Here are nine SEC non-conference games we can’t wait to see:
9. LSU at UCLA (’21): SEC/Pac-12 matchups seem like a no-brainer. But in fact these two conferences rarely cross paths. It’s a travesty that these two perennial powers haven’t met on the gridiron during their respective long and storied histories. That gets rectified in a few years.
8. LSU vs. Texas (’19/’20): This would seem like a natural rivalry between neighboring states. However, these teams have only met 17 times since 1896, with the Longhorns holding a 9-7-1 edge. The Tigers could even the score with a sweep.
7. Texas at Arkansas (’21): The old Southwest Conference rivalry was arguably the most heated and anticipated of its day. Oftentimes the winner went on to claim conference honors, and even national title implications were on the line when the Hogs and Horns locked up.
6.Texas A&M vs. Clemson (’18/’19): The Aggies take center stage when they meet the 2016 national champions in this two-year series. A victory in one or both of these matchups could be the shot-in-the-arm the program needs.
5. Auburn vs. Oregon (’19): This is a rematch of the 2010 season national championship game and another one of those extremely rare matchups of SEC vs. Pac-12 that fans have craved for years.
4. Georgia vs. Notre Dame (’17/’19): The Kirby Smart/Jacob Eason combination should be in full force by the time these two brand names meet in the fall. Georgia finally will get the shot at Notre Dame that it missed out on after narrowly losing the 2012 SEC Championship Game to Alabama (which beat No. 1 Notre Dame for the national title).
3. Tennessee vs. USC (’21): Another SEC/Pac-12 matchup that has escaped the landscape of college football for so many years. Fortunately it is becoming less of a rarity with recent matchups having been put together. Who knows what these programs will look like down the road, but in any year this is an intriguing pairing.
2. Florida vs. Michigan (Sept. 2): Two programs on the rise will do battle in the opening week of the fall season. What a way to kick off the 2017 campaign. The Gators have revenge on their minds after being shellacked by Jim Harbaugh and his Wolverines in the 2015 season Citrus Bowl game.
1. Alabama vs. Florida State (Sept. 2): The ’13 (Seminoles) and ’15 (Tide) national champions have played only four times. Considering the prestige of both programs, that’s difficult to believe — but the Bear Bryant and Bobby Bowden eras didn’t overlap long, and the two coaches never met at these respective programs. Florida State actually beat Nick Saban during his first season in Tuscaloosa in 2007, winning the “River City Showdown” 21-14 in Jacksonville. But FSU later vacated the game as an NCAA punishment.
OUTSIDE THE SEC
- Oklahoma vs. Ohio State (Sept. 9): Oklahoma seeks revenge after last year’s loss to the Buckeyes. As it did last season, this year’s game has national implications with the winner getting a big leg up on the 2017 season.
- Nebraska vs. Oregon (Sept. 9): The Cornhuskers program appears to be on the way up while Oregon has seen better days. It’s an opportunity for the Ducks to get back on track while Nebraska looks to continue its climb back to national prominence.
- USC vs. Texas (’17/’18): Tom Herman gets tested in his first season at Texas in a rematch of perhaps the greatest college football game ever played — the Rose Bowl game for the 2005 season national championship. And though this game won’t have nearly as much on the line, it’s a huge one for both programs in their respective quests to return to the big game.
- Nebraska at Oklahoma (’21): A renewing of the old Big-12 rivalry between the overpowering teams from that conference. It’s a rivalry that produced some of the best football games ever played. Now non-conference opponents, some of the luster has been lost, but this is still one of the most anticipated games of the next handful of seasons.
- Clemson vs. Notre Dame (’20): Coach Dabo Swinney should still be coaching the Tigers, unless he becomes Nick Saban’s replacement at Alabama. Could this be an ACC vs. ACC game by 2020?