50 Most Anticipated College Football Games for 2014 Season

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIIJanuary 10, 2014

50 Most Anticipated College Football Games for 2014 Season

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    The 2013 college football season brought enough thrilling finishes, shocking upsets and electric battles for three seasons—but that doesn't mean 2014 can't be just as anxiety-inducing.

    Here is a very early look at 50 of the biggest tilts coming next season—50 battles that will shape the national and conference title races.

    We'll start off with a round of nonconference matchups to watch for in the early season before diving into the rivalries and conference contests to come later in the year.

    Note: At the time this article was written, the ACC had not yet released its 2014 schedule. All other schedules via FBSchedules.com and various school athletic department websites.

Texas A&M at South Carolina

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    Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Date: Aug. 28

    2013 Result: N/A

    South Carolina and Texas A&M will ring in the 2014 college football season in the first meeting between the two programs.

    It'll be A&M's first game post-Johnny Manziel and USC's first without Jadeveon Clowney and Connor Shaw.

    Both squads will be looking to establish their staying power in a Southeastern Conference that will be going through a transition with many stars departing.

LSU vs. Wisconsin (in Houston)

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    2014 Date: Aug. 30

    2013 Result: N/A

    Running, running and more running: That's what you can expect from the season-opening meeting between LSU and Wisconsin.

    One of the most intriguing nonconference tilts of the year, the matchup will feature two elite running backs, Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin and LSU's Jeremy Hill—both of whom surprisingly spurned the NFL.

    This will also be the debut of the No. 1 recruit in the nation for 2014, 5-star running back Leonard Fournette.

Florida State vs. Oklahoma State (in Arlington, Texas)

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    2014 Date: Aug. 30

    2013 Result: N/A

    Florida State's reign as national champion will be challenged right away in 2014.

    The Seminoles will meet Big 12 title hopeful Oklahoma State at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

    At Jerry World, FSU will have its hands full with an OSU squad that was just minutes away from reaching a BCS bowl in 2013.

Alabama vs. West Virginia (in Atlanta)

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    Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Date: Aug. 30

    2013 Result: N/A

    Alabama didn't finish the season the way it hoped—and West Virginia's 2013 campaign was a train wreck.

    However, WVU will come back in 2014 with some much-needed experience, and head coach Dana Holgorsen will be in need of some marquee victories to keep off the hot seat.

    Meanwhile, Alabama will be replacing two key leaders: linebacker C.J. Mosley and quarterback AJ McCarron. How the Crimson Tide perform for the first time without that duo will be very telling for their season outlook.

Clemson at Georgia

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    2014 Date: Aug. 30

    2013 Result: Clemson 38, Georgia 35

    Clemson and Georgia provided a thrilling matchup to open the 2013 season, but both teams will look much different this time around.

    Gone are UGA's Aaron Murray and Clemson stars Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins.

    The Bulldogs and the Tigers will have a nice litmus test against each other to start the season.

Michigan State at Oregon

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Date: Sept. 6

    2013 Result: N/A

    If Oregon is going to finally earn its way back to the national title, it'll have to face and conquer its biggest demon: beating a physical opponent.

    The Ducks, with Marcus Mariota back on the squad, will face a gigantic test early on against a nasty Michigan State defense.

    On the other side, that MSU team will be in a transitional phase as it looks to replace several defensive stars. If the Spartans defense isn't quite up to snuff right away, can Connor Cook and Jeremy Langford keep them close?

Virginia Tech at Ohio State

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    Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Date: Sept. 6

    2013 Result: N/A

    As Ohio State looks to make it back into the national title conversation, it'll have a good test early.

    If OSU is the team it expects to be, it'll take care of business against Virginia Tech.

    At the same time, if the Buckeyes aren't where they should be, it'll show against a solid Hokie squad.

UCLA vs. Texas (in Arlington, Texas)

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    Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Date: Sept. 13

    2013 Result: N/A

    Texas will have three stiff nonconference tests to start the Charlie Strong Era.

    The Longhorns will open up with North Texas (9-4 in 2013) and then move on to BYU. After that, they'll face their biggest nonconference foe, UCLA.

    The Bruins will be vying for a Pac-12 and even a national title with Heisman Trophy contender Brett Hundley returning.

Stanford at Notre Dame

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    Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Date: Oct. 4

    2013 Result: Stanford 27, Notre Dame 20

    Notre Dame nearly pulled off a major upset of Stanford last year.

    The Fighting Irish trailed by just four points in the fourth quarter but couldn't pull it off. They'll look to complete the upset this time around.

    ND should be in full gear by this game with quarterback Everett Golson back at the helm.

Oregon vs. California (in Santa Clara, Calif.)

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    2014 Date: Oct. 24 (Fri.)

    2013 Result: Oregon 55, Cal 16

    Oregon blew Cal out last year, and it very well might be the same result this year.

    However, this game is special, because it will be the first collegiate game played at Levi's Stadium, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers.

    It'll be a fun Friday night contest, no matter the final score.

Baylor at West Virginia

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Date: Oct. 18

    2013 Result: Baylor 73, West Virginia 42

    Whenever Baylor and West Virginia get together, it's bound to be fun.

    The Bears and the Mountaineers have tallied a combined 248 points in their past two tilts.

    BU should still be the superior squad, but their matchup will provide some serious fireworks regardless. 

Georgia at South Carolina

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    2014 Date: Sept. 13

    2013 Result: Georgia 41, South Carolina 30

    Georgia will open up its SEC slate with South Carolina once again.

    Both squads will already be tested after tough opening games and, depending on those outcomes, one or both of them could be desperate for a victory.

    This game will feature some excellent running backs, South Carolina's Mike Davis and Georgia's stable of backs, headed by Todd Gurley.

USC at Stanford

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Date: Sept. 6

    2013 Result: USC 20, Stanford 17

    USC's upset of Stanford was one of the most thrilling contests of the 2013 season, and the 2014 tilt could provide similar fireworks.

    The Trojans and the Cardinal will be competing for the Pac-12 title, and this early-season contest will be Steve Sarkisian's first test as the leader in Troy.

    If Sark can notch a win here, his tenure will be off to a fantastic start. If Stanford picks up the win, it'll be well on its way to winning its third straight Pac-12 crown.

Oklahoma at TCU

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    2014 Date: Oct. 4

    2013 Result: Oklahoma 20, TCU 17

    TCU was expected to be a serious Big 12 title contender last year, but it didn't come to fruition.

    However, despite its 4-8 record, it wasn't really that far off. The Horned Frogs lost four games by three points or less, including their 20-17 defeat by the Sooners. If they can turn some close losses into close wins, they'll be right back in contention.

    Meanwhile, after ending its season with a momentous Sugar Bowl win, OU will be thinking Big 12 crown or bust.

Georgia at Missouri

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    2014 Date: Oct. 11

    2013 Result: Missouri 41, Georgia 26

    Missouri and Georgia's seasons were polar opposites last year.

    UGA had high expectations and fell short, while Mizzou had low expectations and knocked them out of the park.

    This season, they will be in a similar place, as both will be replacing key players. Even still, both will be looking to make it to Atlanta for the SEC title game.

Oregon at Oregon State

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    2014 Date: Nov. 29

    2013 Result: Oregon 36, Oregon State 35

    The meeting between Oregon and Oregon State in 2013, though hard on the eyes, was a fantastic football game.

    UO emerged victorious when Marcus Mariota connected with Josh Huff on a touchdown with just 29 seconds left on the clock.

    Both offenses will be as explosive as ever in 2014, making this meeting an intriguing one.

Duke vs. North Carolina

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    Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Date: TBD

    2013 Result: Duke 27, North Carolina 25

    North Carolina nearly derailed Duke on its road to the ACC Coastal Division title, but the Blue Devils escaped on a late field goal.

    The Blue Devils will be back, returning several key pieces, but the Tar Heels, young in 2013, will return several starters.

    Though the ACC slate hasn't been released yet, this one is sure to bring heavy Coastal title considerations once again.

Texas A&M at Auburn

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    2014 Date: Nov. 8

    2013 Result: Auburn 45, Texas A&M 41

    Auburn's late victory in a back-and-forth battle with Texas A&M was its first major springboard toward its SEC title run.

    The Aggies will head into Jordan Hare Stadium late in the year this time around, and they should be adjusted to life without Johnny Manziel.

    Even if A&M isn't in competition for the SEC title, it'll be ready to upset Auburn if the Tigers are en route to Atlanta.

Ole Miss at LSU

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    2014 Date: Oct. 25

    2013 Result: Ole Miss 27, LSU 24

    Ole Miss was prepared perfectly for its meeting with LSU, as evidenced by its three interceptions of quarterback Zach Mettenberger.

    Mettenberger will be gone, but LSU will be talented as usual. Meanwhile, Ole Miss will be looking to continue its climb up the SEC ladder.

    The Tigers won't go down as easily this time, but the more experienced Rebels won't either.

Baylor vs. Texas Tech (in Arlington)

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    2014 Date: Nov. 29

    2013 Result: Baylor 63, Texas Tech 34

    After winning its first ever Big 12 title, Baylor will be out to make it two in a row.

    The Red Raiders were looking good in that race until they dropped their final five games to close the season. Along that road, they gave the Bears a run for their money but fell short.

    Now, in Kliff Kingsbury's second year, TTU will look to take the next step and actually beat another legitimate Big 12 contender. A meeting in Arlington with the Bears could bring that step up.

Auburn at Ole Miss

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    Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Date: Nov. 1

    2013 Result: Auburn 30, Ole Miss 22

    Auburn will have a tough slate to close the season: six games in six weeks, including trips to Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama.

    A tilt in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium will be the first of the three, and the Rebels, as always, will be tough to beat in Oxford.

    Ole Miss nearly came back to top the Tigers last year—can they complete the job this time?

Stanford at Arizona State

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    2014 Date: Oct. 18

    2013 Result: Stanford 38, ASU 14; Stanford 42, ASU 28

    Arizona State had two cracks at Stanford last year, including once in the Pac-12 Championship Game, but wasn't close in either. 

    However, both squads will be thinking Pac-12 title again. 

    There's no question that this contest will carry conference championship implications.

Nebraska at Michigan State

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    2014 Date: Oct. 4

    2013 Result: Michigan State 41, Nebraska 28

    Nebraska gave the game to Michigan State when the two met last year, turning the ball over five times.

    Once again, this tilt will feature an interesting battle between Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah, who led the Big Ten in rushing, against the league's No. 1 rush defense.

    This will be a can't-miss Big Ten clash.

Texas A&M at Alabama

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    2014 Date: Oct. 18

    2013 Result: Alabama 49, Texas A&M 42

    Texas A&M and Alabama gave college football two of the best games of the past two seasons.

    They'll meet midway through the season in 2014, and it will be an interesting matchup once again.

    The Aggies should have established an identity without Johnny Manziel when this one rolls around, while Alabama should have adjusted to life without AJ McCarron and C.J. Mosley.

Auburn at Georgia

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    2014 Date: Nov. 15

    2013 Result: Auburn 43, Georgia 38

    When it happened, Auburn's miraculous win over Georgia was the most incredible ending of the season.

    It was usurped by the Tigers' win over Alabama, but it was still a fantastic finish to a game the Bulldogs feel like they should've won.

    AU and UGA should put on a show between the hedges again.

UCLA at Arizona State

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    2014 Date: Sept. 25 (Thu.)

    2013 Result: Arizona State 38, UCLA 33

    Arizona State beat UCLA to win the Pac-12 South last season, and the Bruins will be out for some vengeance this time.

    The Bruins are a dark-horse national title contender and will be looking to claim the Pac-12 crown with Brett Hundley returning.

    However, ASU will be thinking much of the same with its quarterback, Taylor Kelly, coming back.

Nebraska at Wisconsin

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    Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Date: Nov. 15

    2013 Result: N/A

    In a battle of two of the Big Ten's best rushing attacks, the tilt between Nebraska and Wisconsin won't be one to miss.

    The Cornhuskers are bringing back Ameer Abdullah, while the Badgers will return Melvin Gordon, both of whom could've gone pro.

    Whichever one posts the bigger rushing total could be leading his team to victory.

Miami (Fla.) vs. Virginia Tech

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    2014 Date: TBD

    2013 Result: Virginia Tech 42, Miami 24

    The ACC Coastal division was a mess in 2013, and it could be again in 2014.

    Virginia Tech and Miami will be right in the thick of the race yet again, and they'll meet on the road to Charlotte yet again.

    With the ACC schedule unreleased, this is one matchup that is sure to be crucial regardless.

Missouri at South Carolina

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    Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Date: Sept. 27

    2013 Result: South Carolina 27, Missouri 24 (OT)

    South Carolina was the first team to deliver a defeat to Missouri in its remarkable 2013 campaign.

    The Tigers and the Gamecocks will bring uncertainty into next season, as Missouri's James Franklin and L'Damian Washington and South Carolina's Connor Shaw and Jadeveon Clowney have moved on. 

    This game will be Mizzou's first true test of the season and will be very telling as to whether or not it will be a serious player in the SEC.

Notre Dame at USC

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    2014 Date: Nov. 29

    2013 Result: Notre Dame 14, USC 10

    Notre Dame vs. USC is one of college football's foremost rivalries and almost always provides close contests.

    Last year's was close, though it wasn't exactly thrilling—neither team scored in the second half.

    This year should be different, as ND will welcome back star quarterback Everett Golson and USC will be more settled under new offensive-minded head coach Steve Sarkisian.

Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State

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    Richard Rowe-USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Date: Nov. 29 or Dec. 6

    2013 Result: Oklahoma 33, Oklahoma State 24

    Oklahoma State was just 20 seconds away from winning the Big 12 title, but Oklahoma stole a late win in their rivalry tilt. 

    The Cowboys will be starving to avenge that loss, while the Sooners could be en route to the Big 12 title.

    Bedlam is never a rivalry to miss, and it certainly won't be this season.


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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Date: Nov. 22

    2013 Result: UCLA 35, USC 14

    UCLA handily beat USC last year in a promising rivalry that didn't quite live up to its billing.

    While Brett Hundley, Jim Mora and the Bruins might be destined for the Pac-12 title (or more), Steve Sarkisian will be itching to post a signature rivalry win in his first year.

Michigan at Michigan State

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    Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Date: Oct. 25

    2013 Result: Michigan State 29, Michigan 6

    Michigan's loss to Michigan State last year was one of the most embarrassing in its long history. The Wolverines netted minus-48 rushing yards in a blowout defeat.

    UM will look to right its wrongs from a season ago, as head coach Brady Hoke could be coaching for his job.

    Meanwhile, MSU has a Big Ten title to defend—and a win over the Wolverines will be vital.

LSU at Florida

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    Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

    2014 Date: Oct. 11

    2013 Result: LSU 17, Florida 6

    LSU and Florida always match up well.

    Their physical styles make for a great game almost every time they meet. The Gators and head coach Will Muschamp will need a successful season.

    Meanwhile, the Tigers are going to be vying for the SEC crown once again. Don't underestimate UF just because of its poor finish in 2013.

Baylor at Texas

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Date: Oct. 4

    2013 Result: Baylor 30, Texas 10

    Texas can feel its dominance over the state slipping away.

    With Texas A&M blossoming in the SEC and Baylor winning its first Big 12 title, the Longhorns aren't the only premier program in the Lone Star State.

    Baylor topped UT with ease last year, and new head coach Charlie Strong will be looking to reassert his new program's place atop the state.

    A win over Baylor would do that.

Michigan at Ohio State

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    Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Date: Nov. 29

    2013 Result: Ohio State 42, Michigan 41

    Michigan nearly notched a momentous rivalry victory over Ohio State in 2013.

    The Wolverines saw their two-point conversion fail in the waning seconds of the game. If it had been good, they would've won.

    With that promising result in their rearview, they'll take on the Buckeyes with plenty of confidence—and with a senior at quarterback in Devin Gardner.

Clemson vs. Florida State

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    Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Date: TBD

    2013 Result: Florida State 51, Clemson 14

    Clemson and Florida State's tilt in Death Valley was supposed to bring national title implications last year—and it did.

    The Seminoles annihilated the Tigers and went on to win it all, while Clemson was out of the conversation after the defeat.

    FSU will likely be favored to win again, as CU will be a bit of a mystery without Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. Can the new-look Tigers achieve a different result?

Oklahoma State at Baylor

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    Richard Rowe-USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Date: Nov. 22

    2013 Result: Oklahoma State 49, Baylor 17

    Oklahoma State delivered Baylor its first loss last year—and it was a painful one.

    The Cowboys trounced the Bears in a game that was never really close. BU has to think it can do better this time around.

    This time, at home in its new stadium, the contest should be more competitive.

Georgia vs. Florida (in Jacksonville)

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Date: Nov. 1

    2013 Result: Georgia 23, Florida 20

    The always unpredictable rivalry between Florida and Georgia is usually a good one, no matter the stakes.

    UGA and UF will be in different places next season. The Bulldogs will be moving on without quarterback Aaron Murray, and they'll boast perhaps the deepest running back corps in college football.

    Meanwhile, the Gators will be welcoming back a wealth of players who were injured in 2013. If they can stay healthy, they'll be a contender.

    Even if both programs aren't in the thick of the SEC race, this will be a good game.

South Carolina at Clemson

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    Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Date: Nov. 29

    2013 Result: South Carolina 31, Clemson 17

    South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier knows how to stir up a rivalry.

    When the Gamecocks won their second straight Capital One Bowl title, he took the time to brag on USC's "state championship."

    This game means everything to both rivals—and it will once again in 2014.

Stanford at UCLA

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    2014 Date: Nov. 28

    2013 Result: Stanford 24, UCLA 10

    Brett Hundley was harassed by the Stanford defense last year, and he'll be back for seconds next year.

    This time, the Cardinal will be coming to the Rose Bowl, and the Bruins will be ready.

    Stanford seems to have a way of beating teams built like UCLA—can Hundley's squad buck that trend? 

Oklahoma vs. Texas (in Dallas)

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    2014 Date: Oct. 11

    2013 Result: Texas 36, Oklahoma 20

    Texas shocked Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry last year, which was the biggest win of the year for the Longhorns.

    The Sooners are looking like the team to beat in the Big 12 going into the season.

    Even if they weren't, and even if the 'Horns weren't fighting back into conference contention with new head coach Charlie Strong, this rivalry would be one of the biggest games to look forward to.

Ohio State at Michigan State

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    2014 Date: Nov. 8

    2013 Result: Michigan State 34, Ohio State 24

    Michigan State and Ohio State didn't meet until the Big Ten title game last year, but fans will be given the pleasure of watching them play a little earlier this year.

    MSU and OSU will be the two league title favorites, making this an obvious game to keep an eye on.

    Braxton Miller struggled with the MSU defense last year, but the Spartans will be moving on without several key members of that unit.

    As these two Big Ten powers meet again, it will be a crucial matchup for the conference (and perhaps national) title races.

LSU at Auburn

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    2014 Date: Oct. 4

    2013 Result: LSU 35, Auburn 21

    LSU was the only team to beat Auburn during the regular season last year.

    At that time, AU was still forming as a team and will be looking to show that loss was just a fluke.

    Meanwhile, Les Miles' squad will be vying to take his team back to Atlanta. That road will have to go through Auburn.

Notre Dame at Florida State

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    Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Date: Oct. 18

    2013 Result: N/A

    As Notre Dame starts its life as a partial member of the ACC, it'll have some interesting games on the 2014 slate.

    However, none will be as intriguing as its trip to Tallahassee.

    The Fighting Irish are used to playing a tough schedule, and a meeting with Florida State certainly won't be easy. Can ND notch a signature win in its first year competing in the conference?

Oregon at UCLA

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    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    2014 Date: Oct. 11

    2013 Result: Oregon 42, UCLA 14

    UCLA gave Oregon a run for its money in 2013, but that run was only about half as long as it needed to be, as the Ducks ran away late for a convincing victory.

    This contest will feature two Heisman hopefuls: Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley.

    When they do battle at the Rose Bowl, it'll be one of the biggest matchups of the season.

Alabama at LSU

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    2014 Date: Nov. 18

    2013 Result: Alabama 38, LSU 17

    The Alabama-LSU rivalry has been the best in college football in recent years.

    That trend will continue in 2014. Both programs, as always, will be on the short list of SEC title favorites.

    The Crimson Tide and the Tigers both have excellent outlooks for the season and are sure to put on an excellent show in Death Valley.

Baylor at Oklahoma

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    Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Date: Nov. 8

    2013 Result: Baylor 41, Oklahoma 12

    The two Big 12 title favorites, Baylor and Oklahoma, will meet in November—and the winner will be on the fast track to winning the league crown.

    Oklahoma went to Waco last season but was overwhelmed by the Bears on both sides of the ball.

    The biggest question for OU will be consistency. The Sooners always have talent, but they'll need to show that they can play well on a weekly basis.

    Their awful loss to BU showed they couldn't do that last year. Will 2014 be different?

Stanford at Oregon

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    Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Date: Nov. 1

    2013 Result: Stanford 26, Oregon 20

    Stanford and Oregon's tilt has carried national and Pac-12 title implications in each of the past few seasons, and all signs point to that being the case once again.

    The Ducks have hit a glass ceiling against the Cardinal the past two years. While this game has been a source of disappointment, UO is hoping for a change this time around.

    Can Marcus Mariota and the speedy Oregon offense conquer their biggest obstacle in 2014?

Auburn at Alabama

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    2014 Date: Nov. 29

    2013 Result: Auburn 34, Alabama 28

    The Iron Bowl. It was the best game of the 2013 season, as Auburn's magical finish ended Alabama's dominance of the national title and SEC race.

    The Tigers will be looking to win the SEC again and make it to the College Football Playoff. However, the Crimson Tide will be out for some retribution.

    Winning at Jordan-Hare Stadium is one thing—can Auburn do it again at Bryant-Denny?