The college football season is quickly approaching, with the first week of the season kicking off in September. Although the COVID-19 pandemic still looms large, the NCAA has no plans to adjust the college football schedule or postpone it as of yet.
With that in mind, it is safe to assume each team’s schedule will go on as planned, save for Notre Dame’s trip to Ireland to take on Navy, which got moved to Annapolis, Maryland. We will be specifically examining the toughest game each top program will have on their schedule, regardless of whether stadiums will be at full capacity.
Until Michigan starts putting up a better fight in The Big Game, Penn State should put up the best fight against the reigning Big Ten champs. The last four meetings between the East Division foes have been tightly contested with an averaging point differential of 3.75 points. Nonetheless, the Buckeyes have held up strong against PSU, losing just once (2016) since James Franklin arrived in Happy Valley in 2014.
With the rest of the ACC expected to be mediocre, it’s a no brainer that Clemson’s biggest test will come out of the conference in South Bend. The Tigers should expect the Irish to treat this game like their Super Bowl, as Notre Dame still has plenty of key players remaining from their embarrassing performance in the 2019 CFP semi-final, including quarterback Ian Book.
The Tide has a pretty tough schedule on the surface, however, the Georgia game, as well as the Iron Bowl, will be at the friendly confines of Bryant-Denny Stadium. Also, USC is a bit of an unknown commodity given its recent tendency to fall short of expectations. Despite the hostile environment of Death Valley, Nick Saban and Co. have fared well in Baton Rouge having not lost there since 2010 while currently holding a two-game shutout streak in those games.
Although The Cocktail Party against Florida will have plenty of SEC title implications, the visit to Tuscaloosa is by far the biggest challenge for Kirby Smart’s squad. The Bulldogs have lost five straight to Alabama, including losses in the 2019 National Championship and 2012 SEC Championship. The two teams have not faced off in Bryant-Denny Stadium since 2007, which ironically is Georgia’s last win in the series.
Visits to Virginia Tech and Michigan will not be easy, however, Ohio State is on another level compared to those teams. Regardless of whether or not there will be a sold-out, white-out crowd in Beaver Stadium, the Nittany Lions will have their hands full containing Heisman finalist Justin Fields.
The Gators do have an inter-divisional matchup with defending champ LSU, however, they will get to host the Tigers at The Swamp on October 10th. Meanwhile, arch-rival Florida State is an unknown with Mike Norvell heading into his first year as the Seminoles coach. That leaves us with The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party on Halloween, a game where the Gators have lost three straight meetings.
With the Bedlam game being played in Norman, the Red River Rivalry stands out as the most difficult matchup for the Sooners. Although Oklahoma has won seven of the last ten meetings at the Cotton Bowl, six of the last seven games have been decided by one touchdown or less. With Lincoln Riley breaking in an inexperienced quarterback after three seasons of working with seasoned transfers, the Sooners will be in for a battle.
The neutral-site game at Lambeau against Wisconsin and the season finale at USC are tempting picks, we have to go with Clemson. The Tigers will be bringing a ton of offensive firepower to Notre Dame Stadium with quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne. The Irish defense led by linebackers Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Drew White will certainly have their hands full when Clemson comes to town.
The defending national champions will be reloaded after the departures of several key players, including Heisman winning quarterback Joe Burrow. The Tigers will enter the 2020 season with one of the most brutal schedules in college football, with road games at Auburn and Texas A&M along with a visit from Alabama. With a relatively light schedule in the first five games (Texas notwithstanding), LSU will get their first major test at the Swamp against a tough Florida defense.
Although tough games await at Michigan, against Notre Dame in Green Bay, and an October 10th visit from Minnesota, the season finale at Iowa should be the toughest game on the Badgers’ schedule. Although the Hawkeyes are not projected to be serious threats in the Big Ten West Division, the postseason implications for Wisconsin will put plenty of pressure on coach Chryst’s team to fend off Minnesota for the division title.
With their toughest conference matchups being at home, it’s pretty easy to single out the Ohio State visit. With the new quarterback under center to replace four-year starter Justin Herbert, the Ducks will need all the offense they can get against a stacked Buckeye defense.
The Aggies will look to take the next step and claim their first SEC West Division title as Jimbo Fisher enters his third year with the program. A&M’s schedule will feature a road trip to Auburn as well as a season finale at home against LSU. However, the biggest test will come against Alabama in Tuscaloosa, where Fisher will try to become the first former Nick Saban assistant to beat the Alabama head coach.
The debate on whether Texas is back as a national powerhouse will continue into the 2020 season, which will be a make or break season for coach Tom Herman. Thankfully for Longhorn fans, the wait will be short as Texas will get to prove themselves early in Death Valley against the defending national champs. If senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger can overcome a strong LSU secondary led by Derek Stingley Jr., college football fans will start taking the Longhorns seriously as national title contenders.
Like Texas, USC is in prove-it mode after giving coach Clay Helton a vote of confidence despite under-achieving in recent years. The Trojans will get an early season wake up call when they meet Alabama in Jerry World. With a high flying offense led by sophomore quarterback Kedon Slovis, it will be interesting to see if USC can put up points against an always strong Tide defense.
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Andre has been writing for WSN since February 2019, covering college basketball and college football. A graduate of Florida State and UNC-Chapel Hill, he lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. When he is not writing, he enjoys playing sports and Magic: The Gathering.
Email: [email protected]More info on Andre Viljoen
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