Top 5 College Football Games of the 2016 Season
By: College Football Expert Handicapper George Hampton
George Hampton of King Sports Picks lists his Top 5 College Football Games of the 2016 season
While theoretically every team begins the season with a shot at making the College Football Playoff, not all matchups are created equal. Some team will inevitably make an unexpected run to put itself in playoff contention, but it’s not difficult to envision that a few teams will be in the thick of the race.
It’s impossible to fully predict how the battle for playoff bids will shape up, but there are five games in particular that should be exciting to watch and we have circled them on our calendar.
Ohio State at Oklahoma (Sept. 17)
Because it actually takes place in a college stadium, this is the highlight non-conference game of the 2016 season. The Sooners will have already received their early-season test against Houston, while the Buckeyes should be a comfortable 2–0 after home games vs Bowling Green and Tulsa.
Urban Meyer has stocked his program so thoroughly that it’s hard to discount them as a possible title contender even after losing 12 players to the NFL draft. This is an intriguing early season test for the Buckeyes. Oklahoma has QB Baker Mayfield returning for his senior year. In 2015, Mayfield was in the Heisman mix and was named the Big 12 Player of the Year.
OU’s defense has just enough good pieces back to be outstanding again starting with the defensive front that needs Ogbinnia Okoronkwo on the outside and Charles Walker on the inside to be dominant. There’s depth, size, and talent – the Sooners should have one of the best defensive lines in college football.
Michigan at Michigan State (Oct. 29)
Both teams are legitimate top-10 squads, and unless you’ve been out of the country or don’t like college football, you know how last season’s game ended. If either or both of these teams enter the game with one loss or fewer, it may be the most anticipated college football game of the season and of course the state of Michigan bragging rights. Jim Harbaugh has done a great job recruiting and revitalizing this Michigan program and we are sure to see another brilliant job coaching in 2016.
Michigan’s impenetrable secondary coupled with a newly aggressive gameplan from defensive coordinator Don Brown is bound to give Michigan State issues. The Spartans’ fearsome defensive line anchored by Malik McDowell will hound Michigan State’s starting QB. Speaking of Michigan State’s QB, losing Connor Cook will be no small feat to overcome.
Cook holds the record for most career wins at MSU so the offense may find it difficult to get into a rhythm playing against the fearsome Michigan D. This is a must-see game that will almost certainly dictate which Big Ten team shows up in the playoff or in a New Year’s Six bowl.
Clemson at Florida State (Oct. 29)
This game is now second to only Alabama-LSU in regards to playoff importance. Take Florida State’s superiorly athletic defense anchored by Derwin James and Matthew Thomas and clash it against a Clemson offense led by Deshaun Watson; this has game of the year written all over it.
Deshaun Watson is expected to be a Heisman Finalist and has some unfinished business coming off a loss in the National Championship game vs Alabama. Whomever wins this game will have the inside track to win the ACC and earn a playoff spot.
Alabama at LSU (Nov. 5)
No list is complete without mentioning Alabama vs LSU. Alabama has won the last five matchups but LSU enters this season with a more proven offense and 18 total returning starters. Nick Saban and Alabama loses an entire team to the NFL each season but they restock with top recruits year in and year out.
Leonard Fournette had difficulties running the ball vs Alabama last year and his Heisman Trophy dreams were pretty much destroyed after that game. This season, the game heads to Baton Rouge and Fournette is again the most feared offensive player in the nation.
Michigan at Ohio State (Nov. 26)
It’s all about the Big Ten title for both of these teams, having missed out on the opportunity in 2015, and the deciding factor will come within this 60-minute period. One of the biggest rivalries in all of sports will once again take center stage, and college football fans around the country will be watching closely.
Ohio State lost a crop of talent to the NFL Draft but Urban Meyer is one of the top recruiters in college football. J.T. Barrett will step in as the starting QB but they are replacing 8 offensive starters and 8 defensive starters. Hopefully for the Buckeyes they will have the kinks iron out because they will be facing one of the best in Michigan.