We’ve hit the high water mark of spring football in the college football world. This weekend feels like a regular season weekend with the likes of Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, Texas and West Virginia all taking the field.
This got us thinking about the regular season that is still over four months away. That anticipation also got us curious as to what the best weekend of the 2017 college football season will be. Will a rivalry weekend be the best thing we can hope for or will the last weekend of the regular season matter so much it can’t be ignored? Heck, could it all be downhill after the opening weekend of the season? (History suggests it won’t, thankfully.)
Let’s get right into the rankings and find out which weekends you’ll want to block off and tell your friends you aren’t going to their weddings and which weekends you could probably skip and not miss much.
14. Week 1 (pt. 1)
Huh? There’s a 15th week to the college football regular season? Well, that’s not exactly true, but the college football season is getting a head start this year with an “expanded” Week 1, which will actually see FBS games start on Aug. 25.
Unfortunately for the college football-loving crowd, even this part of “opening weekend” will disappoint. BYU vs. Portland State and Hawai’i traveling all the way to UMass are the games for the opening Friday night. Not exactly must-see television there, unless you have a vested gambling interest in the proceedings.
Saturday doesn’t offer much more other than two Pac-12 teams taking to the field in Oregon State vs. Colorado State and the post-Christian McCaffrey era beginning for Stanford as they take on Rice. At least the Stanford-Rice game will be played in Sydney, Australia, which adds to the intrigue at least a little bit. But you have to be concerned about the level of play after such a lengthy trip.
Yawn-enducing contests or a cure for insomnia should we get some Pac-12 After Dark happening… whatever happens, it won’t be a lot of fun as the season gets going extra early this year.
13. Week 4
When you are four weeks in and have no other options other than to somehow get excited for the likes of Arkansas-Texas A&M and Penn State-Iowa, you know it isn’t the strongest of weeks out there.
Week 4 of the 2017 season doesn’t provide much in the way of intrigue. Even looking beyond the Power 5, there really isn’t a matchup that jumps off the page at you. It doesn’t help that a lot of the Power 5 teams are looking for cupcake games heading into the meat of conference play over the next few months or are on byes, either.
Michigan State-Notre Dame intrigues me, because both teams could really use a win in this game regardless of how the season starts for either of them. But that alone isn’t enough to carry this week further up the charts based on recent history. Notre Dame and Michigan State combined to win just seven games in 2016. Granted, neither should be expected to stoop quite that low again in 2017, but both of these programs have seen better days.
12. Week 7
The Big Ten gives us barn-burners like Rutgers-Illinois, Northwestern-Maryland and Wisconsin-Purdue. It’s just the tip of the iceberg on a pretty awful weekend of college football all the way around.
When Georgia Tech-Miami and Utah-USC stand out in the ACC and Pac-12, you know things are not exactly stellar on paper.
The only reason Week 7 wasn’t ranked lower is because there are few big matchups in the Big 12 and the SEC. That thing which used to be called the Red River Shootout, Oklahoma vs. Texas, is in Week 7. That tends to be pretty fun and this will be the first time we see Tom Herman vs. Bob Stoops in a battle of wits. Oklahoma State vs. Baylor is also a potential “loser is out” matchup in the Big 12 race.
As for the SEC, we’ll get to see Arkansas get whooped by Alabama again (right?) and there’s LSU-Auburn in the “loser likely gets creamed by Alabama for the West division title anyway” matchup. If you’re on the Texas A&M train, the matchup with Florida could be fun, but will it be meaningful? The Aggies are known to get off to a good start, but have tended to fade quickly as the season continues.
Point being, it is hard to really sit here in April and say this week is going to be big for the College Football Playoff picture.
11. Week 9
Pay close attention to the Big Ten in Week 9. Defending Big Ten champion Penn State heads to Ohio State in what could be the game that ultimately decides the Big Ten East Division in 2017. Both look to be top Big Ten contenders going into the season and each will have Heisman Trophy candidates looking for a nice Heisman bump in a signature game. And in the SEC, we get the annual showdown between Georgia and Florida in Jacksonville. The SEC East race’s fate could be determined here as well.
The highlight game in the ACC will likely be the Coastal Division matchup between Miami and UNC, although the Louisville-Wake Forest game should be fun considering the Wakey Leaks scandal that ignited as a result of their meeting last fall. The Big 12 has some intriguing options on the schedule like Oklahoma State visiting West Virginia.
10. Week 10
Bedlam will take place in Oklahoma, but outside of that Big 12 matchup and a few good options from the Big Ten, this week is… weak.
Three games really spark the immediate interest and that starts with Alabama-LSU, but it is a pair of games out of the Big Ten that could be really important. Ohio State matches up with Iowa and East division rivals Michigan State and Penn State clash. Both could have title game implications and that helps this week move up the charts a bit.
But when the Pac-12 gives you Stanford-Washington State and UCLA-Utah to try and get amped up (and no offense to fans of either team), it just doesn’t stack up to what is about to come up in other weeks this season.
Even the SEC is full of duds, with four teams playing non-conference games and only the aforementioned Alabama-LSU matchup really jumping off the page. We could be a bit off depending on what is happening in the East division though, as Georgia-South Carolina could have big implications if offseason projections are right, but counting on that happening is like counting on Paul Finebaum complementing the Big Ten — it ain’t gonna happen.
9. Week 12
All I’m going to put here is the SEC schedule, because it says all one needs to really know about this week.
That schedule looks like this:
- Mercer vs. Alabama
- Mississippi State vs. Arkansas
- Louisiana-Monroe vs. Auburn
- UAB vs. Florida
- Kentucky vs. Georgia
- Texas A&M vs. Ole Miss
- Wofford vs. South Carolina
- LSU vs. Tennessee
- Missouri vs. Vanderbilt
Welcome to cupcake week in the SEC and welcome to a pretty mediocre weekend overall.
Luckily, the Big Ten comes to the rescue a bit with cross-division monsters like Michigan-Wisconsin and Penn State-Nebraska. It is why Week 12 sneaks out of the double digits. Well, that and the Pac-12’s two best rivalry games — USC vs. UCLA and Stanford vs. Cal.
But outside of that, consider this weekend a perfect opportunity to do something other than watching football if you are of the casual variety.
8. Week 5
The Big Ten carries a lot of this week, with a huge West division matchup (Wisconsin-Northwestern) and a big cross-division game for the second week in a row for Iowa, who will take on Michigan State a week after seeing Penn State for starters.
The ACC isn’t far behind in importance as we’ll see Clemson-Virginia Tech, Florida State-Wake Forest, and North Carolina-Georgia Tech help set up division pecking orders real quick.
Why isn’t this week higher on the list? It doesn’t have a lot of depth beyond the matchups in the ACC and B1G. The top matchup in the SEC is likely to be Alabama vs. Ole Miss, and who knows how good the Rebels really are, while the Pac-12 gives us Colorado-UCLA as its best offering for the weekend.
The Group of 5 only gives us Temple-Houston and Ball State-Western Michigan to really get excited about as well, but will Houston and Western Michigan remain up to the level they have had in recent years following coaching changes (Temple too)?
It is a decent weekend, but not one that is going to knock your socks off just yet.
7. Week 8
I’m a sucker for tradition, so any week that includes USC vs. Notre Dame gets my attention. But there’s way more to love about this weekend than one of the oldest and fiercest non-conference rivalries out there.
Speaking of rivalries, could this be the year that Tennessee vs. Alabama is actually competitive and means something towards both teams winning a division title?
If you don’t care about those games, there are consequential matchups like Louisville-Florida State in the ACC and Michigan-Penn State in the B1G for your viewing pleasure.
However, this is the week where the Big 12 championship race could be figured out. With West Virginia-Baylor, Oklahoma-Kansas State and Oklahoma State-Texas all on the same weekend, three teams are going to emerge as favorites or we’re going to have a jumbled up mess. Either way, it is an important week in the Big 12 to say the least.
Out in the Mountain West, there is the biggest game of the season with Boise State and Wyoming clashing, while the American gives us Memphis-Houston and SMU-Cincinnati to pay attention to. In terms of the Group of 5, this could be the best weekend of games on the schedule.
It is just a shame that the big conferences don’t have more than one or two big matchups to count on, because the top shelf of Week 8 is very impressive.
6. Week 11
Now we’re getting to the real fun weekends of the college football season. Just thinking of Clemson-Florida State, Michigan State-Ohio State, Wisconsin-Iowa, Washington-Stanford, and Georgia-Auburn has me ready to get the season going.
Just about every conference has a marquee matchup to like, with the likely exception of the Big 12. That is why Week 11 doesn’t come in higher on this list. While there are some really fun matchups, the depth compared to other weekends just isn’t there.
Beyond the matchups already mentioned, there are Group of 5 matchups Western Kentucky-Marshall and Temple-Cincinnati to give some added depth to the quality of the weekend on paper. There are other potentially important matchups depending on where the two teams are, like Arkansas-LSU and Navy-SMU to watch as well.
Again, this weekend is really good on paper here in April and it could be even better by the time we get to this late weekend if a few surprises happen along the way.
5. Week 6
If you want conference games that are going to really matter, this is the week for you. Just about every conference has two or three important and watchable games on the docket.
Pitt-Syracuse and North Carolina-Notre Dame from the ACC(ish) are pretty decent. The Big Ten gives you the most watchable West division game in Wisconsin-Nebraska, plus pure Michigan-Michigan State hate and Penn State-Northwestern to wet your cross-divisional whistle.
The Big 12 cranks it up with West Virginia-TCU and Kansas State-Texas, while Stanford-Utah intrigues out west. Oh, and the SEC will give us LSU-Florida and Alabama-Texas A&M (and we all know something crazy is bound to happen in that one). Even the Group of 5 gets in the action with Boise State-BYU, Air Force-Navy, and UCF-Cincinnati setting the tone for those conferences.
This coudl be the first week that really starts to set the College Football Playoff tone for the rest of the season. Right around this point in the season, we will start to see the contenders separate themselves from the pretenders.
4. Week 13
The final weekend of the regular season provides those of us who love tradition and trophy games plenty of ammo. Besides, what’s better than getting to watch football while the idiots hit the mall the day after Thanksgiving just to see their blood pressure rise?
Miami-Pitt, Florida-Florida State, Clemson-South Carolina could have big implications on the Eastern seaboard. The SEC West could come down to the Iron Bowl, while the Big Ten gives us Michigan-Ohio State.
Out west in the Pac-12 we have the Apple Cup that could be for the North division title and Notre Dame taking on Stanford. Those are just a few of the potential highlight games.
About the only question that we have is just how important this weekend actually will be. Will there be any one-on-one games that decide a division race or a conference championship? If so, then this week moves up the rankings. It could also be a weekend full of pride over importance in matchups like those we have highlighted.
3. Week 1 (pt. 2)
Over the last four or five years, the first weekend of full FBS action has become one of the most important weekends on the docket. A lot of that has to do with the creation of neutral site games and the big draws that they have become.
This season is no different, and getting an opening weekend matchup of Alabama vs. Florida State certainly is a massive deal. Other major neutral site games include Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia, Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech and perhaps the most intriguing matchup: Florida vs. Michigan.
Week 1 also brings some new stuff, like the Big Ten having Ohio State vs. Indiana in the first weekend and the Tom Herman era at Texas starting against an upstart Maryland squad.
Narratives will start early, thanks to some big SEC-Big Ten and ACC-Big 12 games in the opening week. While it takes a bit of the intrigue that we saw in the opening weekend last year, this is going to be a tone-setter for how we view the conferences the rest of the year.
2. Week 2
Normally we’d see the opening weekend here, but for me, there is no weekend that has the depth of games to attract the college football fan than this one. We’ve got major rivalry games like Auburn-Clemson, Iowa-Iowa State, BYU-Utah and Pitt-Penn State. There’s also great measuring stick kind of games like Nebraska-Oregon, Boise State-Washington State, Minnesota-Oregon State and TCU-Arkansas to placate the hardcore fan.
But, what really makes this week tick are the conference matchups we’re going to see on the weekend. Out west we’ll get Stanford vs. USC, while the ACC gives us Louisville-North Carolina. There’s also Notre Dame vs. Georgia to help us all figure out where the Irish and the SEC East division likely stand for the rest of the season.
Then there is the mother of all non-conference games this season to top it all off — Oklahoma vs. Ohio State. That matchup between the Sooners and Buckeyes was a major factor in the College Football Playoff picture at the end of the season, with Ohio State getting a nice bump from having a road win against a Big 12 champion that didn’t lose another game the rest of the season. The stakes will once again be high with Heisman Trophy candidates Baker Mayfield and J.T. Barrett leading the offenses in Columbus.
Let’s just say this weekend is going to be a lot of fun for a whole variety of college football fans out there.
1. Week 3
As good as the matchups are to start the season, no weekend could possibly top the official Week 3. Who isn’t going to want to tune in to see Texas vs. USC at the L.A. Coliseum?
That is just the tip of the iceberg for Week 3. After all, we get the key SEC East contest as Tennessee takes on Florida and a little ACC tussle between some teams named Clemson and Louisville. Even that may be overshadowed between the most heated game of the weekend between Florida State and Miami (FL). Florida State could be the ACC favorite, and Miami is itching to once again proclaim “The U is back” and have it actually be true.
We could have a lot of fun and a lot of point with Arizona State vs. Texas Tech as well, and who doesn’t like seeing offenses going nuts? There’s also sneaky contests like Wisconsin at BYU and LSU at Mississippi State that could have big implications later in the season.
If there is one weekend that you best find a way to get out of the “Honey-D0-List” or that wedding you really didn’t want to go to anyway, this weekend is all of that.