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The 2022 college football season is knocking at the door, with Week 0 sitting just over one month away. Passionate fanbases across the country, expert analysts and Twitter fingers are well-prepared for this fall.
Many questions remain unanswered, from Alabama’s return to the playoffs, to the state of Texas running through NIL, to realignment decisions in each conference. Next year’s must-watch conference games feature offseason drama, historic rivalries and a rookie head coach that has the CFB world buzzing.
Revenge is a big factor in the most exciting matchups, along with the teams’ desire to crown themselves at the top of their respective conferences.
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The Clemson Tigers haven’t lost a game in Death Valley since November 2016 and hold the longest active FBS home win streak at 34 games. NC State is returning half its starters to a team that went 9-3 in 2021, making this game a serious threat to break the Tigers’ run.
In last year’s matchup, the Wolfpack defeated the Tigers 27-21 in a thrilling double overtime battle.
Clemson’s elite defense against NC State quarterback Devin Leary, who broke his school’s single-season passing touchdown record last year with 35, highlights one of the most intriguing matchups in the ACC next season.
There’s enough evidence to believe in NC State’s hype and Clemson’s return with a defensive line that gets back Myles Murphy, K.J. Henry and Xavier Thomas. The trio ended last season with a combined five forced fumbles and 15 sacks.
This may not be a high-scoring clash, but these two teams will put on a show for the classic football fans who love talent on the line, and the modern fan who loves dual-threat quarterback play.
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The Arkansas Razorbacks’ success was such a revelation last season that everyone is excited to see what head coach Sam Pittman and his staff can field in 2022. The Razorbacks finished 2021 with a 9-4 record, drawing national attention with wins against LSU, Texas A&M, Penn State and Texas.
Arkansas finished 2021 on a 5-1 run, with its only loss in that stretch coming against Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Razorbacks quarterback KJ Jefferson went toe-to-toe with Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young, as the pair totaled 885 passing yards and eight touchdowns.
The 42-35 loss might’ve left a bad taste in the Razorbacks’ mouths, but they’ll head back to Fayetteville this season for a vengeance game in front of the Hogs to open October.
The Razorbacks are another up-and-coming program, like Texas A&M, that has one goal in mind: dethrone the Crimson Tide. Although they’re years away from being a legitimate threat in the SEC, Coach Pittman and the Hogs are slowly receiving fanfare.
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Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher and Alabama head coach Nick Saban took turns advertising this matchup during their infamous NIL argument in May. An already intriguing game turned into potentially the biggest contest of the year outside postseason play.
Offseason feuds and a loss to the Aggies last season must have Saban eager to welcome Texas A&M to Tuscaloosa.
One of the hottest teams in college football is set to face the biggest dynasty program in the history of the sport. What’s not to like? The early-season matchup will feature the 2021 Heisman winner, Bryce Young, 247Sports‘ No. 1 class in recruiting history and two of the nation’s most prominent head coaches.
Aside from the flurry of up-and-coming stars in college football, both squads feature a handful of projected 2023 NFL draft picks, from Alabama’s Young and Will Anderson Jr. to Texas A&M’s Antonio Johnson and Layden Robinson.
The college football world will be talking about these two teams competing at the highest level for the next decade; this may be the early stages of a heated rivalry.
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The Pac-12 is crumbling faster than a Nature Valley bar, losing UCLA and USC to the star-studded Big Ten beginning in 2024. Utah’s stock has skyrocketed in the last year as one of the top teams in the West.
Head coach Kyle Whittingham and the Utes seem to be improving, despite a Rose Bowl loss last season and a 3-2 record in 2020. There’s buzz that Utah is a Top 10 threat, as it’s ranked as the No. 6 team in NCAA.com’s preseason Top 25.
Although the Utes might not warrant CFP talk just yet, they might only be a couple of years away from a bid.
The USC Trojans are in the honeymoon phase with newly hired head coach Lincoln Riley. A new quarterback in Oklahoma transfer Caleb Williams and a new offensive system bring a clean slate for the Trojans to build off after a disappointing four-year stretch.
Riley has a peaceful introduction to Pac-12 football with games against Stanford, Oregon State, Arizona State and Washington State before meeting one of the top dogs. The Utes may be able to take advantage of the Trojans’ transition when Riley heads to Salt Lake City in October.
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The Florida State Seminoles are headed to South Florida late in the season for an in-state rivalry game against the Miami Hurricanes. While both teams are revamping their rosters, first-year head coach Mario Cristobal has the Canes dominating the recruiting trail and may have assembled one of the best coaching staffs in the nation. Cristobal took his time with job applications, ultimately hiring some proven winners in Josh Gattis and Charlie Strong.
FSU and Miami have a matchup every season, and the drama seems to pile on year after year. Last season, the Noles topped the Canes 31-28 after a historic 4th-and-14 completion in the final minute of the game that extended the winning drive.
Miami beat Florida State in the in-state clash the previous four times and is looking to get back in the win column with a new coach and system. This game could push the Hurricanes toward their first ACC championship or help Florida State creep back into relevance.
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You can’t talk about the most anticipated games in college football without mentioning this Big Ten classic. The Wolverines took recent bragging rights when they trounced the Buckeyes 42-27 in Ann Arbor last season and vaulted toward the conference title game and CFP. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh carried an 0-5 record as a coach against Ohio State prior to the win in 2021.
The Harbaugh versus Ryan Day battle starts on the recruiting trail and ends on the gridiron. The OSU head coach will take complete advantage of the game being held in Columbus, where the Buckeyes have lost just two games in the last five years.
Ohio State’s electric offense, starring quarterback C.J. Stroud and receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba against Michigan’s defense, which features DJ Turner and Mike Morris should be must-see TV. Stroud was a finalist for the Heisman last season and Turner is bound for a breakout campaign at cornerback.