Best Neutral-Site Games in 2020 College Football Season

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2020

Alabama running back Najee Harris (22) breaks loose for a touchdown against Western Carolina during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)
Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

While neutral-site games are scattered throughout the history of college football, the trend has steadily increased in both number and popularity.

Some rivalries, such as Oklahoma vs. Texas and Florida vs. Georgia, play at the same location every year. In 2020, a couple of other in-conference games are heading to an unconventional spot. Those clashes are in addition to the neutral-site contests that typically happen at the beginning of the season.

One person's definition of a great neutral-site game can be considerably different than another, though.

Instead of a simple ranking of the games, we've separated the neutral-site clashes into two buckets: best matchups and best locations.

          

Best Games

The final weekend of August includes a half-dozen games, but the majority of the country will kick off the season in September. Although that first Saturday lacks a definite Top 25 neutral-site tilt, Labor Day weekend has a few appealing games.

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Alabama and USC will square off at AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys. The programs played there in 2016, and Alabama won a 52-6 rout that introduced Jalen Hurts to the nation.

Every win is meaningful for a national-title contender like Alabama, but Sept. 5 offers a greater opportunity for Clay Helton and the Trojans. He's entering 2020 in an uncomfortable spot, given widespread expectation he'd be fired after 2019 anyway. USC's performance against a likely top-five opponent will set the narrative for the 2020 seasonand specifically Helton's future.

The other borderline Top 25 matchup is Virginia vs. Georgia at the only-technically-neutral Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The following week features another possible Top 25 clash in Atlanta when Auburn takes on Mack Brown and North Carolina.

Perceptions will change as the season plays out. But right now, months away, the best neutral-site contests are seemingly the annual Big 12 and SEC matchups.

Oct. 10, the Cotton Bowl in Dallas will host Texas and Oklahoma. And three weeks later on Halloween, Florida and Georgia will meet at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. Both results may have an enormous impact on the respective league races.

The other potential Top 25 clash is between Wisconsin and Notre Dame, but that matchup is highlighted in the next section.

Lastly, on Dec. 12, the annual Army-Navy Game will take place at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

More games to know: Baylor vs. Ole Miss (Sept. 5; NRG Stadium, Houston), West Virginia vs. Florida State (Sept. 5; Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta), Notre Dame vs. Wake Forest (Sept. 26, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte), Notre Dame at Georgia Tech (Nov. 14; Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta)

          

Best Locations

Notre Dame and Navy are headed across the Atlantic Ocean to kick off the 2020 season Saturday, Aug. 29, as they square off at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland.

This will be the third all-time matchup between the schools in Dublin. Notre Dame won both previous games, earning a 54-27 victory in 1996 and 50-10 triumph in 2012. Overall, this will be the seventh FBS contest in Ireland.

Notre Dame vs. Navy in Dublin, 2012
Notre Dame vs. Navy in Dublin, 2012Peter Morrison/Associated Press

Notre Dame is also headed to a unique location in October.

For only the second time in the stadium's 63-year history, Lambeau Fieldhome of the Green Bay Packerswill host a Division I game. It first happened in 2016 when unranked Wisconsin upset No. 5 LSU. Wisconsin and Notre Dame both may be ranked for this matchup.

(Note: The second leg of this series will be played at Soldier Field in Chicago in 2021.)

And while Lambeau is packed with football tradition, Wisconsin has another historical venue on the docket. Nov. 7, the Badgers will head to Wrigley Field for a clash with Big Ten foe Northwestern.

Since the Chicago Bears played at Wrigley for five decades, it's not exactly a new concept. Over the last 50 years, though, only in 2010 did the stadium accommodate a football game.

Illinois bested Northwestern 48-27 in a contest remembered for every offensive possession advancing toward the west end zone. While a 120-yard field is still a tight fit in Wrigley, recent renovations should alleviate the safety concerns.

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

Rounding out the notable locations, Arkansas has a pair of SEC contests in NFL buildings. The Razorbacks will take on Texas A&M at AT&T Stadium for the seventh straight year and 10th time in the last 12 seasons.

On Thanksgiving weekend, Arkansas and Missouri will play at Arrowhead Stadium, home to the Kansas City Chiefs. Arrowhead has a bit of college history with a handful of Big 12 Championship Games and various Big 12 tilts, including Kansas vs. Missouri and Iowa State vs. Kansas State.

Still, the SEC clash will be Arrowhead's first college game since Missouri edged BYU 20-16 in 2015.

Although some of these matchups aren't necessarily thrilling, a unique location is exciting because we can't be certain when a certain stadium will host another game. The neutral-site trend is growing, but that doesn't mean it'll return to Lambeau or Wrigley or even Arrowhead in the immediate future.

           

Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR

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