There are plenty of games every year that are worth looking forward to in the college football season. Conference games bring rivalries and high stakes at the end of the season. Here are the best conference games in college football in 2022.
10. Wisconsin Badgers at Ohio State Buckeyes (Sep. 24)
In what could be a foreshadowing of the Big Ten Championship, Wisconsin and Ohio State will match up in late September.
Wisconsin has eight returning starters, which is rather low, but they have found the ground game to lean on. Braelon Allen emerged as a star for the Badgers last season. Their defense returns just three starters, but they were top five in the country last year. If quarterback Graham Mertz can give them more in the passing game, Wisconsin can win the Big Ten West.
Ohio State is looking to bounce back after a “down year” when they won the Rose Bowl. With quarterback C.J. Stroud, running back TreVeyon Henderson and wide receiver Jaxson Smith-Njigba all back the offense is in great shape. The defense had some struggles last year, but has six returning starters and a new defensive coordinator. The Buckeyes will be disappointed if they don’t make the College Football Playoff.
This won’t be Ohio State’s only tough game of the season and they will be favored. Wisconsin can make things very difficult for them though.
9. Oklahoma State Cowboys at Oklahoma Sooners (Nov. 19)
If Oklahoma is allowed to leave the Big 12 early, this could be the last Bedlam matchup. It could also have massive Big 12 implications.
The Cowboys have 10 starters back from their 12-win team last season. Spencer Sanders returns to start again for Oklahoma State at quarterback. The offensive output could improve with wide receiver Brennan Pressley also returning. The defense was a top 10 unit in 2021, but they have just four starters back and lost their defensive coordinator. They are expected to compete for the Big 12, but it will be tough for the offense and defense to improve after losing a lot.
Oklahoma lost their head coach and plenty of players to the transfer portal. Brent Venables has entered to coach, while Dillon Gabriel will play quarterback. They have 11 starters back from last year, five on offense and six on defense. Marvin Mims will help Gabriel get the offense moving again. The offense will have to carry the team while Vengables gets the defense up to speed.
The second last week of the regular season features this big game, which has rivalry implications and possible New Year’s Six Bowls at stake.
8. USC Trojans at Utah Utes (Oct. 15)
The two biggest contenders for the Pac-12 South meet up in mid-October. USC and Utah will be two teams that could have some big battles over the next few seasons.
USC has become “Transfer U” with Lincoln Riley bringing in quarterback Caleb Williams, running back Travis Dye and wide receiver Jordan Addison. Riley’s offense will likely be successful, as long as they can run the ball. The defense has a lot of work to do in order to improve, as they didn’t rank in the top 100 last season.
Utah has an outside shot to make the College Football Playoff. They return 13 starters, including quarterback Cameron Rising and running back Tavion Thomas. Their offense should improve after ranking 13th in scoring. The defense was ranked 35th and brings back five starters.
This conference game could decide a lot when it is all said and done. Utah being at home gives them the edge, but if Riley can get back the offense he created at Oklahoma a few years ago, it could be anyone’s game.
7. Miami Hurricanes at Clemson Tigers (Nov. 19)
The ACC hasn’t had too many great conference games over Clemson’s reign, but they showed they were vulnerable last year. They have a few games this season that could give them trouble.
Miami found their quarterback last season after Tyler Van Dyke filled in for the injured D’Eriq King. He has six other starters back with him after they ranked 23rd in scoring. Four starters return on defense, but the Hurricanes have been recruiting well, as NIL has helped them. The Hurricanes are projected to improve from their 7-5 record in 2021.
Clemson won 10 games last year, but lost both coordinators and really have to improve their offense. After years of recruiting well, they have the talent and 13 returning starters. D.J. Uiagalelei will need to improve at quarterback, but the offensive playcalling also needs to improve. The defense has a chance to be the best in the country, which could carry them to an ACC Championship.
This game could be a rematch in the ACC Championship Game with Miami looking for their biggest season in years and Clemson looking to bounce back to the College Football Playoff.
6. NC State Wolfpack at Clemson Tigers (Oct. 1)
In one of the more thrilling games of the 2021 season, NC State knocked off Clemson. Other losses prevented the Wolfpack from making it to the ACC Championship, but this year could be different.
NC State returns 17 starters from their 9-3 team a season ago. They ranked 14th in scoring defense and have 10 players who played major roles back on that side of the ball. On offense, Devin Leary had a fantastic 2021 season and could take a giant step forward in 2022. Their 2022 season looks like it could be more successful than 2021.
As mentioned, Clemson’s defense looks like they can be championship caliber, which means this game could be low-scoring. It will be up to the offense to put some points on the board. Uiagalelei will need to improve and put up points in this game specifically to come home with the win.
After a classic last year and so many players returning for NC State, this game has the chance to be even better in 2022, even if Clemson does have the homefield advantage this year.
5. Utah Utes at Oregon Ducks (Nov. 19)
A Pac-12 North vs. Pac-12 South matchup could end up being the exact same as the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Utah, as mentioned, has a good offense returning and a defense with the potential to improve. They are the Pac-12’s best bet to make the College Football Playoff or New Year’s Six Bowl after nearly winning the Rose Bowl last season. They defeated Oregon twice last season, once in the regular season and once in the Pac-12 Championship Game. This year Utah will be game-planning against a new coaching staff in Eugene.
Dan Lanning was an assistant at Georgia, but is now the head man for the Ducks. He will have Bo Nix at quarterback, who needs to show some signs of improvement. There are six other starters back on offense, but new playmakers will need to step up. On defense, the Ducks lost some starpower, but return seven starters, including star linebackers Justin Flowe and Noah Sewell. If the defense improves, a Pac-12 Championship could be within their sights.
There is a possibility that Utah heads into this game undefeated, so there could be a lot at stake.
4. Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Texas A&M Aggies (Sep. 24 in Arlington, TX)
Arkansas and Texas A&M routinely play at AT&T stadium, but this season’s game could be electric. Both teams were in the preseason top 10 by TGH.
The Razorbacks only have nine returning starters, but one of them is star quarterback K.J. Jefferson. Jefferson is a dual-threat quarterback, who is tough to bring to the ground at 245 pounds. although they lost Treylon Burks to the draft, five other starters return on offense. The defense returns just three starters, but safety Jalen Catalon and linebacker Bumper Pool are impact players. Arkansas has a chance to have a very successful season.
Texas A&M has been the talk of the offseason because of their recruiting, but they also have a great shot at being good this season. They return five starters on both sides of the ball. Their quarterback situation needs to be figured out, but they have playmakers in Ainias Smith and Devon Achane to help the offense. The defense ranked third in the country last season and should be strong on the backend.
If Alabama slips up, which may come to either team, then this game has increased importance.
3. Alabama Crimson Tide at Arkansas Razorbacks (Oct. 1)
Last season, this game ended with Alabama winning by seven points. This year could be an even better game.
Alabama comes into this year with the best offensive and defensive players in football. Bryce Young will run the offense after winning the Heisman last year. Four other starters are back on offense. On defense, Will Anderson was arguably the best player in all of college football last season. Six other starters join Anderson. Both offensively and defensively they ranked in the top 20.
In the past, Alabama has struggled with quarterbacks who can scramble and Jefferson presents that threat. If he can create some big plays for Arkansas, they have a chance to upset Alabama, especially because they are at home.
The SEC West can get really crazy this year if Alabama loses one game. Arkansas could be the team they lose to.
2. Michigan Wolverines at Ohio State Buckeyes (Nov. 26)
The Game is regularly on this list of top 10 conference games in college football and this year has some added flavor after Michigan defeated Ohio State and made the College Football Playoff.
Michigan has 12 returning starters, with seven of them being on the offensive side of the ball. Cade McNamara is back at quarterback with J.J. McCarthy lurking. The offense will rely on the running game though, which will need big contributions from Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards. The defense will have to replace their dynamic pass rush, but can be effective after ranking in the top 10 last season.
Ohio State’s offense can be dynamic, but they will have to focus on stopping the run in this game. They will have revenge on their minds.
The Game is always must-watch television, but after last year, there is a heightened level of anticipation.
1. Texas A&M Aggies at Alabama Crimson Tide (Oct. 8)
This game has been the talk of the offseason and has some drama for on and off the field.
The Aggies recruited well with some help from NIL, which has drawn the ire of Nick Saban. Jimbo Fisher has defended himself and his coaching staff. His talented team has a chance to knock off Alabama for the second straight year.
Alabama will have back-to-back tough games on their hands with Arkansas and Texas A&M. They will want revenge for last season, but will also be focused after the feud the two schools have been in this offseason. They’ll need Max Johnson or Haynes King to play very well at the quarterback position to win.
The off-field and on-field storylines for this game make it one that every college football fan should have circled on their calendars.
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