Top College Football Conference Games & Early Predictions: Top 25
The best and brightest conference games of the 2017 college football season, complete with the early, early, EARLY predictions.
2017 Top 25 Conference College Football Games
25. Alabama at Texas A&M, Oct. 7
Alabama has gotten past the Johnny Manziel Texas A&M problems of a few years ago to own the matchup without a problem, but this time around it’s on the road in one of the most important games of the SEC season. The Crimson Tide road games before Auburn? Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. This might be the best chance for a Bama SEC loss until late.
March, Pre-Spring, Knee-Jerk Early Prediction: Alabama 34, Texas A&M 17
24. Michigan at Wisconsin, Nov. 18
It was one of the toughest defensive battles of last year, with the Wolverines coming through with one big pass play to finally break through in the big win. This year, Michigan has to go on the road after going to Maryland the week before. Coming off the big date against Iowa, the Badgers might have to pull out their home finale to stay alive in the East.
March, Pre-Spring, Knee-Jerk Early Prediction: Wisconsin 23, Michigan 17
23. Miami at Florida State, Sept. 16
It’s the ACC opener, and it’s a whopper. Florida State pulled out a thriller last season, and this year it has to keep the focus and the intensity after dealing with Alabama to start the season and getting this a few weeks later. Miami will be 2-0, and while it’s an interdivisional game and there’s time to bounce back if there’s another tough loss, this is by far the toughest game the rest of the way. Win, and look out.
March, Pre-Spring, Knee-Jerk Early Prediction: Florida State 26, Miami 23
22. Iowa at Wisconsin, Nov. 11
Nebraska, Minnesota and Northwestern will make this a loaded year for the Big Ten West, but as always, this is one of the biggest games of the division season. The Hawkeyes have a brutal second half of the season – coming off a trip Northwestern and dates against Minnesota and Ohio State – and they still have a road trip to Nebraska to go. Wisconsin should be coming in on a roll.
March, Pre-Spring, Knee-Jerk Early Prediction: Wisconsin 27, Iowa 13
21. Virginia Tech at Miami, Nov. 4
There might be bigger Miami games on a national scale, but this one could be the moment when the Canes rise up and take over the ACC Coastal. They’ll have to beat North Carolina the week before on the road, and they’ll have to deal with Pitt in the cold in late November, but considering how relatively easy the Virginia Tech slate is, Mark Rich’s team has to beat the defending division champs.
March, Pre-Spring, Knee-Jerk Early Prediction: Miami 27, Virginia Tech 17
20. Michigan State at Michigan, Oct. 7
Michigan State gave the Wolverines a huge fight in one of those throw-out-the-record-books rivalry moments. Michigan gets a week of to prepare for the home game, while the Spartans have to start a run of three road games in four weeks after dealing with Notre Dame and Iowa. The rest will matter just enough for Michigan to squeak by again.
March, Pre-Spring, Knee-Jerk Early Prediction: Michigan 20, Michigan State 17
19. Tennessee at Florida, Sept. 16
Everything was going so well for Tennessee. It got by Florida in a double-digit win, and it appeared to be well on its way to a huge season in the East, but the Gators ended up taking the division – again. It’s the SEC opener for each team, and while a loss wouldn’t be a deathblow either way, if Florida loses the opener to Michigan, it can afford another misfire and a 1-2 start.
March, Pre-Spring, Knee-Jerk Early Prediction: Florida 30, Tennessee 26
18. Wisconsin at Nebraska, Oct. 7
It got lost in the shuffle, but Nebraska fought hard in one of the better games of the Big Ten season. The Badgers survived and moved on – eventually to the Big Ten title game – while the Huskers never got back on track. Nebraska gets Bucky in Lincoln this time around in UW’s toughest road game of the season. With Ohio State coming up next, Nebraska has to pull this off.
March, Pre-Spring, Knee-Jerk Early Prediction: Wisconsin 20, Nebraska 17
17. Oregon at Stanford, Oct. 14
It was when the wheels came off last season for Oregon, with a 52-27 loss ensuring a losing season. It’s Willie Taggart’s big test after a few winnable home games against Cal and Washington State, and it’s the start of a run of three road games in four weeks. Stanford will be coming off a tough road fight at Utah, but get a week off to rest up after. Is this a Pac-12 North elimination game? It’s possible.
March, Pre-Spring, Knee-Jerk Early Prediction: Stanford 34, Oregon 27
16. Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, Nov. 4
Usually the last game of the regular season, it was moved around this year with the new Big 12 Championship at the end of the rainbow. If there’s a rematch, at least there will be a few weeks in between, so there’s not the gravitas on the Bedlam showdown this time around, Even so, this should be the Big 12 game of the year. At least until December.
March, Pre-Spring, Knee-Jerk Early Prediction: Oklahoma State 38, Oklahoma 34
15. Oregon at Washington, Nov. 4
If the nationally televised win over Stanford officially launched Washington as a really big deal, the 70-21 win over Oregon the week after baked in the idea that it was going to be a special season. Is it payback time of the Ducks? With the Stanford game to follow for the Dawgs, it’s a must win for the defending Pac-12 champs. It’s the end of a brutal run of three road games in four weeks for Oregon – including a trip to Stanford.
March, Pre-Spring, Knee-Jerk Early Prediction: Washington 30, Oregon 20
14. Michigan State at Ohio State, Nov. 11
Of course, put this in the top five in Michigan State is back to being Michigan State, but that’s hardly a given. Coming of the trip to Iowa and the date with Penn State, and with Michigan looming a few weeks later, the Buckeyes don’t get any time to breathe. The Spartans will have dealt with Penn State the week before, and with Maryland and Rutgers to finish, this is effectively the end of their Big Ten season.
March, Pre-Spring, Knee-Jerk Early Prediction: Ohio State 17, Michigan State 13
13. Auburn at LSU, Oct. 14
The Tiger-on-Tiger action last year produced one of the most amazing finishes of the season. LSU apparently pulled out a thriller, upon further review, the clock had flickered the other way and and time ran out, giving Auburn a wild 18-13 win – and Les Miles was fired. There but for a millisecond, Gus Malzahn might have been the one to be axed. This time, LSU needs this in a big way as the lone home game in the midst of road dates at Florida, Ole Miss and Alabama. Auburn has a weird ride of three straight road games – going to Arkansas and Texas A&M – starting with this.
March, Pre-Spring, Knee-Jerk Early Prediction: LSU 23, Auburn 16
12. Stanford at USC, Sept. 9
It’s an interdivisional game, but it’s a massive one on a national scale and in the College Football Playoff chase. It’s early enough in the season that a loss won’t be a death sentence, but if Stanford wins on the road, the run for the Pac-12 title and a spot in the CFP is on. USC has a nice run of home games to kick things off – with Texas coming up next – and it can’t afford to give any away in conference play. By far, though, this is the toughest-looking game for the Trojans, with no Washington or Oregon to face from the North. Win this, and roll on.
March, Pre-Spring, Knee-Jerk Early Prediction: USC 28, Stanford 17
11. Florida vs. Georgia (in Jacksonville), Oct. 28
Florida won The Party rather easily last year in a 24-10 stomping that helped take control of the SEC East race. Kirby Smart isn’t under any true pressure yet at Georgia, but a second straight loss in Jacksonville will be a big, big problem if he doesn’t win at Tennessee earlier in the year and a road trip to Auburn coming up. Both teams get a week off to prepare, and depending on what each team does with the Vols, this will probably be for the SEC East title – or it’ll at least play a big role.
March, Pre-Spring, Knee-Jerk Early Prediction: Georgia 26, Florida 17
10. Oklahoma vs. Texas (in Dallas), Oct. 14
Is Tom Herman ready to rock and roll? He’ll have already had a chance to show what he and his team can do with a date at USC earlier, and the Kansas State battle is the week before, but this is it. This is the measuring stick to see how far the program has to go, if at all. Oklahoma will have the Ohio State game under its belt, and with a trips to Kansas State and Oklahoma State coming up soon, there can’t be a misfire.
March, Pre-Spring, Knee-Jerk Early Prediction: Oklahoma 37, Texas 27
9. Louisville at Florida State, Oct. 21
It was America’s real introduction to Lamar Jackson. Louisville blew out the batted Noles, and Jackson all but won the Heisman in the 63-20 domination. The hype for the game will depend on Louisville’s performance against Clemson several weeks earlier. Win that, and the Cards might be able to take the Atlantic title. Florida State gets Miami earlier, but it should come into the game on a good ACC run.
March, Pre-Spring, Knee-Jerk Early Prediction: Florida State 38, Louisville 27
8. Michigan at Penn State, Oct. 21
It became a factor late in the season, but the actual ugliness of the blowout was forgotten about in the 49-10 Michigan win. Remember, there was James Franklin hot seat talk – no one was thinking Rose Bowl. In Happy Valley this time around, the Wolverines will be finishing off a run of three road games in four dates – going to Indiana the week before – while Penn State will get a week off to prepare. The Nittany Lions had better win with road games at Ohio State and Michigan State up next.
March, Pre-Spring, Knee-Jerk Early Prediction: Penn State 26, Michigan 23
7. Alabama at Auburn, Nov. 24
It all depends on what shape Auburn’s in. If this is for the SEC West title and with the College Football Playoff world still a part of the equation, vault this up to No. 1 or 2 on the list. But the Tigers have to go on a run of three straight road games in the middle of the season and have to start out at Clemson – they might be far out of the CFP chase. If Alabama takes care of the home games, it should be no worse than 10-1 if everything breaks the right way.
March, Pre-Spring, Knee-Jerk Early Prediction: Alabama 24, Auburn 20
6. Washington at Stanford, Nov. 10
It was the national announcement that Washington was going to be a factor. On a Friday night with everyone watching, the Huskies dominated the defending Pac-12 champs with a wonderful 44-6 performance. The blasted Oregon the week after, and the college football world had formed its opinion.
Considering Oregon has to go to both Washington and Stanford, it’ll be a shocker if this isn’t for the Pac-12 North title. Washington will be favored in every game leading up to this, and if it beats the Ducks the week before, this is it. This should be its shot at an undefeated regular season if it doesn’t get upset. Stanford will be coming off a run of three road games in four dates, but it doesn’t leave Palo Alto the rest of the way.
March, Pre-Spring, Knee-Jerk Early Prediction: Stanford 26, Washington 20
5. Clemson at Louisville, Sept. 16
Clemson held on for dear life in a wonderful game that all but ended the ACC Atlantic season. Lamar Jackson was the star, but the Tigers won the war. This year, it’s the ACC opener Clemson and the tone-setter for both. With Florida State still to deal with for both teams, the loser is in big, big trouble.
The Tigers will get their first big test the week before when Auburn comes to town, but by Week 3 they should have their new pieces in place – talent turnover won’t be an excuse by this point. Louisville gets a trip to North Carolina the week before, and if it loses, it might be playing for its ACC life.
March, Pre-Spring, Knee-Jerk Early Prediction: Clemson 37, Louisville 26
4. Penn State at Ohio State, Oct. 28
As it turned out, it mattered in the Big Ten race, but it didn’t to the overall puzzle. The blocked kick for a score and a Penn State win vaulted the Nittany Lions into the conference championship – with a little bit of help along the way – but Ohio State still managed to get into the College Football Playoff. It’s revenge time this year in Columbus.
Penn State will know where it stands in the Big Ten East world, with Michigan to deal with the week before, while Ohio State not only gets the defending Big Ten champs at home, but it gets a week off to prepare.
March, Pre-Spring, Knee-Jerk Early Prediction: Ohio State 34, Penn State 13
3. LSU at Alabama, Nov. 4
It was as tough a defensive fight as the SEC saw all season long, with Jalen Hurts finally breaking through for the Crimson Tide in a 10-0 win. This is it for LSU. If the Ed Orgeron era wants to take a turn into the championship mode, his Tigers have to use the week off to rest of and get ready for the make-or-break moment in the SEC West season.
Unfortunately, it’ll be the LSU’s second of three road games in four dates. Making matters worse, Alabama gets a week off, too. Not only are the Crimson Tide at home, but this will be their third straight home game, not leaving Tuscaloosa for a month.
March, Pre-Spring, Knee-Jerk Early Prediction: Alabama 19, LSU 13
2. Ohio State at Michigan, Nov. 25
There have been several special moments and massive games in the long and storied history of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, but the Buckeye comeback/Michigan collapse, the fourth down conversion, and the overtime win made it, arguably, the most exciting game between the two.
While this is always going to be the game on both schedules, Michigan might be coming in limping. It not only has to go to Penn State several weeks earlier, but it’ll be coming off a date at Wisconsin. Ohio State has to go to Ann Arbor, but it should be on a roll if it beats Penn State and Michigan State at home.
March, Pre-Spring, Knee-Jerk Early Prediction: Ohio State 27, Michigan 24
1. Florida State at Clemson, Nov. 11
Clemson gutted out a thrilling 37-34 win in Tallahassee last season, showing off the national championship mettle in a nasty game in a tough situation. Now the Tigers get the Noles in Death Valley, and if all goes according to plan, the ACC Atlantic, the conference, and a possible College Football Playoff spot should all be on the line.
Clemson has to get through a trip to NC State the week before, and it’ll have to go to Louisville and Virginia Tech earlier in the season, but if they can get to November 11th with no more than one loss, with The Citadel and South Carolina to close, they’ll be deep in the hunt for the CFP.
Florida State gets Louisville at home a few weeks before, and it’ll have to deal with Alabama and Miami earlier in the year, but like Clemson, there shouldn’t be more than a loss on the slate. But with a trip to Florida still to deal with, they have to get ready to close out strong away from home.
March, Pre-Spring, Knee-Jerk Early Prediction: Florida State 34, Clemson 30