Most Intriguing Games of the 2023 College Football Season

As August winds down and autumn approaches, we sit at the precipice of yet another college football season. The sounds of screaming fans, the thumping of pads, the chill of fall mornings (not in Houston, but I digress) – all soon return to us. With that in mind, I decided to take a look at the schedule for the 2023 College Football Season and choose the matchups that jump out to me from each week. I also figured I’d throw in one game from both the Power 5 and the Group of 5 conferences each week because everyone deserves some shine.

Zero Week

Power 5: Navy Vs. Notre Dame (Dublin, Ireland)

The zero week slate of games doesn’t have a ton to offer from a Power 5 perspective. Our options? Navy and Notre Dame, Hawai’i and Vanderbilt, and San Jose State and USC. That doesn’t matter as long as college football returns. I went with Navy and Notre Dame simply because of the fact that the contest takes place in Ireland. Last year’s Ireland matchup between Northwestern and Nebraska overseas turned a bit chaotic after the internet went out in the stadium and fans were given free beer. A perfect introduction to the season.

Group of 5: Ohio at San Diego State

Ohio and San Diego State actually represent an excellent matchup for a zero week contest. The Bobcats won the MAC East in 2022 while the Aztecs usually field one of the better squads in the Group of 5. Ohio also returns QB Kurtis Rourke, one of the most dynamic arms in the country. The San Diego State defense against the Bobcat offense presents a fantastic stylistic clash, and as we all know styles make matchups.

Week 1

Power 5: LSU at Florida State

College football doesn’t possess a shortage of fantastic matchups for the first full week of action but none jumped out to me quite like the Tigers and Seminoles. With LSU looking to be the favorite in the SEC West and Florida State positioned as a possible dark horse for a playoff berth, this one seems ripe with postseason implications. I don’t love that this one takes place in Orlando instead of Tallahassee, however. Ban neutral site regular season games (with a couple exceptions).

Group of 5: UTSA at Houston

I know Houston now resides in the Power 5 of the Big 12 but UTSA feels like the true replacement for the Cougars in the American. I think the Roadrunners might surprise some folks when they journey east on IH-10 to meet UH in the Bayou City. In fact, I may just take UTSA and Frank Harris to win this contest.

Week 2

Power 5: Texas at Alabama

The hype around Texas in 2023 feels like the same old story as every previous year the Longhorns proclaimed a state of “Back”. It may seem blasphemous but the Horns feel different this year. Don’t be surprised if Texas gives Bama all they can handle in Tuscaloosa and goes on to win the Big 12. Meanwhile, Alabama has the opportunity to answer some questions about how their season goes in 2023. The questions surrounding both teams headed into the 2023 College Football Season make this game extremely intriguing.

Group of 5: Marshall at East Carolina

Marshall and East Carolina both seem poised to find themselves near the top of their conferences in 2023. Marshall finished 9-4 last season with a win over Notre Dame. East Carolina finished 8-5 but closed out the season with a dominant victory over Coastal Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl. With Marshall’s defensive prowess and ECU’s offensive flash, this feels like another fun stylistic clash.

Week 3

Power 5: Washington at Michigan State

Though you could go any number of directions with the third week of the season, I landed on Washington at Michigan State simply because I am extremely high on the Huskies in 2023. Michigan State doesn’t look to be a contender in the Big Ten this season but the Spartans still represent a decent road test for Washington. If the Huskies handle the variables of travel well, they could be yet another dark horse playoff contender.

Group of 5: James Madison at Troy

If not for the fact that James Madison made their FBS debut last season and was ineligible for the postseason, the Dukes would have met Troy in the Sun Belt championship game. We get to see that matchup play out a year later in what should be an excellent Sun Belt contest. Can Troy have another fantastic season? Will JMU prove that last year wasn’t beginner’s luck? I’m already salivating at the possible storylines heading into this game.

Week 4

Power 5: Florida State at Clemson

Anything can happen in college football but the ACC likely comes down to a two-horse race between Florida State and Clemson. The Noles and Tigers both have a shot at the NCAA playoff, but they’ll need to deal with each other first. The intrigue only increases if Florida State manages to beat LSU early in the season. Either way though, this game probably represents the de-facto ACC Championship.

Group of 5: Boise State at San Diego State

From the Atlantic to the Pacific, we head to a premier matchup in the Mountain West Conference. Along with Fresno State, San Diego State and Boise State both tend to be competitors for the MWC crown year in and year out. I expect the Broncos to be the better of the two squads going into this one but the Aztec defense will undoubtedly make this one interesting.

Week 5

Power 5: Utah at Oregon State

With the PAC 12 set to disintegrate after the 2023 season and only Cal, Stanford, Washington State, and Oregon State left behind while the rest of the conference scatters to either the Big Ten or the Big 12. Of the teams left out, Oregon State possesses the best shot to shock some folks. The Beavers host defending PAC 12 champs Utah in Week Five with a chance to really launch their campaign.

Group of 5: Northern Illinois at Toledo

Plagued by injuries in 2022, the Huskies had a disappointing season. If healthy in 2023, they should be a contender for the MAC West divisional title. Toledo claimed that title in 2022 and will look to defend it in ’23. I think this game likely sets up as a fight for the top spot in the division making it must-watch MACtion.

Week 6

Power 5: Arkansas at Ole Miss

There may be contests more deserving of this spot on the list but the list is mine and nothing intrigues me more than the distilled chaos produced each time the Razorbacks and Ole Miss meet. All it takes to send those in Oxford, MS into shivers is the utterance of the phrase 4th and 25. This contest always tends to feature some kind of logic-defying occurrence.

Group of 5: Western Kentucky at Louisiana Tech

The new look Conference USA opens up the opportunity for several schools to step in and claim conference supremacy. After a down year in 2022, expect Louisiana Tech to improve in 2023. Meanwhile, Western Kentucky should still showcase one of the most exciting offenses in the country. I wouldn’t be surprised if both of these schools are near the top of the conference in ’23 along with Liberty.

Week 7

Power 5: USC at Notre Dame

After a shaky start to the 2022 campaign with two straight losses to Ohio State and Marshall, Notre Dame rallied to finish the season 9-4 with a Gator Bowl victory over South Carolina. The Irish have high expectations for the 2023 season once again. However, a tough schedule including Ohio State and their Week 7 matchup with USC means the Irish could struggle. On the other hand, Notre Dame represents probably the biggest test for the Trojans up to this point of the season. I think we find out quite a bit about USC when they head to South Bend.

Group of 5: Coastal Carolina at Appalachian State

One of the nastiest rivalries in college football in terms of genuine dislike, Coastal Carolina and App State have battled for Sun Belt East supremacy in recent years. The Chants will have a new coach in 2023 after Jamey Chadwell took the head job at Liberty. The Mountaineers hope to rebound after missing a bowl game in 2022. An interesting contest on its own, the hate just makes it better.

Week 8

Power 5: Penn State at Ohio State

When looking at possible newcomers to the playoffs for the 2023 College Football Season, Penn State definitely seems like a squad with the talent to step forward. Penn State will have a couple of tough matchups with the Illinois and Iowa defenses but Ohio State is easily the biggest road test on the schedule. If the Nittany Lions want to take a step toward the playoff, that starts with knocking off the Buckeyes.

Group of 5: Memphis at UAB

The Battle for the Bones Trophy is up for grabs when Memphis and UAB meet on the gridiron. Putting aside the fact that this contest shapes up to be hyper-competitive, a barbecue-themed trophy captures my attention immediately. Once again, this list is mine and I reserve the right to include any contest I want to. The Battle for the Bones just happens to be high on my list.

Week 9

Power 5: Oregon at Utah

While USC takes he top spot in the PAC 12 among most polls, both Oregon and Utah rank among teams who represent challengers to the Trojans hopes. The physicality of Utah in the late season reminds me of Khabib Nurmagomedov. The Utes drag opponents to deep water and drown them. Oregon’s more high-flying style serves a perfect contrast. This should be one heck of a contest in Salt Lake City.

Group of 5: Miami (OH) at Ohio

If any team challenges Ohio for the top spot in the East Division of the MAC, I’d expect it to be the RedHawks of Miami (of Ohio). Late-season MACtion contests present us with some real gems and with a MAC Championship berth being a possibility between these two, the stakes should raise the level of intrigue. I still think with a healthy Rourke at QB, the Bobcats look like a shoo-in to make it back to the MAC title game but I am interested to see if Miami (OH) finds something to upset those plans.

Week 10

Power 5: LSU at Alabama

The first of two fantastic contests I’ll talk about in the state of Alabama in Week 10, the meeting between LSU and the Crimson Tide always gives us must-watch television. This year with the media casting doubt on the Tide as well as talking up the Tigers as the SEC West favorite makes for another fun set of storylines headed into the game. Is the Bama dynasty over? Will LSU repeat as SEC West champs? I tune into this contest every year but I think the magnitude of the fallout from this contest may be increased in 2023.

Group of 5: South Alabama at Troy

We stick around in Alabama for the contest between the two teams at the top of the Sun Belt West from 2022. Troy came out on top last season but both squads had double-digit win campaigns. The Trojans should remain the favorite in the 2023 College Football Season but the Jaguars will undoubtedly hope to gain revenge and the top spot in the division in the process. A wonderful piece of late-season Fun Belt intrigue in this contest to be sure.

Week 11

Power 5: Michigan at Penn State

Michigan’s quest for their third-straight Big Ten title encounters the biggest road test when the Wolverines head to Happy Valley in Week 11. The Nittany Lions will undoubtedly have a homefield advantage but will it be enough to halt the Michigan momentum? I think Penn State could pull off the upset in a contest that could very well have playoff implications.

Group of 5: North Texas at SMU

New UNT Head Coach Eric Morris will have one of the most exciting offenses in the country. SMU possesses similar offensive capabilities. I’m expecting a plethora of points in this matchup between two teams in the north of the Lone Star State. It’s too early to know what the over will be but whatever it is I’m taking it.

Week 12

Power 5: Georgia at Tennessee

If any team challenges Georgia for the top spot in the SEC East, it is likely Tennessee. The Volunteers lost a lot after the 2022 season but the offense should still be exciting in 2023. With that being said, I still firmly believe Georgia will control this contest from start to finish. I’m just curious to see if the Bulldogs are as good as I think.

Group of 5: Appalachian State at James Madison

We head back to the Sun Belt once more, this time to the East Division. The penultimate contest of the regular season between App State and James Madison might just determine who heads to the Sun Belt Championship. I’m looking forward to continuing matchups between the Dukes and the Mountaineers as I have the feeling this might develop into a must-watch rivalry during the 2023 College Football Season and beyond.

Week 13

Power 5: Ohio State at Michigan

The rivalry week matchup between Ohio State and Michigan has been the must-watch event of the Big Ten season for the past two years. While I expect Penn State to be a factor in the conference title picture, this contest will still play a massive part in the 2023 College Football Season. Can Michigan make it three straight wins over their hated foes to the South or will Ryan Day solve the Wolverine conundrum in the Big House?

Group of 5: Fresno State at San Diego State

The Mountain West has done away with divisions but some of the contests between San Diego State and Fresno State for the divisional crown were legendary. The “Old Oil Can” the two teams play for will be on the line come rivalry week. However, a MWC Championship berth might be on the line as well. Either way, this rivalry contest is a fun one and absolutely qualifies as an intriguing contest to close the regular season.

What games are you most excited about heading into the 2023 season? Let us know on Twitter!

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