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50 Most Anticipated College Football Games for 2016 Season

Brian PedersenFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2016

50 Most Anticipated College Football Games for 2016 Season

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    Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

    That calendar you received as a holiday present has been sitting on the wall, so lonely, just waiting to get marked up with important dates for the new year. The birthdays and anniversaries are listed, but it still feels like something is missing.

    And then you remember: the 2016 college football season! Gotta get those Saturdays charted out, so in case someone tries to invite you to a fall wedding, you can say you already have plans.

    The 2016 slate is not fully complete, as a few leagues—cough, Atlantic Coast Conference—haven't released their schedules, and there's always the possibility of some games getting shifted to a weeknight for TV purposes. For the most part, though, things are set enough to start looking ahead to the most anticipated games of the fall.

    And there are plenty. We almost could have filled the list just with games on the opening weekend, which promises to be among the most intriguing first weeks ever, though interesting games are set for every weekend.

    Check out our list of the 50 most anticipated games of 2016 and then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

California vs. Hawaii (in Sydney, Australia)

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    When: Aug. 27

    When the confetti fell on Alabama following its national championship win over Clemson on Jan. 11, the excitement of that victory was mixed with the sadness of knowing that was the last real college football game for almost eight months. Twitter was overrun with the start of "countdowns" to the opening weekend of 2016, but that skipped over the real start to next season.

    California and Hawaii agreed during the fall to open 2016 Down Under, playing an extra game at ANZ Stadium, home of the 2000 Summer Olympics. It will be the first game in Australia since 1987.

    Hawaii is used to having long trips, as it's also scheduled to visit Michigan and Arizona, along with four Mountain West opponents. Cal, meanwhile, is making its first trip outside the country since facing Washington State in Tokyo in 1987.

Clemson at Auburn

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    When: Sept. 3

    The ACC and SEC have a strong bond forged by numerous rivalry games between in-state schools from the opposing conferences, though those are reserved for the end of the season. Luckily, we get one to open 2016, with national runner-up (and likely title contender) Clemson heading on the road to start its journey back to the championship game.

    This will be the fourth meeting between the two Tigers since 2010, with Clemson taking the last two games in 2011 and 2012. And combined with the season-ending game against rival South Carolina, it will mark the seventh consecutive year it faces two SEC teams.

    Auburn opened 2015 with a win over the ACC's Louisville in Atlanta—its first win against the league since the 2011 Peach Bowl against Virginia.

Alabama vs. USC (in Arlington, Texas)

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    When: Sept. 3

    Alabama is becoming like Duke basketball in that it's picked up some second and third home fields beyond Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. It ends most regular seasons with a game in Atlanta for the SEC championship, and for the third time since 2012 it gets started at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

    But instead of meeting an ACC, Big Ten or Big 12 team, the Crimson Tide is branching out and facing someone from the Pac-12 for the first time since falling to UCLA in 2001.

    The Alabama-USC matchup might be the most anticipated of any on the first full opening weekend, and not just because it reunites 'Bama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin with his former employer. USC's current staff, led by former Kiffin assistant Clay Helton, features several other coaches whom Kiffin hired during his brief tenure with the Trojans.

    The game also will serve as the beginning of 'Bama's national title defense, as well as the start of what will become an increasing number of SEC/Pac-12 clashes over the next few years.

Houston vs. Oklahoma (in Houston)

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    Associated Press

    When: Sept. 3

    In announcing a two-game series with Houston in September 2014, Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione was quick to point out the southern Texas city "has long been a stronghold of support for OU," per Kevin Kelley of FBSchedules.com. Translation: We're willing to play a neutral-site game against a team from the American Athletic Conference for our boosters and to further boost future recruiting.

    Little did the Sooners realize at the time they were setting up against the top non-power conference team in the country, one that knocked off three power teams in 2015 en route to a 13-1 record and a Peach Bowl victory. And that this Houston team would possibly be a preseason Top 10 team, anchored by a dangerous dual-threat passer in Greg Ward and coached by an offensive wizard in Tom Herman.

    Oklahoma is no slouch, of course. The Sooners won 12 games in 2015 and made the College Football Playoff semifinals. They return their own set of dynamic offensive weapons led by quarterback Baker Mayfield.

    The game will take place at NRG Stadium, home of the NFL's Houston Texans and where the Cougars played their games for a few years before their on-site stadium opened in 2014.

LSU vs. Wisconsin (in Green Bay, Wisconsin)

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    When: Sept. 3

    Wisconsin will open its season against an SEC team for the third year in a row, but this time the game will be in Big Ten territory instead of down south.

    The Badgers will host LSU at Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers, after losing to Alabama and LSU in Texas the past two seasons. This will mark the first college game in Green Bay since 1983, the fourth overall, and the first involving FBS schools.

    LSU is 3-0 all-time against Wisconsin; the 2014 win was a comeback victory in which the Tigers rallied from a 17-point deficit. That game marked the collegiate debut of running back Leonard Fournette, though he only had six carries for 18 yards. Coming off a sophomore year when he led FBS in rushing yards per game, expect Fournette to be a little more involved this time around.

Arizona vs. BYU (in Glendale, Arizona)

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    When: Sept. 3

    The first of a three-game series between the former Western Athletic Conference foes, the game will be played at University of Phoenix Stadium where the 2016 national championship was just held. BYU has never competed on that field, while Arizona lost to Boise State there in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl.

    Independent BYU has an ambitious schedule on tap for this fall, welcoming new coach Kalani Sitake by opening with four consecutive games against power-conference teams and facing six in the first seven weeks. The Cougars also visit Utah and Michigan State, host UCLA and Mississippi State and play West Virginia in Landover, Maryland.

    For Arizona, BYU is the closest it has come to a power non-league opponent since Rich Rodriguez's first season in 2012. The Wildcats have gone 3-0 in the preseason in four straight seasons.

Notre Dame at Texas

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    When: Sept. 3

    Notre Dame has gotten grief for putting an end to some of its long-standing rivalries in favor of scheduling games with other programs. We'd love to see the Fighting Irish renew their series with Michigan as soon as possible, especially with Jim Harbaugh in Ann Arbor, but if the alternatives are true road games against other notable schools, then it's not so bad.

    The Irish romped to a 38-3 home win over Texas to open the 2015 season, the first of several humbling losses for the Longhorns during a 5-7 campaign. Charlie Strong will enter his third year on the hot seat, needing to show some improvement in order to calm the fanbase, and a win against Notre Dame would go a long way toward doing that.

    Texas might actually be the more experienced team this time around, as Notre Dame lost several starters to graduation and the NFL draft. The Longhorns are 2-9 all-time against the Irish, with their last win coming in the 1970 Cotton Bowl.

UCLA at Texas A&M

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    When: Sept. 3

    While the Pac-12 and SEC still need to figure out a way to start facing each other during bowl season, at least the leagues are starting to make regular-season games happen. This is one of two Pac-12/SEC clashes on the slate for September, but unlike the USC/Alabama contest, this one is on a home field.

    And Texas A&M hopes to make the most of every single member of its "12th Man" crowd, which figures to be using all of the 102,733 seats available in Kyle Field.

    A&M is playing a Pac-12 school for the second year in a row after beating Arizona State in Texas last September. That was part of a 5-0 start for the Aggies, but after that their offense fell apart as they lost five of eight games (as well as two starting quarterbacks to transfers).

    UCLA has had recent success in the Lone Star State, winning at Texas and against Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl during the 2014 season and against Virginia Tech in the 2013 Sun Bowl. The Bruins' last loss in Texas came at Houston to open 2011.

Florida State vs. Ole Mississippi (in Orlando)

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    When: Sept. 5

    Neutral-site games have become all the rage in college football, particularly when it comes to season openers. There are seven on the docket for Week 1, including in the usual venues in Arlington, Atlanta and Charlotte, as well as new additions like Orlando.

    The Citrus Bowl hosts one of the better bowl games each January but is now getting into the regular-season business, with Florida State vs. Ole Miss one of three scheduled games over the next four seasons. Alabama and Louisville will play there in 2018, while Florida and Miami (Florida) will rekindle their rivalry in the shadow of Disney World in 2019.

    Both FSU and Ole Miss have done the neutral-site thing in recent years, with FSU opening the 2014 season with a win over Oklahoma State in Arlington and Ole Miss downing Boise State that same year. The schools haven't faced each other since 1961, when the Rebels scored a 31-0 win over FSU.

Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech (in Bristol, Tennessee)

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    When: Sept. 10

    College football games have been played in baseball stadiums, soccer stadiums and even track and field complexes the last few years. As long as there's enough turf to fit a football field on, someone is going to try to schedule a game there.

    But on the infield of a race track? Now that is something new.

    Tennessee and Virginia Tech haven't met in football since the 2009 Chick-fil-A Bowl, and their last regular-season meeting came in 1937. Their states share a border, and right in between Knoxville and Blacksburg just happens to be one of the most iconic auto racing complexes in the country. The Bristol Motor Speedway will transform into a football venue for what's being billed as the “Battle at Bristol,” with as many as 150,000 fans expected to attend.

    That would blow away the current record for the largest college football crowdthe 115,109 that attended the 2013 Michigan/Notre Dame game in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Arkansas at TCU

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    Samantha Baker/Associated Press

    When: Sept. 10

    Arkansas has been in the SEC since the early 1990s, moving over from the Southwest Conference the same time several other schools bolted for the Big 12. That league went away, but the Razorbacks are doing their best to keep the memory alive by facing numerous former SWC rivals.

    Besides their annual clash with Texas A&M (a game that's currently played in Arlington, Texas) the Razorbacks faced Texas Tech in 2014-15 and downed Texas in the 2014 Texas Bowl. And now they're starting a home-and-home series with another old foe, one they haven't come across since 1991.

    TCU was one of the odd teams out when the Southwest folded, spending time in the Western Athletic Conference, Conference USA and the Mountain West before joining the Big 12 in 2012. The Horned Frogs are now near the top of their new league, having gone 23-3 the past two seasons.

    TCU will make the return trip to Arkansas in 2017.

Penn State at Pittsburgh

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    When: Sept. 10

    The state of Pennsylvania has three FBS programs, with the two biggest names (sorry, Temple) being Penn State and Pittsburgh. These cross-state rivals have played 96 times, with PSU holding a 50-42-4 edge, yet their last meeting came in 2000 when Pitt earned a 12-0 win over the Nittany Lions.

    The schools agreed to renew the series back in 2011, first for two years and then two more. Going beyond that might depend on what happens in these games, though with both the ACC and Big Ten requiring their schools to play at least one power non-league opponent each year, this would help each team satisfy that requirement.

Oregon at Nebraska

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    When: Sept. 17

    Oregon will make its second trip in as many seasons to the Midwest to face a Big Ten school, hoping this time around it will go a little better.

    The Ducks lost at Michigan State last September, and during that game quarterback Vernon Adams further injured a broken finger that forced him to miss several games. Oregon slumped to 3-3 and never had a chance to contend for a playoff spot, finishing 9-4.

    Nebraska also had a rough 2015 season, going 6-7 but still getting into a bowl game thanks to the lack of winning teams. The Cornhuskers knocked off UCLA in the Foster Farms Bowl to end on a high note in Mike Riley's first season.

    Riley is quite familiar with Oregon, having spent many years as Oregon State's head coach before coming to Lincoln.

Ohio State at Oklahoma

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    When: Sept. 17

    Bob Stoops and Urban Meyer have combined for 333 wins and four national titles during their coaching careers, yet they've only faced off once. That came in the 2009 BCS title game, when Meyer's Florida Gators scored their second championship in three seasons via a 24-14 win over Stoops' Oklahoma Sooners.

    The schools have only played twice, the last time in 1983, but they are set to clash each of the next two Septembers.

    This game will complete a rather rigorous non-league slate for Oklahoma, which opens against Houston. For Ohio State, it will be the second year in a row it plays on the road against a power opponent before Big Ten play, as it opened the 2015 season with a Labor Day win at Virginia Tech.

USC at Stanford

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    When: Sept. 17

    Because Stanford and USC both face Notre Dame each year, doing so either in the middle or end of Pac-12 play, each ends up having to start its conference play earlier than the rest of the league. That's fine by us, since this in-state series has been great over the past decade.

    Stanford swept a pair of games from the Trojans in 2015, winning at USC in September and then again in the Pac-12 title game in December in Santa Clara, California. The first was when Steve Sarkisian was still in charge of USC, while the second came in Clay Helton's first game as permanent head coach following a stint as the interim leader.

    Regardless of who was coaching the Trojans, they had no answer for Stanford's Christian McCaffrey. Then again, no one did, as he averaged 355 all-purpose yards in those games and finished 2015-16 with an FBS-record 3,864 yards.

Michigan State at Notre Dame

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    When: Sept. 17

    Had Notre Dame not faced Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl earlier this month, it would have marked the first season since 1916 that it didn't play at least one team from the Big Ten. That streak will live on for at least a few more years, with Big Ten foes lined up through 2018.

    Michigan State makes a return to the schedule after a two-year hiatus, with the Spartans looking for their first win in Notre Dame Stadium since 2007.

    Notre Dame's scheduling agreement with the ACC calls for it to play four or five teams from that league each year through 2025, which has caused it to push out some other rivalries. This will be the 78th time the Fighting Irish and Spartans will meet, with Notre Dame holding a 48-28-1 edge.

Alabama at Ole Miss

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    When: Sept. 17

    The SEC often gets knocked for its odd scheduling format, which leads to several teams playing lesser opponents (including FCS teams) late in the season when the rest of the country is knee deep in league action. But the trade-off for this is having conference games littered throughout the first few weeks.

    Alabama and Ole Miss have met in September in three of the previous four seasons, and in the last two this game has resulted in Alabama's first (and only) regular-season loss. The Rebels ended a 10-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide in 2014 and then won in Tuscaloosa for the first time since 1988 last fall.

    The Tide then ran off 12 straight wins to claim their 16th national title and fourth in the past seven seasons, while Ole Miss parlayed that victory into its first 10-win campaign since 2003.

Wisconsin at Michigan State

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    Associated Press

    When: Sept. 24

    The Big Ten moves to a nine-game conference schedule in 2016, joining the Big 12 and the Pac-12 in this scenario. This means more crossover games between the East and West divisions and consequently more strong matchups over the course of the season.

    Michigan State and Wisconsin completely avoided the other division's top teams last year, with Wisconsin drawing Maryland and Rutgers from the east, while Michigan State got Purdue and Nebraska (though it lost to the latter on a controversial fourth-quarter touchdown). This season the Badgers hit the mother lode, opening with consecutive trips to Michigan State and Michigan and then hosting Ohio State; MSU's other crossovers are later in the season against Northwestern and at Illinois.

    The schools last met in 2012, while in 2011 they played in the first-ever Big Ten title game. Wisconsin claimed a 42-39 win, avenging a regular-season loss to the Badgers.

Stanford at UCLA

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    When: Sept. 24

    When the Pac-12 expanded to 12 teams in 2011, it split into two divisions, putting half of its California teams in the North and the other two in the South. However, a clause ensured that all four would meet every season to preserve their rivalries.

    UCLA probably wishes that hadn't been the case, at least when it comes to Stanford. The Bruins have lost eight in a row to the Cardinal and twice in 2012 including the conference championship game. The 2014 loss came at home on the final Saturday of the regular season, preventing UCLA from winning the South Division title.

    Last year's setback might have been the most humbling, though, as Stanford rolled to a 56-35 victory in a game that saw Stanford receiver Francis Owusu make an unbelievable touchdown catch by pinning the ball against the back of a UCLA defender.

    "The improbability of the grab was out of this world, and he still made it happen," Bleacher Report's Justin Ferguson wrote of what was voted the Catch of the Year for 2015.

Florida at Tennessee

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    When: Sept. 24

    Is this the year that Tennessee finally breaks through and reclaims the SEC's East Division? Or is this going to be like 2015, when the Volunteers entered with a heaping of preseason hype, only to blow several big leads early on during a 3-4 start?

    One of those blown advantages came at Florida, where the Vols led 27-14 with 10:19 left, only to allow two touchdowns in the final 4:09 of play. That was Tennessee's 11th straight loss to the Gators, the last two by one point apiece.

    Tennessee could be riding a nine-game win streak if things go as hoped during the nonconference slate, which features home games against Appalachian State and Ohio and the “Battle at Bristol” against Virginia Tech.

Oklahoma at TCU

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    Jackson Laizure/Getty Images

    When: Oct. 1

    TCU has been in the Big 12 since 2012, but the Horned Frogs didn't really “arrive” in the conference until the 2014 season. That's when they shared the conference title with an 8-1 record, getting things started with a 37-33 home win over Oklahoma in early October.

    Paul Dawson's interception return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference, and it was one of two defensive scores in that game for the Frogs. That also proved to be the breakout game for quarterback Trevone Boykin, who had 395 yards of total offense and two TD passes.

    Boykin and Dawson are gone, though, as TCU will have new players starting on both sides of the ball. Oklahoma brings back most of its explosive offense, including quarterback Baker Mayfield, who in the Sooners' home win over TCU in 2015 pulled himself from the game at halftime after suffering a head injury.

Wisconsin at Michigan

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    Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Oct. 1

    Wisconsin has the unenviable distinction of beginning Big Ten play with consecutive road games, both in the state of Michigan. It hasn't been to Ann Arbor since 2010, but that did result in a 48-28 victory.

    The Badgers come into 2016 having won seven straight road games, all in the league, with their last loss coming in October 2014 at Northwestern. Last season, however, their road opponents all finished with losing records.

    Though both Michigan and Wisconsin have holes to fill in their defenses, expect a low-scoring game. In 2015 these teams both ranked in the top six nationally in scoring defense and top four in total defense.

Tennessee at Georgia

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    When: Oct. 1

    Tennessee's quest for its first SEC East title since 2007 could be decided before the 2016 season is half over, as it opens the league facing its two main competitors for the division. After hosting Florida, the Volunteers head to Athens a week later, looking for their first road win over Georgia since 2006.

    Last year's meeting in Knoxville served as a turning point for both teams' seasons. Tennessee rallied from a 24-3 first-half deficit to win 38-31, setting the tone for a 7-1 finish after starting 2-3. Georgia, meanwhile, lost star running back Nick Chubb to a gruesome knee injury on the first play from scrimmage, and its offense never recovered.

    This will be Georgia's only home game during a four-week stretch that includes trips to Missouri and Ole Miss beforehand and a visit to South Carolina afterward.

Oklahoma vs. Texas (in Dallas)

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    When: Oct. 8

    The Red River Shootout is the centerpiece of the Texas State Fair every year, with the Cotton Bowl in Dallas equally split between Oklahoma fans in crimson and cream and Texas fans in burnt orange. It's one of those rivalry games where the records don't matter, as Oklahoma was reminded last year when it lost to a Longhorns team that was 1-4 and had lost 50-7 the week before.

    Oklahoma managed only 17 points against Texas and then went on to average 52 points during a seven-game win streak to claim the Big 12 title and a spot in the playoffs. Texas finished 5-7, matching its fewest wins since 1997.

Ohio State at Wisconsin

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    When: Oct. 15

    Quite a bit has changed since Ohio State and Wisconsin last met in December 2014 in the Big Ten championship game.

    The Buckeyes used that 59-0 destruction of the Badgers to secure a spot in the first-ever College Football Playoff, which they won for the school's first national title since 2002. Wisconsin found itself searching for its third head coach in four years after Gary Andersen bolted to Oregon State only days after the loss; the school replaced him with Paul Chryst.

    Chryst had a strong first season in Madison, winning 10 games despite having the program's least productive rushing offense in years. Ohio State couldn't repeat as national champs, falling to Michigan State at home in mid-November for its only loss in its last 26 games.

    Ohio State has won two of its last three games at Wisconsin, with the last coming in 2012.

Alabama at Tennessee

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    When: Oct. 15

    Butch Jones' tenure at Tennessee has been filled with attempts at ending long negative streaks, whether against select opponents or in terms of overall season performance. In 2014 he led the Volunteers to their first winning season since 2009 and first bowl victory since 2008, and last year they got their first win against Georgia since 2006.

    Which streak will come to an end in 2016? Tennessee will have already attempted to snap its 11-game skid to Florida earlier in the season and then comes a chance to end a nine-game run of losses to Alabama.

    The Vols nearly got it done last October, taking a 14-13 fourth-quarter lead in Tuscaloosa, only to fall 19-14. That was the last time they lost, winning six in a row to end 2015.

Stanford at Notre Dame

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    When: Oct. 15

    Notre Dame's rivalry with Stanford doesn't have as much history as its series with fellow Pac-12 school USC, but the recent games have been much more competitive with the Cardinal. The last four meetings have all been decided by one score, with the home team holding serve every time.

    Stanford's 38-36 home win last November ended Notre Dame's hopes of squeaking into the playoffs, and the season before, the Fighting Irish pulled out a 17-14 home win thanks to Ben Koyack's 23-yard touchdown catch with 1:01 left.

    Notre Dame has a 19-11 edge in the series, winning nine of the last 10 in South Bend.

Wisconsin at Iowa

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    Associated Press

    When: Oct. 22

    The Big Ten loves its rivalry trophies, many of which involve animals. That includes the Heartland Trophy, a bronzed bull that has gone to the winner of the Iowa/Wisconsin game since 2004. Each school has brought this hardware home five times, and its current residence is a trophy case in Iowa City after the Hawkeyes claimed a 10-6 win at Wisconsin last season.

    There was no game in 2011 because Iowa and Wisconsin were slotted in different divisions after the Big Ten expanded to 12. The addition of Maryland and Rutgers in 2014 led to division realignment, going geographical this time, and the teams will now meet every year.

    The rivalry existed long before the trophy came along, however, dating back to 1894. Wisconsin holds a 44-43-2 edge overall.

Florida vs. Georgia (in Jacksonville)

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    When: Oct. 29

    Though it's no longer officially labeled the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party," it's still a big shindig whenever Florida and Georgia meet up halfway between Athens and Gainesville for their annual clash. Jacksonville's EverBank Field has hosted the game since 1996, and from 1933 to 1993 the meeting was also played in that city.

    Florida has won the last two games in the series, using last year's victory on Halloween to help it secure the SEC East Division title. Georgia returned to Jacksonville on Jan. 2 for the TaxSlayer Bowl, winning 24-17 over Penn State to reach 10 wins for the fourth time in the last five years.

    The 2016 edition will be the first for new Georgia coach Kirby Smart, who takes over after Mark Richt and the Bulldogs parted ways following a 15-year run. Florida's Jim McElwain won his debut last season.

Michigan at Michigan State

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    When: Oct. 29

    Jim Harbaugh's return to Ann Arbor has raised Michigan back into the elite of college football, as the Wolverines put together a tremendous first season that far exceeded expectations. But the year wasn't without its “what ifs,” and none was bigger than the one associated with the shocking end to the Michigan State game in October.

    The Wolverines held a 23-21 lead over the Spartans and seemed to have the game in hand after forcing a turnover on downs with 1:47 left. After a few runs to eat up clock, all they had to do was punt the ball away with 10 seconds left, and the game would be over.

    Easier said than done. Michigan punter Blake O'Neill muffed the snap, but instead of just falling on the ball he tried to get the kick off and was swarmed by MSU players. The ball eventually ended up in the hands of MSU's Jalen Watts-Jackson, who returned it 38 yards for a game-winning touchdown as time expired on the Spartans' 27-23 victory.

    "A mistake was made," Harbaugh said, per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). "Mistakes were made. It's very unfortunate circumstances."

    Watts-Jackson ended up dislocating his hip as teammates piled on him in the end zone to celebrate MSU's third straight win over Michigan and its seventh in the last eight meetings.

TCU at Baylor

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    When: Nov. 5

    No power conference has gone through more of a metamorphosis over the past few years than the Big 12, both in terms of its members and those who control the league. What used to be a conference ruled by the old guard of Oklahoma and Texas now has an influx of new blood thanks to the rise of Baylor and TCU.

    Those two schools shared the 2014 conference title; it was the second year in a row Baylor had won at least a piece of the crown. Each was in the hunt this past season before injuries knocked them out of contention, which took the shine off a highly anticipated matchup on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

    Torrential rains didn't help, either. Both teams struggled to move the ball until regulation ended, with 21 of the game's 49 points scored in overtime. TCU won 28-21 to avenge the thrilling 2014 game claimed by Baylor.

    Instead of coming at the end of the Big 12 slate, this time Baylor and TCU meet in Waco, Texas, to get what should be another exciting November in the league off to a great start.

Oregon at USC

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    When: Nov. 5

    Oregon and USC don't meet every season, but when they do, the scoreboard gets a workout. Since 2009 their five meetings have averaged 82.8 points, with the lowest-scoring game in that stretch still resulting in 67 points.

    The Ducks have been on the winning end in four of those games, including last year's 48-28 home win that was part of a six-game win streak. Oregon also won the last matchup in Los Angeles, a 62-51 decision in 2012.

Alabama at LSU

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    When: Nov. 5

    Among the many reasons that Alabama and LSU tend to always finish at or near the top of the recruiting rankings is their respective track records for sending players to the NFL. Since 2010 the schools have had a combined 81 players get drafted, and several more figure to hear their names called during the 2016 draft.

    As a result, when the Crimson Tide and Tigers meet each year—usually at the start of November—it's like a preview of future pro football stars.

    Expect nothing less when they face off in Baton Rouge this fall, as LSU will try to end a five-game losing streak to Alabama that includes a loss to the Tide in the 2012 BCS title game.

Baylor at Oklahoma

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    When: Nov. 12

    The Big 12 didn't backload its schedule as much as it did a year ago, but most of the biggest games still come during the final month of the regular season. Baylor will play its second straight game against an 11-win team after hosting TCU the week before, while Oklahoma's only home game in November comes against the Bears.

    The Sooners will hope this one goes better than the last time they hosted Baylor. The 2014 game saw the Bears roll to a 48-14 result victory, their first win in Norman in 12 tries.

    Oklahoma returned the favor in Waco last November, winning 44-34 en route to the conference title.

Auburn at Georgia

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    When: Nov. 12

    The SEC remains committed to an eight-game league schedule, making for only two crossover conference games every season. But thanks to the establishment of “traditional” inter-division rivals, we'll always have the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry.

    Auburn and Georgia have met 119 times since 1892, with Georgia taking a 56-55-8 lead in the series thanks to two straight victories. The Bulldogs have actually claimed seven of the last nine meetings, though it was Auburn that won arguably the most memorable edition in 2013.

    That's the game that included the play that will forever be known as the "Prayer at Jordan-Hare," a 74-yard touchdown pass from Nick Marshall that was tipped in the air by Georgia safety Josh Harvey-Clemons and into the hands of Ricardo Louis for the game-winning score with 25 seconds left. Auburn parlayed that miracle win into an SEC title and a trip to the BCS championship game.

Michigan at Iowa

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    Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Nov. 12

    Michigan and Iowa haven't played since 2013, but their tremendous 2015 seasons will forever be linked because of one player.

    Quarterback Jake Rudock started 12 games for Iowa in 2014, but not long after that season ended coach Kirk Ferentz named backup C.J. Beathard as his starter. That prompted Rudock to transfer for his final year of college, and he ended up at Michigan as part of Jim Harbaugh's first season as coach.

    Rudock went on to have one of the best seasons in Wolverines history, throwing for 3,017 passing yards and tallying six games with at least 250 passing yards, including the final five games. No Michigan QB had ever had more than two consecutive 250-yard passing games.

    Michigan went 10-3 for the season, while Iowa (with Beathard leading the offense) won a school-record 12 games and reached its first Rose Bowl in 25 years.

Stanford at Oregon

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    David Madison/Getty Images

    When: Nov. 12

    The Pac-12's North Division has six teams, but only two schools have represented it in the conference championship game: Stanford and Oregon. They've also claimed all five league titles—three by Stanford (including in 2015) and two by the Ducks.

    That history puts a premium on the winner of their annual meeting, which has come in early or mid-November every year since 2011. The North champion has been determined by this game in each season except the most recent, as Stanford dropped a 38-36 home decision yet still went on to finish one game ahead of Oregon.

    Three of the last four games have been decided by six or fewer points, including the 2013 game that saw Stanford race to a 26-0 lead, only to hold on for a 26-20 victory.

Louisville at Houston

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    Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press

    When: Nov. 19

    The American Athletic Conference established itself as the top league among those known as the "Group of Five," doing so by having several of its teams notch wins over power-conference opponents. Houston was at the forefront of that accomplishment, beating three power teams in 2015 including Florida State in the Peach Bowl.

    Another of those big wins for the Cougars came at Louisville, a 34-31 win in September that was the first sign that coach Tom Herman had something going in his debut season.

    "We trained nine months for this moment," Herman told Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle. "None of us in the locker room are surprised."

    Now comes the rematch, which will be the first of two straight non-league games for Louisville after wrapping up ACC play early. The Cardinals ended last year with six wins in its final seven games and sits 14th in Bleacher Report's most recent projected top 25 for 2016, three spots behind No. 11 Houston.

Ohio State at Michigan State

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    Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

    When: Nov. 19

    Urban Meyer has won 50 games in his first four seasons at Ohio State, the best start for a coach in FBS history. That run has included an unbeaten season, a national championship (in a different year) and win streaks of 24 and 23 games.

    But there's been one notable hurdle that Meyer has struggled with during his Buckeyes tenure: Michigan State. The Spartans are responsible for two of his four losses in Columbus. The first came in the 2013 Big Ten title game to snap 24 straight wins to start his OSU gig, and then a 17-14 home loss last November snapped a 23-game win streak and prevented OSU from being able to defend its national title.

    Ironically, Meyer has won both meetings with the Spartans that were played in East Lansinga 17-16 victory in 2012 and a 49-37 outcome in 2014.

UCLA at USC

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    When: Nov. 19

    The rivalry games that litter the final weeks of the regular season in college football are usually to determine bragging rights within a state or region. For UCLA and USC, it's to see who owns Los Angeles.

    This crosstown rivalry has been played since 1929, either as the last or second-to-last game for each team depending on whether USC is hosting Notre Dame on Thanksgiving weekend. USC snapped a three-game skid to the Bruins last year, a win that clinched it the Pac-12's South Division title, while before that the Trojans won five straight and 13 of 14 in the series.

    With no NFL teams in the area, UCLA and USC have made Los Angeles the largest college town in America. That could change now with the Rams relocating from St. Louis, with the plan to play games in the L.A. Coliseum (on USC's campus) for a few years.

Florida at Florida State

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    When: Nov. 26

    The ACC and SEC square off in four rivalry games during the final week of the regular season—battles for bragging rights in the four states (Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and South Carolina) where the leagues cross paths. The Florida/Florida State game stands out from the pack, though, because it often has national championship implications.

    Florida's 2006 and 2008 national titles wouldn't have happened had it not beaten the Seminoles in late November. The same goes for FSU's 2013 crown and its spot in the 2014 semifinals, and both teams had title aspirations when they met in 2012 (a game won by Florida).

    Additionally, eight times since 2006 at least one team in the game had won its division in the ACC or SEC.

Michigan at Ohio State

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    Andrew Weber/Getty Images

    When: Nov. 26

    To laymen, the Michigan/Ohio State game is just another college football rivalry. To those with a rooting interest, it's "Ohio" against "That School Up North," and no other game on the schedule that weekend comes close to mattering as much.

    This year's game will be the 113th meeting since 1897, with Michigan holding a 58-48-6 lead despite having lost the last four games and 11 of 12 to OSU. It's the most well-attended rivalry in the country, too, with both stadiums holding in excess of 100,000 fans.

    Even with OSU's recent dominance in the series, interest is at an all-time high. You can thank the coaches for that, as Urban Meyer has re-established the Buckeyes as an elite program and Jim Harbaugh has already made inroads to do the same with Michigan in just one year on the job.

Notre Dame at USC

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    When: Nov. 26

    There are many reasons for Notre Dame's reputation as a nationally followed college football program, the most notable of which might be its desire to play games all over the country. With fans and alumni in every corner of the United States, the Fighting Irish never want for crowd support no matter where they play outside of South Bend.

    The biannual trip to Los Angeles never ceases to disappoint when it comes to the presence of Notre Dame fans, who flock to the Coliseum over Thanksgiving weekend in even-numbered years. They've only managed to see three wins by their team this century, most recently in 2012.

    That 22-13 victory locked up a spot for Notre Dame in the BCS title game, which it lost to Alabama. The Irish's last national title, in 1988, came five weeks after they beat USC on the road.

Auburn at Alabama

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    When: Nov. 26

    The Iron Bowl might have greater national significance than any other in-state rivalry in the country, at least over the past seven years. That's because the winner of the annual game between Alabama and Auburn has played for a national title in six of those seasons.

    The only exception during that stretch was in 2014, when Alabama posted a 55-44 home win over the Tigers but ended up losing to eventual national champion Ohio State in the playoff semifinals.

    Alabama used wins over Auburn in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2015 as springboards to national championships, while Auburn beat the Crimson Tide in 2010 en route to a national title and made the BCS title game after the 2013 season that included the famed "Kick-Six" win over 'Bama.

Mississippi State at Ole Miss

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    When: Nov. 26

    While Alabama/Auburn is an in-state rivalry with a national flair, the Ole Miss/Mississippi State game has more the feel of a local feud. Calling it the "Egg Bowl," as it's been known as since 1979, just adds to its atmosphere.

    But don't think that makes this season-ending game any less intense. If anything, the local flavor just adds to the rivalry.

    Ole Miss holds the all-time lead in the series at 63-43-6, having won three of the last four games. Last year's 38-27 win by the Rebels was the first game since 2010 that wasn't taken by the home team.

Oklahoma State at Oklahoma

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    Brett Deering/Getty Images

    When: Dec. 3

    You could write a book about the crazy history of the Oklahoma/Oklahoma State rivalry, or you could sum it up in one word: Bedlam. That's what the series has come to be known as, and it's fitting, given how wild the games tend to be.

    Though Oklahoma holds a commanding 85-18-7 edge overall, since Mike Gundy has been O.K. State's coach the rivalry has become much more balanced. The Cowboys only have two wins in his 11 seasons, but two of the last four meetings have gone to overtime, and a third was decided in the final minute.

    The Big 12 recently won the right to hold a conference title game despite not having 12 teams or two divisions, though no decision has been made on whether that will happen in 2016. If it does, it would require moving Bedlam off the first week of December, where it's been held three other times since 2011.

Army vs. Navy (in Baltimore)

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    When: Dec. 10

    Some games are about more than football, where the final outcome has no bearing on the experience or anything else. Army and Navy could not keep score, and it wouldn't take away from this annual meeting of service academies, which is so beloved it gets its own weekend of the schedule.

    Played on the second Saturday of December every year since 2009, the game alternates between Baltimore and Philadelphia. Last year's game in Philly ended the way most have lately, with Navy claiming victory for the 14th straight season.

Clemson at Florida State

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    Richard Shiro/Associated Press

    When: TBD

    The ACC is the only power conference that hasn't released its league schedule for 2016, but we already know who will play whom and where. It's just a matter of when each team will play its eight conference tilts and in what order.

    Once the slate is announced, though, chances are the first game most people will search for is the one between Clemson and Florida State.

    One of those teams has participated in the ACC title game as Atlantic Division champions in each of the past seven seasons, with either Clemson or FSU winning the league crown five straight times. Clemson took the 2015 ACC championship en route to a 14-0 start and a spot in the national title game, while FSU's 2013 national title and 2014 semifinal appearance were fueled by regular-season wins against the Tigers, as well as conference championships.

Louisville at Clemson

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    When: TBD

    Louisville enters its third season in the ACC with what might be its best shot to compete for an Atlantic Division title yet. The Cardinals shook off a slow start in 2015 to win six of their final seven games.

    They started 0-3 last fall, the first time in coach Bobby Petrino's career that he's lost the first three games of a season. The third of those games came at home to Clemson, a 20-17 defeat in which Louisville held a 10-7 lead but didn't have enough offense to hang on.

    That was before Louisville fully understood what it had in freshman quarterback Lamar Jackson, who only had 23 yards of total offense against Clemson. A week later he had 396 yards, including 184 on the ground, and he ended the year with 226 rushing yards and 227 passing yards in the bowl win over Texas A&M.

    Jackson and Clemson's Deshaun Watson, the first player in FBS history to throw for 4,000 yards and run for 1,000 in the same season, will make this a must-see game no matter when it ends up getting placed on the 2016 schedule.

Florida State at Louisville

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    Mark Wallheiser/Associated Press

    When: TBD

    Just like the previous two yet-to-be-scheduled ACC games that made our list, the Florida State/Louisville game is likely to have an impact on not just the conference title race but also who from the league has a shot to make the playoffs.

    Louisville is set to face four ACC teams that made it to bowl games in 2015, and three of those will come to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Since moving over from the Big East in 2013, the Cardinals are 6-2 at home against league opponents, with the losses coming to Florida State in 2014 and Clemson last season.

    For the record, both of those teams to win at Louisville ended up taking the Coastal Division and ACC titles and then went on to the playoffs.

     

    Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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