With that in mind — that a surprise College Football Playoff contender could rise — here are 15 games that will impact the CFP for the 2019 season. Games are listed in the order they will be played.
15 games in 2019 that will impact next season’s College Football Playoff
Auburn vs. Oregon (Arlington, Texas), Aug. 31
Ducks QB Justin Herbert, possibly a very high NFL draft pick, is coming back next season. If he can stay healthy, Oregon will like its chances to break through in Mario Cristobal’s second full season. Oregon did go 9-4 last year and beat Michigan State in the Redbox Bowl. As for Auburn, Gus Malzahn needs a bounce-back season after a disappointing 8-5 campaign that started with a win against Washington.
Houston at Oklahoma, Aug. 31
In 2016, Houston stunned No. 3 OU as the Cougars eventually started 5-0 and reached No. 6 in the country. New coach Dana Holgorsen would love to use this as a statement game against his former conference rival. The Sooners will also be good again, but they’re likely going to have to replace a Heisman winner at quarterback. Again.
Florida vs. Miami, Aug. 31 (Orlando, Fla.)
Boise State-Florida State and Fresno State-Southern California are also intriguing for New Year’s Six purposes with the Group of 5, but this one could be a little more telling. Is Florida really ready to take that next step and be a serious CFP contender in Dan Mullen’s second season? And what about Miami? The Hurricanes are only 7-9 since their 10-0 start in 2017. First-year coach Manny Diaz could bring the Hurricanes more respectability right away if he knocks off the Gators.
— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) January 1, 2019
Texas A&M at Clemson, Sept. 7
It’s kind of funny how much things changed since Clemson beat the Aggies 28-26 in College Station this past season. Kelly Bryant passed for 205 yards, with future CFP hero Trevor Lawrence throwing for only 95 yards. Bryant is now playing for Missouri while Lawrence led the Tigers to a national title. From the other sideline, the Aggies were unranked under first-year coach Jimbo Fisher when these two met. Now the Tigers are national champions (again) and Texas A&M finished 9-4, routing NC State in the Gator Bowl and finished No. 16. QB Kellen Mond is a sleeper Heisman candidate.
LSU at Texas, Sept. 7
Is Texas…back? Not really, no. At least not all the way back yet. As thrilling as it was for the Longhorns to upset Georgia in the Sugar Bowl and finish in the top 10, this team did lose four games last season. In what should be a top-10 meeting next season, the winner will plant a flag as one of the top CFP contenders. The loser might need to win out the rest of the way.
— Texas Football (@TexasFootball) January 2, 2019
Stanford at UCF, Sept. 14
Yeah, yeah, yeah. UCF went undefeated the last two years in the regular season and never really got close to the CFP. However, this would be the biggest nonconference win the program has had during the run. At the very least, it makes things interesting. There’s no knowing when or if injured QB McKenzie Milton will return to the field for the Knights.
— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) January 10, 2019
Notre Dame at Georgia, Sept. 21
In the 2017 season, Georgia fans invaded South Bend, Indiana, and saw the Bulldogs win a close game that catapulted them into an eventual College Football Playoff appearance. This time, the Irish come to town as both programs hope to recover after disappointing ends to their seasons. The winner of this game will have a huge advantage in the CFP chase, as this will give the winner a boost even if there’s a loss later in the season. The loser, however, might have to win out. No two-loss team has made the CFP yet.
Ohio State at Nebraska, Sept. 28
In each of the last two seasons, blowout Big Ten losses on the road left Ohio State on the outside of the College Football Playoff (55-24 at Iowa in 2017, 49-20 at Purdue in 2018). This game might fit that pattern, if it’s to continue. The Huskers were only 4-8 last year, but don’t be surprised if coach Scott Frost starts turning things around and brings Nebraska into Big Ten West contention.
Oklahoma vs. Texas (in Dallas), Oct. 12
Texas stunned OU and eventual Heisman winner Kyler Murray last year, handing the Sooners their only loss until the College Football Playoff semifinals. Oklahoma returned the favor in the Big 12 Championship Game. Don’t be surprised if these two play twice next season again.
Alabama at Texas A&M, Oct. 12
Florida-LSU is also this weekend. But we went with this SEC West matchup. Even if the Aggies shock defending national champion Clemson in Death Valley, they still have to face ‘Bama. As vulnerable as the Tide looked against Clemson, Alabama dominated opponents all season long. The 45-23 win against A&M last year was no different. This game could look different once we reach the middle of the season, but right now, it’s on the list.
Michigan at Penn State, Oct. 19
One could also go with Michigan’s road game at Wisconsin on Sept. 21. However, the Penn State game matters more because it’s between two Big Ten East foes, it’s at Beaver Stadium and this comes just one week before the Wolverines play Notre Dame. The Nittany Lions won’t have QB Trace McSorley anymore, but Penn State should still be a major factor in the division race.
Notre Dame at Michigan, Oct. 26
Notre Dame will continue to hear the doubters because of another blowout loss on the national stage and it not playing in a conference (no title game). But last year’s win against Michigan was one of the best wins all season long. This year, the teams meet much later, which would really set back the loser in the CFP chase.
This is @Chase_Winovich walking off the field one final time, Saturday in Atlanta.
Thanks to all of our players — especially our seniors — for the incredible amount of work and effort in what they do everyday.
Georgia vs. Florida (in Jacksonville, Fla.), Nov. 2
As thrilling as it was for the Gators to crush Michigan in the Peach Bowl for a top-10 finish, Florida is still clearly behind Georgia in the SEC East. At least for now. In a top-10 meeting this past season, Georgia won big, 36-17. UGA also routed the division’s third ranked team, Kentucky, by 17. So someone from the SEC East has to prove it’s ready to challenge the Bulldogs for the division crown. Dan Mullen and the Gators will be ready.
Alabama at Auburn, Nov. 30
It’s the Iron Bowl. Even if this looks like a blowout on paper, it’s worth watching. That said, the Tigers did upset No. 1 Alabama the last time these two met on The Plains. This is really far away, and who knows what situation Auburn will be in for this. But if the Tigers are at their best, it’s something to mark on your calendars.
Ohio State at Michigan, Nov. 30
It’s got to happen for coach Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines eventually, right? Michigan has struggled against top rivals Ohio State and Michigan State, but 2019 could be different. Michigan brings back QB Shea Patterson, and though a ton of defensive talent will be gone, DC Don Brown always seems to put it together. This one is also in Ann Arbor. Now is the time.
— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) November 24, 2018