We’re halfway through the dog days of Summer and that means the next season of NCAA Football is right around the corner! It’s been a huge offseason for any college football fans, as the PAC-12 lost two of it’s primary teams in USC and UCLA to the Big Ten – a move that has drawn critics and fans alike. This move will mean quite the shake-up for college football as a whole, particularly as it seems to spell a continued move towards a few super conferences in the sport. But, as of now, there are still a number of major conferences with some of the biggest schools in college football, and each of those conferences has some very interesting match-ups to look forward to for this next season. Stick around as we break down some of the biggest NCAAF games for the 2022 season.
#4: Notre Dame at USC on November 26th
The battle of the new head coaches between two storied programs, both of whom have a ton of hype behind them and one of whom (USC) will now have national news behind them all season due to their move to the Big Ten.
With Brian Kelly leaving Notre Dame for Oklahoma, Marcus Freeman will be calling the shots for the Fighting Irish this year. Freeman has been working as a coach in the NCAA for over a decade now, first as a linebacker coach, and then as a defensive coordinator (including his most recent role as defensive coordinator for Notre Dame). He’ll have big shoes to fill, and there will certainly be an expectation for Notre Dame to be a top 20 team by November.
On the other side of things, Lincoln Riley will be taking over at USC, after his massively publicized departure from Oklahoma. Much like Freeman, there will be an expectation for immediate success. Those expectations are going to exist for Caleb Williams as well, the former Oklahoma quarterback who will be moving to USC with Riley.
Neither of these teams have gimme schedules throughout the season, and there are potential speed bumps for each team prior to their Thanksgiving match-up. But if these teams are healthy and reach their potential, this could be one of the best games of the year.
#3: Oklahoma at Nebraska on September 17th
Early in the season, we’ve got a strong match-up between an Oklahoma team that just lost their head coach and starting QB, and a Nebraska team that finished 3-9 last year. Not the normal idea of a highly interesting match-up, and yet this one could be a huge game. Not only is this a rivalry that has fallen out of favor in recent years, but it will be a new system for Oklahoma, and a potential last chance for Nebraska and their head coach Scott Frost to figure it out before a regime change is instituted.
Frost will have the talented Casey Thompson under center to help his cause, and the touchdown leader in the Big 12 last year should turn Nebraska into a highly entertaining program, if not necessarily a highly successful one. Dillon Gabriel will be the star of the show for Oklahoma, and with a passer of his caliber, the sky could be the limit for an Oklahoma team that will need to find a new identity.
#2: Cincinnati at Arkansas on September 3rd
Right from the jump, Cincinnati isn’t the team it was last year or even the prior two years. They’ve lost a lot of their best players, and they’re going to play differently than they have in recent years. That said, this is a big opportunity for them to start the season with a statement game, and Arkansas could be just the perfect opponent for that.
However, Arkansas won’t try to make things easy for Cincinnati. While they haven’t been a hugely successful program lately, they went 9-4 last year (although only 4-4 in conference play) after going 2-10 the previous year. 2022’s Arkansas team will be a major test for Cincinnati, and will be a good indicator of where both teams are to start the season. This could end up being a very close one and should be an exciting game, whichever result it ends with.
#1: Oregon vs Georgia on September 3rd
There should be no surprise here for anyone who has their ear to the ground on NCAA Football – this is one of the most exciting match-ups of the 2022 season, and one that we’re looking forward to very much. There’s a lot of backstory in this match-up: Georgia coming in as National Champs for the first time in four decades, facing off against their former defensive coordinator in Dan Lanning, the man many believe to be largely responsible for Georgia’s National Championship.
Meanwhile, the expectations for Oregon coming into this game are going to be huge and potentially overinflated – the PAC-12 hasn’t exactly been a powerhouse in recent years, and they’re taking on one of the SEC’s best at what is ostensibly a “neutral” site. Considering that neutral site is in Atlanta, we’re going to go ahead and assume that it will be packed to the brim with UGA fans.
This is a killer match-up to kick off the season and could be one of the final big moments for a PAC-12 conference that is seemingly on its last legs. Georgia will (and should be) favored in this one, but we’re not ruling Oregon out from an early season upset to stamp their place in college football for the 2022 season.