Nonconference matchups provide the perfect appetizer to the main entree of top matchups during conference season, when the road to a conference championship and the College Football Playoff become narrower.
Whether it be highly ranked teams competing in a September showdown or a team with a late-season game against Notre Dame, top nonconference games give college football fans the ability to weigh a team’s outlook for the remainder of the season.
Starting with Week 3, these are seven nonconference games that demand your attention this college football season.
Boise State at Oklahoma State, 3:30 p.m. ET
This game might not jump off the page, but both of these programs have won 10-plus games in three of the past four seasons. The Broncos are the favorite once again in the Mountain West after an 11-win season and a bowl win over Oregon. Quarterback Brett Rypien is the FBS active leader in passing yards, surpassing the 10,000 mark against Troy in Week 1. Oklahoma State has several new starters on both sides of the ball, but it will be interesting to see how Rypien handles the atmosphere.
West Virginia at North Carolina State, 3:30 p.m. ET
Will Grier showed the nation why he could be a Heisman finalist in Week 1 against Tennessee. He’ll be on a similar stage in Week 3 on the road in Raleigh, North Carolina. Grier threw for 429 yards and 5 touchdowns in the opening week, and while the Wolfpack lost four defensive linemen to the NFL, NC State quarterback Ryan Finley is one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the ACC. This should be a game with plenty of offense.
Ohio State vs. TCU, 8:00 p.m. ET, ABC
Undoubtedly the highlight of Week 3, Ohio State and TCU will meet for the first time since 1973 in Dallas and will be showcasing new quarterbacks in primetime. Gone are J.T. Barrett and Kenny Hill, here are Dwayne Haskins for the Buckeyes and Shawn Robinson for the Horned Frogs. This will be an excited game featuring two teams at the top of their respective conferences, each with lots of young talent on both sides of the ball.
Southern California at Texas, 8:00 p.m. ET, FOX
Last year’s game was an instant classic — so why not an encore? The USC Trojans have a new quarterback in JT Daniels but still have the same Pac-12 title aspirations as any season. Texas came oh, so close, to upsetting USC in Los Angeles last year. Now in his second year in Austin, coach Tom Herman has another a shot to dethrone the Trojans and get a major statement win on his road to bringing Texas back to the top of college football.
Stanford at Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC
For fans that love great defense, this is the game to watch. Stanford beat the Fighting Irish 38-20 last season, but with quarterback Brandon Wimbush back with a stout defense, Brian Kelly’s team is poised to improve from a 10-3 record. Meanwhile, Bryce Love and the Cardinal look to run away with the Pac-12. Seeing the All-American running back against one of the most experienced defenses in the country will be must-watch television.
Notre Dame at Virginia Tech
Only the second meeting in the history of these two teams, the Fighting Irish follow up its game versus Stanford with a game against the Hokies in Blacksburg, Virginia. Easy right? Notre Dame notoriously has one of the toughest schedules and Virginia Tech is certainly one of its toughest opponents. Like the Stanford game, this could be another defensive slugfest, but Josh Jackson is one of the best quarterbacks the Irish will play this season.
Florida State at Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC
The 2014 edition of these two titans of college football was a top-five showdown to remember, with the Seminoles taking it 31-27 on the way to a College Football Playoff berth. Now in the Willie Taggart era, this late-season matchup in Week 11 will be one to highlight as the playoff chase heats up.