College football 2020: Picking the best game each week of this year’s schedule

Will we see college football games in 2020?  

The college football season is scheduled to start next week, and 76 FBS schools are set to participate through the next 14 weeks.  

MORE: Comparing the preseason AP, Coaches polls

The schedule has a much different feel to it with the absence of 54 FBS schools because of COVID-19 concerns — including teams from the Big Ten, Pac-12, MAC and Mountain West — but the season is on for now.  

Each week of the schedule features a handful of big games — and a reason to circle the calendar.    

Best college games of 2020 by week

Week 1: BYU at Navy (Sept. 7) 

This weekend is generally jam-packed with fantastic nonconference matchups, but the first weekend will feature just 10 games involving FBS schools. Arkansas State at Memphis could get the prime-time treatment on Saturday, but the Labor Day matchup between the Cougars and Midshipmen is the best bet. It’s one of those contrast-in-styles games that could lead to a shootout.  

Others: Arkansas State at Memphis 

Week 2: SMU at TCU (Sept. 12) 

Several rivalry games were canceled this season, but at least we get the “Battle of the Iron Skillet.” SMU won 10 games last year and returns senior quarterback Shane Buechele, and TCU five-star freshman running back Zachary Evans will make his debut. SMU won a 41-38 thriller last season and hasn’t beat the Horned Frogs in consecutive seasons since 1992-93.  

Others: UAB at Miami (Sept. 10), Clemson at Wake Forest, Duke at Notre Dame  

Week 3: Virginia at Virginia Tech (Sept. 19)  

It’s another rivalry game that was pushed up the calendar, but it’s significant for both sides if they want to hang in the ACC race — which won’t have divisions in 2020. The Cavaliers broke a 15-game losing streak to the Hokies last season. Virginia hasn’t won in Blacksburg, however, since 1998. Is there more pressure on Justin Fuente here? 

Others: Miami at Louisville, UCF at Georgia Tech  

Week 4: Mississippi State at LSU (Sept. 26)  

One would normally put Florida State-Miami in this spot, but this is the SEC’s opening weekend, and the most exciting game on the schedule is easy to spot. Mike Leach will make his debut with Mississippi State, and it will be in Death Valley against the defending national champions. We finally get to see how that style will work in the SEC. Myles Brennan takes over at quarterback for the Tigers and faces the impossible task of replacing Joe Burrow.  

Others: Florida State at Miami, Kansas State at Oklahoma, Florida at Ole Miss  

Week 5: Auburn at Georgia (Oct. 3)  

This is another rivalry game typically pegged for November, but the stakes will be high for both teams in what should be a top-10 showdown. It’s the first of a tough three-game stretch for the Bulldogs (more on that in a bit), and a chance for Auburn to steal a huge road win. The Tigers have not won in Athens since 2005.  

Others: Oklahoma at Iowa State, Texas A&M at Alabama  

Week 6: Texas vs. Oklahoma (Oct. 10)  

It won’t have the Texas State Fair as the backdrop, but the Red River Rivalry will be a huge piece of the College Football Playoff puzzle. Spencer Rattler will have time to settle in for the Sooners. Sam Ehlinger, meanwhile, will be making his fifth start (including 2018 Big 12 championship game) against Oklahoma.  

Others: Louisiana at Appalachian State (Oct. 7), Miami at Clemson, Florida State at Notre Dame, Tennessee at Georgia, Alabama at Ole Miss  

Week 7: Georgia at Alabama (Oct. 17)  

This could be the weekend the SEC pulls off one of those blockbuster double-headers and uses LSU at Florida as the undercard. This will be a top-five matchup, and it marks the Bulldogs’ first matchup at Bryant-Denny Stadium since 2007. The SEC and CFP implications are huge as usual, and the fact that longtime Alabama strength coach Scott Cochran will be on the Georgia sideline for this one adds a nice side plot.  

Others: UCF at Memphis (Oct. 16), LSU at Florida, Louisville at Notre Dame  

Week 8: Alabama at Tennessee (Oct. 24)  

It’s back-to-back weeks for Alabama in the spotlight, and with good reason. Jeremy Pruitt has Tennessee on the upswing, and the Vols will be all-in with the hopes of breaking a 13-game losing streak to their long-standing rival. It’s will be played on the fourth Saturday in October this year, but it’s an opportunity in Neyland Stadium. The past six meetings there have not been close.  

Others: Notre Dame at Pitt, Georgia at Kentucky, Auburn at Ole Miss  

Week 9: Memphis at Cincinnati (Oct. 31)  

We could go LSU-Auburn here (and probably should), but that would be four straight weeks when the SEC has the best game in town. The matchup between the Tigers and Bearcats has huge AAC implications — and if the winner is undefeated that could generate some CFP playoff talk.  

Others: LSU at Auburn, TCU at Baylor, Texas at Oklahoma State  

Week 10: Clemson at Notre Dame (Nov. 7)  

Yeah, Florida-Georgia is on the schedule, too, and that will decide the SEC East. But we already pegged Clemson-Notre Dame as the potential Game of the Year, and that was before the Irish joined the ACC as a one-year full member in 2020. If the Tigers are No. 1 — and they should be — then this is one of those spots where the Irish will have the opportunity to make a national statement in South Bend. Too bad it won’t be in front of a full stadium.  

Others: Florida vs. Georgia, Oklahoma State at Kansas State  

Week 11: Alabama at LSU (Nov. 14)  

It will be hard to top last year’s “Game of the Century” between Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa, but it’s on the Crimson Tide to author a response in Death Valley this season. It’s the toughest road game on Alabama’s schedule, and the winner here likely will have the hold on the SEC West ahead of the first CFP rankings release on Nov. 17.  

Others: Miami at Virginia Tech, Texas A&M at Tennessee  

Week 12: Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (Nov. 21) 

Who knows what Bedlam will look like at this point, but the Cowboys have a chance to be in the Big 12 mix with a loaded offense that features Spencer Sanders, Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has been at the center of a controversial offseason, and the Sooners have a five-game win streak in the series.  

Others: Cincinnati at UCF, Clemson at Florida State, Tennessee at Auburn 

Week 13: Auburn at Alabama (Nov. 28)  

This is the traditional spot for rivalry week, and the Iron Bowl will have the spotlight to itself with no Michigan-Ohio State game. The Tigers won this game last year, but Nick Saban has never lost this game in consecutive seasons.  

Keep on that Friday night appetizer between Notre Dame and North Carolina. It could determine who goes to the ACC championship game.  

Others: Notre Dame at North Carolina (Nov. 27), LSU at Texas A&M, Mississippi State at Ole Miss  

Week 14: Florida at Tennessee (Dec. 5)  

This traditional September rivalry was pushed back on the schedule, and it could be interesting if either team needs it to get to Atlanta for the SEC championship game. The Gators have won the past two meetings in blowout fashion and have won 14 of the past 15 matchups.  

Others: Clemson at Virginia Tech, Baylor at Oklahoma, Texas A&M at Auburn 

Week 15: Army vs. Navy (Dec. 12)  

Keep in mind that some conference championship games might be played this weekend and will have much bigger stakes, but we’re putting Army-Navy here for two reasons. One, the pageantry of rivalry game between U.S. service academies is unmatched. Two, it will mean we got through the full regular season. That would be something worth celebrating.  

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