Anticipation is already building toward perhaps the most looked forward to college football season in recent memory. Several teams have emerged as contenders.
There’s more parity now in college football than there has been over the last decade. Last season, Michigan broke through for its first national title since 1997. Washington made its first national title game since winning it all in 1991. Texas made its first College Football Playoff in program history.
The parity extends elsewhere. Ole Miss and Missouri broke through among college football’s elite with New Years Six wins over Penn State and Ohio State. With legendary head coaches in Alabama’s Nick Saban and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh no longer leading their programs on the field, more parity could be on the way.
More than anything, a 12-team playoff makes room for several teams to contend. It allows for powerhouses who sustain an early injury to play for a title with two losses. It allows undefeated Group of Five schools to compete without taking an one-loss power conference team’s spot in the tournament.
Let’s break down 247Sports analyst Brad Crawford’s biggest games of the year.
Texas vs Oklahoma (Dallas)
Early in the 4th quarter, Oklahoma had this massive goal line stand inside the 1-yard line 💪
It ended up being the difference in the game as the Sooners won by 4. Truly a game of inches…pic.twitter.com/PgGH3NUpaP
— 247Sports (@247Sports) October 7, 2023
The 2023 Red River game was about as close as it gets in college football. In the grand scheme of the season, it didn’t matter all that much. Texas won the Big 12 conference and went to the playoff, while Oklahoma lost to Kansas and Oklahoma State before going to the Alamo Bowl. It did give a preview of what the Sooners could be against top competition, though.
This year’s game is going to matter tremendously. And it could eliminate one of the two teams from the College Football Playoff. I would rank the game higher on the list.
Clemson vs Florida State
FLORIDA STATE WINS IN OVERTIME IN DRAMATIC FASHION‼️
— Florida St. Football is officially back!
— Dabo and Clemson look done again this year! Changes need to happen! 🤔
— MrSportsMoney (@MrSportsMoney) September 23, 2023
At first glance, some will be unmoved by a Clemson-Florida State matchup. It should be a massive game in 2024. Former Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagelelei returns to face his former team in a game that could determine the ACC champion.
Ole Miss vs LSU
Jaxon Dart’s hurdle 🔥
— The Players' Lounge (@ThPlayersLounge) October 1, 2023
Is LSU vs Ole Miss a rivalry? You bet. Next season’s matchup has playoff implications as the Rebels look poised for another double digit win season. Last year’s matchup was a high scoring battle. We could see another one of those in Baton Rouge.
Georgia vs Ole Miss
My Top 5 teams heading into the 2024 college football season.
(1-4 are interchangeable for me and could be flipped vice versa with OSU & UGA) pic.twitter.com/glXXiDlHEP
— CFBLIVE247™ (@CFBLive247_) January 24, 2024
This game could be a Top 5 matchup should Ole Miss take care of business in its manageable schedule. The Rebels were run out of the building against the Bulldogs last season, but will get to play host this time around.
Ohio State at Oregon
#12 OREGON BEATS #3 OHIO STATE 🚨
Ohio State’s first regular season loss since October 20th, 2018 😳
— Overtime (@overtime) September 11, 2021
Perhaps the most underrated game on the list, Ohio State travels to Oregon this season. Both teams break in former Big 12 starting quarterbacks in Will Howard and Dillon Gabriel. Autzen Stadium should be rocking, and there is precedence for the Ducks defeating the Buckeyes.
Oregon at Michigan
— TheWolverine.com (@TheWolverineOn3) January 30, 2024
Michigan gets to be the home team for a couple of big games, but it’s uncertain what type of team they will field. New head coach Sherrone Moore breaks in a new starting quarterback, five new offensive linemen and at least three new players on the defensive front. Could Oregon sweep the Big Ten’s top two teams?
Texas vs Michigan
Another premier nonconference road matchup for Texas and starting quarterback Quinn Ewers? The last one of those games went well. The 2024 offseason has gone about as well as possible for the Longhorns. It hasn’t gone as poorly as possible yet for the Michigan Wolverines, but returning less than one third of their starters from last season and losing their head coach is suboptimal. If you’re a top team looking to win at the Big House, this is the year to get it done.
Georgia at Alabama
1. Alabama 41, Georgia 30 (Sept. 27, 2008)
— Daniel Moore Gallery (@DanielMooreNLA) January 24, 2024
With all due respect to the Iron Bowl, facing Georgia in Tuscaloosa is the most important game on Alabama’s schedule. Are you still the same dangerous Alabama you were under Nick Saban? The Tide will get an opportunity to prove it against college football’s current dynasty.
Georgia vs Texas
— Longhorn🤘Highlights (@LonghornClips) December 5, 2023
If Texas gets through Michigan and Oklahoma with wins, this is likely a No. 1 vs No. 2 matchup. Georgia should be favored after a 42-2 record over the last three seasons. The game shouldn’t eliminate either team from reaching any of its goals outside of a perfect season, but it will have significant anticipation.
Michigan vs Ohio State
Michigan under Sherrone Moore in 2023:
• 4-0 Record 〽️
• Outscored Opponents 116-69 〽️
• Beat #10 Penn State on the road 〽️
• Beat #2 Ohio State 〽️
Sherrone Moore as OL coach:
• Won B2B Joe Moore Awards (Best OL in CFB) in 2021 & 2022
— College Football Report (@CFBRep) January 27, 2024
Does anybody want to win any game more than Ohio State and head coach Ryan Day want to beat Michigan? After three consecutive losses in the rivalry, the Buckeyes should have plenty of motivation to bring their best game. With the uncertainty at Michigan, expect Ohio State to hand the Wolverines a third loss on the season.