Want national title implications? Classic rivalries? Must-win conference showdowns? Here are the best 25 games this season has to offer.
Getty ImagesKevin C. Cox
25. Clemson at Georgia (Aug. 30)
Last year's meeting was an epic offensive showdown that featured elite playmakers and provided a memorable experience for everyone. This year, Clemson's defense is its strength while Georgia returns nine starters on D. With new starting quarterbacks for both teams including the Bulldogs' Hutson Mason (pictured), expect a sloppier performance from both offenses in the first week of the season — which could be equally as entertaining.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY SportsDale Zanine
24. LSU at Florida (Oct. 11)
Looking for a midseason signature win for Florida to prove it's back in the SEC mix? This is the one LSU coach Les Miles (pictured) better be circling. The home team has won the Muschamp-Miles bout in each of the three years, including a 14-6 suffocating home win for the Gators in 2012. Miles is 1-3 in The Swamp.
Getty ImagesChris Graythen
23. Florida vs. Georgia (Nov. 1, Jacksonville)
This game is massive for both teams, but especially Gators head coach Will Muschamp (pictured). He’s 0-3 against UGA and will need a win in this game to stay in SEC East contention. Despite winning three straight, Mark Richt’s squad was anything but dominating as Georgia has won those three contests by a combined 15 points.
22. Stanford at Notre Dame (Oct. 4)
This historic rivalry has been elevated in recent years after a memorable overtime goal-line stand for Notre Dame in 2012 and a physical 27-20 victory for Stanford a year ago. Only four times have both teams been ranked at the time of the meeting (28 total games) and three of those have come in the last three years. A fourth straight meeting of two ranked teams is likely to happen again this year and a playoff berth could be on the line this time around.
Getty ImagesThearon W. Henderson
21. Texas vs. UCLA (Sept. 13, Arlington)
UCLA has Pac-12 South Division title hopes and possibly more as Brett Hundley (pictured) enters his third season under center. Texas will be three weeks into the Charlie Strong Era in Austin and will provide a nasty early-season test for the Bruins on a “neutral" field in Dallas. Both teams have outside chances at landing a spot in the College Football Playoff and an early-season slip up must be avoided for both.
Getty ImagesStephen Dunn
20. LSU vs. Wisconsin (Aug. 30, Houston)
From a pure entertainment standpoint, the Tigers-Badgers semi-neutral field battle in Houston might be the one to watch in '14. This game will feature what should be two equally matched opponents, both of whom are expecting to compete for division titles in their respective conferences. LSU and Wisconsin feature two of the best power running games -- including the work of Melvin Gordon (pictured) -- in the land and this game will be a throwback showcase.
Getty ImagesMike McGinnis
19. Baylor at Texas (Oct. 4)
The Bears topped both Texas and Oklahoma at home last year but to repeat as Big 12 champs, head coach Art Briles (pictured) and Co. must top both conference powers on the road this fall. The Bears have won in Austin before but this isn’t Mack Brown's Longhorns anymore. As far as early-season conference games go, this one is fascinating.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsMark J. Rebilas
18. South Carolina at Auburn (Oct. 25)
Auburn got no favors this fall by having to face the top two contenders in the East (the Gamecocks and Georgia Bulldogs) in crossover play. The difference is the lack of history between these two SEC title contenders. The duo has played just 11 times and Auburn holds a commanding 9-1-1 lead in the series. The Gamecocks would have won the East had it not lost the last meeting in Columbia in 2011. South Carolina’s lone win over Auburn came way back in 1933.
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY SportsJeff Blake
17. Auburn at Georgia (Nov. 15)
The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry offered fans one of the most remarkable games in SEC history last fall. While the 2014 edition will be hard pressed to match last year’s drama, the gravity of this year’s showdown could be much greater as both teams eye a College Football Playoff berth. Auburn hasn’t won in Athens since 2005.
Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY SportsShanna Lockwood
16. Auburn at Ole Miss (Nov. 1)
With the recent influx of talent, Ole Miss finds itself closer to the top of the West Division than the bottom. That means home tests against conference front-runners become marquee showdowns. The Tigers have won eight of the last 10 against the Rebels but Ole Miss dominated Auburn the last time they visited (41-20 in 2012) and has won two out of three in Oxford.
John Reed-USA TODAY SportsJohn Reed
15. Army vs. Navy (Dec. 13, Baltimore)
It has no bearing on the national landscape and neither team plays a 'conference' schedule, but the annual bout between Army and Navy has to be recognized. The two have met 114 times with Navy holding a 58-49-7 edge in the all-time series, including a 12-game winning streak. There is a reason this game stands alone on its own weekend (Week 16, technically) and attending this patriotic and emotional contest should be on every fan’s sports bucket list.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY SportsTommy Gilligan
14. South Carolina at Clemson (Nov. 29)
As far as deeply entrenched rivalries and overall importance of the game to the national landscape go, it's hard to argue the Palmetto State season finale won't be one the biggest non-conference games of the year. South Carolina and Steve Spurrier are eyeing an SEC East title and possible playoff berth, so a loss to the Tigers for the first time since 2008 would be crippling to those hopes.
Getty ImagesStreeter Lecka
13. Stanford at UCLA (Nov. 28)
The Cardinal are the two-time defending Pac-12 champs but have to play all of its toughest games on the road, including a trip to UCLA on the final weekend of the regular season. These two played in back-to-back weeks two years ago and the Bruins haven’t forgotten. It could happen again this fall. Whether both divisions are already locked up or not, this game should be supremely entertaining.
Getty ImagesEzra Shaw
12. USC at UCLA (Nov. 22)
This crosstown rivalry is getting some extra juice, as both programs appear to be surging in the right direction. Both teams are ranked in the preseason top 20 and both have elite starting rosters. Depth could be a big issue for the Trojans come late November but if they can stay healthy, USC could find itself in a winner-take-all South Division title match against one of its biggest rivals.
Getty ImagesStephen Dunn
11. LSU at Auburn (Oct. 4)
The battle of Tigers from Auburn and LSU is one of the yearly treats for SEC fans. Last fall, LSU was the only team to beat Auburn in the regular season and it wasn’t really competitive. Revenge will certainly be on the minds of Gus Malzahn (pictured) and his squad. The right to challenge Alabama likely also hangs in the balance, too.
Getty ImagesJohn Reed-USA TODAY Sports
10. Michigan at Ohio State (Nov. 29)
Yes, this game may not have as much meaning to either team at the end of the season in terms of the standings but that didn’t stop 2013's meeting from being an instant classic. Brady Hoke (pictured) desperately needs wins against a rival and Ohio State could still need this game to win the division. The bottom line is a winless Wolverines-Buckeyes matchup is still must-see TV.
Getty ImagesChristian Petersen
9. Georgia at South Carolina (Sept. 13)
The SEC East title could be on the line in Week 3 when these two tangle in Columbia. South Carolina lost narrowly in Athens last year after three straight relatively easy wins over the Dawgs from 2010-12. Georgia last won at South Carolina in 2008.
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY SportsJeff Blake
8. Oklahoma vs. Texas (Oct. 11, Dallas)
The Red River Shootout (no, I don’t call it the Rivalry) enters a new era with a new chapter as Charlie Strong (pictured) takes part in his first Cotton Bowl showdown. Texas won this game inexplicably a year ago and the Sooners should be plenty motivated to get revenge against a first-year coach. For better or worse, Strong’s work with the offensive line will be on full display.
Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY SportsBrendan Maloney
7. Alabama at LSU (Nov. 8)
The Tigers aren’t picked to finish first, second or third in the SEC West but that doesn’t take much away from what is a yearly battle between these two powerhouses. Bama doesn’t have too many tests this fall and a trip to Baton Rouge might be its toughest (until the Iron Bowl). Nick Saban has won three straight overall in this series and has won two of the last three trips to the Bayou.
Getty ImagesKevin C. Cox
6. Baylor at Oklahoma (Nov. 8)
The Bears have never won in 11 tries in Norman and the Big 12 title likely hangs in the balance on Nov. 8 when Art Briles brings his squad into Memorial Stadium. This was a 29-point blowout in favor of Baylor last year in Waco but both teams will be different this fall. Bryce Petty will have to be near perfect and the BU defense must develop before November if it wants to win this marquee showdown.
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY SportsMatt Kartozian
5. Ohio State at Michigan State (Nov. 8)
Some of the luster has certainly worn off this monumental showdown but these are still the two best teams in the Big Ten. The winner of this game is still likely the East Division champ, the winner of the Big Ten title and a contender to snag the final playoff spot. This should still be a physical clash of top-ranked teams.
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4. Michigan State at Oregon (Sept. 6)
It cannot be overstated what a win for Michigan State in this game would mean for the Big Ten. So Oregon cannot overlook the rebuilt Sparty defense early in the year or the Ducks could be knocked out of playoff contention by Week 2. The schematic chess match between Marcus Mariota and Mark Dantonio's (pictured) defense should be fascinating to watch.
Getty ImagesJoe Robbins
3. Oregon at UCLA (Oct. 11)
There is no better quarterback matchup in the nation than when Mariota and the Ducks fly south to battle Brett Hundley and the Bruins in the Rose Bowl. This is likely a preview of the Pac-12 title game and could have divisional, conference and national championship implications. Loosen up the scoreboard operator for this one.
2. Stanford at Oregon (Nov. 1)
The Pac-12 South has gotten much better and has its own elite battles but the top ticket in the conference this fall is still the Ducks and Cardinal. The winner of this game has won the last four Pac-12 titles and that will likely be the case again this fall. A knee injury hampered Marcus Mariota (pictured, left) last year and a fully healthy No. 8 under center could finally give the Ducks a win over the Cardinal.
Getty ImagesEzra Shaw
1. Auburn at Alabama (Nov. 29)
Not only are in-state and conference bragging rights on the line for 364 days in the nation’s biggest event this year, but the winner of this one game also played in each of the final five BCS National Championship Games. And after the way last year’s clash ended, fans can bet the intensity will reach a fevered pitch by Rivalry Week — especially, if there is as much on the line in 2014 as there was last fall.
John David Mercer-USA TODAY SporJohn David Mercer
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