It has been an ongoing debate in college football ever since the College Football Playoff was introduced back in 2014: Is there value in scheduling top-notch non-conference opponents?
From a revenue standpoint, the answer is obvious. Highly-anticipated matchups attract more attention, draw more fans and generate more money.
However, there is also a debate over how much the CFP committee values strength of schedule. Is losing a close game to a top-25 opponent more valuable than cruising to a commanding victory over a non-Power-5 opponent?
What isn’t up for debate is the joy that these top-notch non-conference matchups give college football fans, regardless of their school alliance. A top-10 matchup in the month of September is tough to beat.
FOX Sports college football analyst RJ Young broke down the top non-conference matchups in the upcoming season on a recent episode of his podcast, “The Number One College Football Show with RJ Young.”
Here is a look at his top-four non-conference games.
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Join FOX Sports’ RJ Young as he unveils his list of the best non-conference games of the 2023 college football season.
Date: Sept. 2
Location: Amon G Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas
2022 result: TCU 38, Colorado 13
Young on Colorado at TCU: “Texas Christian whopped Colorado, 38-13 in Boulder, beginning its run at its best season in school history. Prime’s Buffs are gonna play the national runner-ups with Chandler Morris back in the starting lineup. Remember, he sprained his knee in last year’s game against Colorado. I’m sure that he has a lot to prove. Frankly, I’m very excited. I might be the only person that’s overjoyed about that game.”
Date: Sept. 9
Location: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Alabama
2022 result: Alabama 20, Texas 19
Young on Texas at Alabama: “Alabama beat Texas, 20-19 last year, but if Quinn Ewers finished the game, you know that Texas would have won that game because that’s how good he was and how great they were operating the offense. They would have beaten Alabama before Tennessee did, which is saying a lot because we would have changed how we looked at Texas heading into 2023 had they won that game.”
LSU vs. Florida State
Date: Sept. 3
Location: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida
2022 result: Florida State 24, LSU 23
Young on LSU vs. Florida State: “Florida State beat LSU, 24-23, meaning the Noles beat the eventual SEC West champs in New Orleans. These are two 10-win teams that are going to go at it again, in Orlando this time. The Noles are retooled and reloaded with Keon Coleman and Jaheim Bell joining Jordan Travis, Johnny Wilson and Jared Verse for their 2023 campaign. But Jayden Daniels, Malik Nabers and Harold Perkins are like ‘cool, whatever, let’s run it back. Let’s prove it.'”
Date: Sept. 23
Location: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Indiana
2022 result: Ohio State 21, Notre Dame 10
Young on Ohio State at Notre Dame: “This is the game that I think all of us are going to be watching as closely as any. The Buckeyes won that game, 21-10 in Columbus, and they shut out Notre Dame in the second half. Sam Hartman is a step up from Tyler Buchner. The Buckeyes will begin their season with a new starter under center for the first time since 2021. We still don’t know who that guy is. With all of this noise around Ryan Day and his job, which I still think is asinine, you still got to give it a little bit of run. You have questions about what the defense is going to look like. You have to question who is going to throw passes to Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka. You still have to question what the run game is gonna look like with TreVeyon Henderson sitting out a lot of the second half of last year. You already know what Sam Hartman and Audric Estime are capable of. Now, its can Benjamin Morrison and that defense contain that Ohio State offense? This game is in South Bend. There is reason to believe they [Notre Dame] should win that game in South Bend.”