There are plenty of games every year that are worth looking forward to in the college football season. Specifically, nonconference games can have a lot of hype to them. Here are the best nonconference games in college football in 2020.
1. Clemson Tigers At Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Nov. 7)
Notre Dame’s affiliation with the ACC has paid off with some big games in the past and this year there will be a rematch of a College Football Playoff (CFP) game from two seasons ago.
Clemson enters this season as favorites to make the CFP. They have Trevor Lawrence back at quarterback, Travis Etienne at running back and plenty of other talented players throughout their roster. At this point in the season, the Tigers could be undefeated and may not be fully tested by their schedule. A win in this game could be their only signature win of the season.
Notre Dame has a top 10 team with 12 returning starters. They will be led by Ian Book, who will need to take a step forward with his game this year. He led them to the College Football Playoff two years ago, but now he will be shouldering a lot of the offense. The offensive line will be one of the most complete units in the country, which should help. The battle in the trenches alone will make this game worth watching, but if Notre Dame’s defense can slow down Lawrence, they can possibly pull off the upset.
2. Ohio State Buckeyes at Oregon Ducks (Sep. 12)
When Ohio State won their National Championship in 2015, they defeated the Ducks to do it. The teams have met in Rose Bowls, which gives this game some history, but both are also talented this season.
Ohio State is back in the thick of the CFP talk after making an appearance last season. Justin Fields had a fantastic season at quarterback for the Buckeyes and is back as a possible Heisman candidate. He’ll have a talented offensive line and wide receiver Chris Olave to help him do better this season. The defense has experience in defensive end Jonathan Cooper, their linebacking core and in cornerback Shaun Wade. This game will be a first big step to get back to the CFP.
The Ducks will have a new face at quarterback this year, which will likely be Tyler Shough. Outside of him they will have a lot of talent. They have the best left tackle in football in Penei Sewell and one of the best college edge rushers in Kayvon Thibodeaux. If Shough plays well, the Ducks will compete in the Pac-12. If Shough falters, they still have enough talent to win a lot of football games.
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Wisconsin Badgers (Oct. 10)*
This game features two of the more consistent and storied programs in college football. It is also being played in a historic venue. Notre Dame and Wisconsin will square off at Lambeau Field in Green Bay for a game that has two solid teams, a lot of history and an iconic venue.
As mentioned, Notre Dame has a top 10 team that will be looking to make a run to the CFP. Their schedule has a few big games and this is certainly one they have to be ready for. It is expected that both teams in this matchup will have good offensive lines, so the winner may be who can run the ball and control the clock more effectively.
Jonathan Taylor may be in the NFL, but the Badgers have 13 returning staters and will be ready to play for this game. Jack Coan can be the x-factor if he can improve this season. The running game will always be there at Wisconsin, but solid quarterback play isn’t often seen. The eight returning starters on the defensive side of the ball helped the team rank 10th last season. The Badgers have the potential to win the Big Ten West this season.
4. Texas Longhorns at LSU Tigers (Sep. 12)
The game that started the hype for LSU last year in Austin is now heading to Baton Rouge. Both teams have question marks surrounding them, but they are very talented nonetheless.
Texas took a step back last year and only won eight games. This year though, they have 14 returning players from the starting lineup. This includes Sam Ehlinger, who has now become the best quarterback the Longhorns have had since Colt McCoy. His dual-threat abilities and the returning talent around him give Texas a real shot to win the Big 12.
LSU has this game at home, which will be beneficial due to how much talent they have to replace from last season. They have just eight starters back, but they have really good players who can help the new players get acclimated. Ja’Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall will be two of the best receivers in the country. Their job will be to make Myles Brennan comfortable as the new starting quarterback. The defense will be led by corner Derek Stingley, who shuts down top receivers often. If Stingley can help limit what Ehlinger can do on offense, the Tigers may be able to have another big win over Texas.
5. Alabama Crimson Tide vs. USC Trojans (Sep. 5)*
Two of the sports most storied programs are set to meet in Arlington, Texas to kick off the year. Both Alabama and USC have good teams this season and there will be matchups to watch all over the field.
Alabama may have missed the CFP last season, but they will be in contention again this year. Whether Mac Jones or Bryce Young takes snaps under center for the Crimson Tide, they’ll have a talented receiving core and a good offensive line to work with. Najee Harris could be a Heisman contender this season if things fall in place. The defense only has five returning starters, but with defensive lineman LaBryan Ray, linebacker Dylan Moses and cornerback Patrick Surtain, they’ll be a great unit once again.
When J.T. Daniels, and some of their other quarterbacks, went down with injuries last year, freshman Kedon Slovis filled in and shined. He’ll be back with 16 other starters, giving the Trojans hope in the Pac-12. They have a great receiving core and a few starters back at every level of the defense. The Trojans need to improve from their eight-win season last year, but they could shock the world early on in the college football season.
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