2016 College Football Schedule Preview

Another college football season is dawning upon us. The path to a championship is no easy task, but Alabama — defending and winners of four of the last seven — sure do make it look easy. Fall twice and a team is likely doomed to miss out on the four playoff spots. Here is a look at the what the guys at Tailgate Talk think is the game of the week for all 15 weeks of the upcoming 2016 season.

Torii Hunter Jr. and Notre Dame are looking to make do big things with its tough schedule. (Rich Barnes / USA Today Sports)
Torii Hunter Jr. and Notre Dame are looking to make do big things with its tough schedule. (Rich Barnes / USA Today Sports)

Week 1

USC vs. Alabama: Mark this down in your calendars as it might just be the first time Alabama is playing a halfway decent team in its first game of the season. The Tide playing a USC team that isn’t what it used to be shouldn’t be too tough of a test on a neutral field, but when you aren’t playing the Sisters of the Blind in week one, anything can happen. — Danny 

Clemson at Auburn: Heisman hopeful Deshaun Watson and Clemson are coming off an exciting season that came up short in both the Heisman voting and in an exciting national championship game just a season ago. A win by Clemson would show early signs that last year was no fluke, and they belong in early discussions for the College Football Playoff. Auburn is coming off a disappointing 7-6 season, and landed one of the best recruiting classes over the winter. A win by Auburn will surely open its competition’s eyes in the SEC.  — Arthur

Ole Miss at Florida State: The last game on the week one slate has potential to be a good one as Ole Miss has a tendency to upset heavy favorites. Just ask Alabama last year. This game could be a down to the wire fight, or the Seminoles could manhandle the Rebels. — Jimmy

Week 2

South Carolina at Mississippi State: Some of these SEC teams having to jump right into conference play in week two could be a tough adjustment, but as a fan I absolutely love it. Traveling to Starkville in primetime is going to be a tough test for a young South Carolina squad, but it will be a good test for the Bulldogs in their first conference game since Dak Prescott. — Danny

Iowa State at Iowa: An early, exciting, week two in-state rivalry game. Iowa is 41-23 all time in the rivalry, but have dropped three of the last five games. Anything is possible, but a win for first year coach Matt Campbell over Iowa — a team that exceeded all expectations a season ago — would go a long way for the Cyclones. — Arthur

No games are better than in-state rivalry games and this one should be a fun one. The Hawkeyes finished 12-2 last year and went 8-0 in conference play, earning a slot in the Rose Bowl. This team should be entering week two still rolling off last season, but don’t expect Iowa State to just lay down. — Jimmy

Week 3

Michigan State at Notre Dame: These two teams are in vastly different positions when it comes to their QB situation and it will be a good test for the Spartans to go on the road to South Bend without an experienced quarterback leading them. I think this game will set the tone for the season the Irish will have, a game they should win, but as always with them, you never know. — Danny

Ohio State at Oklahoma: Bob Stoops and Urban Meyer are both football and recruiting geniuses, and have combined four national championships and each appearing in the new College Football Playoff. A win will go a long way for both teams in the playoff polls. — Arthur

USC at Stanford: The SEC may be the favorite conference in college football, but the PAC-12 is, in my opinion, the most exciting. The Cardinal rolled over the Trojans last season 41-22 in the PAC-12 championship game, but with Clay Helton at the helm permanently for USC, expect a better fight this time around. — Jimmy

Week 4

LSU at Auburn: I hate always looking at the SEC games because I think the talent pool in college fooball is starting to level out outside of that conference, but a conference game with the best running back in college football is always enticing. LSU is going to rely heavily on Fournette, but not having a balanced attack means this is going to be your usual SEC defensive struggle. — Danny

Both program’s hopes for a national title could come to this game. Auburn doesn’t have the easiest go in the first four weeks (fortunately the three toughest games are all at home), but walking out of this 3-1 will keep its hopes alive. They just have to stop early Heisman favorite Leonard Fournette, and “under-achieving” LSU. — Arthur

All eyes will be on Leonard Fourtnette in this one, and by all eyes I mean the eyes of all 11 guys on Auburn’s defense, one that was up and down last season giving up anywhere from 10 to 54 points throughout the season. I expect Auburn’s defense to be better heading into this game, and they know what they’re game planning for. — Jimmy

Leonard Fournette Heisman Pose
Leonard Fournette doing the Heisman pose after his first collegiate touchdown. (AP PHOTO/JONATHAN BACHMAN)


Week 5

Oklahoma at TCU: Two Big 12 powerhouses with dynamic offenses going head-to-head makes for an exciting game every time. Oklahoma coming off a surprising trip to the college football playoff last season is gong to have to climb a big mountain if they want to get back, and this early season test on the road could define their season. — Danny

Stanford at Washington: Many predict the Pac-12 North will be a three team race with it coming down to these two teams. With that said, this match-up is enticing and should go a long way in deciding who will play in the Pac-12 championship game. — Arthur

Texas A&M at South Carolina: An SEC East vs. West game should produce some highlights, despite the lackluster records from last year. The Aggies took last year’s game with a 35-28 win, so expect the Gamecocks to seek revenge at home. — Jimmy

Week 6

Arizona at Utah: In a conference that usually seems up for grabs until Oregon or Stanford pulls away, these two teams could be vying for the Pac-12 crown this season. If Rich Rod wants to put a stamp on a mid-season game that could impact his season, this would be it. Traveling to Utah is no easy task and the Wildcats will be pushed for all four quarters in this one. — Danny

LSU at Florida: These two played an exciting game last year in Baton Rouge. In the end, Fournette and LSU had the final say, winning 35-28. Florida will look to avenge for that loss in one of the toughest environment’s for a traveling LSU team to come out with a win. — Arthur

Florida State at Miami: The Hurricanes lead this series 31-29, but are only 2-7 since 2005. Throw the records out the window, because these two always bring out their best and should produce another classic to add to the rivalry. — Jimmy

Week 7

Ohio State at Wisconsin: After losing a battery like Ezekiel Elliot, Urban Meyer is going to have his work cut out for him this season, especially with Michigan having a strong team. If Ohio State wants to stay in the hunt for the Big-10 title they are going to need to win tough road games and traveling to Madison is going to be a tall order. The Buckeyes have a chance to make a statement here. — Danny

Stanford at Notre Dame: Irish fans will have to wait seven weeks for the match-up that ruined the team’s playoff hopes a season ago. After falling to the Cardinal 38-36, the Irish — 7-1 against Stanford since 2000 — will look to return the favor against an early season Pac-12 and playoff favorite. Get the popcorn ready. — Arthur

Both of my TailGate Talk Show colleagues picked great games, but I’m gonna have to side with Arthur on which of the two would be better to watch. These two are 2-2 within the last four years with no more than seven points deciding the outcomes. Notre Dame leads the series thanks to a seven-win stretch between 2002 and 2008, but expect the Cardinal to put up high numbers to decrease the Fighting Irish’s series lead from 19-11 to 19-12, and ruin Notre Dame’s playoff chances again.  — Jimmy

Week 8

Oregon at California: This is the matchup we want every time there is a college football game on a Friday night. Last season was a bit of a disappointment for the Ducks considering their recent success, so if a team needs a big primetime win on the road, it’s the boys from Eugene. They are going to have to play extremely well on both sides of the ball to be a successful team this year. — Danny

Ohio State at Penn State: Ohio State has taken the last four match-ups, but the last time they traveled to Happy Valley, the Buckeyes just edged out the Nittany Lions, 31-24. Expect a similar result this time, especially with both teams looking for an identity with new recruiting class. — Arthur

Texas A&M at Alabama: It was four years ago that first-year head coach for the Aggies Kevin Sumlin and freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel upset their No. 1 seeded SEC rivals and dashed their hopes of another National Championship. Granted, that was then and this is now, but I can’t help but feel that loss still stings the Crimson Tide and their head coach Nick Saban. — Jimmy

Week 9

Florida vs. Georgia: Ahh the Florida Georgia line battle. While it is played in a stadium with less than stellar football played on Sunday’s, this will be a great football game. In the post Mike Richt era, it’s a chance for Kirby Smart to put his name on a program that needs some good things to happen. — Danny

Michigan at Michigan State: The madness that was this in-state rivalry a year ago left many fans in navy and yellow speechless and in tears. This time Jim Harbaugh will look for his crazy, yet hilarious recruiting antics to payoff and get the Wolverines over the three year slump they’ve been in against the Spartans. — Arthur

Nebraska at Wisconsin: These two teams first met in 1901 and then didn’t meet again for over 60 years. After playing two games in the 60s and two in the 70s, the rivalry became permanent in 2011, and they even played twice in 2012. It’s not a pretty rivalry by any means in terms of final scores, but Wisconsin leads the series 6-4, so there’s still a lot of room for this rivalry to grow.  — Jimmy

Week 10

Alabama at LSU: Alabama is the favorite to win it all, and while they probably have the best team in the country, going into Death Valley is not easy. If Alabama wants to win the championship, they need to get through another grueling SEC schedule and traveling to LSU will make or break their season. — Danny

Oregon at USC: Though Stanford is favored to win the Pac-12, don’t sleep on these two teams. With both having a lot to prove this year, this match-up could make or break either team’s chances at playing in the conference title game. — Arthur

Again, both colleagues picked the top two games to mention that week, but this time I have to side with Danny with which game to watch. The Crimson Tide and Tigers have met 80 times, including in the National Championship game, which the Tide won in an underwhelming 21-0 win. Alabama has owned the rivalry the past eight years with a 7-2 record, but the Tigers won’t go down without a fight.  — Jimmy

Week 11

North Carolina at Duke: Regarded as the best college basketball games of the season, these two programs have made the football matchup exciting as well. Nothing beats an in-state rival, and these two programs are no exception to that. I think this game could determine who is playing Clemson in the ACC Championship at the end of the season. — Danny

Baylor at Oklahoma: Feel free to grab a game controller and put up typical explosive offensive numbers against your buddies in the old NCAA games. Or you can just sit down and watch a game that will certainly fill that hunger for both the video game and the explosive offensive showdown everybody wants. — Arthur

Standford at Oregon: The Ducks upset the No. 7 ranked Cardinal in a 38-36 thriller last season, which comes as a surprise in terms of points scored, because the scoreboard tends to get close to triple digits when these two hit the field. Look for Stanford to be seeking revenge on an Oregon team ready to bounce back into contention after a down 2015.  — Jimmy

Week 12

Stanford at California: Everyone who knows college football knows this rivalry as it is one of the oldest and most iconic in the sport. While I don’t think they will have any band on the field type drama this year, there will be plenty of good football played for four quarters that make this game worth watching. — Danny

Ohio State at Michigan State: No two teams have dominated the Big Ten the last five years more than these two. Last season, the Spartans put an end to the Buckeyes run for a national title repeat. This will have a different vibe to it, not only because they may have Michigan to compete with, but because both teams will be looking a lot younger and inexperienced. Or will they? — Arthur

Notre Dame at Virginia Tech: Not the sexiest game on the schedule, but these two could produce something fun as the Hoakies’s offense average more than 20 points per game and the Fighting Irish averaged more than 30 points per game. — Jimmy

Week 13

Michigan at Ohio State: Rivalry week is the best in college football and while the Iron Bowl always brings a ton of entertainment, this game is going to be huge for Harbaugh and Michigan. The second favorite to win it all behind Alabama, the Wolverines will have a difficult test traveling to Columbus to face the Buckeyes who will be out for blood in this rivalry game. — Danny

Auburn at Alabama: These two teams have played for a national championship in six of the last seven years, winning five. Since the “kick six” game in 2013, Auburn has dropped two straight to the Crimson Tide. That doesn’t mean anything in this rivalry. Expect the unexpected with these two. — Arthur

Michigan State at Penn State: 30 meetings and at 15-14-1 record in favor of the Spartans, but this Big 10 rivalry will be the the one that fans talk about this week. Since the rivalry resumed in 2014, Michigan State defeated Penn State by a total of 89-26, but the Nittany Lions won’t go down that easy this year.  — Jimmy

Week 14

Oklahoma State at Oklahoma: Another in-state rivalry that is always entertaining. I wouldn’t be surprised if this game puts up a combined score of close to 100. This matchup is going to have TDs being thrown left and right and for fans I’m not sure there is anything more fun to watch. — Danny

Defense can stay on the bus in the matchup. The Big 12 has, to nobody’s surprise, put up some ridiculous offensive numbers over the last five season that has only matched by maybe Oregon. Who knows, maybe there could be more than bragging rights on the line. — Arthur

A rivalry that’s stood the test of time, the Bedlam series dates back to 1904 and the Sooners completely own their in-state rivals 85-18-7. If you look through the final scores, you’ll see that not very often the winning team had to score less than 30 points to come out on top. Expect those fireworks to continue, this time with the winning team needing more than 50 to come out on top.  — Jimmy

Week 15

Army at Navy: The best rivalry in college football gets all of the attention it deserves in the last week of the season. With all of the pomp-and-circumstance that comes with it, from the prisoner exchange to the military tributes and the flyover, this football game is enjoyable from start to finish. I look forward to it every year and it never lets me down. — Danny

A game that certainly should be on everybody’s bucket list regardless if they’re a college football fan or overall sports fan. College football win’s every year with this matchup being saved for last. — Arthur

The Army-Navy game originated in 1890 and became an annual tradition in 1930. Navy owns the rivalry 60-49-7, but this game is more about friendly competition amongst America’s heroes than anything else.  — Jimmy

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