Utah and vs. Utah State in back-to-back weekends in September and then fell again at BYU on Oct. 28.
12. UCONN will play a third of its schedule against first-ever opponents
Despite fielding a football team for 125 years, UConn will play four FBS programs this season that it’s never met before – more than any other club in the nation. The Huskies open at Fresno State (in Week 0), host Purdue in Week 2, welcome Wyoming in Week 4 and then visit mighty (3) Clemson in Week 11. All offer opportunities to see something that has never been seen before. If that weren’t enough, UConn is 0-3 all-time vs. the current Mountain West, making the games vs. the Bulldogs and Cowboys an opportunity to right that wrong and double-up on history making.
After playing Liberty twice in both 2018 and 2019 (the Flames won three out of the four meetings), independent New Mexico State will double-dip with Hawaii this year. The first meeting is slated for Sept. 25 in Las Cruces and the second is set for Oct. 23 in Honolulu. That’s two regular-season games featuring the same two teams in 28 days. The Aggies have never beaten the Warriors, the series began in 1978 and the two last played in 2011. Of the eight total meetings, seven occurred when the pair shared membership in the WAC. They currently have plans to meet again consecutively from 2022-24.
14. TWO matchups are reunions that are 100-years in the making
Of the almost 1,600 pairings in the FBS in 2021, only two have waited a century to meet again on the gridiron. First up, it’s Syracuse’s Week 1 visit to play Ohio – a matchup that hasn’t been seen since Oct. 1, 1921, or 100 years ago. The Orange lead that series 2-0, both previous meetings occurring in Syracuse. Next it’s the longest-awaited reunion in college football this season – (8) Cincinnati at (9) Notre Dame – a blockbuster Week 5 matchup. The Bearcats and Irish have only met once previously, 121 years ago, in 1900 – a 58-0 shutout win for Notre Dame (meaning any points Cincy scores this season will be its first-ever vs. the Irish).
The Syracuse at Ohio game will air on CBSSN (7pm EST, Saturday, Sept. 4) while the Cincinnati at Notre Dame game will be broadcast on NBC (2:30pm EST, Saturday, Oct. 2). It’s safe to say that these are the first-ever televised games for the two pairings.
15. NEBRASKA is playing two of the top four teams in the nation
The Cornhuskers’ quest to right the ship after four consecutive losing campaigns will be made more difficult by playing two of the four teams which would field the CFP playoff bracket if the season ended before it began. Nebraska visits (2) Oklahoma in Week 4 and then hosts (4) Ohio State in Week 11 – making (1) Alabama and (3) Clemson the only Top 4 teams it won’t face.
After opting to cancel their respective 2020 season’s because of COVID-19, the Huskies and Monarchs are set to make an appearance on the gridiron after a long 22-month delay. UConn – scheduled to open at Fresno State this Saturday – last played on Nov. 30, 2019, a loss at Temple. The Huskies haven’t won a football game in 727 days – a 24-21 victory over FCS Wagner. For Old Dominion – which opens at Wake Forest next Friday – it’s a similar situation, the last appearance coming in a loss (to Charlotte) on Nov. 30, 2019, and the most recent win coming in the 2019 season opener over an FCS opponent (Norfolk State).
Though New Mexico State also chose not to participate in 2020, the Aggies did play two FCS opponents in 2021 losing to Tarleton State in February and then beating Dixie State in March.
The Bulldogs add a Week 1 clash with (3) Clemson in Charlotte to their standing date with (13) Florida in Jacksonville in Week 8. The Black Knights add a Nov. 6 date vs. Air Force at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas to their annual fixture with Navy which is slated for Dec. 11 in East Rutherford, N.J.
Georgia hasn’t played two neutrally sited games during the regular season since 2016 when it opened the season with a win over (22) North Carolina in Atlanta and then lost to (14) Florida in its annual clash in Jacksonville. For Army it was as recently as 2018 when it beat San Jose State in October in Levi Stadium in Santa Clara before wrapping up the season with a win over Navy in Philadelphia.
18. STANFORD is playing a dozen Power opponents
Stanford’s non-league slate this year features games vs. K-State (at Arlington, Texas), at Vanderbilt and vs. (9) Notre Dame. Add in the required nine Pac-12 opponents and the Cardinal is the only team in the nation to be playing 100% Power clubs. Compare that to (1) Alabama which is slated to face (14) Miami Fla. (at Atlanta), FCS Mercer, Southern Miss, and New Mexico State in non-conference play. Throw in the eight league opponents SEC members must play and that’s nine Power 5 foes, a C-USA member, an independent and an FCS school. Yikes!
The back end of a historic non-conference home-and-home series that was originally scheduled in 2015, Wake Forest’s Week 10 date at (10) North Carolina won’t count as an ACC game. According to UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham,
This is a unique opportunity to play a regional rival in years that fall outside the normal conference rotation…We have a long history with Wake Forest that has historical value and will generate interest within our fans.
Though the Tar Heels outlasted the Deacons last season (a 59-53 decision in what was considered an ACC matchup in Chapel Hill), Wake Forest won the first of the two non-league meetings – a 24-18 victory in Winston-Salem in 2019.
While it’s common practice for Group of 5 teams to split their season evenly between home and away appearances, these clubs will play just five games on their home fields vs. seven true roadies.
Kent State: at (6) Texas A&M, at (18) Iowa, at Maryland, at Western Michigan, at Ohio, at Central Michigan, at Akron
Miami Ohio: at (8) Cincinnati, at Minnesota, at Army, at Eastern Michigan, at Ball State, at Ohio, at Kent State
Middle Tennessee: at Virginia Tech, at UTSA, at Charlotte, at Liberty, at UConn, at WKU, at FAU
New Mexico State: at San Diego State, at New Mexico, at San Jose State, at Nevada, at Hawaii, at (1) Alabama, at Kentucky
Though the Buffaloes and Rams (aka the “Rocky Mountain Showdown”) didn’t meet in 2020, they were slated to open the season together on Sept. 5, 2020, in Fort Collins. Due to the Pac-12 postponing (and then resuming) its football season and the Mountain West delaying its start – the game never happened. This season, the two won’t meet on the gridiron for a different reason – they didn’t plan to. After playing one another consecutively since 1995, they won’t meet again until a home-and-home in 2023/24. Next up is a four-year break (2025-28) before a series of home-and-homes slated for 2029/30, 2033/34 and 2037/38.
Historical data courtesy of Sports Reference/College Football.