The long 2020 college football season ended with Alabama winning another college football playoff championship.
The Crimson Tide beat Ohio State 52-24, which completed a schedule that was hit by COVID-19 from start to finish. Many of those non-conference regular season games that make September special have been called off. We’re not talking about traditional clashes like Iowa-Iowa State, which will also be good. We are talking about the game that we don’t normally see.
Hopefully that will change in 2021. Here are 10 non-conference games that we look forward to next September.
Best non-conference matches of September 2021
1. Clemson vs. Georgia (September 4)
The Tigers and Bulldogs meet at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC, in what is expected to be the top five game opener of the season. DJ Uiagalelei takes over from Trevor Lawrence at Clemson, and this experience this season should pay off against another loaded Bulldogs defense. It’s the first important piece of the college football playoff puzzle.
2. Oregon in the state of Ohio (September 11)
It was one of the best non-conference clashes that was wiped out in 2020. The Ducks are the two-time reigning Pac-12 champions and return a tough defense led by Kayvon Thibodeaux and Noah Sewell. Ryan Day, a former Ducks assistant, will have another charged offense in Columbus.
3. Miami vs. Alabama (September 4)
Hopefully D’Eriq King, who suffered an ACL tear in the Cheez-It Bowl, is recovered for this game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The Crimson Tide remains perfect as a neutral site opener under Nick Saban, and Bryce Young will likely be the starting quarterback for the reigning national champions.
4. Wisconsin vs. Notre Dame (September 25)
The Badgers and the Irish were scheduled to meet at Lambeau Field last season. The game at Soldier Field in 2021 is expected to be just as good between two schools built around their offensive lines. Graham Mertz is leading the Badgers’ offense, and it will be even more intriguing if Wisconsin Jack Coan’s transfer begins for the Irish.
5. Auburn at Penn State (September 18)
Big Ten-SEC games always attract interest, and first-year coach Bryan Harsin faces a challenge on the road at Happy Valley. Veteran quarterbacks Bo Nix and Sean Clifford have enjoyed measured success over the past two seasons, and this will determine who might seriously attend their conference.
6. Cincinnati, Indiana (September 18)
The Bearcats will also face Notre Dame, but that game will take place on October 2. The game against Indiana will set the table for that anyway. Tom Allen and Luke Fickell have made significant inroads to bring their programs to this stage. Michael Penix Jr. is expected to be back and wide receiver Ty Fryfogle is back for the Hoosiers. Desmond Ridder has announced that he is also returning to Cincinnati.
7. Texas at Arkansas (September 11)
This classic Southwestern Conference rivalry comes to life in Fayetteville. Sam Pittman has progressed in his first year with the Razorbacks, and Steve Sarkisian will have a powerful offense in his first season with the Longhorns. These schools have not played since 2014.
8. Washington, Michigan (September 11)
It was another house and house modified by COVID-19 this season. The Wolverines remain with Jim Harbaugh, and quarterback competition will be the focus at Ann Arbor this offseason. Washington is expected to be ranked for this game under sophomore coach Jimmy Lake.
9. LSU at UCLA (September 4)
The Tigers make a rare non-conference trip to the Rose Bowl, where a young team led by quarterback Max Johnson and cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. are expected to lead a turnaround in 2021. The Bruins enter Chip Kelly’s fourth season, and Dorian Thompson Robinson will seek a signing victory in his senior season.
10. Nebraska to Oklahoma (September 18)
There was a time when it was the flagship game in all college football. The Sooners are expected to be placed in the top five with an offense featuring quarterback Spencer Rattler. It’s business as usual with Lincoln Riley. Scott Frost is entering his fourth season always looking to put Nebraska back on the national stage. A win here would do.