The 2016 college football season is approaching. Here is another list post to help get you to September 1. These are our top 10 narrative games. They aren’t the 10 biggest games. But, they may have the biggest impact on the national media discussion.
Oklahoma vs. Houston [Sept. 3] The Sooners are playoff favorites in a weak Big 12. The Cougars are playoff possibilities, if they run the table and get some luck. An Oklahoma win sends Houston back to the kids’ table. A Houston upset untethers the Herman balloon and gets the “Big Game Bob” chorus started early.
Alabama at Ole Miss [Sept. 17] The Tide have lost two straight to Ole Miss. A loss here would not define Alabama’s season. It didn’t in 2014 or 2015, with Ole Miss reaching the title game both years. It will alter the narrative. Nick Saban won’t be able to cork the “Alabama dynasty is over” talk until probably the Tennessee game.
Stanford at UCLA [Sept. 24] The Pac 12 Media Day favorites square off in September. Mora and his recruits have resurrected UCLA. But, the Bruins have not joined the conference’s upper echelon. Mora is 0-5 against Stanford. Win and UCLA may be 4-0 with two big-ish wins and a reasonable playoff route. Lose again, coming off a disappointing 2015 finish, and it’s “Big Game Jim.”
Tennessee vs. Florida [Sept. 24] The Vols are SEC East favorites. Proving it begins with Florida. The Gators have won 11-straight against Tennessee and 24 of the past 30. The last two games in this series were decided by a point. Beating Florida removes a weight from the Vols heading into a decisive stretch of games. Losing, again, has to turn up the heat under Butch Jones.
Texas at Oklahoma State [Oct. 1] Charlie Strong is on the hot seat. Texas has a rough non-conference schedule, opening with Notre Dame and taking a road trip to Cal. Edging a win on the road in Stillwater after a bye week could be crucial. Texas could be a solid (more or less) 3-1 heading into the Oklahoma game. The Longhorns could also be 1-3 and lining up big wigs for the Tom Herman bidding war.
Miami vs. Florida State [Oct. 8] Miami opens with Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic, App State, and Georgia Tech. This game is where the Honeymoon stops for Mark Richt. Win and it could be “5-0 look out for the revamped Hurricanes” and fans in the stands. Lose and it could be a seventh-straight stadium emptying for the rest of the season loss.
Notre Dame vs. Stanford [Oct. 15] The Irish feast on some mediocre ACC fare next season. Multiple service academies. Just three games in an opposing team’s stadium. Texas and USC are down. The trickiest games are at home. It’s a schedule fit for a playoff run. Of course, it’s not hard to come up with a scenario where Stanford is Notre Dame’s only potential quality win and this game is all or nothing.
Michigan at Michigan State [Oct. 29] Michigan will enter the season hyped. The Wolverines should be 7-0 before heading on the road to East Lansing. Win and we’re talking playoff for Michigan. Lose and the Spartans have won eight of nine. The discussion swings to Jim Harbaugh potentially going 0-4 in rivalry games his first two years.
Clemson at Florida State [Oct. 29] In all likelihood, two ACC favorites and potential playoff candidates arrive for this game. One will no longer be one afterward. Neither of these coaches are on a hot seat. A loss would be more deflating for Clemson, but could have some longer term impact for FSU. If the Seminoles are out of playoff contention and the LSU job opens, things could get interesting for Jimbo Fisher.
LSU vs. Alabama [Nov. 5] Both teams enter off a bye week. Both could be undefeated, or, at least, still relevant in the SEC West race. Les Miles barely survived last season. What’s the mood like if LSU still doesn’t have a quarterback and loses its sixth straight to Alabama?