Power Ranking College Football’s Neutral Games in 2015

By Amy Daughters -

College football has 15 neutral games on tap for 2015, nine of which will feature non-conference matchups and six that will highlight opponents from the same league.

Of the 30 teams involved, ten hail from the SEC, five are from the Big Ten, four are Big 12 teams, three are independent, three come from the ACC, two are Pac-12 members and one apiece are from the American, the Mountain West and the MAC.

That leaves Conference USA and the Sun Belt as the only leagues without a member playing a neutral game this season.

Texas A&M is the only club with more than one neutral fixture, drawing Arizona State in Houston in the opener and then facing Arkansas in Arlington in Week 4.

September is the most-popular month for neutral action, hosting seven total games and five in the opening weekend alone. Next is October with four, November with three and then December with just one, the annual Army-Navy game.

Here’s a look at the games power-ranked from bottom to top. Extra credit is given to those that have the best chance of featuring ranked opponents and those that may impact division/conference championships and/or the playoff picture.

15. TennesseeBowling Green at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn.

When: 4:00PM ET, Saturday, Sept. 5

The least competitive of the neutral action, Tennessee and Bowling Green will open up the season 180-miles from the Vols’ home turf in Knoxville.

The two schools have never met in football. Tennessee is 5-0 all-time vs. the MAC and Bowling Green is 4-7 all-time vs. the SEC.

14. ColoradoColorado State at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, Colo.

When: 5:00PM MT, Saturday, Sept. 19

This is the sixth-consecutive season that the Buffs and Rams have squared off in Denver, also the site of 14 of the last 17 meetings between the two.

Though this is a rivalry game that should be competitive—the two teams have split the last four decisions—neither squad will be ranked, and the game won’t have any lasting implications.

13. MarylandPenn State at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md.

When: Saturday, Oct. 24

One of the least-neutral games, Maryland’s campus in College Park is only 30 miles from Baltimore. Though this is a Big Ten East showdown, it’s unlikely that both these teams will be in the thick of the hunt for a divisional crown.

This is the 39th meeting between the two, who faced off last season for the first time in 21 years. Maryland won that game 20-19 in Happy Valley, its first win over Penn State since 1961. The Nittany Lions hold a commanding 35-2-1 all-time series lead.

12. NorthwesternIllinois at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill.

When: Saturday, Nov. 28

The second of the two Big Ten intra-conference “neutral” showdowns, Soldier Field in Chicago is located a mere 15-miles from Northwestern’s campus in Evanston. This matchup gets a slight edge over Maryland-Penn State because it’s slated as the regular-season finale, meaning bowl eligibility or more could be on the line.

The series dates back to 1892, Illinois holds a 55-48-5 all-time advantage and the two schools have split the last four. This is the third-ever meeting in Chicago—the Illini won 48-27 there in 2010 and triumphed 29-0 in 1923.

11. MissouriBYU at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.

When: Saturday, Nov. 14

Missouri’s campus is a two-hour drive from St. Louis, making this another game that’s questionably neutral. That said, it’s an intriguing matchup between two teams who could be ranked be the time November rolls around. It’s also by far the best of the SEC’s non-conference games in mid-November, a slot usually reserved for FCS opponents.

Missouri and BYU have only squared off once in history—the 1983 Holiday Bowl—and never in the regular season. The Cougars won that game 21-17, capping off an 11-1 campaign that ended with a No. 7 rank in the final AP.

10. Boston CollegeNotre Dame at Fenway Park in Boston, Mass.

When: 7:30PM ET, Saturday, Nov. 21

This game is the least neutral of the entire bunch, the only equalizing factor being Notre Dame’s national following vs. Boston College’s more local fan base. Though the Irish could be ranked by late November, this game won’t be overly compelling unless they’re in the CFB Playoff mix.

Notre Dame has won five straight over Boston College, the Eagles last coming out on top in 2008, a win that marked their sixth consecutive over the Irish.

9. BaylorTexas Tech at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas

When: Saturday, Oct. 3

This game marks the seventh-straight year Baylor and Texas Tech have squared off in the Metroplex. While the Bears should still be ranked in the Top Ten by the time this game rolls around (they will have played at SMU, vs. Lamar and vs. Rice), the Red Raiders might already have a couple of losses (they face FCS foe Sam Houston, UTEP, Arkansas and TCU).

Baylor has won four straight over Texas Tech, but before that dropped 15 consecutive games to the Red Raiders.

8. South CarolinaNorth Carolina at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.

When: 6:00PM ET, Thursday, Sept. 3

While this game doesn’t pack the punch that others do, it’s the season opener for two teams that could be in the mix for their respective divisional titles. Neither will want to start the season with a loss and this game, a legit Power-Power matchup, represents a real hazard.

These two played as recently as 2013, a game South Carolina won 27-10. The Gamecocks have won five of the last six, the Tar Heels last winning in 1991. The two schools have only met on neutral ground twice previously—in 1955 in Norfolk, Va. and in 1910 in Durham, N.C.—both resulted in Tar Heel victories.

7. ArkansasTexas A&M at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas

When: Saturday, Sept. 26

This one gets credit for being a solid SEC West matchup, plus it’s slated early enough in the season that both parties will still be in the thick of the hunt. Arkansas will come in directly after hosting Texas Tech the week prior and Texas A&M will have already played Arizona State and Nevada. If either team is undefeated and wins convincingly, it could be a launch pad into the Top 25.

The two schools have played six times since Arkansas left the Southwest conference, all but one of these was played in the Dallas/Arlington area. The Aggies have won three straight, all since joining the SEC but dropped the three meetings before that.

6. Texas A&MArizona State at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas

When: 6:00PM CT, Saturday, Sept. 5

This is the only regular season matchup between the Pac-12 and SEC in 2015, and it features teams have the potential to be players in their respective divisions. As far as it being truly a neutral affair, keep in mind that the Aggies’ mothership in College Station is located a convenient 100 miles from Houston.

The two schools have never met in football.

5. ArmyNavy in Philadelphia, Pa.

When: 3:00PM ET, Saturday, Dec. 12

While this one gets an A-plus rating in patriotism and tradition, it earns a B average for watchability and potential impact. What hurts is Navy’s recent dominance, winning 13 straight over Army, by far the longest streak in the history of the series. The other factor is its date—after the regular season is over, but before the bowl action kicks off. While this means more viewers will tune in, it also means it has no ramifications for the winner or loser, other than the Commander-in-Chief Trophy.

Army last beat Navy in 2001, a 26-17 decision in Philadelphia.

4. OklahomaTexas at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas

When: Saturday, Oct. 10

Despite the slipping fortunes of both these Big 12 powerhouses, the Red River Rivalry is always meaningful and hard fought. Neither are conference favorites this season, but don’t be surprised if one, or both, don’t make a huge run. Texas and Oklahoma have more raw talent stockpiled than the rest of the league combined; this makes them giants lying in wait, always.

The Sooners have won four of the last five, with the Longhorns’ most recent win coming in 2013.

3. FloridaGeorgia at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.

When: 3:30PM ET, Saturday, Oct. 31

This SEC East showdown is not only a rivalry game, it will likely go a long way in deciding the winner of the division and therefore the representative in the conference title game. Since the SEC champion is basically a lock for the CFB Playoff, this game is actually a key step in that direction. The degree of impact will come down to how successful Florida is at turning things around.

The Gators upset No. 9 Georgia last season, but before that dropped three straight to the Bulldogs.

2. AuburnLouisville at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga.

When: 2:30PM CT, Saturday, Sept. 5

Though this game may not scream “blockbuster” at the top of its lungs, it drips with potential meaning.

This game also has the second-best chance, behind Wisconsin-Alabama, of both teams being ranked. Auburn will be in the preseason Top Ten, so it’s a matter of whether Louisville can slip into the rankings.

The two programs have met once previously, in 1974 in Birmingham, Ala. Auburn won 16-3.

1. WisconsinAlabama at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas

When: 7:00PM CT, Saturday, Sept. 5

This game has all the same components of Auburn-Louisville, only it offers better odds that both teams will be ranked. Both are legitimate title threats not only in their own conference, but nationally. Remember, Wisconsin plays in the weaker of the two Big Ten divisions (the West) and won’t have to play Ohio State or Michigan State in the regular season.

The last time Alabama and Wisconsin met was 87-years ago in 1928, a game the Badgers won 15-0 in Madison.

Amy Daughters is a contributor to FBSchedules.com.

Comments (16)

In the Mizzou – BYU write up, you mean that Mizzou’s campus is a two hour drive from Kansas City (not St. Louis). Both are true, but being two hours from St. Louis is not relevant for this game.

How does Louisville have no chance of catching FSU or Clemson? Last year, they were a few yards away from beating Clemson, and led FSU through more than half of the game last year. And FSU won’t have Dalvin Cook.

This was a great read, 15 neutral site games is a good number and made a for a nice symmetrical column in the middle of the mid-July dead period.

What?? If Louisville loses to Auburn…they host Clemson on a Thursday night and FSU’s QB situation…assuming it’s Golson is no Jameis Winston. Probably no Dalvin Cook….missing OL…no Nick O’Leary…Rashad Greene…new DL. Whatevs

huh? when did the ACC and SEC start counting non conference games in their league standings?

There are six games on this list that are conference games:

1. Maryland-Penn State
2. Northwestern-Illinois
3. Baylor-Texas Tech
4. Arkansas-Texas A&M
5. Oklahoma-Texas
6. Florida-Georgia

Either team (Auburn or Louisville) could lose that game and still blaze a path to the playoffs, assuming they run the table in conference and their other ooc games. Shoot they could both end up in the playoff picture regardless of the outcome of this game. Odds are unlikely but it’s a possibility and really not that far of a stretch either.

I’m not sure this author knows what she’s talking about. Non-conference games affecting conference standings/championships??????

“The two schools have played six times since Arkansas left the Southwest conference, all but one of these was played in the Dallas/Arlington area. ”

Actually, its 4/6 in the DFW area. A&M and Arkansas was a home and home for 2012/2013.