College football opening weekend is almost here. While this weekend was technically a mini-opener, next weekend is when the real action begins for the 2016 college football season. Next weekend is when some of the biggest games of the season will take place from an out-of-conference standpoint.
With the madness almost here, let’s take a look at the biggest games of college football opening weekend 2016. While all of these games have must-watch written all over them, it is important to keep two things in mind: (1) The season is just getting started, so even if a top-ranked team does lose, it can still make a case for the College Football Playoff. (2) There are plenty of quality matchups to watch outside of these games.
September 3: Oklahoma vs. Houston
If any non-Power Five school has a chance at crashing the College Football Playoff party this season, it appears to be the Houston Cougars. The Cougars enter the season by being ranked No. 15 in the AP Top 25 and No. 13 in the Coaches Poll. As for the Oklahoma Sooners, well, they hold the No. 3 ranking in both major polls.
While there will be plenty of great battles on the field, most eyes will be glued to the quarterback battle. Houston’s Greg Ward Jr. is a dark horse for the Heisman Trophy, while Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield is one of the top contenders entering 2016. Expect some fireworks in this duel.
September 3: UCLA vs. Texas A&M
As usual, the UCLA Bruins will have the talent to compete for a Pac-12 title in 2016, and they have a top 25 ranking to prove it. The Bruins are ranked No. 16 in the AP Top 25 and No. 24 in the Coaches Poll. With that in mind, UCLA will have to travel on the road to take on the Texas A&M Aggies.
The Aggies might not be getting as much attention as some of the other teams in the SEC West, but it will still be interesting to see how Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight performs. The quarterback was named the starter well before the season.
While the matchup between LSU vs. Wisconsin is a great game on paper from a national perspective, all eyes will be on one man, and that man is running back Leonard Fournette. While Fournette did not win the Heisman last season, even though he led the race for a good portion of the year, he is a serious threat to win it in 2016. Not to mention, the Tigers are a serious threat to win the national championship as they are ranked as high as No. 5 in the polls.
With that in mind, Fournette has been battling an injury as of late.
September 3: Georgia vs. North Carolina
The Georgia Bulldogs are dark-horse contenders for the SEC title, and the same thing can be said about the North Carolina Tar Heels when it comes to the ACC title. Regardless, the two will meet up for a top 25 showdown in the first contest of the season.
The big storyline entering this game revolves around star running back Nick Chubb. Chubb went down to a brutal injury last season. If he can return to his dominant ways, then he could enter the Heisman picture right away, and Georgia could be considered a serious SEC title contender as well.
A win for either team would likely result in the winner climbing up the rankings.
This is arguably the biggest game of the weekend. The USC Trojans are one of the more storied programs in college football, and the same thing can be said about the Alabama Crimson Tide. However, it is Alabama who is coming off of a national championship, and it is also Alabama who enters the season by being ranked No. 1 in the polls.
Just to spice things up a bit, Alabama’s offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin, used to be the head coach at USC.
If the Trojans can pull off the massive upset, they will shock the college football world.
September 3: Clemson vs. Auburn
The Auburn Tigers might not enter the season with a top five ranking, but the Clemson Tigers do. While they are the favorites to come away with a victory in this game, Auburn should still provide quite the test.
Clemson is fresh off of a loss in the national championship. It brings back players like Heisman contender Deshaun Watson and running back Wayne Gallman, which is one of the biggest reasons why the Tigers earned the No. 2 ranking in both major polls.
Although things appear to be stacked against Auburn, it does get this game at home.
September 4: Notre Dame vs. Texas
In Year 3 of the Charlie Strong era, the Texas Longhorns will either start the season off with a boom, or a loss. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are ranked as high as No. 9, and they are expected to compete for a spot in the College Football Playoff as a result. While the same thing cannot be said about the Longhorns, expectations are always high at Texas, so fans will expect Strong to lead the Longhorns to plenty of victories in 2016.
Texas is the underdog in this contest, but it does get to play at home.
The Ole Miss Rebels and Florida State Seminoles have the talent to come away with a title this season. Unfortunately, one of the two teams will have a blemish on their record right off the bat. Will Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly be able to lead his Rebels to a victory in the first game of the season, or will head coach Jimbo Fisher provide Florida State fans with yet another major victory?
Not only will College Football Playoff considerations be on the line — and it is only the first game of 2016 — but Heisman hopes will be on the line as well for players like Kelly and Florida State RB Dalvin Cook.
[Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]