Most Anticipated College Football Games of 2020
Although the 2020 college football season is hardly even a speck on the horizon, initial expectations are shaping the main storylines for the sport's next campaign.
And if a game features two presumed national title contenders, that matchup is already circled on the calendar.
Beyond the annual Big Ten and SEC rivalry tilts, 2020 will offer a road showdown for Clemson, a Texas-sized rematch for LSU and a clash between two defending Power Five champions.
The order is subjective but considers date and potential impact on conference and national championships.
10. Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin, Oct. 3
In early October, Notre Dame and Wisconsin will head to the (un)Frozen Tundra to kick off an interesting neutral-site series.
Not only will it be the first game between the schools in 56 years, but the "home-and-home" will also happen at NFL stadiums. Lambeau Field in Green Bay will host the matchup this season before the 2021 rematch takes place at Soldier Field in Chicago.
Given the history of the venue and respectable potential of both Notre Dame and Wisconsin, this is a must-see game.
9. Michigan at Washington, Sept. 5
If Michigan wants the season-ending showdown with Ohio State to matter, it has to start by winning the opener. For Washington to regain some national approval after a disappointing 2019, it has to start with winning the opener.
After the departures of the Wolverines' Shea Patterson and Huskies' Jacob Eason, each offense will have a new quarterback. Michigan will likely lean on Dylan McCaffrey, while Washington's competition will probably end with Jacob Sirmon or Dylan Morris as the starter.
The Sept. 5 showdown will be the first meeting between the programs since a home-and-home series in 2001 and 2002.
8. Florida vs. Georgia, Oct. 31
Tennessee is hoping to rejoin the SEC East chase, but the safest bets remain Florida and Georgia. The winner of this Halloween clash in Jacksonville will likely represent the division in the SEC Championship Game.
And you could say it's a pretty important title matchup.
Since 2006, every SEC champion has advanced to either the BCS National Championship Game or College Football Playoff.
We fully acknowledge it's possible both Florida and Georgia will have two losses entering the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. But if even one program is 8-0 or 7-1, this will be a pivotal game for the national championship picture in 2020.
7. Clemson at Notre Dame, Nov. 7
During the last two months of the 2019 regular season, Clemson ripped off seven consecutive wins, with the smallest margin of victory being 31 points.
Maybe it won't happen again? The margin of victory might not, at least.
Dabo Swinney is certain to play up the "revenge" angle in 2020, and a schedule with seven ACC games in the first two months leaves a slim margin for error. But even if the Tigers navigate the opening stretch as expected, their November begins at Notre Dame.
While opinions on the Fighting Irish always vary, a cold-weather trip for Clemson against a talented roster is an important game.
6. Ohio State at Penn State, Oct. 24
By this point, Ohio State will have traveled to Oregon—more on that later—and Michigan State. Penn State will have headed to Virginia Tech and Michigan, and both teams will have hosted Iowa.
The potential for a loss somewhere in that group, while not extremely high, is worth recognizing. However, it's also likely both the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions will be no worse than 5-1 and remain alive in Big Ten and national-title conversations.
We'll always be locked in for multifaceted elimination games.
Although OSU has a 7-1 record in the last eight meetings, a total of 16 points make up the last four margins of victory. For these programs, the road to any championship demands a win Oct. 24.
5. Auburn at Georgia, Oct. 10
Consider this rivalry the "Who's for Real" embrace-debate special of the week. Georgia may have a forgivable loss to Alabama on the resume but otherwise be unblemished by Oct. 10, while Auburn will probably carry a 5-0 record into the contest.
Perceptions of these programs may hinge on this result.
Georgia might be able to recover from losses to Alabama and Auburn, but a two-loss team still hasn't reached the CFP. While one loss wouldn't crush Auburn, a second letdown against either Alabama or LSU would likely eliminate the Tigers from championship talks.
Auburn hasn't won in Athens since 2005—a home winning streak of six games for Georgia.
4. Texas at LSU, Sept. 12
When LSU traveled to Texas in September 2019, Joe Burrow announced the Tigers as a championship threat in a 45-38 win. What's in store for Round 2?
To put it simply, LSU is losing a massive portion of its production, including Burrow. While the Tigers' opener against UTSA will offer a glimpse into the replacements' effectiveness, Texas will provide their first test Sept. 12.
Oh, and is Texas back?
Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger will eye a marquee victory to begin his senior year and put 2019 behind him. Plus, a road win over the reigning national champs may drop the temperature on head coach Tom Herman's warming seat.
Conversely, an ugly loss would put immense pressure on Herman before Big 12 play even arrives.
3. Georgia at Alabama, Sept. 19
This will only be the second regular-season game between Georgia and Alabama in the last decade. Get rid of divisions, please and thanks.
Anyway, Kirby Smart's club will travel to face Nick Saban's team in the most important SEC tilt of September. Georgia is entering the post-Jake Fromm era, and Alabama is moving on from record-setting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
We expect two elite defenses to take the field in Tuscaloosa. How will the offenses compare?
As one program notches a quality early win, the loser will be tagged with a razor-thin margin for error over the following nine games.
2. Ohio State at Oregon, Sept. 12
Ohio State holds a 9-0 advantage in the all-time series, including wins in the 2014 season's national championship and the 2009 campaign's Rose Bowl. But the last regular-season clash between the Buckeyes and Oregon happened in 1987.
Rare matchup? Good.
Two defending power-conference champions? Better.
The expected favorite playing on the road? Best.
Justin Fields will guide Ohio State into a raucous Autzen Stadium to face a potentially exceptional Oregon defense. Plus, the Ducks need to replace Justin Herbert, and opening the season against North Dakota State and Ohio State is a tough start.
The storylines for this Sept. 12 matchup are compelling, and the impact of the result only makes the contest more attractive.
1. Alabama at LSU, Nov. 7
Auburn is a threat in the SEC West, but there's no question about the most important game in the sport's best division.
Even though both Alabama and LSU lost historic quarterbacks and a handful of likely first-round NFL draft picks, high expectations remain for the teams. Unless both programs have dropped two games by November 7, CFP aspirations will be at stake.
True, the loser isn't guaranteed to be eliminated. Yes, clashes with Auburn and Texas A&M still await the winner either way.
The result of this rivalry, however, is fully expected to have a major impact on SEC and national championship discussions.
Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.