Best Non-Conference Games for the 2021 CFB Seasonby Charlie Parent May 26, 2021 0 comments
After a year with no real non-conference play, it’s finally back in 2021. This year’s schedule is packed with excitement from top to bottom and we have top-20 matchups throughout the whole month of September. So, without further ado, let’s break down the best matchups for this year’s non-conference slate.
Georgia vs Clemson
Week 1 starts off with an absolute bang in this one. There would be no surprise if this was a top-five game once the rankings come out. Both of these teams are legitimate national title contenders, and this should be a thrilling matchup. The game will take place in Charlotte, North Carolina, so there’s no real home-team advantage, however, Clemson is considerably closer to the location. Overall, there’s no clear winner in this matchup and it should go back and forth the whole time.
Miami vs Alabama
Once again, Alabama is taking on a ranked opponent to start its campaign. In these early-season ranked matchups, the Crimson Tide has historically blown teams out of the water. Now, they get the chance to showcase their new quarterback, Bryce Young, and demonstrate to teams what they’re capable of if they can get this big win. Miami will look to upset the defending national champions with all the talent they have returning, like quarterback D’Eriq King. This should be a game Alabama handles easily, but when any team has a new quarterback, anything can happen.
Cincinnati vs Indiana
This Cincinnati team is the best group of five squad going into this season and will really get the chance to show it with their schedule. They take on Indiana in this one and will go up against Notre Dame later in the year. The biggest factor of this being a big game is Michael Penix Jr. Penix is Indiana’s star quarterback but his health is currently up in the air. He’s coming off a torn ACL and it’s unknown if he’ll come back at the moment. If he does return for this game, it will be a thriller.
Both teams are not losing much in terms of production for next season and they could both very well be ranked in the top-10. This game will also be in Indiana and Hoosier fans will be going crazy in the first big game they’ve been able to see in two years.
Boise State vs UCF
Two of the biggest powerhouses in the group of five square off in Orlando for a matchup that will surely be between two top-25 teams. It will also feature two NFL Draft hopeful quarterbacks that get a big opportunity to improve their stock in a big game. UCF’s Dillon Gabriel packs the stat sheet but still needs to show a little bit more to be up there with the top of this class. Boise State’s Hank Bachmeier is a bit of an unknown player, but he can get recognized on the national stage. We rarely get such an exciting group of five matchup, so make sure to tune into this one to see some high-flying offense and excitement all around.
Oregon vs Ohio State
Around this time last year, everyone was pumped for this matchup. Due to Covid-19, this game was canceled. Now, we get to see it in 2021. Both teams have playoff hopes on their minds and this game will be huge to set the tone of the season. The Ducks and Buckeyes will come into this Week 2 matchup after facing easier opponents in Week 1. This is significant because it will give both teams’ new quarterbacks time to adjust to the game. Even though this game brings some huge excitement, it seems that Ohio State is just too talented to slip up here, and they should win this one in Columbus.
Iowa vs Iowa State
This year’s battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy is a big one. Iowa State hasn’t beaten Iowa since 2014 but this year looks like the best opportunity for them. The Cyclones are a preseason top-six team in the country and will be the home team here. Iowa, however, is not a team to underestimate, especially in a rivalry. They got off to a disappointing start last year, but since, have won six straight games. They do lose some notable production coming into this season but it’s manageable. On paper, this should be a game that Iowa State takes but early season rivalries always bring excitement and upsets.
Auburn vs Penn State
These two teams were wildly disappointing last season but this still makes for an exciting matchup. This is rumored to be Penn State’s famous whiteout game. That alone makes it interesting enough to watch. The atmosphere in College Park for this game is incredible, no matter if the team is good or bad. Penn State and Auburn are both poised to have bounce-back years, however. If Auburn’s quarterback Bo Nix can finally piece everything together he can be one of the best signal-callers in the nation. The quarterback for Penn State still seems to be a battle but either guy is serviceable. Overall, this game is exciting because of the atmosphere. If the teams are both good, it will add a sweet bonus to an entertaining night.
Notre Dame vs Wisconsin
The last game on our list here and it has all the makings of a classic Big-10 matchup. This game has some interesting narratives to it as well, such as the return of Jack Coan. Coan was the former Wisconsin starter before losing his spot to Graham Mertz after getting injured in 2020. Coan then picked up and transferred over to Notre Dame, where he is expected to replace Ian Book. This game should be really exciting, especially in one of the best venues in football: Camp Randall. These two teams will be in the top-25 to start the season and it will be really nice for both to pick up a win here before conference play.
Follow Charlie Parent on Twitter @Charlie_Parent
Main Image Credit:
Embed from Getty Images