It is never too early to start looking at the best games to watch in 2022. In January, Georgia won their first national title since 1980 and it started with a huge win over Clemson in week 1.
With many decision makers placing strength of schedule above all else when deciding who gets in to the playoffs, programs around the country have set up marquee match-ups for years to come.
There are a few games that stand out on paper.
Georgia vs Oregon, Sept. 3
The defending national champions open up their march for another title against the Pac-12 juggernaut, Oregon. Oregon will be breaking in a new head coach who spent last season as the defensive coordinator for Georgia. Dan Lanning might have the knowledge of the Georgia offensive scheme, but he might not have the players at this exact moment to win. Lannings predecessor and current Miami Hurricanes’ head coach, Mario Cristobal, did not leave the cupboard bare. Oregon could shock the world in week 1.
Notre Dame vs Ohio State, Sept. 3
This match-up when set years ago was supposed to have to veteran head coaches on each sideline, but Brian Kelly moved on to LSU. Ohio State ended the season last year with a win in the Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes will have one of the best quarterbacks in college football returning in C.J. Stroud. With Notre Dame losing their top secondary player from last year to the NFL, it will be interesting to see how the Irish fare against the might of a full loaded Buckeyes team in week 1. I expect the Buckeyes to come in as pre-season #2 team in the country only behind Alabama.
Cincinnati vs Arkansas, Sept. 3
If I were to put this game on this list just 5-years ago I would lose all credability, but these two programs are vastly better than where they were. The Bearcats and the Razorbacks are losing a lot of leaders that went off to the NFL, but we will get the chance to see how these programs reload. Arkansas will have one of the toughest schedules all season and a win in week 1 would do wonders for their confidence. As for the Bearcats, they are looking to get a statement win against the SEC and to assure the country that last years’ playoff birth wasn’t a fluke.
Miami vs Texas A&M, Sept. 17
This game might get the primetime slot for this date. Jimbo has had great success against the Hurricanes from when he dominated them as the head coach of FSU. Jimbo turned FSU into a recruiting juggernaut and won a national championship, and now he is looking to repeat the formula with the Aggie. The Aggies bring in the best recruiting class in school history and return quite a bit of players from last years team. What most are over looking is that Miami returns a veteran team with Tyler Van Dyke, one of the best returning quarterbacks in the country. The Canes are led by head coach Mario Cristobal who brought in one of the best staffs in the country to turn Canes around. This will not be an easy game for the Aggies who are expected to be favored in this game.
Oklahoma State vs Baylor, Oct. 1
The momentum these two programs will have going into next season is huge. This might be a battle between the two best Big 12 programs of the year when it is all said and done. Baylor head coach Dave Aranda has done one heck of a job pushing this program forward in just a short time. These two teams split their games last year, with the Baylor winning the Big 12 championship game match-up. The winner of this game could be positioning themselves for a playoff birth.
Texas A&M vs Alabama, Oct. 8
Last year, Jimbo Fisher became the first former Nick Saban assistant to beat the Goat of college football coaching. The Crimson tide were beat in the national title last year as well and will be on a war mission to avenge their losses. The Aggies will bring in their best recruiting class ever this spring, but will need to get the team up to speed. The tide have won 13 straight home games dating back to 2019 against LSU. If the Aggies pull off a win again this year they will become immediate contenders for their first SEC title and playoff birth.
North Carolina vs Miami, Oct. 8
For the last two seasons, North Carolina have walked out with a win in this match-up. This game is very important for both programs looking to win the Coastal division. Unlike last year, Miami comes in with a significantly better coaching staff and now a veteran quarterback. Tyler Van Dyke got his second start against the Tar Heels, and almost pulled the upset. From that moment on, Van Dyke played almost lights out. This game will come down to the wire again like last year, but Miami might come in as favorites. North Carolina will break in a new starter under center, but we expect business to be as usual.
USC vs Utah, Oct. 15
Lincoln Riley comes in to USC after leading the Oklahoma Sooners for the last 4 years. This would be a statement win if he is able to get the USC Trojans a win against the defending conference champions. Utah will be looking to become serious contenders for a college football playoff birth, and a win here would position them well heading into the back end of the season. The Pac-12 doesn’t get much love as it did 10 years ago, but this game could jump-start the conference again.
Clemson vs Miami, Nov. 19
2 years ago, Clemson defeated Miami in a one sided affair, but this match up might be a preview of the ACC Championship game. Clemson is looking to bounce back after a terrible 2021 by their standards, and Miami is looking to get a statement win. Dabo Swinney has dominated the conference since Jimbo Fisher checked out of FSU. Miami has the roster and now the coaching staff to set up a primetime match-up in mid-November for the ACC. Again, this could be 1 of 2 games between these two teams in 2022.
Baylor vs Texas, Nov. 26
It has been a long time since the Texas Longhorns had any meaningful games at the end of the season. Besides the Red River Rivalry with Oklahoma, Texas hasn’t been good enough towards the end of the year to have a game mean anything. With Steve Sarkisian era enter year two, the longhorns have a manageable schedule that they could be a year ahead of schedule. The biggest thing we will know about Texas by this match up is whether or not they can finish games or not. Last season, the Longhorns led in most of their games by halftime just to lose in the 4th quarter. The expectation is for Baylor to be one of the final six teams still fighting for one of the four spots in the college football playoffs.