If you’re like me, sometime in the past few days following the end of the 2021 season, you peeked ahead.

No, that doesn’t make you weird. It’s never too early to get excited for fall.

If you peeked ahead like I did, you saw that the SEC has a loaded opening weekend schedule, which even includes the always entertaining Sunday showdown on Labor Day weekend. That’s never a bad thing.

Overall, there are 9 SEC nonconference games that are worth getting fired up about. And to be clear, that’s excluding annual end-of-year nonconference rivalries like South Carolina-Clemson and Florida-Florida State. I shouldn’t need to explain why those matchups are always worth the price of admission.

I narrowed the list of intriguing nonconference matchups to 9. All of these have a favorable chance of having at least 1 ranked team playing, potentially 2. There are a couple neutral-site matchups, but for the most part, we’re talking about games that will be played in college campuses, just as the football gods intended.

These are 9 SEC nonconference matchups that you should have marked on your calendar. And just to make life easier on you, I’ll go in chronological order of when they’re being played:

Oregon vs. Georgia (in Atlanta)

When — Saturday, Sept. 3

In case you haven’t heard, Dan Lanning’s head coaching debut will be against the team he just left. In case you also haven’t heard, Bo Nix will be facing Georgia for the 4th time in his career, though this time will be in an Oregon uniform. It’s also at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where Georgia lost 4 consecutive games since winning the 2017 SEC Championship. The storylines are everywhere. The showdown in Atlanta and Notre Dame-Ohio State are the premier matchups of Week 1.

Florida vs. Utah

When — Saturday, Sept. 3

Talk about a brutal time for Florida to catch Utah. The Utes are coming off a Rose Bowl appearance and they could very well earn their first preseason top-10 ranking in school history. Welcome to the big time, Billy Napier. The debut of Florida’s new coach won’t lack buzz, and dare I say, there could be some upset buzz if Anthony Richardson is behind center. Mohamoud Diabate returning to Gainesville to face his former team will be an interesting storyline, as well. The Urban Meyer Bowl should be an excellent Week 1 matchup.

Arkansas vs. Cincinnati

When — Saturday, Sept. 3

This is the best “prove it” game of opening weekend. Arkansas is trying to prove it can take another step in Year 3 with Sam Pittman. Go figure that a Group of 5 team is a nice measuring stick for the Hogs. Granted, it’s a Group of 5 team coming off 2 consecutive New Year’s 6 bowl appearances, including a 2021 Playoff berth. The Bearcats lost a ton of talent to the NFL Draft. Still, KJ Jefferson and the Hogs’ offense will have a major challenge waiting against Luke Fickell’s squad.

Florida State vs. LSU (in New Orleans)

When — Sunday, Sept. 4

Because who doesn’t love a little Sunday tilt before the NFL season kicks off? Brian Kelly’s debut will be against the same Florida State squad that he opened the season against on a Sunday in 2021. Weird. Of course, Kelly will have much different surroundings. Kelly has had a lot of success in the transfer portal, including locking in Myles Brennan. Who knows if that’ll be enough to make LSU a preseason Top 25 team. Either way, we’ll get a unique matchup with programs that won a national title in the past decade. Even if neither team is at peak level entering 2022, that’s still worth our attention on a Sunday night.

Alabama at Texas

When — Saturday, Sept. 10

Ah, yes. The Steve Sarkisian Bowl! The Jahleel Billingsley Bowl! The Nick Saban-Mack Brown Replacement Rumors Bowl! Welcome to the new age, wherein Alabama travels for a nonconference road game. Crazy concept, right? It’ll be the first time Alabama does that since 2011 when it traveled to Penn State and beat the breaks off Joe Paterno’s last team. We’ll see 3 Heisman Trophy contenders on the field with Bryce Young, Will Anderson and Bijan Robinson. College GameDay in Austin feels like a given.

Tennessee at Pitt

When — Saturday, Sept. 10

Hendon Hooker revenge game? OK, maybe that’s a little bit of a stretch. Hooker didn’t start that day, but he did replace Joe Milton and nearly lead a comeback win against Pitt. Without Kenny Pickett, this matchup won’t be quite on that level, but both teams could be on the fringe of Top 25 status. This game was worth the price of admission last year, and even though Pitt’s offense is going through a major overhaul in the post-Pickett/Mark Whipple era, this should have shootout potential once again.

Auburn vs. Penn State

When — Saturday, Sept. 17

An excellent 2021 nonconference game should again be a defensive-focused, smash-mouth battle. I wouldn’t have much confidence in either quarterback to lead a high-scoring attack. Who that starting quarterback is for Auburn, well, I couldn’t tell you. Maybe that won’t matter and Tank Bigsby will be tasked with toting the rock 25 times. Bryan Harsin can quiet some of his skeptics by avenging last year’s loss in Happy Valley and picking up a huge nonconference win … or he can continue to build doubt after Auburn’s late-season collapse in 2021.

Texas A&M vs. Miami

When — Saturday, Sept. 17

Yes, I think College GameDay will be in College Station. Both teams start with 2 non-Power 5 matchups, and now with Mario Cristobal on board, the Canes will have plenty of offseason attention. I’d expect A&M to start in the top 10. Jimbo Fisher gets to face a familiar foe, though he’ll do so for the first time as A&M’s head coach. Fisher only lost to Miami in his final year in Tallahassee. The last time College GameDay visited College Station was in Fisher’s second game when the Aggies hosted Clemson in 2018. Fingers crossed that this game ends up being just as thrilling as that one.

Arkansas at BYU

When — Saturday, Oct. 15

An SEC team in Provo? Yes, please. It’ll be the first time an SEC team takes a trip out to BYU since MSU in 2016. Something tells me this game will have a little more significance than that one, which featured 2 teams with 3-plus losses. BYU and Arkansas should both start in the Top 25, especially with the former expected to return its entire defense from a group that went 10-3. Dare I say, BYU could have some sneaky Playoff buzz as a non-Power 5 team, especially if it can beat Notre Dame in Las Vegas a week earlier. Go figure that Arkansas scheduled a nonconference slate without a Power 5 team, and it got dealt an opener against Cincinnati coming off a Playoff berth and BYU fresh off its second consecutive Top 25 finish. Don’t sleep on this showdown in Provo.