The official opening weekend of the 2016 college football season has some massive non-conference games to kick things off right, with Oklahoma playing in Houston against the Cougars, or Ole Miss travelling to Orlando and playing Florida State, who think they have a shot at returning to the playoffs this year. The biggest game in name will be in Dallas, where #20 USC are hoping not to get beat up too badly by defending national champions and number one ranked Alabama.
#3 Oklahoma @ #15 Houston: This is part of a very difficult opening month for the Sooners, that includes Ohio State coming to Norman and playing at TCU. This game means the world for Houston, and feels like one of those upsets waiting to happen, with Greg Ward and Baker Mayfield making a nice quarterback showdown. Oklahoma looking good in this game and obviously winning could put them in one of the top two spots in the post-week 1 rankings, and solidify them as national title contenders.
#5 LSU @ Wisconsin: This is currently the only ranked opponent the Badgers are going to face. Playing at home against a team that rarely travels outside its comfort zone (like most SEC teams), this could end up being another defining moment of the South destroying a Big Ten team, or one of those upsets that could set up Wisconsin for some rare optimism, despite having to play Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State down the road.
#18 Georgia vs #22 North Carolina (Neutral Site): This used to be a rivalry, but most eyes in this game will turn towards Kirby Smart, making his debut as the head coach of the Bulldogs, hoping to establish something at least as good as Mark Richt did, but with more of a payoff in the end. Mitch Trubisky has a shot of setting off the Tar Heels on a season just as good as last year, with Georgia one of only two ranked opponents on their schedule.
#20 USC vs #1 Alabama (Neutral Site): This is massive because of the history, not the present. USC are still far from being the best in their conference or even division, let alone take on the favorites to repeat as national champions. But for those who love to see massive programs having a rare meet (too bad it’s a neutral game), this is the kind of game people love on opening day.
#2 Clemson @ Auburn: One loss early on in the season doesn’t stop teams from going to the college football playoff. But Clemson also have to play at Florida State this year, where they haven’t won since 2006. A loss here for Auburn, a team that doesn’t seem strong enough to make a dent in the SEC West this year, could spell the beginning of the end for Gus Malzahn, going only 15-11 the last two years.
#11 Ole Miss vs #4 Florida State: The Seminoles aren’t playing at home, but will still be big favorites in a season that seems to bring them back to the forefront of the ACC, looking a bit more likely to give Clemson a fight. Ole Miss have mostly been known as Alabama stumpers the last two years. Winning this one will certainly bring the hype to those levels, but they often follow these big wins with letdowns, so maybe starting the season quietly is better?