The 2022 college football schedule brings with it several important games that will influence how the playoff and national championship races play out.
Including a few high-profile matchups that will take place at the start of the season that will directly affect the final top 25 rankings.
The month of September will give college football fans more than enough intriguing games both on campus and at neutral sites.
Ranking best September games on the 2022 college football schedule
10. Cincinnati at Arkansas
When: Sept. 3
Why you should watch: Cincinnati made history last season as the first non-Power 5 school to make the College Football Playoff, but a lot of that team is gone.
Nine former Bearcats went in the NFL Draft, which will put a huge strain on this current team's depth, but there's still a lot of speed and skill to work with here.
And a perfect opportunity to prove it with a road date against a rising SEC West team in the season opener.
Arkansas surprised everybody last fall and won nine games, but has some holes to replace itself, including at wide receiver after losing Treylon Burks. But KJ Jefferson returns at quarterback against an upstart Cincinnati team that has won just six times in 43 tries against SEC opponents.
9. Tennessee at Pittsburgh
When: Sept. 10
Why you should watch: A year ago, Pitt used this game — a 41-34 win on Rocky Top — as a launching pad for an eventual ACC championship.
And while Tennessee may not quite have an SEC title within grasp this year, the Vols can certainly set things in motion for something better with a victory over Pittsburgh.
UT hasn't won 10 games in a season since 2007, but played behind a top 10 ranked offense to a 7-5 mark under first-year coach Josh Heupel.
Some fine-tuning on a defense that allowed 34 ppg to SEC teams on the road back to respectability, and Pitt looks beatable: it lost Heisman finalist QB Kenny Pickett and is about to watch Biletnikoff winner Jordan Addison, whose 17 TD catches led college football last year, transfer out of the program.
8. Penn State at Auburn
When: Sept. 17
Why you should watch: An early SEC vs. Big Ten matchup is always appointment viewing, especially for teams that have a lot more to play for.
Auburn was a 6-7 team a year ago under Bryan Harsin, who steps into Year 2 already on the hot seat and on the wrong end of some prominent transfers.
Representing the SEC well in games like this is crucial, and a good foundation to build on with a very difficult schedule in the weeks after.
Penn State has considerably more faith in James Franklin, who signed a $75 million contract last season, but still has to tangle with Ohio State and Michigan every season.
Which makes winning games like this all the more important. Franklin gets Sean Clifford back at quarterback, and with some inputs at receiver, but this 118th ranked ground attack will struggle against Auburn's front.
7. Utah at Florida
When: Sept. 3
Why you should watch: This is another SEC vs. the world game that isn't a sure thing for the conference. Billy Napier could have definitely drawn an easier opponent for his first game as Florida's new head coach, as Utah owns a better record than the Gators in the College Football Playoff era and comes in as reigning Pac-12 champions.
The Utes played Ohio State's top-ranked offense to a three-point loss in the Rose Bowl and can move the ball very effectively behind quarterback Cameron Rising and lead rusher Tavion Thomas, especially against a Florida defense that lacks some physicality on the back end. But on the other side, the Gators should be able to get some decent gains against a Utes defense that just lost Devin Lloyd at linebacker.
6. Miami at Texas A&M
When: Sept. 17
Where: College Station
Why you should watch: A non-conference battle between two teams that appear on the verge of something special.
For Miami, a much-improved standing in the ACC under first-year coach Mario Cristobal. For the Aggies, a shot at the SEC title and a College Football Playoff bid on the heels of some historically-great recruiting.
A&M is still a mystery under Jimbo Fisher, beating No. 1 Alabama last fall and then losing four other SEC games and finishing unranked. But he has the tools on defense, quarterback, running back, and receiver to make a positive run in this conference.
Cristobal turned Oregon into a national recruiting destination and now steps into his alma mater with a strong coaching staff and one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC.
There's work to be done elsewhere on this roster, but Tyler Van Dyke is a solid distributor for a team that was just eight points away from a perfect conference record.
5. Oklahoma at Nebraska
When: Sept. 17
Why you should watch: This rivalry may not just be a historical curiosity this season. Sure, we're not looking at another Game of the Century, 1971-style, but both of these teams need a W here as a springboard for the rest of the season.
For Oklahoma, to get a head start in Year 1 under Brent Venables to make another run at the Big 12 and College Football Playoff in anticipation for the move to the SEC.
And for Nebraska, to finally get a quality win on the board for Scott Frost, who is coaching for his job this season.
Both teams made massive upgrades at quarterback — Dillon Gabriel at OU and Casey Thompson for the Cornhuskers. Gabriel is an 8,000-yard career passer and Thompson led the Big 12 in TD passes at Texas last season.
4. Florida State vs. LSU
When: Sept. 4
Where: New Orleans
Why you should watch: Our first glimpse at what Brian Kelly has accomplished so far at LSU. The former Notre Dame coach had some cringe-worthy moments early in his tenure — the fake Southern accent and dancing videos come to mind — but he's also worked the transfer portal and recruiting trail very hard, and with some excellent results.
LSU should be the easy favorite coming into this one. Mike Norvell has won just eight games in two years with the Seminoles and is 0 for 6 in September, but he does bring on quarterback Jordan Travis, who had 15 TDs and six picks last fall, but didn't have a turnover in five outings. FSU went 4-1 in that stretch, and Travis could get something going against an LSU secondary still in the making.
3. Oregon vs. Georgia
When: Sept. 3
Why you should watch: To see how well Dan Lanning can scheme against his own defense. Lanning orchestrated Georgia's historically-dominant D en route to a College Football Playoff title last fall before taking the head coaching gig at Oregon.
In that effort, he'll have Auburn transfer quarterback Bo Nix going under center in tandem with a solid receiver corps, and both will be helped by a physical defensive unit led by star linebacker Noah Sewell. Oregon comes into a hostile setting with Pac-12 honor on the line, and against one of the two or three best teams in America.
Georgia, meanwhile, will get its first glimpse at a defense that loses a ton of that generational talent, but has recruited better than just about any program in the nation to replace its starters. Stetson Bennett returns at QB with a variety of targets on the outside and in the deep field looking to make a Week 1 statement.
2. Alabama at Texas
When: Sept. 10
Why you should watch: Why shouldn't you? Two college football powerhouses meeting on campus in a game that could help determine how their seasons go. One is the dynasty of the 21st century — if not for all time — and the other, a blue blood looking to get back to its customary place in the national title hunt.
Alabama gets a good, early road test against an offense that brings on a quartet of dynamite skill players: Quinn Ewers at QB, Bijan Robinson at RB, and Xavier Worthy and Agiye Hall at WR. Ewers is unproven, but is a 5-star prospect with tons of potential who can give the loaded Crimson Tide defense a test.
That defense? It returns Will Anderson at linebacker, arguably the single best player in college football who led the nation in sacks and TFLs a year ago.
Alabama should have the edge going against a Texas O-line that is very shaky, and Bryce Young shouldn't struggle too much against a Longhorns D that was third-worst in the Big 12 in total yardage a year ago and fourth-worst in allowing 31.1 points per game, a number that rose to 35 points per game in conference matchups.
1. Notre Dame at Ohio State
When: Sept. 3
Why you should watch: Ohio State isn't invincible at home against non-conference opponents. It lost to eventual national champion Texas in 2005, against USC in 2009, to Virginia Tech in 2014 (when OSU won the national title), to Michigan State in 2015, to Oklahoma in 2017, and in 2021 against Oregon. It's not unheard of to beat the Buckeyes in the Horseshoe, even when they're really good.
Which they are in 2022. Ohio State ranked No. 1 in college football in total offense last fall, and returns the core of that unit: Heisman finalist quarterback CJ Stroud, lead back TreVeyon Henderson, and wideout Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
That should be enough of a test for the Irish in coach (and OSU alum) Marcus Freeman's first regular season game, but Notre Dame brings in arguably the best offensive line in the nation to protect its offense-in-progress against a Buckeye D that struggled in '21 and is debuting an entirely new scheme.