Ranking college football’s neutral-site games in 2021

By Amy Daughters -

The 130 FBS programs will play approximately 1,560 combined games during the 2021 regular season. Of these, fewer than one percent will be played at a venue other than either team’s home field. Here’s a look at the tastiest options.

(13). APPALACHIAN STATE vs. EAST CAROLINA – Bank of American Stadium, Charlotte, N.C. – Thursday, Sept. 2

These two North Carolina schools have met 31 times previously but never at a neutral location and not since App State moved up to the FBS ranks in 2014. The Mountaineers lead the all-time series 19-12 but ECU has won six-straight and nine of the last eleven. They have plans to play again in 2023, 2024 and 2026.

(12). HOUSTON vs. TEXAS TECHNRG Stadium, Houston, Texas – Saturday, Sept. 4

Though this one will be played a mere seven miles from the Cougars’ home field, technically it’s a neutrally sited game. Houston and Texas Tech shared membership in the old Southwest Conference from 1976 (when the Cougars joined) until the league disbanded in 1996. They’ve met four times since, the Red Raiders winning three-straight. The only other neutral site action came in San Antonio in 1993-94, both big wins for Tech. Houston leads the all-time series 18-13-1. The two are slated to meet again next season, this time in Lubbock.

(11). ARIZONA vs. BYU – Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, Nev. – Saturday, Sept. 4

These two have kicked off the season together four times in the last 15 years – 2006, 2007, 2016 and 2018, the only win for the Wildcats coming in a 16-13 decision in 2006 in Tucson. It’s the second time the pair has clashed in Las Vegas – Arizona downed BYU 31-21 in the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl. The Wildcats lead the all-time series 12-11-1 but the Cougars have won three of the last four. The two have a home-and-home scheduled for 2026/27.

(10). ARMY vs. AIR FORCE – Globe Life Field, Arlington, Texas – Saturday, Nov. 6

The Black Knights and Falcons haven’t squared off in a neutral location since the first three times they met – the 1959 game in the Bronx, N.Y. (a tie) and then the 1963 (a win for Army) and 1965 (a victory for Air Force) games, both in Chicago. Air Force leads the series 37-17-1 but Army has won three of the last four. This year’s game (which will be repeated next season) – the Lockheed Martin Commanders’ Classic – will be the first-ever college football game played in Globe Life Field, home of the MLB Texas Rangers.

(9). KANSAS STATE vs. STANFORD – AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas – Saturday, Sept. 4

The only other time Kansas State and Stanford have met on the gridiron was in the 2016 season opener, a 26-13 win at home for the then (8) Cardinal. This year’s game marks the first time Stanford has played a regular-season game in the state of Texas since 2008, when it fell 31-14 at TCU. The two have no future plans to meet again.

(8). LOUISVILLE vs. OLE MISS – Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Ga. – Monday, Sept. 6

The only first-ever matchup on our list, Louisville and Ole Miss have avoided playing each other despite 237 combined seasons of football and being located a reasonable 430 miles apart. The Cardinals and Rebels both kicked off the season at a neutral location as recently as 2018 – Louisville falling 51-14 to then (1) Alabama in Orlando and Ole Miss thumping Texas Tech 47-27 in Houston. There are no plans for the pair to meet in the future.

(7). ARKANSAS vs. TEXAS A&M – AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas – Saturday, Sept. 25

This matchup – also known as the “Southwest Classic” – has been played in Arlington nine of the last twelve meetings, including consecutively from 2014-19 (all wins for the Aggies) and 2009-11 (all wins for the Hogs) before Texas A&M left the Big 12 for the SEC. The two also met in Dallas in 1912, the third game in the series, a 27-0 win for the Aggies. Arkansas leads 41-33-4 but A&M has won nine-straight. They are currently slated to meet in Arlington through 2024.

(6). ALABAMA vs. MIAMI FLA. – Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Ga. – Saturday, Sept. 4

A rematch of the 1989/90 and 1992/93 Sugar Bowls – also the two most recent meetings – these two haven’t played during the regular season since 1979. Though Miami won the 1990 contest – a 33-25 victory that capped off a national championship run – it dropped ten straight to the Tide prior to that. Alabama leads the series 14-3, the Canes’ last regular season win came in 1955 in Miami. The two have no future dates booked.

(5). NOTRE DAME vs. WISCONSIN – Soldier Field, Chicago, Ill. – Saturday, Sept. 25

When these two hit the field this fall it will be almost 57 years to the day since they last met – Sept. 26, 1964, a 31-7 win for the Irish in Madison. It will also mark the second time in history that they’ve clashed at Soldier Field in Chicago, the other game there coming 83 years ago, in 1929, when Notre Dame blanked Wisconsin 19-0 on its way to a perfect 9-0 record under Knute Rockne. The Irish lead the series 8-6-2 but the two have split the last four. They have plans to meet again in 2026, this time in Green Bay.

(4). OKLAHOMA vs. TEXAS – Cotton Bowl Stadium, Dallas, Texas – Saturday, Oct. 9

Though the Longhorns are technically the home team in this year’s Red River Rivalry, it’s truly a neutral affair. Texas and OU have met in the Cotton Bowl annually since 1929 and currently have plans to play there through 2025. The Longhorns lead the all-time series 62-49-5 but the Sooners have won three- straight.

(3). FLORIDA vs. GEORGIA – TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville, Fla. – Saturday, Oct. 30

Not only does this one get to call itself the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” it’s also regularly the most important game in the SEC East. Florida and Georgia have played annually in Jacksonville since 1933 with only three exceptions – in 1943 (the Gators didn’t field a team due to World War II) and a home and home in 1994/95. The Bulldogs lead 52-44-2 but Florida scored it’s first win in four tries last season.

(2). CLEMSON vs. GEORGIA – Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C. – Saturday, Sept. 4

These two kicked off the season together in 2002-03, 2013-14 (Georgia won all but the 2013 meeting) and have plans to open again in 2024 in Atlanta. The only other neutral meetings in history came at the very beginning of the series – the 1916 game was in Anderson, S.C. (120 miles northwest of Columbia) and the seven games played from 1907-13 were all in Augusta, Ga. The Bulldogs hold a commanding 42-18-4 advantage and have won six of the last seven. The two also have home and homes booked in 2029/30 and 2032/33.

(1). ARMY vs. NAVY – MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J. – Saturday, Dec. 11

Navy’s visit to Army last season marked the first time since 1943 that the rivalry game wasn’t played at a neutral site. Philadelphia has hosted the contest 89 times, New York has played the role on 11 occasions and Baltimore was its home six times. This year’s game marks only the fifth time it’s been played in East Rutherford. The matchup will return to Philadelphia next season, but the venue has not been announced for games beyond 2022. Navy leads the all-time series 61-53-7 and is 3-1 vs. the Black Knights in East Rutherford but Army has won four of the last five.

Historical data courtesy of Sports Reference/College Football.  

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Comment (1)

Fun idea for a piece, Amy. You have a big back of tricks!

ND and Wiscy should be ranked higher: high-profile P5s, intersectional game, first meeting in 57 years.

In contrast, there isn’t really any novelty to Red River or the Cocktail Party. Are neutral-site games that are played in the same venue every year truly neutral-site games? (Technically, yes; truly, I would submit not)