The wait is nearly finished. We've reached August, a month in which college football will finally be played when Hawaii meets Cal in Australia at 10 p.m. ET on Friday, Aug. 26.
After that, there won't be a weekend without college football for the rest of 2016. So what does the college football schedule look like this season? After the Hawaii-Cal appetizer, things kick off with one of the greatest opening slates ever over Labor Day weekend, and there aren't many down weekends after that. So here is a week-by-week guide to the college football schedule, featuring the biggest games, plus a look at one potential upset matchup (not necessarily an upset pick, but an upset alert) and one sleeper game for each week.
Week 1: Sept. 3
Main Event: Ole Miss vs. Florida State (Monday, at Orlando, Fla.). So many great options, but we'll go with the final game of a phenomenal first weekend as the Rebels meet the Seminoles in Orlando on Labor Day night. Both are ranked in the top 12 of the preseason coaches' poll, with the Seminoles No. 4. Florida State hasn't decided on a quarterback yet, but it has legitimate playoff hopes that could be on the line to start the season against a dangerous Rebels team with one of the nation's best QBs, Chad Kelly.
Undercard: USC vs. Alabama (at Arlington, Texas), Notre Dame at Texas (Sunday), Clemson at Auburn, Oklahoma at Houston, LSU vs. Wisconsin (at Green Bay, Wisc.), UCLA at Texas A&M, Georgia vs. North Carolina (at Atlanta), Missouri at West Virginia, Arizona vs. BYU (at Glendale, Ariz.), Appalachian State at Tennessee (Thursday), South Carolina at Vanderbilt (Thursday), Oregon State at Minnesota (Thursday), Colorado State at Colorado (Friday), Georgia Tech vs. Boston College (at Dublin, Ireland)
It's hard for the opening weekend of a season -- or any weekend, for that matter -- to get much better. The games are spread out from Thursday to Monday, with a long list of prominent nonconference matchups, including several intersectional showdowns. As usual, many are at neutral sites, but it's hard to complain when we're treated to games like Alabama-USC, LSU-Wisconsin and Georgia-North Carolina. The great games go beyond the neutral sites, too, as Texas hosts Notre Dame on Sunday, Auburn hosts Clemson, Houston hosts Oklahoma in the Texans' stadium, etc. The opening Thursday isn't particularly great, but there are high-profile Power Five games on four straight days after that, even including the Georgia Tech-Boston College game at 7:30 a.m. ET on Saturday in Ireland.
Upset alert: Western Michigan at Northwestern. The Wildcats scored one of the biggest Week 1 surprises a year ago, stunning Stanford in a win that ultimately kept the Cardinal from making a playoff argument. Now, coming off a 10-win season, the Wildcats will try to survive against Western Michigan, potentially the best team in the MAC and a major bowl contender in P.J. Fleck's fourth season. The Broncos are loaded on offense, while Northwestern won 10 games last year despite a stagnant attack.
Sleeper: Kansas State at Stanford (Friday). It gets overshadowed by the rest of a fantastic weekend, partly because of Kansas State's struggles last year. But it's worth paying attention to on Friday night for a few reasons: The Wildcats have some sleeper potential, with a much-improved defense. You never know how much longer we'll get to see Bill Snyder coach, and perhaps he has one more surprise in him. And if this doesn't turn out to be a good game, that will probably be because Christian McCaffrey puts on a show.
Week 2: Sept. 10
Main Event: Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech (at Bristol, Tenn.). It's the biggest novelty game of the season, as the Vols and Hokies meet in the middle of Bristol Motor Speedway in front of a massive crowd. It's a chance for new Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente to make a strong early impression, and more importantly it's an enormous game for Butch Jones and Tennessee to win, given their lack of marquee wins thus far as they try to ascend to the top of the SEC.
Undercard: Penn State at Pitt, Arkansas at TCU, Iowa State at Iowa, Virginia at Oregon, Texas Tech at Arizona State, BYU at Utah, North Carolina at Illinois, Washington State at Boise State, Louisville at Syracuse (Friday)
Sure, Week 2 may seem like a bit of a letdown squeezed between the phenomenal slates of the first and third weeks, but there's enough intrigue here to be satisfied at a time when college football will take a backseat to the NFL's opening weekend. Beyond the Battle at Bristol, Arkansas' visit to TCU should be fun, and there are a few heated rivalries: Penn State and Pitt meeting for the first time since 2000, Iowa State-Iowa, a BYU-Utah rematch after a bizarre Las Vegas Bowl. Unfortunately, there's unlikely to be a matchup of ranked teams.
Upset alert: Kentucky at Florida. We'll just put Florida on upset alert against Kentucky every year until it actually happens. The Wildcats, who are desperate to stop going 5-7, haven't defeated the Gators since 1986 and have lost the past two meetings by a total of 11 points.
Sleeper: Cal at San Diego State. The Aztecs lost to Cal, Penn State and South Alabama early last season, then steamrolled conference competition to go undefeated in the Mountain West. With a stellar defense and RB Donnel Pumphrey returning, they have New Year's Six bowl hopes. However, those hopes could require notching a win against Texas Tech transfer QB Davis Webb and the Golden Bears here, an opportunity to show off that defense against a potent offense.
Week 3: Sept. 17
Main Event: Ohio State at Oklahoma. How quickly can Ohio State reload? QB J.T. Barrett is back, as are a handful of other proven players, but the Buckeyes return just six starters total. They are loaded with talent, but it's hard to imagine it not taking a bit of time for that young talent to settle in and start clicking. For Oklahoma, it's an early showdown with playoff implications. Mostly, this game is exactly what we want out of nonconference play: two national powers who don't play each other often -- they haven't played since 1983 -- meeting on someone's home field instead of a neutral site.
Undercard: Alabama at Ole Miss, Florida State at Louisville, USC at Stanford, Michigan State at Notre Dame, Oregon at Nebraska, Texas A&M at Auburn, Pitt at Oklahoma State, Colorado at Michigan, UCLA at BYU, Texas at California, Mississippi State at LSU, Georgia at Missouri, Duke at Northwestern
Maybe it's not quite Week 1, but this comes quite close. Alabama is trying to avenge back-to-back losses to Ole Miss. Florida State faces a huge landmine on the road against Louisville QB Lamar Jackson and an excellent Cardinals defense. USC is trying to survive a brutal schedule and meets Christian McCaffrey for the third time in 15 games. Texas A&M and Auburn meet in an early game destined to inflict a ton of stress upon the loser, as both Kevin Sumlin and Gus Malzahn are under a lot of pressure. Notre Dame meets a Big Ten foe after a strange one-year break. Texas-Cal is a rematch of a wild game from last year. And Oregon visits Nebraska in an enticing matchup in which both teams are trying to reclaim national respect.
Upset alert: Miami at Appalachian State. This week in "What are you doing?!?!" scheduling. The Hurricanes also have future games scheduled at Arkansas State and Toledo. For a team desperately trying to recapture past status as a national power, Miami is scheduling nonconference opponents like it's in Conference USA.
Sleeper: Houston at Cincinnati (Thursday). In a possible preview of the AAC title game, Houston faces a crucial conference contest in its push for the Group of Five's New Year's Six bowl bid. The Cougars have tough nonconference games against Oklahoma and Louisville, so they need to avoid stumbling in games like this.
Week 4: Sept. 24
Main Event: Florida at Tennessee. Even when the teams have struggled, the game seems to always have some sort of relevance, in part because of all the headaches it has caused to the losers. In most cases, that has meant Tennessee. Since the teams started playing regularly in 1990, Florida holds a 20-6 edge. The Vols haven't won since 2004, losing 10-9 in 2014 and blowing a double-digit lead last year. Tennessee is the favorite in the SEC East this year, and Butch Jones desperately needs to beat the Gators.
Undercard: Stanford at UCLA, Georgia at Ole Miss, LSU at Auburn, Penn State at Michigan, Clemson at Georgia Tech (Thursday), Washington at Arizona, Arkansas at Texas A&M, Oklahoma State at Baylor, West Virginia at BYU, Pitt at North Carolina, Wisconsin at Michigan State, Duke at Notre Dame, Nebraska at Northwestern
There's no matchup of top-five teams or anything this weekend, but there is depth, meaning there should be good football to watch the entire weekend. Stanford-UCLA is a big cross-division game that has a chance to be the Pac-12 title game as well, unless Washington lives up to high expectations, which will require taking care of business in games like this at Arizona. The SEC also has a few strong matchups, as Auburn attempts to tackle Leonard Fournette after failing last year, and Georgia goes to Ole Miss in a fun East-West showdown, especially if Nick Chubb is up to speed for the Bulldogs.
Upset alert: Florida State at South Florida and Louisville at Marshall. Is either going to lose? Probably not. But these are strange traps the week after Florida State visits Louisville in one of the biggest ACC games of the season. The Seminoles travel to USF to meet a Bulls team that may finally be clicking again behind a dangerous backfield. Louisville, meanwhile, visits the Thundering Herd, a perennially dangerous Group of Five team always capable of putting a scare into stronger teams.
Sleeper: USC at Utah (Friday). The Trojans' schedule is brutal in many ways, with a particularly rough start and finish. To start, they play some of the most physical teams in the country: Alabama in Texas, Utah State, at Stanford, at Utah. They have to bounce back from the Stanford game six days later in Salt Lake City, ending a grueling September.
Week 5: Oct. 1
Main Event: Oklahoma at TCU. The Big 12 Championship Game won't make its triumphant return until 2017, so this may have to suffice for now. Oklahoma State and Baylor are both dangerous, and Texas is a wild card, but there is a good chance that the Sooners and Horned Frogs are a step above the rest of the Big 12. Last year's Big 12 schedule was backloaded; this time, Oklahoma plays Ohio State, TCU and Texas in consecutive games (with an off week between the Ohio State and TCU showdowns).
Undercard: Stanford at Washington (Friday), Tennessee at Georgia, Louisville at Clemson, North Carolina at Florida State, Arizona State at USC, Arizona at UCLA, Oregon at Washington State, Missouri at Ole Miss, Texas at Oklahoma State, Wisconsin at Michigan, Miami at Georgia Tech, Northwestern at Iowa, Syracuse vs. Notre Dame (at East Rutherford, N.J.)
Stanford and Oregon have owned the Pac-12 as a whole, which also means they've owned the Pac-12 North. If Washington wants to win the Pac-12, it first has to get through the kings of the division. The Huskies host Stanford, then visit Oregon in Week 6. There are plenty of key conference matchups this week, with Tennessee facing another crucial SEC East showdown, Clemson trying to shake off its biggest non-Florida State challenge in ACC play, Oregon trying to turn the tables on Washington State after a stunning defeat last year and Florida State and North Carolina meeting in a game that could be a preview of the ACC title game.
Upset alert: Florida at Vanderbilt. Florida's been listed on upset alert twice now, but given the Gators' questions on offense, it wouldn't be surprising if they're playing close games again. Last year, the Gators beat the Commodores 9-7 in a hideous game in which Florida nearly lost despite Vandy going 3-for-14 passing. This year, Vandy could have an excellent defense that makes it capable of springing an upset on a superior SEC team at some point.
Sleeper: Utah State at Boise State. Last year's matchup, on a Friday night, was a debacle, as Boise State turned the ball over eight times and lost 52-26. The Aggies are always a tough out, but the Broncos are attempting to change their fortunes behind talented quarterback Brett Rypien and get back in the mix for a major bowl bid.
Week 6: Oct. 7
Main Event: Florida State at Miami. Two storied rivalries this week, but since we picked Oklahoma as Week 5's headliner, let's go with Mark Richt leading his alma mater, Miami, against Florida State, the team he rose to prominence with as offensive coordinator in the 1990s. Despite Miami's struggles in recent years, the Hurricanes have played the Seminoles tough -- even if they haven't actually won in the rivalry since 2009. In other words, Miami has yet to beat the Noles since Jimbo Fisher became head coach.
Undercard: Texas vs. Oklahoma (at Dallas), Washington at Oregon, LSU at Florida, BYU at Michigan State, Alabama at Arkansas, Tennessee at Texas A&M, Washington State at Stanford, Notre Dame at N.C. State, Clemson at Boston College (Friday), UCLA at Arizona State, Virginia Tech at North Carolina, Houston at Navy
The "throw out the records" cliché actually seems to apply to Texas-Oklahoma, which has proven to be unpredictable. (See last year's playoff Sooners team inexplicably losing to the Longhorns.) This time, Oklahoma has to play Texas the week after a huge game against TCU. Elsewhere, Washington attempts to beat Oregon for the first time since 2003, a week after playing Stanford, and LSU-Florida games are reliably interesting cross-division showdowns.
Upset alert: Indiana at Ohio State. The Buckeyes have not lost to the Hoosiers since 1988 (they tied in 1990). However, Kevin Wilson's Indiana teams have made a habit of scaring the Buckeyes. In 2012, Ohio State -- which finished undefeated -- beat Indiana 52-49. In 2014, Ohio State -- which won the national title -- beat Indiana 42-27 but led by only one entering the fourth quarter. Last year, Ohio State -- which was ranked No. 1 at the time -- trailed at halftime and won 34-27 because of a massive second half from Ezekiel Elliott. Indiana is bound to pull off one of these upsets against someone sometime.
Sleeper: Georgia Southern at Arkansas State (Wednesday). #FunBelt Wednesday! The Eagles and Red Wolves are two of the three best Sun Belt teams, but they did not meet last year when Arkansas State went 8-0 in the conference and Georgia Southern had the nation's top rushing offense. This will play a big role in the Sun Belt race, although both could end up chasing Appalachian State.
Week 7: Oct. 14
Main Event: Alabama at Tennessee. This article is a broken record with talk about important games for Tennessee in the first half of the season. Beating Alabama is not required, if the Vols win their big games within the SEC East, but it's still a big opportunity with Alabama coming to Knoxville and Tennessee having its highest expectations in years. For once, the game known as the Third Saturday in October will actually be played on the third Saturday in October. Alabama has lit victory cigars nine years in a row, surviving a 19-14 game last year.
Undercard: Stanford at Notre Dame, Ohio State at Wisconsin, Ole Miss at Arkansas, Mississippi State at BYU (Friday), Duke at Louisville (Friday), USC at Arizona, UCLA at Washington State, N.C. State at Clemson, Northwestern at Michigan State
Stanford's 38-36 win over Notre Dame on the last Saturday of November in 2015 was one of the best games of the season, and it kept the Fighting Irish out of the playoff conversation. It's been a great rivalry in recent years, and it could again have playoff implications. The depth of this weekend isn't great, but Wisconsin's brutal schedule continues with the Buckeyes coming to Camp Randall in prime time, and Ole Miss and Arkansas will attempt to recapture some of the magic of last year's incredible 53-52 thriller that allowed Alabama to win the SEC West.
Upset alert: Kansas State at Oklahoma. I know, Oklahoma won 55-0 at Kansas State last year. But hear me out: The Sooners' previous three games are against Ohio State, TCU and Texas, their three biggest of the season. This has letdown potential. Also, it might be the ultimate Bill Snyder move to lose 55-0 to a team one year, then ruin that team's playoff hopes the next year.
Sleeper: North Carolina at Miami. Any ACC Coastal game gets overshadowed by Florida State and Clemson in the Atlantic, but UNC-Miami could be for the division title. After a handful of close meetings, the last two games have been routs in favor of the home team, with UNC winning 59-21 last year. These are two good offenses that could put on a show against each other.
Week 8: Oct. 21
Main Event: Ole Miss at LSU. Ole Miss beat both LSU and Alabama last year … and still couldn't win the SEC West. It'll take another shot at it this fall behind the SEC's best QB. Last year's 38-17 Rebels win over the Tigers nearly got Les Miles fired, and this time LSU could be playing with playoff aspirations. It gets to host the Rebels in Death Valley, then has a bye week, then hosts the all-important game against Alabama to start November.
Undercard: Ohio State at Penn State, Wisconsin at Iowa, Texas A&M at Alabama, Miami at Virginia Tech (Thursday), Oklahoma at Texas Tech, Utah at UCLA, Arkansas at Auburn, South Florida at Temple (Friday), Oregon at California (Friday), N.C. State at Louisville
Penn State is still searching for a marquee win under James Franklin, but it did take a national championship Ohio State team to double-OT in Happy Valley in 2014. As usual, this border war will kick off in prime time. Iowa hosts Wisconsin is a pivotal game in the Big Ten West race. Mark Richt and Justin Fuente meet for the first time in the ACC Coastal. Oklahoma faces another potential landmine in Lubbock.
Upset alert: TCU at West Virginia. Oklahoma's trip to Texas Tech could also be included here. Morgantown is always a dangerous place to play, a long road trip to a hostile atmosphere. If the Mountaineers get their passing game consistently in gear, perhaps they can at least play spoiler in the Big 12 race. The last time TCU traveled to Morgantown, it escaped with a 31-30 road win to stay alive in the Big 12 title chase.
Sleeper: BYU at Boise State (Thursday). There is a double-header on Thursday, with Miami at Virginia Tech at 7 p.m. ET, followed by BYU's trip to the blue turf at 10:15 p.m. ET. It's worth staying up for the nightcap. It's a big game between the independent Cougars and the Mountain West's Broncos, who are fighting for the Group of Five's New Year's Six bowl slot. This would be a solid resume-booster.
Week 9: Oct. 29
Main Event: Clemson at Florida State. It may be the most anticipated game of the season, a phenomenal divisional rivalry between two teams that are the best in the entire conference (Stanford-Oregon can relate in recent years) and could be two of the five best teams nationally. Clemson has not won in Tallahassee since 2006, but it pulled away with a 23-13 win at home last year behind Deshaun Watson, the best quarterback in the country. It is possible that both of these teams could make the playoff -- at least if Florida State figures out its QB situation -- but the winner here, quite obviously, will have the upper hand in both the ACC and playoff races.
Undercard: Michigan at Michigan State, Florida vs. Georgia (at Jacksonville, Fla.), Miami at Notre Dame, California at USC (Thursday), Virginia Tech at Pitt (Thursday), Washington at Utah, Stanford at Arizona, Baylor at Texas, Auburn at Ole Miss, Texas Tech at TCU, Northwestern at Ohio State, Nebraska at Wisconsin, Appalachian State at Georgia Southern (Thursday)
Michigan-Michigan State can't possibly top last year's madness, but it is, nevertheless, a huge rivalry game with Big Ten title and possibly playoff implications, as it had last year. Michigan State has won seven of the last eight in the series, and to truly win back Michigan's national stature, Jim Harbaugh has to beat his chief rivals. The mini-rivalry weekend also extends to the Cocktail Party between Florida and Georgia, with the Gators' last two wins being a main factor in Mark Richt's ouster in Athens. Richt won't be at the Cocktail Party for the first time since 2000, but he'll be busy with a big game of his own: Miami's first trip to Notre Dame since 1990.
Upset alert: Tennessee at South Carolina. Congratulations, Vols. You made it through a frontloaded schedule and now should cruise through the last five games of the regular season. Of course, the same could be said last year, when Tennessee barely escaped South Carolina -- a team that finished 3-9 -- with a 27-24 win at home.
Sleeper: Arizona State at Oregon. Both the Sun Devils and Ducks are flying under the radar this season. Neither was great last year, but they still played one of the craziest games of the season, with Oregon prevailing 61-55 in triple OT late on a Thursday night. These are two fast teams not afraid of being aggressive.
Week 10: Nov. 5
Main Event: Alabama at LSU. The last five years have been painful for LSU. Alabama beat the Tigers for the national title in 2011, and now the Crimson Tide have won five in a row in the series. In that time, Alabama has won three national championships. Can LSU finally turn the tables? Last year, the Bama defense suffocated LSU, ending the Tigers' unbeaten run and Leonard Fournette's Heisman campaign. This year, Fournette and just about every other key piece of LSU's team returns, with legitimate playoff hopes. The playoff, of course, still goes through Alabama.
Undercard: Oregon at USC, TCU at Baylor, Nebraska at Ohio State, Florida State at N.C. State, Iowa at Penn State, Florida at Arkansas, Pitt at Miami, Georgia Tech at North Carolina, Texas at Texas Tech, Navy at Notre Dame, Wisconsin at Northwestern, Texas A&M at Mississippi State, Oklahoma at Iowa State (Thursday)
It's not the deepest weekend, but Alabama-LSU always gives this early November Saturday a big-time feeling. There are other games to like, too: TCU-Baylor is a heated rivalry and could have Big 12 title implications. The Big Ten has a pair of prime time games in 100,000 seat stadiums, as Nebraska visits Ohio Stadium and Iowa visits Beaver Stadium. And it's possible that Oregon-USC could end up being a big game, even if expectations for both have been tempered.
Upset alert: UCLA at Colorado (Thursday). Poor Colorado has gone 2-25 in the Pac-12 under Mike MacIntyre, but last year's team lost four conference games by a touchdown or less. That includes the loss to UCLA, who has barely escaped the Buffaloes two years in a row: 40-37 in double-OT in 2014 and 35-31 last year. Hopefully UCLA has learned not to sleep on Colorado by this point, but it can still be a Thursday night trap. (As can Oklahoma's visit to Iowa State that night.)
Sleeper: Bowling Green at Northern Illinois (Tuesday). MACtion returns! MAC favorite Western Michigan also plays this night at Ball State, but Bowling Green-Northern Illinois has been the MAC Championship Game matchup three years in a row.
Week 11: Nov. 12
Main Event: Stanford at Oregon. Depending on how the season plays out, it's not impossible for this to take a slight backseat to USC-Washington. But … either Stanford or Oregon has won the Pac-12 title each of the last five years. They've developed a great rivalry, and Oregon helped keep the Cardinal out of the playoff with a dramatic 38-36 win at Stanford Stadium last November.
Undercard: Michigan at Iowa, Baylor at Oklahoma, USC at Washington, LSU at Arkansas, Auburn at Georgia, Ole Miss at Texas A&M, Pitt at Clemson, North Carolina at Duke (Thursday), Utah at Arizona State (Thursday), Boston College at Florida State (Friday), Notre Dame vs. Army (at San Antonio, Texas), Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech, California at Washington State, Mississippi State at Alabama, South Carolina at Florida, Kentucky at Tennessee, Texas Tech at Oklahoma State, West Virginia at Texas, Minnesota at Nebraska
Plenty of decent games this weekend, but nothing that clearly stands out above the rest right now. While Michigan has a relatively favorable schedule, its visit to Iowa City is the second of three huge road games in its last five, as it previously played Michigan State and then goes to Ohio State to end the season. Baylor-Oklahoma and USC-Washington are both big conference showdowns, and the Auburn-Georgia rivalry could be important for Gus Malzahn's future.
Upset alert: LSU at Arkansas. Maybe it's not an upset when Arkansas has won the last two. Still, LSU has higher expectations this season, again, and it has to deal with a physical Razorbacks team a week after the exhausting game against Alabama. The result two years in a row has been a double-digit defeat for the Tigers. If LSU finally beats Alabama, it desperately needs to avoid a letdown against the Hogs.
Sleeper: Eastern Michigan at Ball State and Western Michigan at Kent State. Yes, we have to go with MACtion two weeks in a row. Why? It's Election Night, and the MAC has provided some glorious (as much as Eastern Michigan and Kent State football can be considered glorious) counterprogramming.
Week 12: Nov. 19
Main Event: Ohio State at Michigan State. Both teams lose a ton from last year, but it can still be a vital game in the Big Ten race, and maybe even the playoff race. The Spartans' stunning rainy road win last year ended the Buckeyes' hopes of a repeat national championship. This year, it's hard to know how this will fit into the championship battles, as Michigan-Ohio State may loom larger the next week.
Undercard: USC at UCLA, Louisville at Houston (Thursday), Oklahoma State at TCU, Oregon at Utah, Oklahoma at West Virginia, Stanford at California, Kansas State at Baylor, Arkansas at Mississippi State, Missouri at Tennessee, Ole Miss at Vanderbilt, Arizona State at Washington, Miami at N.C. State, Indiana at Michigan
It's the SEC's annual mid-November break to treat fans to games like Chattanooga-Alabama, Alabama A&M-Auburn and Presbyterian-Florida. Predictably, the national schedule as a whole suffers, and this is one of the weakest slates of the season. The Thursday Louisville-Houston showdown has a chance to be a lot of fun, though, with quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Greg Ward dueling and the Cougars potentially having major bowl hopes on the line. And the Pac-12 South may be on the line in the USC-UCLA rivalry.
Upset alert: Indiana at Michigan. This is the second time we're including Indiana in an upset alert game against a Big Ten power. Last year's Hoosiers-Wolverines game was wild, with Michigan winning 48-41 on 440 passing yards by Jake Rudock. This year, Michigan hosts Indiana as the sandwich game between two pivotal road trips to Iowa and Ohio State.
Sleeper: Virginia Tech at Notre Dame. In chasing a playoff spot, Notre Dame's biggest games are against Michigan State, Stanford and USC, and its Oct. 29 showdown with Miami will generate substantial hype because of history. However, this could be a huge game for the Fighting Irish, hosting Justin Fuente's Hokies -- who are a bit of a wild card this season, depending on their QB situation -- a week before the rivalry trip to USC.
Week 13: Nov. 26
Main Event: Michigan at Ohio State. It's rivalry week, and there is no definite headliner above the rest. It's annually the greatest weekend of the college football season, even if it's the last full weekend of games. Michigan-Ohio State is always big, no matter the teams' records. But after falling behind the Iron Bowl in the rivalry week pecking order, thanks in part to 11 Ohio State victories in the past 12 meetings, this storied rivalry can take its place back atop college football thanks to Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer. Harbaugh's debut season was successful, but Michigan lost on a fluke finish to rival Michigan State, then got blown out by Ohio State, as the Buckeyes left no doubt in a 42-13 win in the Big House. Now, Harbaugh takes the Wolverines to the Horseshoe, with Big Ten title and playoff hopes potentially on the line.
Thursday: LSU at Texas A&M
Friday: TCU at Texas, Nebraska at Iowa, Baylor vs. Texas Tech (at Arlington, Texas), Arkansas at Missouri, Arizona State at Arizona, Boise State at Air Force, N.C. State at North Carolina, Houston at Memphis
Saturday: Auburn at Alabama, Florida at Florida State, Notre Dame at USC, Mississippi State at Ole Miss, South Carolina at Clemson, Georgia Tech at Georgia, Michigan State at Penn State, Kentucky at Louisville, Duke at Miami, Virginia at Virginia Tech, UCLA at California, Oregon at Oregon State, Tennessee at Vanderbilt, Minnesota at Wisconsin, Purdue at Indiana, Illinois at Northwestern, Kansas at Kansas State
Even many of the otherwise forgettable games are fun because they're rivalries. Thanksgiving weekend delivers LSU-Texas A&M on Thursday night, a solid day of games on Black Friday (Nebraska-Iowa could be for the Big Ten West title) and a Saturday loaded with rivalries. We know Ohio State-Michigan and Alabama-Auburn are always big. Florida State and Notre Dame could both be in the playoff race when they face their hated rivals to end the season. Throw in the Egg Bowl, Will Muschamp's first shot at Clemson and more, and this weekend is as good as it gets.
Upset alert: Houston at Memphis (Friday). Memphis' expectations aren't as high this year with coach Justin Fuente and QB Paxton Lynch gone, but Fuente laid a solid foundation for Mike Norvell, and the Tigers can still be competitive in the AAC. For Houston, this could be a pivotal final regular-season game, a week after hosting Louisville. If the Cougars take down the Cardinals for the second year in a row, they have to turn around and go on the road to a tough Memphis team capable of derailing major bowl dreams.
Sleeper: Washington at Washington State (Friday). Last year's Apple Cup was a surprising blowout, as the Huskies torched the Cougars (who played without injured QB Luke Falk) 45-10 to achieve bowl eligibility. An underrated rivalry nationally, the Apple Cup could have added meaning this year, with both teams becoming more relevant and Washington carrying conference title hopes into its third season under Chris Petersen.
Week 14: Dec. 3
Main Events: SEC Championship Game, Big Ten Championship Game, Pac-12 Championship Game, ACC Championship Game
It's hard to highlight just one. Playoff bids and conference titles will be decided by championship games in four of the five major conferences.
Undercard: Oklahoma State at Oklahoma, Kansas State at TCU, Baylor at West Virginia, Mountain West Championship Game, American Championship Game, MAC Championship Game (Friday), Conference USA Championship Game, Georgia State at Idaho, New Mexico State at South Alabama, Troy at Georgia Southern, UL Lafayette at UL Monroe, Arkansas State at Texas State.
The Big 12 will rejoin the conference championship game mix in 2017. For now, it will spend the final Saturday with teams playing their 12th game, with the league title possibly being decided, headlined by the Oklahoma State-Oklahoma Bedlam rivalry game. The Sun Belt joins the Big 12 in a bunch of final regular-season games, and the other Group of Five leagues -- AAC, MWC, MAC, C-USA -- will play their title games.
Week 15: Dec. 10
Main Event: Army vs. Navy (at Baltimore). The regular season concludes with one of college football's greatest traditions. Army has lost 14 in a row in the rivalry, but it has come heartbreakingly close in recent years against superior Midshipmen squads, losing four of the last five by seven points or less. With Navy losing Keenan Reynolds and nearly its entire offense, is this finally the year the Black Knights can end the streak?
Undercard: Heisman Trophy presentation. That's it. No more college football games … until the marathon bowl season starts on Dec. 17.