The best non-conference games of the 2022 college football season

·11-min read

The 2022 season begins with some fantastic non-conference games over the first quarter of the season.

By now, you likely know about the big ones. Notre Dame and Ohio State meet in Week 1 just an hour or so after Oregon and Georgia face off. And Alabama and Texas play in Week 2, of course. But there are a lot of other intriguing non-conference matchups, too, especially in Week 3, a Saturday that could be full of fascinating matchups.

Here's our look at the most intriguing non-conference matchups over the first three weeks of the 2022 college football season.

(All times ET)

Week 1

Notre Dame at Ohio State (Sept. 3, 7:30 p.m.)

This is a fantastic way to cap off the first full Saturday of the season and a huge test for Marcus Freeman in his first regular season game as Notre Dame's coach. Ohio State has become the favorite pick of bettors to win the national title and is more than a two-touchdown favorite over an Irish team that brings back 15 starters.

Oregon vs. Georgia (Sept. 3, 3:30 p.m.)

New Oregon coach Dan Lanning’s first game with the Ducks comes against his former employer. Lanning was the defensive coordinator for Georgia’s national title-winning team in 2021 and will likely get a nice ovation from Bulldog fans in Atlanta. How will his familiarity with Georgia’s defensive personnel help QB Bo Nix and an offense that returns its entire starting offensive line?

ATHENS, GA - APRIL 16: Georgia Bulldogs Head Coach Kirby Smart during the G-Day intrasquad spring game on April 16, 2022 at Sanford Stadium in Athens, GA.  (Photo by John Adams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Georgia coach Kirby Smart faces off against former defensive coordinator Dan Lanning in Week 1. (Photo by John Adams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Utah at Florida (Sept. 3, 7 p.m.)

The Pac-12 champions travel to the Swamp and are currently favored over the Gators in Billy Napier’s first game coaching Florida. Florida was one of the biggest underachievers in 2021 and enters this season with Anthony Richardson as the team’s starting quarterback. It’s a big chance for Richardson as he enters the season tied with others as the No. 5 favorite for the Heisman.

Cincinnati at Arkansas (Sept. 3, 3:30 p.m.)

This is the Bearcats’ second consecutive game against an SEC opponent after losing to Alabama in the College Football Playoff. Ben Bryant is in line to replace Desmond Ridder as Cincinnati’s starting quarterback while Arkansas needs to replace Treylon Burks and four of its five leading tacklers from a team that won nine games in 2021.

Florida State vs. LSU (Sept. 4, 7:30 p.m.)

This game may be more about the name brands involved than the quality of football from two programs trying to get back to the top. But we’re very intrigued for Brian Kelly’s first game with the Tigers and if Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels or Myles Brennan will be LSU’s starting quarterback.

BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA - DECEMBER 01: Brian Kelly (C) is introduced as the head football coach of the LSU Tigers by LSU President William F. Tate IV (L) and athletics director Scott Woodward during a news conference at Tiger Stadium on December 01, 2021 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
LSU opens the Brian Kelly era against Florida State. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

West Virginia at Pittsburgh (Sept. 1, 7 p.m.)

The Backyard Brawl is back for the first time since 2011. Pitt enters the game looking to beat the Mountaineers for the first time since 2008 as WVU has won three straight. Both teams will feature former USC quarterbacks, too. Kedon Slovis is in line to start for Pitt while former Trojan and Georgia QB JT Daniels is now at West Virginia.

Boise State at Oregon State (Sept. 3, 10:30 p.m.)

Who knows, maybe this will be a matchup we see in the Pac-12 in the future? Oregon State returns nine starters on a defense that improved a lot from 2020 to 2021 on the way to a bowl berth for the first time since 2013. The Broncos are a favorite in the Mountain West again and are looking to bounce back from a disappointing 7-5 season.

North Carolina at Appalachian State (Sept. 3, Noon)

Appalachian State is a perennial Sun Belt contender and won double-digit games for the third time in four seasons in 2021. North Carolina was a disappointment a season ago and QB Sam Howell is one of six departing starters on the Tar Heel offense.

Houston at UTSA (Sept. 3, 3:30 p.m.)

Houston went 12-2 in 2021 as the play for the future strategy of coach Dana Holgorsen bore fruit in Year 3. UTSA was one of the best stories of 2021 as the Roadrunners also went 12-2 and got to No. 15 in the AP Top 25. QB Frank Harris is one of eight starters back on offense for UTSA and the Alamodome will be very loud for this one.

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09:  Head coach Nick Saban (L) and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian of the Alabama Crimson Tide stand on the sideline during the second half of the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game against the Clemson Tigers at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Texas coach Steve Sarkisian (R) served as an offensive coordinator for Nick Saban before taking the Longhorns job after the 2020 season. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Week 2

Alabama at Texas (Sept. 10, Noon)

The matchup of future SEC foes is the first between the two teams since Alabama beat Texas to win the national title in 2010. Former Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will be hoping his offensive line can hold up against the Tide’s defensive front to let Quinn Ewers and Bijan Robinson make plays and that his defense can keep 2021 Heisman winner Bryce Young in check.

Baylor at BYU (Sept. 10, 10:15 p.m.)

Baylor, the reigning Big 12 champion, beat the Cougars by 14 at home in 2021. BYU returns every starter on defense after taking a step back statistically in 2021 thanks to a much tougher schedule. The Cougars will need to replace RB Tyler Allgaier but QB Jaren Hall and WRs Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney return.

Missouri at Kansas State (Sept. 10, Noon)

This matchup of former Big 12 rivals is sneakily significant. Missouri could need this win to make a bowl for the second consecutive season while Kansas State is going for its third eight-win season in Chris Klieman’s four seasons with the school.

Louisville at UCF (Sept. 9, 7:30 p.m.)

Cardinals QB Malik Cunningham is one of the best dual-threat QBs in college football and this is a second straight road game for Louisville to start the season. We’ll see if Mikey Keene or Ole Miss transfer John Rhys Plumlee is the starting QB for the Knights as they bring back 17 starters from a team that went 9-4 in Gus Malzahn’s first season.

DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 28: Louisville Cardinals quarterback Malik Cunningham (3) runs during the Servpro First Responder Bowl game on December 28, 2021 at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas, TX. (Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Louisville QB Malik Cunningham scored nearly 40 TDs in 2021. (Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Tennessee at Pittsburgh (Sept. 10, 3:30 p.m.)

Pitt got the best of Tennessee last year and it’s easy to see Tennessee returning the favor in 2022. Hendon Hooker was phenomenal in 2021 and a win against the Panthers sets Tennessee up to be 3-0 before consecutive games against Florida, LSU and Alabama.

Washington State at Wisconsin (Sept. 10, 3:30 p.m.)

WSU went 6-3 in the Pac-12 in 2021 and blew out rival Washington to end the regular season. The Cougars also bring in FCS star Cameron Ward at QB with his offensive coordinator at Incarnate Word, Eric Morris, now in charge of the play-calling in Pullman. Wisconsin has to replace 14 starters but is the favorite in the Big Ten West and returns RB Braelon Allen. He rushed for nearly seven yards a carry as a freshman.

Arizona State at Oklahoma State (Sept. 10, 7:30 p.m.)

Oklahoma State should be in the thick of the Big 12 race once again but needs to replace seven starters on a defense that also has a new coordinator after Jim Knowles went to Ohio State. Arizona State has to replace 15 starters — including QB Jayden Daniels — as the program is in the midst of an NCAA investigation into recruiting violations.

Iowa State at Iowa (Sept. 10, 4 p.m.)

The annual rivalry game isn’t higher up on the Week 2 list because ISU only brings back eight starters from a team that underachieved in 2021. Matt Campbell needs to replace Brock Purdy, Breece Hall and Charlie Kolar on offense and the team’s four leading tacklers are also gone. ISU hasn't beaten Iowa since 2014.

Appalachian State at Texas A&M (Sept. 10, 3:30 p.m.)

This game gets even more interesting if Appalachian State gets a win over North Carolina in Week 1. A&M will be a significant favorite and this is a potential look-ahead spot for the Aggies ahead of a massive Week 3 showdown with Miami.

Oregon State at Fresno State (Sept. 10, 10:30 p.m.)

This is another tough Mountain West test for the Beavers before a game against FCS opponent Montana State ahead of Pac-12 play. Fresno State and QB Jake Haener took down UCLA in a thriller in 2021.

Miami Hurricanes head coach Mario Cristobal flexes during the spring game for the University of Miami at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Saturday, April 16, 2022. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Miami and new coach Mario Cristobal head to College Station to play Texas A&M in Week 3. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Week 3

Miami at Texas A&M (Sept. 17, 9 p.m.)

This is a huge spot for the Hurricanes and new coach Mario Cristobal. Tyler Van Dyke has been mentioned as a possible first-round QB in the 2023 NFL draft and a big game against the Aggies will heighten that draft buzz. A&M is the fourth SEC opponent Miami has faced in the last five seasons and only one of its previous three losses — a 24-20 loss to Florida in 2019 — was within 14 points.

Oklahoma at Nebraska (Sept. 17, Noon)

The Huskers hung around against Oklahoma a season ago before proceeding to lose seven of their final eight games of the season on the way to a 3-9 record. Expectations in Lincoln will be for nothing short of a win, even if Oklahoma will be favored in this one.

BYU at Oregon (Sept. 17, 3:30 p.m.)

Oregon isn’t skimping on its non-conference scheduling this season. Given the Ducks’ game against Georgia in Week 1 and BYU’s game against Baylor in Week 2, it’s entirely possible that the loser of this game will be 1-2.

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 20: Auburn Tigers head coach Bryan Harsin looks on during the game between the Auburn Tigers and the South Carolina Gamecocks on November 20, 2021 at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC.(Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Auburn went 6-7 in Bryan Harsin's first season. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Penn State at Auburn (Sept. 17, 3:30 p.m.)

It may be a stretch to say this is a must-win game for Auburn coach Bryan Harsin, but a win over Penn State would do wonders for a program that went 6-7 and had a tumultuous offseason. This will also be Penn State’s second road game of the season after a Week 1 visit to Purdue and the Nittany Lions’ first game at an SEC opponent since visiting Alabama in 2010.

Michigan State at Washington (Sept. 17, 7:30 p.m.)

MSU went to Miami and won by three touchdowns in Week 3 a season ago in what was a surprising result at the time. This is the first big test for Washington and new coach Kalen DeBoer after the Huskies were 4-8 in 2021. Improving the offense is a huge priority for DeBoer and Washington brought in former Indiana QB Michael Penix during the offseason.

Fresno State at USC (Sept. 17, 10:30 p.m.)

Can Fresno take down another team from Los Angeles? This game gets the late-night treatment on Fox as all attention will be on Lincoln Riley and the offensive skill players that transferred to USC. The biggest question for the Trojans may be on defense, however. USC needs to replace eight starters after giving up 32 points per game in 2021.

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 23: Caleb Williams (13), USC quarterback, and head coach Lincoln Riley, in the USC Football Spring Game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, April 23, 2022 in Los Angeles, CA. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
USC hosts Fresno State in Week 3 after playing Stanford in Week 2. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

San Diego State at Utah (Sept. 17, 10 p.m.)

SDSU beat Utah in three overtimes in 2021 and also plays Arizona and Boise State over the first five weeks of the 2022 season. SDSU has given up fewer than 20 points per game in each of the last three seasons.

Texas Tech at NC State (Sept. 17, 7 p.m.)

This is a game NC State needs to win to assert itself as one of the best teams in the ACC. A season ago, the Wolfpack lost 24-10 at Mississippi State in Week 2.

UTSA at Texas (Sept. 17, 8 p.m.)

The Longhorns will likely win this one but 2022 is UTSA’s chance to establish itself as a power player in the state after its run in 2021. Wins over Houston and Texas will give UTSA bragging rights it’ll retain forever.

North Dakota State at Arizona (Sept. 17, 11 p.m.)

The Wildcats are the first Power Five opponent for the FCS powerhouse Bison since NDSU took down Iowa in 2016. Don’t be surprised when NDSU is favored ahead of the game as Arizona went 1-11 in 2021 and was outscored by two touchdowns per game.