College football's 10 most interesting non-conference games in 2024

With conference realignment and an expanded playoff, these games on the college football schedule carry bigger implications in 2024
These non-conference games are the most important on the 2024 college football schedule
These non-conference games are the most important on the 2024 college football schedule / Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Quality of schedule has always been an important metric when the selection committee makes its final decisions, and playing good non-conference opponents has always been pivotal to that strategy. This college football season gives more prominent schools a few notable chances to make a good first impression, especially during opening weekend.

With the expanded College Football Playoff set to make its debut this postseason, there's more competition than ever for the at-large bids in the rankings among teams that won't win their respective conference championships. Here are 10 of the most interesting non-conference games on the college football schedule this season.

10. Colorado at Nebraska

Nebraska ran all over the Buffs' sketchy rush defense, but Colorado's dynamic air attack put up almost 400 yards in a win last season. This time around, the Cornhuskers get home field advantage and boast a very promising star in quarterback Dylan Raiola, who should find throwing lanes against a CU secondary that was 126th against the pass last year.

9. NC State vs. Tennessee

Two teams that come into the 2024 season with plenty of momentum at this neutral site game in Charlotte. NC State has upgraded its offense by getting quarterback Grayson McCall under center, and Tennessee returns Nico Iamaleava and some star receivers to make this offense go.

8. Miami at Florida

Expect a postseason atmosphere in Week 1 between these in-state rivals, with both coaches under extreme pressure. Florida's Billy Napier and Miami's Mario Cristobal both need wins badly. The Gators have a veteran quarterback, but the Hurricanes have made key transfer acquisitions at skill positions, including quarterback Cameron Ward.

7. Notre Dame at Texas A&M

Mike Elko and Riley Leonard find themselves on the same field for different schools. Both at Duke a year ago, Elko makes his debut as Aggies head coach against his old quarterback, a noted dual threat now charged with leading the Irish attack against what looks like a very strong A&M defensive front rotation.

6. Boise State at Oregon

Two marquee transfers at quarterback take the field at Autzen Stadium. For the Broncos, it's ex-USC five-star Malachi Nelson, low on experience but high on potential. And for the Ducks, it's Dillon Gabriel, uber-experienced, a skilled runner, and loaded with skill players including wideout Evan Stewart. Boise State won eight games last season and is 3-0 against Oregon all-time.

5. Alabama at Wisconsin

Kalen DeBoer's first road trip as Nick Saban's successor comes against a Big Ten foe that's always played strong at the line of scrimmage, but is looking to open things up more these days. Luke Fickell has transfer quarterback Tyler Van Dyke in from Miami to spread the offense out and test the Badgers' receivers against that vaunted SEC speed.

4. Florida State at Notre Dame

Defending ACC champion Florida State undergoes a tidal wave of roster turnover, but brings on credible replacements through the transfer portal. Among them, quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, the former Clemson starter who lost at South Bend in recent memory, and who will go up against a quality Notre Dame pass defense.

3. LSU vs. USC

Two of college football's most maligned defenses share the field in Las Vegas in what is now an SEC vs. Big Ten matchup. Both sides hired new play-callers to shore things up: Blake Baker for LSU and D'Anton Lynn for USC. The quarterback battle will test both defenses: Garrett Nussmeier and LSU's receivers are top-notch, while Miller Moss steps in as Caleb Williams' replacement for the Trojans.

2. Clemson vs. Georgia

These schools also opened the 2021 season, an early proving ground for Georgia en route to the first of its two straight national championships. Now the Bulldogs are favored to win a third in four years, but face an early test against a strong Clemson defense, while the Tigers look to make offensive improvements against what figures to be another ferocious Georgia front.

1. Texas at Michigan

The defending national champions welcome the SEC-bound Longhorns to the Big House in a matchup of marquee programs. Michigan loses a ton of production, but retains some defensive personnel to go against a Texas attack that returns Quinn Ewers at quarterback and a rotation of gifted wide receivers.

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James Parks

JAMES PARKS

James Parks is the founder and publisher of College Football HQ. He previously covered football for 247Sports and CBS Interactive. College Football HQ joined the Sports Illustrated Fannation Network in 2022.