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Top 15 Must-Watch College Football Games for 2023

As the leaves begin to turn and the air takes on a crisp edge, college football fans are gearing up for another electrifying season on the gridiron. Every contest promises its thrills, but some matchups stand out as undeniable must-sees. Certain games loom large for fans who relish the drama, strategy, and raw athleticism that defines college football. This year, the stakes are even higher, as teams jockey for coveted playoff positioning while others seek to avenge bitter defeats from their 2022 meetings. In a sport where every snap counts and every game can change the course of a season, here are the top 15 confrontations you can’t afford to miss.

LSU vs. Florida State

The echoing thuds of last year’s memories still reverberate in the ears of Tiger fans everywhere. In a game that felt more like a Hollywood script than a college football match, the LSU Tigers found themselves a mere kick away from pushing the game into overtime against the Seminoles. But fate and Florida State’s special teams had other plans; a heart-stopping block on a field goal attempt would cement a 24-23 victory for the Seminoles. That win set the tone for Florida State’s season as they confidently sailed to a commendable 10-3 record.

On the other side, under the sharp tutelage of Brian Kelly, the LSU Tigers didn’t let that initial setback define their season. Rallying with resilience, they went on to clinch the SEC West, a testament to the fortitude and fight of the squad. Change is in the air as the Tigers descend upon Orlando for the rematch. Both teams have undergone transformations since their last encounter. LSU, with a reshuffled roster and another year of Kelly’s coaching under their belt, promises to bring a renewed vigor to the game. Similarly, while basking in the afterglow of their 10-3 season, Florida State isn’t resting on past laurels, showing signs of further evolution and growth.

This clash isn’t just about points on the scoreboard; it’s about pride, redemption, and the unending drive to emerge triumphant. With so much history behind them and so much at stake, the LSU-Florida State showdown promises to be a highlight of the 2023 season.

Texas vs. Alabama

Last season, Austin witnessed a thriller when the Longhorns seemed poised to deliver a rare upset to the mighty Crimson Tide. With Texas leading and momentum on their side, the winds shifted suddenly as quarterback Quinn Ewers was sidelined with a shoulder injury. Alabama, always a force to be reckoned with and quick to seize opportunities, rallied to clinch a narrow 20-19 victory, escaping Texas with a win.

Now, as the epicenter of this storied series shifts to Tuscaloosa, the burning questions loom more significant than ever. Can the Longhorns, still stinging from last year’s near miss, mount a challenge and exact their revenge? Or will the Tide, known for their indomitable spirit, roll on and extend their dominance in this rivalry?

Beyond the revenge storyline, this matchup will also be a litmus test for both programs. We’ll gain significant insights, especially about Alabama. Despite their storied history and continued success, the Tide faces uncertainties, most notably in their quarterback position. As of now, they’ve yet to announce their starting QB for the 2023 season firmly.

This game promises to be a high-stakes affair, full of drama, strategy, and revelations about the future trajectory of two of college football’s most iconic teams.

Tennessee vs. Alabama

The Volunteers’ resounding 59-49 triumph over the Crimson Tide last season wasn’t just another win on the scoreboard; it was a powerful declaration that Tennessee was reclaiming its stature in the Southeastern Conference. For years, a shadow had loomed over the Vols, a 15-year drought against Alabama serving as a painful reminder of battles lost. But that memorable victory shattered the narrative, rekindling hope and pride in Knoxville.

As the rivalry relocates to the intimidating confines of Tuscaloosa this year, Alabama is undoubtedly thirsting for redemption. The sting of that defeat at the hands of the Vols remains fresh, and the Crimson Tide, with their legacy of dominance and resilience, will be eager to settle scores.

But this matchup offers more than just a continuation of a fierce rivalry. The stakes are sky-high, with potential playoff berths and SEC title aspirations hanging in the balance. Both teams understand the weight of this contest; for Tennessee, another victory would solidify their resurgence, while for Alabama, a win would reassert their traditional dominance and potentially pave their path to postseason glory.

UTSA vs. Tulane

From Conference USA kings to new contenders in the American Athletic Conference, the UTSA Roadrunners are ready to etch a new chapter in their evolving story. On the other side, standing tall as the reigning champions of the AAC, are the Tulane Green Wave, who have ridden their wave of success and are looking to fortify their position at the top.

The November 23 showdown between these two burgeoning powerhouses isn’t just another date on the calendar: it’s potentially the crown jewel in the battle for AAC supremacy. UTSA and Tulane have been on an upward trajectory, with their performances last season signaling a resurgent future for each.

Victory in this clash won’t just be about bragging rights or a feather in the cap for the season; it could very well be the ticket that stamps either program as the undisputed titan of the Group of Five in college football. As the Roadrunners and Green Wave prepare to lock horns, the college football world will watch closely, anticipating a game that might set the tone for the G5 landscape for years.

LSU vs. Alabama

College football fans witnessed another electrifying chapter last year in the storied rivalry between the Tigers and the Crimson Tide. A rivalry that has repeatedly delivered edge-of-your-seat action lived up to every bit of its billing. The game was not for the faint-hearted, with LSU pushing Alabama into overtime and giving a masterstroke. Instead of opting for the safety of an extra point kick, LSU’s head coach Brian Kelly dared to be different, successfully navigating a two-point conversion attempt to clinch a 32-31 victory. It was a moment that will be etched in college football folklore like so many in this rivalry.

Historically, the stakes when these two football juggernauts face off have often gone beyond mere bragging rights. This clash often dictates the trajectory toward a national title and is instrumental in determining who holds the reins of the SEC West. It’s a matchup where titans clash, with each game having ripple effects throughout the college football landscape.

The upcoming rematch promises to uphold this tradition. With the memories of that dramatic overtime decision still fresh and the ramifications of victory as potent as ever, both teams will be vying not just for a win but for supremacy in their conference and a potential pathway to national glory. As with every encounter between LSU and Alabama, the stakes are high, the drama is guaranteed, and the legacy of the victor is further solidified.

Clemson vs. Florida State

Florida State faces a daunting schedule this season, and if they manage to navigate past LSU with a triumphant victory, their sights will be firmly set on a looming colossus: a trip to Death Valley to take on the Clemson Tigers. This is not just another game; it’s a showdown that could significantly shape the ACC landscape for the season.

Clemson, no strangers to high-stakes games, clinched a nail-biting 34-28 victory over the Seminoles in their previous encounter. Memories of that tightly contested battle will surely be fresh in both teams’ minds as they prepare for their next duel. A victory here doesn’t just mean a boost in conference standings or an enhancement of season records; it could pave the way to the ACC title game.

With both teams harboring aspirations of dominating the ACC and making a mark on the national stage, the victor could also be positioning themselves for a coveted spot in the College Football Playoff. As is often the case when Clemson and Florida State clash, the implications are vast, the stakes are towering, and the drama is set to be unforgettable.

Ohio State vs. Michigan

The storied rivalry between Ohio State and Michigan, affectionately known as “The Game,” is a cornerstone of college football’s rich tapestry. For over a century, this annual showdown has captivated fans, pundits, and players alike, symbolizing not just a battle for supremacy between two of the sport’s most iconic programs but also reflecting the very essence of college football’s passion, history, and competition.

In recent memory, the tables have turned somewhat with the Wolverines taking the reins. Michigan has managed to outpace the Buckeyes for two consecutive years, starting in 2021. This recent success, however, doesn’t overshadow the deep-rooted history and seesawing dominance that has defined this rivalry. Regardless of the victor, each chapter adds a new layer to its illustrious legacy.

In the contemporary context, the implications of “The Game” have evolved to bear significant postseason ramifications. Of late, the victor of this heated encounter basks in the glory of bragging rights and is often propelled to the B1G Championship game. And, as recent seasons have shown, a B1G title almost assures a golden ticket to the College Football Playoff, heightening the stakes even further.

This year, the battleground is Ann Arbor. With Michigan riding the wave of its last two successful campaigns, which saw them advance to the CFP, expectations are sky-high. Having tasted recent triumphs over their arch-rivals, the Wolverines will be hungry to cement their newfound dominance, while the Buckeyes will be itching to reclaim their pride and reestablish their storied legacy in the rivalry. The scene is set for another epic edition of “The Game,” a contest that resonates far beyond the confines of a football stadium and embodies the heart and soul of college football.

Georgia vs. Tennessee

The SEC is no stranger to high-octane matchups, but come November 18, all eyes will undoubtedly be fixed on the showdown between Georgia and Tennessee. As the season progresses, the landscape of the SEC East is gradually unfolding. If Georgia remains unblemished in their record by the time they encounter the Vols, this game could very well be the crescendo to determine the division’s representative in the SEC Championship.

Billed as a clash of titans, this game’s anticipation is palpable. The narrative isn’t just about divisional dominance but national ambitions. Both teams’ performances and pedigree have underscored their potential to conquer the SEC East and stamp their authority on the national stage with a berth in the College Football Playoff.

Pundits and fans alike expect that when these two meet, they will either be undefeated or, at worst, carry a single blemish on their respective records. Such a backdrop only amplifies the stakes, making their duel a battle for SEC East supremacy and a potential decider for playoff aspirations.

The Bulldogs and the Vols have showcased their might and mettle time and again, and this impending clash promises to be a spectacle that could very well define the trajectory of the SEC season and the larger college football narrative. With so much on the line, the gridiron at Neyland Stadium will be a cauldron of tension, passion, and unbridled football brilliance.

Alabama vs. Texas A&M

The Alabama-Texas A&M encounters, in recent years, have defied conventional wisdom. On paper, the matchups might seem skewed in favor of the mighty Crimson Tide. However, the reality on the gridiron has been a stark contrast, with each encounter since 2021 being nail-bitingly close. The question on everyone’s lips as we approach their 2023 showdown: Will this meeting follow the heart-stopping script of its recent predecessors?

Last year’s clash was a testament to the unpredictable nature of this matchup. Even without their star quarterback Bryce Young (now executing plays for the Carolina Panthers), Alabama managed to eke out a 24-20 victory over the Aggies. The game kept fans on the edge of their seats until the final whistle. Contrast that with the shock of 2021 when Texas A&M, defying all odds, orchestrated one of the season’s most memorable upsets, triumphing over the Tide 41-38.

The plot thickens in 2023. With Alabama still grappling with their quarterback situation, the game’s dynamics become even more unpredictable. Will the Tide find stability under center, or will the Aggies exploit this uncertainty?

What’s undeniable is that the Alabama vs. Texas A&M clash isn’t just another game on the calendar; it’s rapidly becoming a must-watch fixture, promising drama, surprises, and football of the highest caliber. Given their recent history, it’s anyone’s guess how this chapter will unfold, and that uncertainty only adds to the allure.

Tulane vs. Memphis

As the enthusiasm of the college football season intensifies, one fixture in the American Athletic Conference stands out: the contest between the Tulane Green Wave and the Memphis Tigers. Proudly wearing the mantle of defending AAC champions, Tulane embarks on a journey to continue their dominance. But in their path stands Memphis, a team with soaring ambitions, eager to assert themselves and topple the reigning champs, positioning themselves as the premier force in the conference.

The stakes couldn’t be more apparent as the Green Wave rolls into Bluff City on October 13. Both teams are vying not just for victory on the day but to make a resounding statement for the entirety of the season.

Yet, there’s a historical twist to this tale. Since 2017, a curious pattern has emerged in this rivalry: the visiting team has consistently faced defeat. This anomaly, where the home team always seems to have the upper hand, adds an extra layer of intrigue to the matchup. As Tulane prepares to be the visitors this year, the question echoing in the minds of both sets of fans is whether the Green Wave can defy this trend or if the Memphis Tigers will continue the home-winning tradition.

This isn’t just a game; it’s a narrative of dominance, aspirations, and peculiar traditions. The Tulane-Memphis encounter is poised to be a defining chapter in the AAC’s 2023 story, capturing the essence of competition and rivalry.

USC vs. Oregon

The tectonic plates of college football are shifting, and as they do, the anticipation for the USC Trojans and Oregon Ducks matchup on November 11 reaches a fever pitch. With potential implications for the coveted Pac-12 title game slot, this showdown is not just about the present; it’s a nod to a rich shared history and an impending new chapter.

For the Trojans, the road to Eugene is lined with challenges. With formidable opponents like Washington, Utah, and the ever-daunting Notre Dame on their schedule, USC’s journey to remain in the conversation for the Pac-12 title, let alone dream of a College Football Playoff berth, is arduous. Every game leading up to the Oregon clash will test their mettle, resilience, and aspirations.

Yet, the bittersweet knowledge that it marks the end of an era makes this matchup even more poignant. This game will be the last dance for both powerhouses under the Pac-12 banner. The winds of change are blowing, and by 2024, both USC and Oregon will embark on fresh challenges, joining the ranks of the B1G Conference.

As the Trojans and Ducks prepare for this duel, it’s not just about conference supremacy or playoff implications. It’s a celebration of a storied rivalry in the Pac-12 and a teaser for the many B1G battles ahead. For fans and players alike, this game promises to be an emotional roller-coaster, a fitting tribute to the legacy they leave behind, and a tantalizing glimpse into the future.

Penn State vs. Ohio State

As the chill of autumn descends upon college football, one matchup in the heart of the B1G Conference promises to be a game-changer: Penn State’s voyage to the Horseshoe on October 21, a confrontation with the Ohio State Buckeyes. With questions swirling around Penn State’s capability to dominate the B1G and possibly secure a College Football Playoff berth, this clash might provide some definitive answers.

The Buckeyes, despite boasting the talents of Marvin Harrison Jr. at wide receiver, find themselves at an intriguing crossroads. The departure of their stalwart quarterback, C.J. Stroud, to the NFL, has left a void. Now, all eyes are on potential successors Kyle McCord and Devin Brown. The big question over Columbus is whether they can maintain the prolific passing game that became synonymous with Stroud’s tenure.

This scenario provides a compelling opportunity for the Nittany Lions. Could 2023 be the moment they capitalize on a possible Buckeye vulnerability, especially with Ohio State’s quarterback situation still in flux? Penn State, undoubtedly, will be hungry to seize the day, especially given the history of high-stakes battles between these two football giants.

However, as history has often shown, counting out the Buckeyes, even in a potential “down year,” is risky. The stage is set for a classic Big Ten showdown – a contest that could redefine the trajectory of both programs this season.

USC vs. Notre Dame

Before USC sets its sights on formidable adversaries like Washington or Oregon, a colossal hurdle stands the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The epic clash in South Bend is set to inaugurate a series of demanding encounters on the Trojans’ 2023 docket. While USC emerged victorious in last year’s skirmish at the Coliseum with a 38-27 triumph, the storied rivalry relocates to South Bend this season. With the fresh taste of last year’s defeat, the Irish are undoubtedly plotting their retaliation.

Michigan vs. Penn State

Should the Nittany Lions navigate victoriously through pivotal clashes against Illinois, Iowa, and Ohio State, a colossal challenge awaits them in the form of the Michigan Wolverines. For the Wolverines, this confrontation serves as their inaugural significant test of the 2023 campaign. And, while the spotlight will be firmly fixed on this encounter, looming on the horizon for Michigan is another high-stakes game as they prepare to welcome the Buckeyes to the iconic Big House just a fortnight later. This stretch promises to be a defining moment for both storied programs in the season’s narrative.

Utah vs. USC

The 2022 season saw Utah firmly establish its dominance over USC, not once, but twice. While their regular-season encounter kept fans on the edge of their seats, the Pac-12 championship game in Las Vegas told a vastly different tale. Instead of a closely-fought duel, the Utes decimated the Trojans in a 47-24 victory, securing their ticket to the esteemed Rose Bowl as the Pac-12’s standard-bearer.

With the shadows of those defeats lingering, USC faces a year of reckoning. As they transition to the B1G conference next season, the matchup against Utah is a poignant reminder of past challenges and future ambitions. The question on everyone’s minds: Can the Trojans summon the spirit to avenge last year’s humbling losses?

This chapter in the Utah-USC saga isn’t just about redemption or rivalry; it’s one of the most compelling narratives in this year’s college football landscape.

Honorable Mentions

Kansas State vs. Texas

Alabama vs. Auburn (Iron Bowl)

Ole Miss vs. Tulane

UTSA vs. Tennessee 

Boise State vs. Memphis

Oklahoma vs. Texas

Colorado vs. TCU

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Meet Derrick Branch, the founder and chief wordsmith at Strike 7 Sports. With a sharp focus on the NFL and the NBA, Derrick's expertise in sports is matched only by his passion for sharing it with others. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communications from the prestigious University of Arizona Global. Let his insightful and engaging writing take you to the heart of the action.

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