Future CFB Home-and-Home Series We Wish Were Happening This Season
There are already college football games scheduled for 2035 and beyond, but what if we could cherry-pick a few of those future pairings and have them in 2020 instead?
Alabama vs. Ohio State might be great in 2027 and 2028, but it would immediately become the most noteworthy nonconference game of the upcoming season if we could bring it forward a few years. Same goes for both of the series pitting LSU against the teams it faced in the most recent College Football Playoff (Clemson and Oklahoma).
Any home-and-home series agreed upon in a future season is eligible for consideration, regardless of whether it's actually being played in 2021-22 (like Auburn vs. Penn State) or all the way out in 2032-33 (like Alabama vs. Oklahoma). The only criterion beyond already having an agreement in place is that a team can be listed a maximum of two times.
Games are ranked in ascending order of how badly we wish they were going to be played in 2020.
10. Mississippi State vs. Texas Tech
Scheduled: at Mississippi State in 2028, at Texas Tech in 2029
Every other matchup in our top 10 is a battle between teams likely to open the upcoming season ranked in the Top 15 of the AP poll. It would be awesome to have those games this season, if only because of the obvious College Football Playoff implications.
This pairing? Not so much. Both Mississippi State and Texas Tech seem to be headed for 6-6 type of campaigns. As far as rankings and eventual bowl-game possibilities are concerned, this contest in 2020 would generate about as much interest as Oregon State vs. Oklahoma State did last year.
But it sure would be fun to watch new Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach go up against the school that he still maintains cheated him out of money when it fired him back in 2009. I won't take the time here to rehash the details surrounding that decision from more than a decade ago, but let's just say there's no love lost between Leach and the Red Raiders.
There could be some sparks flying before, during and after that game. And there's no guarantee we'll get to see those sparks eight years from now, considering the average expected tenure of an FBS coach isn't even four years, according to a 2017 study by Business Insider.
Beyond that coach-based sideshow, it would simply be a fun game between what we should safely assume will be two of the most pass-happy offenses in the nation this season. Texas Tech averaged 44.3 passing attempts per game in 2019, second only to Leach-led Washington State at 54.6. A combined total of more than 1,000 passing yards per game would be a strong possibility.
9. Notre Dame vs. Texas A&M
Scheduled: at Texas A&M in 2024, at Notre Dame in 2025
With a rock-solid defense and a Heisman-hopeful senior quarterback (Kellen Mond), Texas A&M is well-positioned to make the leap to "national contender" in Jimbo Fisher's third year at the helm. In SEC play, the Aggies have to deal with road games against Auburn and Alabama and a home game against LSU. Because of that in-conference gauntlet, their odds of winning the SEC West are not great. However, this team has legitimate top-10 talent.
What it also has is one of the weakest nonconference schedules compiled in the past decade, which is why it would be fantastic to move up this two-game series against Notre Dame by a few years. Granted, after back-to-back seasons of facing Clemson in Week 2, A&M has arguably earned an easier nonconference slate. But home games against Abilene Christian, North Texas, Colorado and Fresno State is a joke.
Per Caesars Casino futures, Colorado has the worst odds of winning the Pac-12 in 2020, and both North Texas and Fresno State are expected to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack in their respective Group of Five leagues. Throw in the FCS game against Abilene Christian—which lost by 38 to Mississippi State last year—and you've got a four-game slate that Texas A&M may win by a combined margin of 150 points. It's a shame the Aggies won't be challenged until that mid-October road trip to Auburn.
Notre Dame also has a Heisman-hopeful senior quarterback (Ian Book), which further increases the intrigue of theoretically moving this game up to 2020. Neither Book nor Mond ranks among the top few favorites for the stiff-armed trophy, but a head-to-head battle in September could be a huge early boost in that race for the victor. Without that matchup, they'll both need to hope that beating up on subpar competition will be enough to garner national acclaim.
8. Auburn vs. Penn State
Scheduled: at Penn State in 2021, at Auburn in 2022
A lot of the series on this list feel like they are light-years away. Who can even think about sporting events in the 2030s at this point? But Penn State and Auburn are slated to square off (for the first time since 2003) in just a little over 12 months.
Sure would be nice to nudge that game forward by one year, though, because neither the Nittany Lions nor the Tigers have a particularly compelling game on the nonconference docket.
As members of the two toughest divisions in college football, each team will eventually face plenty of challenges. Penn State will have to deal with Michigan, Iowa and Ohio State in the span of four weeks in the Big Ten, and poor Auburn has back-to-back games against Georgia and Texas A&M in October and back-to-back contests against LSU and Alabama to close out the regular season in the SEC.
If either team has College Football Playoff-level stuff, it will have ample opportunity to prove it.
But Penn State's road game against might-barely-be-ranked-in-the-preseason Virginia Tech and Auburn's "neutral-site" game in Atlanta against might-barely-be-ranked-in-the-preseason North Carolina is as tough as it gets for either team in nonconference play. And let's just say that when a non-Clemson ACC team is clearly the toughest opponent on your nonconference schedule, no one is going to applaud your bravery.
Beyond that, it would just be fun to watch two quality defenses go nose-to-nose early in the season. Both Auburn and Penn State have ranked top-25 in scoring defense in each of the past three years and are expected to thrive in that department again in 2020. This game could have a 2016 Clemson-Auburn type of vibe in which the winning team scores 14 points before reaching the CFP.
7. LSU vs. Oklahoma
Scheduled: at Oklahoma in 2027, at LSU in 2028
Not only are both of these teams legitimately in the mix for the upcoming College Football Playoff, but Oklahoma sure would appreciate a do-over of last year's Peach Bowl.
As you may recall, the Sooners were decimated by Joe Burrow and Co. by a score of 63-28. LSU recorded touchdowns on eight of its first nine possessions in a game that was over long before the final whistle. It made the previous year's CFP semifinal loss to Alabama—in which the Crimson Tide led Oklahoma 28-0 after just 17 minutes—look like a close contest.
However, you can wipe the slate somewhat clean, with both of these teams reloading after a ton of departures.
LSU and Oklahoma had a combined 15 players selected in the first 100 picks of the 2020 NFL draft. Most of them (11) were Bayou Bengals, but each team lost its starting quarterback, its leading tackler, a star wide receiver and several other key contributors. Suffice it to say, things could play out much differently this September than they did in December.
Moreover, Oklahoma arguably needs to play a game of this caliber to prove it belongs in the CFP conversation—particularly after back-to-back years of laying an egg on that stage.
As is, the Sooners' nonconference schedule consists of home games against Missouri State and Tennessee and a road game against Army. The Volunteers will probably get a few votes in the preseason AP Top 25, but don't expect any of those nonconference games to carry much weight.
6. Alabama vs. Oklahoma
Scheduled: at Oklahoma in 2032, at Alabama in 2033
Lather, rinse and repeat as far as the Oklahoma explanation is concerned. Not only would this improve an otherwise pithy schedule, but it would also give the Sooners a chance to exact revenge on a championship-caliber SEC foe who recently crushed them in the College Football Playoff.
It's nice to know they'll eventually face LSU and Alabama again but impossible to be certain those games will mean as much in 2027-28 and 2032-33 as they would this fall.
On the Alabama side of things, it would be fantastic to put an end to the "Bama ain't played nobody" refrain.
It'll eventually subside. The Crimson Tide have future agreements with Texas (2022-23), Wisconsin (2024-25), Florida State (2025-26), Ohio State (2027-28), Notre Dame (2028-29) and this pairing with Oklahoma more than a decade from now. But the past two years have been pathetic.
They beat two subpar ACC teams (Duke and Louisville), four Group of Five teams (Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Southern Miss and New Mexico State) and a pair of FCS teams (Western Carolina and The Citadel) by a combined score of 433-75.
This year's season-opening neutral-site game against USC should be a decent challenge, though not as much as a game against Oklahoma. (On the bright side, at least we're finally getting Alabama vs. Georgia in the rotating intradivision game for the first time since 2015.)
What we really wish, though, is that Alabama vs. Oklahoma had been played last fall. The wounds from the CFP loss were fresher for the Sooners then, and it would have pitted Jalen Hurts against his former team. It would still be a highly intriguing matchup in 2020, but it would have been the no-brainer choice for No. 1 in 2019.
5. Florida vs. Texas
Scheduled: at Florida in 2030, at Texas in 2031
This one has nothing to do with what's already on the schedule for these teams in 2020. Both the Gators and the Longhorns have to face reigning national champion LSU, and each has a neutral-site rivalry game against another foe that will certainly open the season ranked in the Top 10—Florida vs. Georgia and Texas vs. Oklahoma.
The Gators' nonconference schedule could be much more formidable, but it's not like head coach Dan Mullen's guys are going to be untested. Throw in Texas' road game against Oklahoma State, and the Longhorns are headed for an even tougher gauntlet. Adding Florida vs. Texas to this year's schedule would be overkill for both sides.
But this pairing would be highly entertaining in 2020 because—with the possible exception of Michigan—these are the two fanbases that most vigorously talk themselves into the impending breakthrough year every year. It'd be something of a "Who's actually back?" showdown between programs that were outstanding as recently as 2009 but haven't finished a season legitimately in the hunt for a national championship in the past decade.
Moreover, this might be the nation's most long-overdue matchup between somewhat frequent title contenders.
Dating back to 1941, Texas has finished 48 seasons in the AP Top 25, including 20 years in the Top Five. Florida hasn't been quite that consistently great, but it had 33 seasons in the final AP poll, 11 of them in the Top Five. In 2001, 2008 and 2009, they both finished in the Top Five. Thus, it's a little unfathomable that they last faced each other in 1940.
With both teams at least on the fringe of preseason CFP consideration, it would be fun to restart that series now.
4. Clemson vs. Georgia
Scheduled: at Clemson in 2029, at Georgia in 2030, at Georgia in 2032, at Clemson in 2033
Factor in the neutral-site games in Charlotte in 2021 and in Atlanta in 2024, and Clemson and Georgia will be waging war against each other six times in the next 14 regular seasons. If those programs remain anywhere near as nationally relevant as they have been for the past several years, that's going to be one heck of an almost-annual tradition from 2029 to '33.
Football fans from the Baby Boomer generation might remember Clemson and Georgia squaring off nearly every year as par for the course. They have only played each other twice since 2003, but there were 24 meetings between 1962 and '87. And why not? They're only separated by about 70 miles, and it was a particularly intriguing rivalry in the 1978-83 range, when both sides had national championship potential more often than not.
That's why we desperately want to rekindle the rivalry now while we know both teams are still in their primes.
Clemson will probably open the upcoming season ranked No. 1, and Georgia shouldn't be far behind, likely in the Nos. 4-6 range. Unless you're picking Florida to win the SEC East, just about everyone expects both the Tigers and the Bulldogs to enter conference championship week one more win away from locking up a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Not only would it potentially be a national championship preview, but Clemson vs. Georgia in 2020 also would have the intriguing side plot of Trevor Lawrence going up against the program that a lot of people thought he would sign with out of high school.
The star quarterback from Cartersville, Georgia, was down to Clemson or Georgia prior to committing to coach Dabo Swinney. It would be fun to watch him lead the Tigers against the Bulldogs, especially if the game was between the hedges in Athens.
3. Alabama vs. Ohio State
Scheduled: at Ohio State in 2027, at Alabama in 2028
This pairing just got added to the calendar a few weeks ago, and we already cannot wait for it to happen.
Alabama and Ohio State have won more games than any other program in the past dozen years, but these two juggernauts have only faced each other once in the past quarter century. Granted, that lone showdown in the 2014 College Football Playoff semifinal was an instant classic. It's a shame they don't play each other more often, though.
Neither the Buckeyes nor the Crimson Tide have suffered more than two losses in a season since 2011, and that trend is expected to continue for at least one more year.
Per Caesars Casino, Alabama is the odds-on favorite to win the SEC, and Ohio State is an even heavier favorite to win the Big Ten. And in the vast majority of way-too-early CFP projections, Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson are occupying three of the four spots, so there's a better-than-decent chance we'll end up getting this game this season after all.
However, we don't want to wait until late December or early January. We would much prefer a guaranteed clash of these titans in September, with the possibility of a rematch a few months later. Because it would be swell if we could get two renditions of Najee Harris running against the Ohio State front seven and Justin Fields trying to pick apart the Alabama secondary.
2. Ohio State vs. Georgia
Scheduled: at Georgia in 2030, at Ohio State in 2031
Trevor Lawrence against Georgia after almost choosing to play there would be entertaining.
But Justin Fields facing the Bulldogs after spending a season as their backup would be must-watch theatre.
Fields' most memorable play while with the Bulldogs was the ill-fated fake punt in the 2018 SEC championship, which is a fitting epitome of how badly Georgia botched landing one of the highest-rated players in the history of recruiting services.
He accounted for 51 total touchdowns last year with Ohio State after not getting an opportunity to thrive as a true freshman at Georgia. He will enter what is presumably his final season of college football as the favorite to win the Heisman, and it would be fascinating if the first month of that Heisman campaign featured either a big boost or a fatal blow from his former team.
And that's only part of the intrigue, as Georgia vs. Ohio State would have massive College Football Playoff implications. The winner would secure major early bragging rights, while the loser would effectively be forced to run the table to have any chance at playing for a national championship.
1. Clemson vs. LSU
Scheduled: at Clemson in 2025, at LSU in 2026
Need we say more than "rematch of last year's national championship" to justify putting this one in the top spot?
Didn't think so.
LSU is trying to maintain some of the momentum from one of the most dominant seasons in college football history, while Clemson would be trying to exact revenge on the team that ended its 29-game winning streak in January.
Clemson's Trevor Lawrence will probably be the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL draft and is one of the top candidates to win the Heisman. LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase isn't far behind Lawrence in either of those regards.
Put this game on the docket in early 2020, and everything else would pale in comparison.