We’re still about two and a half months away from the start of the 2021 College Football season. But, after the most abnormal season in recent memory fans are starved for normalcy. We received a little bit of that last week as the major networks announced kickoff times and network assignments for the first four weekends of the season. There is a total of 244 games over the first four weeks with 230 of those selected by the networks. Today, we’ll take you through some of the early season schedule highlights in those first four weeks.
Note – All times are considered as central standard time
Week Zero – August 28th
A Fox and ESPN double-header gets us started on Saturday, August 28th to kick off the season and our season schedule highlights. At 12:00 PM Nebraska travels to Champaign to face the Illini. Bret Bielema returns to the Big 10 looking to rekindle some of the success that he had with Wisconsin. Comparatively, Scott Frost might be on the hot seat for the Cornhuskers this season. A win here could set up a 3-0 start for Nebraska. As we move to ESPN 2:30 PM, Hawaii travels to California to face UCLA. The Rainbow Warriors went 5-4 a year ago which ended with a bowl victory over Houston. Meanwhile, UCLA was much improved last season. Their four losses came by a total of 15 points.
Thursday, September 2nd
The first full weekend of the season kicks off on ESPN with two of the best Group of Five teams facing off. At 6:oo PM Boise State travels to the Bounce House to face UCF. The Broncos and the Knights break in new head coaches as Gus Malzahn and Andy Avalos will be roaming the sidelines for both teams. Just an hour later on Fox, Ohio State travels to Minnesota as we get the first look at the Buckeyes on the season. Ohio State will certainly be a top-five team in the preseason. However, all eyes will be on the quarterback as Ohio State will break in a new signal-caller with no experience.
Friday, September 3rd
Make sure that you’re off work early. Our first Friday night of the season has an ESPN doubleheader beginning at 5:00 PM. The Tar Heels travel to Blacksburg in an early ACC matchup. The Hokies are looking to bounce back after the end of 2020 saw them lose four out of their last five against a top 10 North Carolina team. The nightcap has us going to the Big 10 as Northwestern entertains Michigan State. Northwestern had an outstanding 2020 going 7-2 with a Big 10 Championship Game appearance. Conversely, the Spartans will try to improve off the 2-5 campaign from last year, however, one of those wins was against Northwestern.
Saturday, September 4th
It’s difficult to break these down to just a few, but to start our Saturday at 11 AM on Fox we’ll stay in the Big 10 as Penn State travels to Wisconsin. The Nittany Lions started by losing their first five but won their final four of the season. For the Badgers, they had three games canceled and were inconsistent but finished 4-3.
Next, tune to ABC for the rest of the day. At 2:30 PM we have an intriguing top 25 matchup between defending National Champions Alabama and Miami. The Bryce Young era starts for the Crimson Tide as they look to replace a host of talent on offense. Comparatively, Miami has the weapons on offense but can their defense play well enough to get them into the championship conversation?
The nightcap for week one of the season schedule highlights on ABC at 6:30 PM give us one of the best non-conference games we’ve seen in many years on the first weekend of the season as Georgia and Clemson collide. This will undoubtedly be a top-five matchup. This might be a must-win for Georgia to make the playoffs. As crazy as that sounds, with games at Auburn, Florida at a neutral site and a potential SEC Championship Game a loss here could be too much to come back from. Alternatively, for Clemson which has a much softer schedule can handle a loss but a win puts them in fantastic shape.
Saturday, September 11th
College Football fans will be a special treat early on Saturday morning. There is a 10:00 AM kickoff and two 10:30 AM kickoffs. Get your multiple tv’s and devices ready because there will be 14 games that are live by the time we get to 11:00 AM. However, most eyes will be on Columbus as Ohio State hosts Oregon. For the Ducks, it will be an opportunity to put the PAC 12 on the map nationally against a top-five team nationally in the Buckeyes.
At 2:30 PM on ABC the Cy-Hawk trophy will up for grabs as Iowa State hosts the Hawkeyes. The Cyclones will come into 2021 with the highest expectations in program history with a top 10 national ranking. Also, be sure to tune into CBS at 2:30 PM with what is always a must watch when the service academies. Navy hosts Air Force in the first battle for the academies. Navy had a tough 2020 season going 3-7 which included a 40-7 loss to Air Force. The Falcons also had an uneven 2020 but won two of their last three.
The evening session gives us plenty of options to choose from. Head to ESPN to start your evening as Arkansas hosts Texas in a battle of previous Southwest Conference foes. At 6:30 PM ABC has Washington traveling to the Big House to face the Wolverines. Between Oregon and Washington, they have a chance to gain some national respect for the PAC 12 against the Big 10’s biggest names. And nothing screams college football like PAC 12 after dark. We have two games to end the day that fit that mold. First, at 9:15 PM on ESPN BYU hosts Utah in one of the best rivalry games in the country. Then, at 9:30 PM on Fox USC hosts Stanford in what is always an entertaining game.
Saturday, September 18th
One of the greatest rivalries of the 1970s and 1980s is rekindled as Nebraska travels to Oklahoma at 11:00 AM on Fox. This should be a battle of unbeatens. The Cornhuskers having games against Illinois, Fordham, and Buffalo and the Sooners face Tulane and Western Carolina. Additionally, we have Indiana hosting Cincinnati on the ESPN network. The Bearcats have the non-conference schedule with Indiana and North Carolina to lay claim to a playoff run with an undefeated season.
The 2:30 PM gives us an opportunity for all eyes to be on the SEC on CBS. Alabama travels to Gainesville to face the Florida Gators. This is a rematch of one of the best offensive games in the 2020 season. However, both teams lose a ton of that firepower from a year ago. The Tide has a tough road SEC schedule starting with this game that includes Texas A&M, Mississippi State, and Auburn. The same can be said for the Gators who have a late-season schedule have them traveling to LSU, facing Georgia in Jacksonville, going to South Carolina and Missouri. Suffice it to say this will be a huge game for both teams.
The evening session for the season schedule highlights begins at 6:30 PM on ABC with hopefully one of the best scenes in college football. Auburn travels to Happy Valley to face Penn State. 2020 required the nation to miss the annual white out at Beaver Stadium. How will new head coach Bryan Harsin and quarterback Bo Nix deal with that atmosphere? The nightcap has Oklahoma State traveling to Idaho to face Boise State on the blue turf at 8:00 PM on FS1. Additionally, with wins against UCF and Oklahoma State, the Broncos could catapult themselves into NY6 consideration. Meanwhile, the Cowboys will need a quality win before heading to Big 12 play.