The 8 college football games you’d really better not miss this year

Image: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

College football finally starts in earnest this weekend with perhaps the most stacked lineup of kickoff matchups the sport has ever seen.

But we’re in this for the long haul, baby. We’ll be watching until the leaves have fallen from the trees and that familiar winter chill nips at the neckline of your sweater.

In other words: This opening weekend sure looks great, but we’re watchin’ foobaw all damn season.

Without further ado, behold the top eight must-see college football match-ups of 2016. The games are presented in chronological order so you can plan your life around them because priorities are important, people.

Sept. 3: Oklahoma vs. Houston

Baker is ready to cook in 2016.

Image: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Houston plays in the small American Athletic Conference. Its name doesn’t ring many bells with casual football fans. But the Cougars ran up a 13-1 record last year and are a trendy pick this season to give big problems to larger programs.

Houston gets an early chance to justify the hype Saturday at 12 p.m. EDT, when coach Tom Herman’s squad hosts third-ranked Oklahoma.

If Houston can knock off the Sooners, the Cougar bandwagon will fill up fast as hopes rise for a major bowl appearance. But nothing will come easy against Oklahoma and quarterback Baker Mayfield, a Heisman Trophy contender.

Sept. 3: USC vs. Alabama

Head coach Nick Saban has the Alabama program humming.

Image: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Is USC ready to climb back into the national title picture? Is Alabama prepared to defend its top pre-season ranking?

Arguably the two most prestigious programs in college football clash this Saturday at 8 p.m. EDT at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. Both ‘Bama and ‘SC are introducing new starters at quarterback this season, further upping the stakes and the unpredictability of this much-hyped match-up.

Oh, and one more question: Will Alabama assistant Lane Kiffin, formerly the headman at USC, make another epic entrance?

Sept. 5: Florida State vs. Ole Miss

Deondre Francois gets ready for his close-up.

Image: Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images

Labor Day’s not complete without a cold beverage, a balmy evening and some good old college football. This year’s matchup is a classic.

Florida State is a legit national title contender despite breaking in a new quarterback in redshirt freshman Deondre Francois. Meanwhile, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze is challenged with replacing several key players, but his Rebels are still a team with top-10 quality.

Whether you root for Florida State, Ole Miss or are simply an impartial observer, this game is a perfect way to cap Labor Day Weekend. Let us praise the Football Gods.

Sept. 17: Ohio State vs. Oklahoma

Barrett can be electrifying for the Buckeyes.

Image: Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Two of the nation’s preeminent programs meeting for a juicy non-conference match-up that could have national title implications? Sign us up anytime.

Throw in Mayfield and Ohio State’s own Heisman-hopeful quarterback, J.T. Barrett, and it all gets even better. This is as big-time as college football gets, folks.

Sept. 30: Stanford vs. Washington

Is Petersen creating a monster in Seattle?

Image: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Stanford is the Pac-12’s top-ranked team and the favorite to win the Pac-12 North. Washington coach Chris Petersen, meanwhile, is in his third year leading the Huskies after a very high-profile hire away from Boise State.

Petersen is lifting the Washington program to his standards in year three; his Huskies are a pre-season top-15 team nationally, and a trendy West Coast sleeper pick.

But is Washington really ready to challenge Stanford and Oregon, longtime bullies of the Pac-12 North? This late-September showdown in Seattle should be revealing.

Oct. 29: Clemson vs. Florida State

Deshaun Watson does it all.

Image: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Heisman Trophy hopeful and future NFL Draft pick Deshaun Watson leads Clemson into Tallahassee for this Atlantic Coast Conference clash between national title contenders. Both squads were top-five teams in the pre-season Associated Press poll, packing their clash with even more meaning.

Nov. 5: Alabama vs. LSU

When it’s game time in Baton Rouge …

Image: Louisiana State University/Getty Images

Maybe you’re tired of hearing about this match-up every year but you shouldn’t be.

Alabama and LSU routinely pump out great NFL players. Their fans are rabid for football. They play in the Southeastern Conference, where pigskin is religion. So, yes it’s a big deal when they meet.

‘Bama and LSU have delivered some great match-ups in recent years. This season’s edition at Tiger Stadium, better known as Death Valley, should be no exception.

Nov. 26: Ohio State vs. Michigan

If the game gets boring, you can always watch Harbaugh …

Image: Rob Foldy/Getty Images

Jim Harbaugh has taken over the Michigan program with characteristic bombast and vigor, leading the Wolverines into this year’s pre-season top 10 while tweaking critics along the way.

Last year’s rivalry game against Ohio State, however, provided a harsh reality check for Harbaugh and company with a 42-13 beatdown in Ann Arbor. This year, Michigan travels to Columbus for what some fans simply refer to as The Game.

Can Harbaugh’s Wolverines fare better against their most hated foes this season? Only time will tell, but we can’t think of a better way to close the college football regular season.

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