2019 college football schedule: Ranking the 10 most intriguing games for next season
College football may be more than eight months away, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look ahead
- by Ben Kercheval
- Jan 9, 2019 at 12:02 pm ET • 5 min read
If you’re having college football withdrawals already, fear not, National Signing Day and spring practice are seriously right around the corner. If that’s not enough to satisfy your insatiable appetite for all things college football, though, fear not again, as we’re already looking ahead to the 2019 season.
Glancing at the schedules, there are already some huge games on the horizon. Nonconference matchups tend to garner the most attention because they’re not played every year, but even now there are some conference games that already look big on paper. Below are 10 intriguing games to remember as we trudge through the offseason. Keep in mind these aren’t supposed to necessarily project as the “best” games, just the ones that look to be the most intriguing due to their storylines both on the field and off of it. Surely, everyone will agree 100 percent with them.
10. Fresno State at USC, Aug. 31: Let’s go beyond the fact that Fresno could upset the Trojans on the road, which would be a story in and of itself. USC is in a tough spot. Coach Clay Helton overhauled his staff out of necessity, but he never even had a chance to show off his big, splashy hire in offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, who already left to become the coach of the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL. ( USC completely botched this situation as well ). There’s some heat on Helton’s seat and while USC may not have been in a position administratively to fire him last year, an opening-week loss to Fresno State might set things into motion to make a change.
9. Ohio State at Nebraska, Sept. 28: Nebraska was a trendy preseason pick to challenge for the Big Ten West title this past season thanks to the arrival of coach Scott Frost, but the Cornhuskers showed early on they weren’t close to being ready. By the end of the year, though, Nebraska was a far more formidable team. If Frost’s trajectory at Nebraska pans out to be anything close to his time at UCF, Year 2 will show a remarkable improvement. A home game against Ohio State will be a get-up moment for this team if there ever was one.
8. Boise State vs. Florida State, Aug. 31: Boise State makes its living (so to speak) off of early-season games like these as it battles for Group of Five supremacy, but somehow this feels like a bigger moment for Florida State. The Seminoles are coming off of a 5-7 season and while it’s understandable that coach Willie Taggart needs time to even put together an offensive line, he’ll only get so much if he continues to lose. Boise State always wants to prove itself against college football’s blue bloods, but Florida State could use a win here.
7. Florida vs. Miami, Aug. 31: It’s not quite Florida State-Miami or Florida-Florida State since Florida and Miami don’t play as frequently as they used to, but it’s a rivalry nonetheless and a perfect way to kick off the 2019 season. Miami is breaking in a new coach, Manny Diaz, and desperately needs to find quarterback help this offseason with Buffalo’s Tyree Jackson eschewing the grad transfer route in favor of the NFL.
6. Auburn vs. Oregon, Aug. 31: Oregon’s game vs. Washington will be big, yes, but there’s drama anytime Auburn coach Gus Malzahn is involved. The man has been as good as fired over the course of a calendar year more times than any other that I can remember. Depending on the outcome of this game, Auburn will finally pay up and part ways or hand him a 10-year fully guaranteed contract. Oh, and Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert will be a Heisman Trophy candidate. There’s that, too.
5. Texas A&M at Clemson, Sept. 7: How good was Clemson in 2018? The Tigers played in two games decided by one possession all year on their way to a national championship. Texas A&M was one of them. Every other game besides Syracuse was decided by a margin of at least 20 points. The Aggies travel to Death Valley this time in what could very well be a top-10 battle.
4. Ohio State at Michigan, Nov. 30: It’s probably a bit foolhardy to put Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh on a hot seat of any kind. All he’s done is win 73 percent of his games with three 10-win efforts in four years. However, he’s yet to beat Ohio State or win so much as the Big Ten East. We’re quickly approaching the “if not now, then when?” moment for Harbaugh relative to the Buckeyes’ curse, which carries a ton of weight. The game will be in Ann Arbor and Ohio State coach Ryan Day will be in his first year.
3. Alabama at Texas A&M, Oct. 12: Any talk of Alabama’s dynasty somehow being over is laughable, but history does show that at least one team per season is able to trip up the mighty Crimson Tide. Is Texas A&M that team this year? If the Aggies were to, say, beat Clemson on the road, their home game against Alabama might end up being the most anticipated game of the season. Both teams will be coming off of an open week, too.
2. Notre Dame vs. Georgia, Sept. 21: Notre Dame has two mega games on the road: this one and at Michigan on Oct. 26. Both are important for their own reasons, but this game is early enough in the season that it should likely feature top-10 teams. Since both programs could be jockeying for a playoff spot next year as well, a quality win such as this would be huge for their respective resumes. This also remains one of the most unique nonconference games as these two powerhouses have only met twice before.
1. LSU at Texas, Sept. 7: You know as well as I do that Texas is going to get a monster bowl bump in the preseason polls after beating Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. (Dennis Dodd has the Longhorns at No. 11 in his way-too-early Top 25 ). Well, here will be its first chance to prove a lot of believers right. However, LSU almost always wins these huge early-season nonconference games, with the exception being a 16-14 loss to Wisconsin in 2016.
Honorable mentions: Houston at Oklahoma (Aug. 31), Army at Michigan (Sept. 7), Pitt at Penn State (Sept. 14), Stanford at UCF (Sept. 14), Oregon at Washington (Oct. 19), Notre Dame at Michigan (Oct. 26).