College football is the guiding light in our Saturday night lives, but not all Saturdays are created equal. Here, we attempt to scientifically rank the weeks of the amateur football season based on expected entertainment value. Plan your schedules accordingly.
All times Eastern.
13. Week 12
Cupcake matchups abound in the SEC in Week 12, with Chattanooga visiting Alabama, Alabama A&M visiting Auburn, Presbyterian College visiting Florida, and South Alabama visiting LSU. I wish I could say the rest of the Power Five makes up for this, but aside from Ohio State-Michigan State, the pickings are woefully slim. Louisville-Houston is a solid Thursday night offering, though — watching Bobby Petrino lose in prime time never gets old.
12. Week 4
The highlight of Week 4 might be Duke-Notre Dame, a.k.a. the Insufferability Bowl. The Big Ten and SEC action is particularly weak, and an unfortunate number of Power Five schools are on bye. Maybe this is your cue to take a breather and find your serenity away from the madness of college football: Might I suggest enjoying a hike? Or reading a book? Or floating in a sensory deprivation tank?
11. Week 2
In a hugely anticipated battle for A&M supremacy, Texas A&M will play host to Prairie View A&M at noon. To have any chance of enjoying this game — and the rest of Week 2 — you’ll need to wager heavily on its outcome.
10. Week 11
Stanford-Oregon ain’t quite what it used to be, and the North Carolina-Duke rivalry has never translated well from the hardwood to the gridiron. Michigan-Iowa could be a decent nightcap, but only if Hawkeyes quarterback C.J. Beathard regrows his hair.
9. Week 7
Stanford-Notre Dame has given us some exciting finishes in recent years, but unless lightning strikes the Cardinal and Fighting Irish for the fourth time in five years, Week 7 is pretty dreary. Ohio State-Wisconsin looks strong on paper, but will undoubtedly end up being either (1) a quasi-unwatchable slugfest, or (2) a Buckeyes blowout. I’m here for UCLA-Washington State, though.
8. Week 5
With the exception of Oklahoma-TCU, which figures to define the Big 12 race, Week 5 is full of fine but unspectacular conference matchups. Tennessee-Georgia? Sure, let’s do it. Oregon-Washington State? I’ve seen worse. Wisconsin-Michigan? Fine by me. Week 5 won’t knock your socks off, but it’ll be enough for your weekly fix..
7. Week 9
Jim Harbaugh will be looking for revenge in East Lansing, and if this year’s battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy is even half as miraculous as last year’s, Michigan-Michigan State could be the game that dominates all discussion in Week 9, which would be incredible considering it’s sharing the spotlight with Clemson-Florida State.
6. Week 6
Of the five big SEC clashes on tap in Week 6 — Tennessee-Texas A&M, Georgia-South Carolina, Auburn-Mississippi State, Alabama-Arkansas, and LSU-Florida — at least two should end up having fairly major implications. There’s also Vanderbilt-Kentucky, but let’s not get carried away.
5. Week 8
Never mind that Week 8 features a Thursday night tilt between Miami and Virginia Tech, a bevy of intriguing SEC matchups, and extremely likely Big 12 shootouts. The main event here is the fourth edition of college football’s most storied rivalry: the Civil Conflict, which pits UCF against UConn annually in what has to be the best worst name for a rivalry match in college football history. If GameDay doesn’t travel to East Hartford to partake in the festivities, it will truly be a national tragedy.
4. Week 10
The first week of November can mean only one thing: the return of weeknight MACtion, baby! Tuesday night blesses us with Bowling Green-Northern Illinois and Western Michigan-Ball State, Wednesday brings out the big guns with Toledo-Akron, and Thursday’s lineup includes Buffalo-Ohio. Fear not, though: Week 10 saved its strongest matchup for Saturday. If you enjoy listening to 102,321 inebriated fans chant profanities at Nick Saban (who doesn’t?!) and also football, then Alabama-LSU is appointment viewing.
3. Week 3
If Ole Miss can take down Alabama for the third straight year, let’s secretly build a Hugh Freeze statue in Paul Finebaum’s backyard. Mississippi State-LSU, Texas A&M-Auburn, Michigan State-Notre Dame, and Ohio State-Oklahoma are all kicking off within 30 minutes of each other, so pray for your poor, channel-flipping hands. Carpal tunnel syndrome is no joke.
2. Week 1
You can always count on a slew of excellent nonconference matchups in Week 1, and this year is no exception. Despite a relatively uninspiring Thursday night slate (Will Muschamp’s South Carolina debut against Vanderbilt qualifies as the main event, I guess), Saturday’s action more than makes up for it. ACC foes Georgia Tech and Boston College kick things off at 7:30 a.m. from Ireland, and Oklahoma-Houston will demand your attention at noon. At 3:30, Leonard Fournette will officially launch his Heisman campaign against Wisconsin’s formidable run defense, one that returns most of its starters from last year. Trevor Knight and Josh Rosen will face off in one of the more intriguing quarterback duels of the season. Saturday’s prime-time nightcaps of USC-Alabama and Clemson-Auburn should at least be competitive for a quarter or two, Notre Dame-Texas will make 2016’s final NFL-free Sunday slightly more bearable, and Ole Miss-Florida State is a better-than-usual Labor Day offering.
1. Week 13
With LSU-Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night and TCU-Texas on Black Friday, this season’s rivalry week is more overstuffed than most. The usual suspects will face off on the final Saturday of the regular season: Michigan-Ohio State, Notre Dame-USC, and Auburn-Alabama. Also, Deshaun Watson and the Clemson offense should light up the scoreboard against South Carolina, thereby blessing us with a host of new Irate Will Muschamp headshots. We’re truly blessed.