They’re the biggest and most important games of the 2021 college football season. What are the ten biggest games you’ll need to watch?
10 Most Important College Football Games of 2021
The 2021 college football season is loaded with great games – last year at this time, no big matchup was certain.
We get back the normal rivalries – Texas vs. Oklahoma, Ohio State at Michigan – along with showdowns like Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin at Soldier Field, Washington at Michigan, and Auburn at Penn State. But which games really matter in the College Football Playoff and national title chase?
If you have to only watch ten regular season college football games this year, here they are. They’re the ten most important games in the national championship and College Football Playoff chases, and they’re the ten that should define the season.
10. Iowa State at Oklahoma, Nov. 20
It’s only this low because if it matters like we all think it will, the winner might have to do it all again in the Big 12 Championship. Oklahoma still has the trip to Oklahoma State to follow, and this is the end of a run of three road games in four weeks for Iowa State.
9. North Carolina at Notre Dame, Oct. 30
This might be giving way too much love and credit to North Carolina, but welcome to the showdown the program has been preparing for under Mack Brown. There’s no Clemson on the regular season slate and the Miami game is at home. Other than a trip to NC State, if the Tar Heels win this, they’re going to be favored against everyone else.
8. Oregon at Washington, Nov. 6
This takes on a different look one way or another depending on what happens on September 11th – Oregon goes to Ohio State and Washington makes a trip to Michigan. Both teams have massive landmines to avoid in Pac-12 play, but the winner of this is still alive for the College Football Playoff and the loser is almost certainly out.
7. Florida at LSU, Oct. 16
It’s an elimination game that should be played at the highest of intensity levels after last year’s thriller – a shocking LSU win. Florida will have already played Alabama and gets Georgia two weeks later, but that’s about it. If it beats LSU, it should still be alive for the SEC title. LSU has the talent to be 6-0 to start the season if all goes according to plan, and then it gets the Gators.
6. Cincinnati at Notre Dame, Oct. 2
One caveat – this only matters in the national title and College Football Playoff chase if Cincinnati wins at Indiana the game before, If it does and starts 3-0, the showdown in South Bend will be in the spotlight. The American Athletic Conference schedule isn’t a breeze, but if the Bearcats start 4-0, it’s Game On for the CFP.
5. Florida vs. Georgia (in Jacksonville), Oct. 30
Unless something crazy happens, this is the SEC East Championship game. For the national title chase, this matters for Florida if it’s no worse than 6-1 – it plays Alabama and LSU before the trip to Jacksonville. For Georgia, there’s the opener against Clemson, and there’s this. It’ll likely be a double-digit favorite against everyone else.
4. Texas A&M at LSU, Nov. 27
If LSU goes 1-1 against Alabama and Florida, and if it can get by road games at Ole Miss, Kentucky and Mississippi State, then it’ll be part of the story. More realistically, the regular season finale should be all about a Texas A&M team that should be good enough to at least be 10-1 before going to Baton Rouge.
3. Oregon at Ohio State, Sept. 11
The Pac-12 really, really, really needs this. It’s the type of early season game the conference hasn’t been able to take down over the last several years, but Oregon has the talent to do it.
There’s going to be a loss somewhere for the Ducks – they have to go to Washington and Utah – but a win in Columbus would provide a huge buffer. Ohio State will almost certainly be double-digit favorites against everyone else.
2. Alabama at Texas A&M, Oct. 9
Alabama has to go to Florida and Auburn, and it has showdowns against Miami, LSU, and Ole Miss, but the trip to College Station is the most dangerous game it has to get through. It’s Bama, so it can lose and be just fine on the way to 11-1, but that puts the Aggies in the SEC West driver’s seat.
All things considered in the toughest division in college football, A&M’s slate isn’t bad with no Florida or Georgia to deal with from the East. Pull this off, and there’s room for a miss at Ole Miss or LSU in late November.
1. Clemson vs. Georgia (in Charlotte), Sept. 4
Of course the winner of this national title-level showdown will be fast-tracked by the world to a College Football Playoff spot, but this should be just as much about how good the loser looks.
If this is relatively close, there’s absolutely no shame for either side to drop the season opener – it’s not fair that neither one gets a warm-up.
This matters far more for Georgia than Clemson. The rest of the schedule isn’t bad – there’s no Alabama, LSU or Texas A&M from the West – but there’s still the date with Florida and, possibly, the SEC Championship against whatever monster comes from the other division. Beat Clemson, and the Bulldogs have their signature win to live on.
With only some due respect to Clemson’s ACC schedule, it’s going to take something wild for anyone on the slate to pull off an upset over another loaded team. It could happen, but the overwhelming favorite to win the ACC title can easily afford one loss if it opens with a victory in Charlotte.