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Weeks of the 2017 College Football Season, Ranked

When the college football season hasn’t started yet, the best thing you can do is build unsustainable excitement for events far off in the future. Such is the purpose of this post. On my personal blog, I wrote a similar post to this one for the 2016 season back in July of last year. Things were so simple then! The good news is that most of those rankings held pretty well: Week 11 was just as underrated and great as I thought it would be, Week 1 was a bit overhyped, and I correctly pinged Weeks 2 and 7 as largely unexciting. In between, things variated by quite a bit: Week 13 was fairly disappointing, Week 5 ended up being way better than anyone thought, and Week 3 had the marquee matchups but maybe two legitimately good games. That’s how it goes when you’re trying to project these things weeks or months out.

However, I wanted to try it again. We’ve adjusted the formula this year: it’s entirely based on Bill Connelly’s S&P+ rankings and his preseason top 130. Games are ranked in tiers below, and here’s what they mean:

  • Tier One games feature two projected Top 25 teams. I have four weeks with five games between projected Top 25 teams, which is phenomenal. I don’t expect that to hold all the way through the season, but it gives us an idea of what games will likely have the most importance on a given week.
  • Tier Two games feature either a Top 25 team vs. a Top 50 opponent or two Top 50 opponents. We’ve expanded the search from the Top 40 to the Top 50 this year to make sure we don’t miss any potentially very important games. This gives us more games to look at, but it also avoids the potential of leaving out a great game that wasn’t notable in August.

I’ve ranked the weeks in ascending order below, from first to last.

1. Week 13, November 21-25


  • Ohio State at Michigan (T1), Saturday
  • Notre Dame at Stanford (T1), Saturday
  • Alabama at Auburn (T1), Saturday
  • Florida State at Florida (T1), Saturday
  • Texas A&M at LSU (T1), Saturday
  • Ole Miss at Mississippi State (T2), Thursday
  • Baylor at TCU (T2), Friday
  • Iowa at Nebraska (T2), Friday
  • Miami at Pittsburgh (T2), Friday
  • Oregon State at Oregon (T2), Saturday
  • Georgia at Georgia Tech (T2), Saturday
  • North Carolina at NC State (T2), Saturday
  • West Virginia at Oklahoma (T2), Saturday
  • Washington State at Washington (T2), Saturday
  • Clemson at South Carolina (T2), Saturday
  • Louisville at Kentucky (T2), Saturday

This is pretty reliably one of the three best weeks every year. Based on the Top 25 preseason consensus from assorted voters, this weekend should have six of the Top 15 teams playing each other and at least two other Top 25 vs. Top 25 matchups (plus one I think belongs in Washington-Washington State). The Thursday and Friday games aren’t great – the Egg Bowl and Iowa-Nebraska have both lost some luster – but they’re there, and I can’t recall the last Black Friday without at least one bizarre and entertaining game. (Early money’s on Baylor-TCU.) Plus, there is no better way on God’s green earth to avoid speaking to relatives you see once a year than to occasionally say “nice pass” to fill the air.

2. Week 11, November 7-11

  • Washington at Stanford (T1), Friday
  • Notre Dame at Miami (T1), Saturday
  • Florida State at Clemson (T1), Saturday
  • TCU at Oklahoma (T1), Saturday
  • Georgia at Auburn (T1), Saturday
  • North Carolina at Pittsburgh (T2), Thursday
  • Boise State at Colorado State (T2), Saturday
  • West Virginia at Kansas State (T2), Saturday
  • Iowa at Wisconsin (T2), Saturday
  • USC at Colorado (T2), Saturday
  • Michigan State at Ohio State (T2), Saturday
  • Nebraska at Minnesota (T2), Saturday
  • Alabama at Mississippi State (T2), Saturday
  • Arkansas at LSU (T2), Saturday

The second week of November has quietly become a powerhouse week over the last few years. Recent hits include Iowa over Michigan, Pittsburgh over Clemson, Georgia over Auburn, USC over Washington, Miami-Duke, 2015 Memphis-Houston, Oregon 38, Stanford 36, Texas A&M 41, Auburn 38, M00N, 2014 Alabama-LSU…and that’s just from the last three seasons. Basically, this week has been Trap Game Central for the last few years, and this year’s no different: go ahead and pick at least one of USC, Alabama, Oklahoma, LSU, or Auburn to lose a game as a sizable favorite. The addition in 2017: one of the three best games of the year in FSU-Clemson, plus an outstanding undercard in Washington-Stanford.

3. Week 8, October 19-21

  • USC at Notre Dame (T1)
  • Louisville at Florida State (T1)
  • Oklahoma State at Texas (T1)
  • Michigan at Penn State (T1)
  • Tennessee at Alabama (T1)
  • Indiana at Michigan State (T2)
  • North Carolina at Virginia Tech (T2)
  • West Virginia at Baylor (T2)
  • Oklahoma at Kansas State (T2)
  • Iowa at Northwestern (T2)
  • Colorado at Washington State (T2)
  • Oregon at UCLA (T2)
  • Auburn at Arkansas (T2)
  • LSU at Ole Miss (T2)

You’ll see a common pattern as we travel down these rankings: just one of the first six weeks of the season ranks in the top half of our week rankings. Compared to last year, it’s a weaker slate to begin the year. However, we benefit down the stretch, starting in October: a classic rivalry, one of the most fun games of the year, a game with an over/under of 87, a revenge game between two possible Top 10 teams, and a classic rivalry…and that’s without even touching the second-tier games. This is a fun week.

4. Week 10, October 31-November 4

  • Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (T1), Saturday
  • Virginia Tech at Miami (T1), Saturday
  • Texas at TCU (T1), Saturday
  • Auburn at Texas A&M (T1), Saturday
  • LSU at Alabama (T1), Saturday
  • UCLA at Utah (T2), Friday
  • Memphis at Tulsa (T2), Friday
  • Clemson at NC State (T2), Saturday
  • Oregon at Washington (T2), Saturday
  • Houston at USF (T2), Saturday
  • Ohio State at Iowa (T2), Saturday
  • Penn State at Michigan State (T2), Saturday
  • Wisconsin at Indiana (T2), Saturday
  • Stanford at Washington State (T2), Saturday

Halloween weekend has a lot to offer – Bedlam, the premier SEC game of every season, an inter-Texan battle, two SEC West teams that seem to produce fireworks most times out, and Virginia Tech-Miami. Look at the Tier Two games, though, and you’ll see plenty of College Football Goes Weird opportunities: Clemson at NC State, Oregon at Washington, Ohio State at Iowa, Penn State at MSU, Wisconsin at Indiana, Stanford at Washington State…I’m willing to bet we get a couple of crazy upsets this week.

5. Week 7, October 11-14

  • Oklahoma vs. Texas (T1), Saturday
  • Oregon at Stanford (T1), Saturday
  • Auburn at LSU (T1), Saturday
  • Texas A&M at Florida (T1), Saturday
  • Georgia Tech at Miami (T2), Thursday
  • Michigan at Indiana (T2), Saturday
  • Boise State at San Diego State (T2), Saturday
  • NC State at Pittsburgh (T2), Saturday
  • Baylor at Oklahoma State (T2), Saturday
  • TCU at Kansas State (T2), Saturday
  • Ohio State at Nebraska (T2), Saturday
  • Utah at USC (T2), Saturday
  • Arkansas at Alabama (T2), Saturday
  • BYU at Mississippi State (T2), Saturday
  • South Carolina at Georgia (T2), Saturday

This marks the start of the weeks that aren’t elite but are still pretty darn good. You get four projected Top 25 vs. Top 25 matchups and a few games that could end up being better than their projection. It’ll be fun.

6. Week 2, September 7-9

  • Auburn at Clemson (T1)
  • Georgia at Notre Dame (T1)
  • Oklahoma at Ohio State (T1)
  • Stanford at USC (T1)
  • Louisville at North Carolina (T2)
  • Pittsburgh at Penn State (T2)
  • TCU at Arkansas (T2)
  • Nebraska at Oregon (T2)
  • Utah at BYU (T2)
  • Boise State at Washington State (T2)
  • Houston at Arizona (T2)

This is the only week of the first six that could be described as good or better. Four games between certain preseason Top 25 opponents, and likely all of them will be Top 15. The second-tier: Lamar Jackson on the road, a Pennsylvania rivalry, a weirdly fun home-and-home series, an Oregon revenge game, the Holy War, Boise State’s attempted march to 12-0, and late night point totals.

7. Week 14, December 1-2

  • Pac-12 Championship (T1), Friday
  • ACC Championship (T1), Saturday
  • SEC Championship (T1), Saturday
  • Big 12 Championship (T1), Saturday
  • Big Ten Championship (T1), Saturday
  • AAC Championship (T2), Saturday
  • MWC Championship (T2), Saturday

Championship Weekend. What else are you doing?

8. Week 6, October 4-7

  • Alabama at Texas A&M (T1), Saturday
  • LSU at Florida (T1), Saturday
  • Louisville at NC State (T2), Thursday
  • Boise State at BYU (T2), Friday
  • Notre Dame at North Carolina (T2), Saturday
  • West Virginia at TCU (T2), Saturday
  • Kansas State at Texas (T2), Saturday
  • Michigan State at Michigan (T2), Saturday
  • Wisconsin at Nebraska (T2), Saturday
  • Washington State at Oregon (T2), Saturday
  • Stanford at Utah (T2), Saturday
  • Arkansas at South Carolina (T2), Saturday
  • Ole Miss at Auburn (T2), Saturday

This is where the drop off to average weeks begins. You get a wonderfully petty rivalry and Alabama-A&M, but there’s not a ton else here: Louisville at NC State interests me, but it’s hard to pinpoint any Tier Two game with serious long-term potential to mess up the end of the season. I’d guess this week has a few fun games that ultimately mean very little by December.

9. Week 5, September 28-30

  • Clemson at Virginia Tech (T1), Saturday
  • Georgia at Tennessee (T1), Saturday
  • USC at Washington State (T2), Friday
  • North Carolina at Georgia Tech (T2), Saturday
  • Baylor at Kansas State (T2), Saturday
  • Indiana at Penn State (T2), Saturday
  • Iowa at Michigan State (T2), Saturday
  • Northwestern at Wisconsin (T2), Saturday
  • Colorado at UCLA (T2), Saturday
  • Mississippi State at Auburn (T2), Saturday
  • Ole Miss at Alabama (T2), Saturday
  • South Carolina at Texas A&M (T2), Saturday

An ACC Championship rematch in one of the best college stadiums and what’s secretly the most fun CFB battle every single year for five years running. I’m dead serious: the last five UGA-UT meetings have produced 95 points, a game-tying score with 5 seconds left followed by overtime, a controversial finish, a 21-point comeback, and dual Hail Marys. Can you name a series in all of college football with a better five-year stretch for entertainment? I didn’t think so. The second-tier games, though…snooze. USC-Wazzu is one of the most fun games of the year but I can’t name another game you need to cancel all other plans just to watch.

10. Week 3, September 14-16

  • Tennessee at Florida (T1)
  • Clemson at Louisville (T1)
  • Miami at Florida State (T1)
  • Texas at USC (T1)
  • Oklahoma State at Pittsburgh (T2)
  • Wisconsin at BYU (T2)
  • LSU at Mississippi State (T2)
  • Stanford at San Diego State (T2)

This feels underrated, but it’s because there’s just not many games worth watching this week. It’s absolutely massive in name power: an SEC East powerhouse rivalry, the best rivalry of the 1990s, and the best national championship game of all time…and that’s without touching on one of the ten best games of 2016. Week 3 is weird in that it’ll be really fun but you won’t have much to do during commercial breaks.

11. Week 9, October 26-28

  • Penn State at Ohio State (T1), Saturday
  • Georgia vs. Florida (T1), Saturday
  • Stanford at Oregon State (T2), Thursday
  • Michigan State at Northwestern (T2), Saturday
  • NC State at Notre Dame (T2), Saturday
  • Georgia Tech at Clemson (T2), Saturday
  • Miami at North Carolina (T2), Saturday
  • Texas at Baylor (T2), Saturday
  • Oklahoma State at West Virginia (T2), Saturday
  • Utah at Oregon (T2), Saturday
  • UCLA at Washington (T2), Saturday
  • Arkansas at Ole Miss (T2), Saturday
  • Mississippi State at Texas A&M (T2), Saturday

Two inarguably great games and a whole lot of also-rans with storyline potential.

12. Week 12, November 14-18

  • Michigan at Wisconsin (T1)
  • LSU at Tennessee (T1)
  • Pittsburgh at Virginia Tech (T2)
  • Kansas State at Oklahoma State (T2)
  • Texas at West Virginia (T2)
  • Nebraska at Penn State (T2)
  • Utah at Washington (T2)
  • UCLA at USC (T2)
  • Mississippi State at Arkansas (T2)
  • Texas A&M at Ole Miss (T2)

Michigan-Wisconsin! A couple rivalries! Nah, this week sucks.

13. Week 1, August 31-September 4

  • Michigan vs. Florida (T1), Saturday
  • Florida State vs. Alabama (T1), Saturday
  • Ohio State at Indiana (T2), Thursday
  • Colorado State vs. Colorado (T2), Friday
  • NC State vs. South Carolina (T2), Saturday
  • BYU vs. LSU (T2), Saturday
  • Texas A&M at UCLA (T2), Sunday
  • West Virginia vs. Virginia Tech (T2), Sunday
  • Georgia Tech vs. Tennessee (T2), Monday

Now we’re back on track. College football’s opening weekends used to really suck, and while this one does have a pair of marquee games (including one between two of the likely Top 3 AP teams), a lot of these games are 7:15 ESPN-type fodder. I’ll watch them, but get me to the end of the 23-16 game and get me to Todd’s Taste of the Town.

14. Week 4, September 21-23

  • TCU at Oklahoma State (T1)
  • NC State at Florida State (T2)
  • Pittsburgh at Georgia Tech (T2)
  • Notre Dame at Michigan State (T2)
  • Oklahoma at Baylor (T2)
  • Penn State at Iowa (T2)
  • UCLA at Stanford (T2)
  • Washington at Colorado (T2)
  • Mississippi State at Georgia (T2)
  • Texas A&M vs. Arkansas (T2)

We’ve made it! This week is awful. The best game could decide some order of finish in the Big 12 and be very fun, but look at all of these other games: none of them are interesting. Name one of these games you’re looking forward to seeing. You can’t! Just consider this entire week the official 2017 College Football Window of Opportunity. Get married on September 23rd, please.

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