In the world of college football, it never hurts to enter the new year with a favorable ranking. By being one of the top teams in the country, a group has already put itself in prime position to make a run at a national championship. Now that the 2016 college football season has officially begun, we are one step closer toward seeing how it all plays out. But where a team starts the season, while important, is only part of the battle. In the end, what matters most is how a group finishes.
Although the new year has begun, there is still plenty of football left to be played; particularly in Week 1 of the season. If you’re a major college football fan, you probably have these matches already circled on your calendar. If you don’t, well, that’s what we’re here for. The way we see it, these are five college football games you don’t want to miss in the first week of the season.
1. (3) Oklahoma vs. (15) Houston
Even after finishing 2015 with a 13-1 record and a 38-24 victory over Florida State in the Peach Bowl, the Houston Cougars were shown minimal love by the Associated Press, entering the new season as just the No. 15-ranked team in the preseason poll. Tom Herman and company will get an opportunity in the first week of the season to prove that last year’s success wasn’t a fluke. But capitalizing on said opportunity won’t be easy.
On Saturday, September 3, the Cougars will take on Bob Stoops and the No. 3-ranked Oklahoma Sooners on a neutral field at NRG Stadium. Led by Heisman hopeful quarterback Baker Mayfield, the Sooners will look to build off a 2015 campaign that saw them earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. Talk about starting the new year off with a bang.
2. (16) UCLA vs. Texas A&M
In just his first collegiate season, UCLA’s Josh Rosen showed the rest of the nation why he’s among the best quarterbacks in college football, completing 60% of his passes while throwing for 3,669 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. Coming into the 2016 season ranked No. 16 in the country, expectations are high for Rosen and the rest of the Bruins. They’ll be tested right off the bat.
In the first week of the season, the Bruins travel to Kyle Field for a clash with the currently unranked Texas A&M Aggies. While Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin enters the year on the hot seat, there’s still plenty of reasons to be excited in College Station; particularly since, according to ESPN’s Power Football Index, the percentages favor Texas A&M in this much-anticipated matchup. This is a game you certainly won’t want to miss.
3. (18) Georgia vs. (22) North Carolina
After nine seasons in Tuscaloosa, Kirby Smart prepares to take the reins for the first time in his career, as the new head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs. Although Smart and the No. 18-ranked Bulldogs are ready to start this new chapter in the program’s history, that doesn’t mean it will be easy.
In 2015, the North Carolina Tar Heels came out of nowhere to finish atop the ACC Coastal standings and end the year as the No. 15-ranked team in the AP Top 25. Coming into 2016, Larry Fedora and company are ranked No. 22 in the preseason poll and ready as ever to make a splash on the gridiron. Something tells us the atmosphere will be electric when the Tar Heels and Bulldogs take the field on September 3 at the Georgia Dome. We can’t wait.
4. (20) USC vs. (1) Alabama
The No. 20-ranked USC Trojans are stocked with talented playmakers, but are they legitimate title contenders? We’ll learn the answer to that question fairly quickly — as early as Week 1. Live in primetime at AT&T Stadium, the Trojans have a date with destiny against the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide. For Nick Saban and company, the quest to defend their title begins here. We can’t predict the future, but if we had to guess how this one was going to play out, we have just two words for you: Roll Tide.
5. (11) Ole Miss vs. (4) Florida State
Just because the weekend’s over, that doesn’t mean the party has to end. On Monday, September 5, we get as close to a top-10 matchup as Week 1 can offer — and it’s got the makings of a classic. Led by quarterback Chad Kelly, the No. 11-ranked Ole Miss Rebels head to the Florida Citrus Bowl to take on Dalvin Cook and the rest of the No. 4-ranked Florida State Seminoles. Both of these clubs enter the year with national championship aspirations. Clearly, the winner of this primetime matchup will be off to a good start.