Tramel: OU-Nebraska, Clemson-Georgia among college football's top 2021 non-conference games
College football 2020 was a wonderful diversion from the COVID but not particularly satisfying compared to any other season. Most of the non-conference showdowns were canceled by the pandemic.
No Notre Dame-Southern Cal. No Ohio State-Oregon. No Michigan-Washington. No Oklahoma-Army. No LSU-Texas. No Alabama-Southern Cal. Dozens of others.
But we are only 7½ months from college football 2021 arriving, and hopefully the schedules will be back to normal. How about a sneak peek at the marquee non-conference games of 2021?
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Nebraska at Oklahoma: Maybe not a competitive matchup, but hard to beat for old-time’s sake.
Oklahoma State at Boise State: Fascinating first-ever meeting.
Texas at Arkansas: Another Auld Lang Syne game.
Iowa at Iowa State: The Cyclones’ trip to Iowa City in 2020 was canceled. Wonder if the Hawkeyes want the series contracts rewritten so that ISU doesn’t get two straight home games in the series?
Kansas State vs. Stanford in Arlington: What’s this? A neutral-site game at JerryWorld? Wildcat fans will flood Tarrant County.
Brigham Young at Baylor: Hey, this is another fun one. Will Baylor be better? Will BYU be as good?
West Virginia at Maryland: I literally have made the drive from Morgantown to College Park. Beautiful.
Virginia Tech at West Virginia: Love that Mountaineer schedule; two Power 5 opponents.
California at Texas Christian: Good matchup. The Golden Bears don’t get to Big 12 territory all that much.
Kansas at Duke: Early barometer for Jayhawk improvement.
Oklahoma at Tulane: Hey, a trip to New Orleans without the Sugar Bowl trappings. Should be fun.
Tulsa at Oklahoma State: The home-and-home OSU-TU series doesn’t start until 2024, so the Golden Hurricane comes to Stillwater two straight years.
Texas Tech at Houston: Always fun when Southwest Conference exes get together for a non-conference game.
Kansas at Coastal Carolina: The Jayhawks jettisoned the Chanticleers on to a breakout 2020 season.
Louisiana-Lafayette at Texas: Beware the Ragin’ Cajuns. They won at Iowa State last September.
SMU at TCU: The Iron Skillet game didn’t get to be played in 2020.
CAN’T MISS SHOWDOWNS
Clemson vs. Georgia in Charlotte: Are you kidding me? What a season opener for a football-hungry country.
Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin in Chicago: These schools were scheduled to play last season in Green Bay.
Oregon at Ohio State: The Buckeyes’ 2020 trip to Eugene was nixed; I hope it’s rescheduled.
Miami vs. Alabama in Atlanta: Can D’Eriq King scare the Crimson Tide?
Southern Cal at Notre Dame: I always prefer this age-old rivalry in the Los Angeles Coliseum, but I’m not picky in 2021.
Auburn at Penn State: Give War Eagle credit. Auburn often finds interesting non-conference games.
Cincinnati at Notre Dame: Hey, now. This will be fun. The Fighting Irish got the playoff spot that the Bearcats believed they deserved.
Washington at Michigan: The hot seat could start early for Jim Harbaugh.
OTHER POWER 5 vs. POWER 5
Notre Dame at Florida State: Will things get better for the Seminoles?
Louisiana State at UCLA: Rare West Coast trip for the Tigers. LSU has played only four road games against Pac opponents -- 1984 Southern Cal, 2003 Arizona, 2005 Arizona State and 2009 Washington.
Michigan State at Miami: Can the Spartans return to their former ferocious selves?
Notre Dame at Virginia Tech: A chance for Justin Fuente to return to the good graces of Hokie fans.
Florida State at Florida: Hope this game means something by the time Thanksgiving weekend arrives.
North Carolina at Notre Dame: Can Mack Brown rekindle his 2020 magic?
Louisville vs. Ole Miss in Atlanta: A Monday night opener. Not as cool as I would have hoped for. OSU-Boise State would be better.
Notre Dame at Virginia: Just because the Irish are back to being an independent doesn’t mean they stop playing Atlantic Coast Conference schools.
Kentucky at Louisville: Another in-state rivalry scrapped in 2020 by the virus.
North Carolina State at Mississippi State: Mike Leach in the house.
Clemson at South Carolina: Welcome to a one-sided rivalry, Shane Beamer.
Notre Dame at Stanford: The Irish’s annual trip to California means Palo Alto every other Thanksgiving Saturday.
Texas A&M at Colorado: Big 12 foes for awhile.
Purdue at Notre Dame: I miss this as an annual in-state series. This will be just the second meeting since 2010.
Illinois at Virginia: Bret Bielema is back in the saddle, as coach at Illinois.
Georgia Tech at Notre Dame: The Yellow Jackets have turned into the sleepiest of programs.
Minnesota at Colorado: These states seem worlds apart, but they are separated only by Nebraska and about 80 miles of Iowa backroads.
Pittsburgh at Tennessee: The Johnny Majors Bowl.
Missouri at Boston College: This is a strange geographic game. I like it.
Georgia at Georgia Tech: Some of these SEC/ACC rivalries are getting worse instead of better.
Oregon State at Purdue: Two vastly underrated uniforms.
Duke at Northwestern: Academic Bowl I.
Stanford at Vanderbilt: Academic Bowl II.
Rutgers at Syracuse: If you long for the old Eastern independents, this game’s for you.
Brigham Young at Southern Cal: If these teams had played in 2020, BYU would have opened a can.
Army at Wisconsin: The Black Knights always are interesting as a big underdog.
Utah at Brigham Young: One of the most underrated rivalries in America.
Cincinnati at Indiana: Two of the breakout teams from 2020.
Virginia at Brigham Young: Cavalier coach Bronco Mendenhall left BYU in 2015 after 11 years as the Cougar coach.
San Jose State at Southern Cal: Be careful of the Spartans, who won the Mountain West last season.
Miami at Appalachian State: The Mountaineers are capable of an upset.
Arizona State at Brigham Young: The two dominant programs of the old Western Athletic Conference.
Central Florida at Louisville: Josh Heupel needs a rebound season in Orlando.
Tulsa at Ohio State: TU won at Norman in the ‘90s and at South Bend in the ‘10s. How about Columbus in the ‘20s?
Mississippi State at Memphis: Ole Miss has lost to Memphis in its last two trips up the river. Could the Bulldogs suffer the same fate?
Arizona vs. Brigham Young in Las Vegas: BYU’s affinity for Vegas makes no sense, but it’s a real thing.
Utah at San Diego State: The Aztecs usually play the big boys tough.
Buffalo at Nebraska: Could the Bulls rain on the Cornhuskers’ parade before NU even comes to Norman?
Navy at Notre Dame: Hopefully the Midshipmen can get back up to speed in 2021.
Brigham Young at Washington State: Another good schedule for BYU. Cougars are starting to get the hang of this independence.
Boston College at Temple: The Owls have remained solid since losing Matt Rhule to Baylor.
Wake Forest at Army: Dang Deacons get to go to West Point, a year after OU’s trip was canceled.
San Diego State at Arizona: 400 miles of desert separate these schools.
Liberty at Syracuse: The Flames beat the Orange 38-21 in 2020.