College football conference realignment creates 14 must-see showdowns for 2024 season (2024)

These thrilling new matchups are a byproduct of college football's seismic shift.

Carter Bahns

Two of the biggest moves in college football conference realignment history went into effect July 1 when Texas and Oklahoma became official members of the SEC, and more groundbreaking changes are on the horizon as the 10 departing Pac-12 schools make their arrivals in the Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC official Aug. 1. While the movement brings to an end countless traditions, it also begins an exciting new era with mega-conferences, new rivalries and thrilling races to the expanded College Football Playoff.

Perhaps the most exciting element of conference realignment is the countless new matchups it places on the 2024 college football schedule. Between the rekindling of old rivalries, highly-anticipated battles between national championship contenders and intriguing matchups between some of the sport's best players, this campaign promises to be one of the most exciting to date.

Two games in particular stand out as must-see action as potential playoff champions Ohio State and Oregon, and Georgia and Texas, meet each other in the regular season.

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Here are the best new matchups in the post-conference realignment 2024 college football season:

14. MICHIGAN AT WASHINGTON

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It is rare for college football to offer a national championship rematch in such short order, and while both Michigan and Washington — and particularly the latter — look much different than they did a few short months ago, the second installment in their recent series remains highly intriguing. Husky Stadium is a daunting venue for visitors, so even though Michigan has a clear talent advantage after Washington underwent a major roster overhaul, this is no walk in the park for first-year head coach Sherrone Moore and his squad. Jedd Fisch will have the Huskies playing hard right out of the gate, and the offense still figures to provide plenty of fireworks with new quarterback Will Rogers.

13. ARIZONA AT KANSAS STATE

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The quarterback battle in this new Big 12 showdown is terrific. Kansas State has a Heisman Trophy dark horse and a premier dual-threat weapon in Avery Johnson while Arizona boasts one of the nation's most prolific young passers in Noah Fifita. Skill position talent abounds in this head-to-head battle, particularly on the Wildcats' side, where new coach Brent Brennan convinced 1,400-yard receiver Tetairoa McMillan to stick around amid the staff turnover. Countless Big 12 games carry conference title implications, and this one is right near the top.

12. UTAH AT OKLAHOMA STATE

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Utah is arguably the Big 12 frontrunner in its debut season with the conference, but rising to the top of the crowded league will be no easy feat for the two-time Pac-12 champion — even with quarterback Cameron Rising and tight end Brant Kuithe healthy and back for their seventh years. One of the most fascinating matchups in the expanded conference is Oklahoma State running back Ollie Gordon IIagainst the Utes' vaunted defensive front. The winner of that battle will likely reign supreme in a contest that figures to go a long way in determining the conference champion.

11. USC AT MICHIGAN

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College football pageantry will be at its finest when USC travels to The Big House. Two of the sport's most famous brands doing battle in an iconic stadium is about as enticing of a matchup as there is. Each of the last four contests between USC and Michigan came in the Rose Bowl, where the Trojans hold a 3-1 advantage dating back to 1988. Both teams break in new quarterbacks this season, but the more important development comes on the defensive side of USC's roster, where the Trojans must make major strides this year in order to be competitive in the physical Big Ten.

10. PENN STATE AT USC

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Another historic Rose Bowl rivalry pits USC against Penn State, and this game forces the Nittany Lions to complete one of the longest road trips in college football. The cross-country jaunt will be a test for James Franklin's team, as this is precisely the kind of challenge Penn State must overcome if it is to take an elusive step forward and reach the Big Ten title game. Abdul Carter and the immensely talented defense could cause some problems for Lincoln Riley's explosive offense, particularly with Miller Moss remaining largely unproven as the Trojans' starting quarterback.

9. OKLAHOMA AT LSU

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Welcome to the SEC, Oklahoma. There is no tougher environment in college football than Death Valley, and the Sooners have to make that daunting trip in Year 1 as an SEC member. Brent Venables has a strong enough team to get out of Baton Rouge unscathed, but it will not be easy against an LSU team that should still be able to move the ball with the best of them even without Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels and a pair of first-round receivers leading the way. Both of these teams have something to prove on the defensive side of the ball, but the Sooners have fewer question marks in that department, giving them a possible edge.

8. TENNESSEE AT OKLAHOMA

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As far as first-year quarterbacks go, Nico Iamaleava and Jackson Arnold are about as promising as they come. The winner of the Tennessee-Oklahoma game might be the side with the better performance between the young arms. Both new starters have outside hopes of winning the Heisman Trophy, and while they would need a few breaks to go their way, the talent is there. Iamaleava and Arnold are both former five-star recruits, and they have ample skill-position weapons around them, maximizing their ceilings as dual-threat standouts.

7. OKLAHOMA AT MISSOURI

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Not only does Oklahoma have one of the toughest schedules in the nation, but many of the Sooners' most formidable games also come on the road. Such is the case with the Missouri contest, which will test the OU defensive backfield as the Tigers boast a remarkable quarterback-receiver tandem in Brady Cook and Luther Burden III. On paper, not much separates these two teams, which have enough talent to contend for a spot in the SEC's top tier but more realistically find themselves vying for a spot on the edge of college football's top 10.

6. OKLAHOMA AT OLE MISS

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If Ole Miss is to take a step forward and compete for the SEC crown, this is the kind of game it has to win. It will not be easy, but the Rebels have enough talent in 2024 to defeat this conference newcomer. Jaxson Dart stands among the nation's top passers, and he has an outstanding supporting cast at wide receiver and running back, even with former star ballcarrier Quinshon Judkins off to Ohio State. Where Ole Miss can, for the first time, cause problems for opponents in the conference's top tier is on the defensive side of the ball, where transfer additions like Walter Nolen and Princely Umanmielen make the Rebels legitimate playoff hopefuls.

5. OREGON AT MICHIGAN

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The Big Ten runs through reigning two-time champion Michigan until proven otherwise, but Oregon is on the verge of stepping past the Wolverines. This is a pivotal game for both teams, as the margin for error at the top of the 18-team league is extremely slim. Michigan's home-field advantage is worth a great deal here, and its defense is one of the few in the land with enough talent to slow down the Ducks' potent offense. This will either be a "welcome to the Big Ten" moment for Dan Lanning's program or an opportunity to prove that Oregon has arrived in the national title conversation.

4. ALABAMA AT OKLAHOMA

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By the time this game rolls around, the college football world will already have a very clear picture of the Kalen DeBoer era at Alabama. If the first-year coach has the Crimson Tide in the SEC title race when he takes his team to Norman on Nov. 23, the contest against Oklahoma will be a "prove it" opportunity. On the other side, the Sooners have a huge chance to make a statement against the perennial national championship contender. This is November college football at its finest.

3. TEXAS AT TEXAS A&M

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While conference realignment marked the end of numerous traditional rivalries, it also rekindles many dormant series. None are as heated as the Lone Star Showdown between Texas and . The revitalization of this rivalry already began on the baseball side when the Longhorns hired away Aggies coach Jim Schlossnagle, and new life reaches the football side Nov. 30 when the Longhorns travel to College Station. Kyle Field will be as raucous as ever when it hosts a sleeping giant in college football rivalry circles, and both teams promise to be in the final stages of a strong regular season, adding to the implications.

2. OHIO STATE AT OREGON

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This could realistically be the first of three contests between the Big Ten frontrunners during the 2024 season. If both Ohio State and Oregon live up to their loftiest of expectations, they would almost certainly square off again in the conference title game and perhaps even in the College Football Playoff. Autzen Stadium plays host to the regular-season edition of this series when the Ducks welcome the Buckeyes for their biggest home game in quite some time. In all likelihood, both teams will be undefeated and ranked inside the national top five when they meet in Eugene.

1. GEORGIA AT TEXAS

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Carson Beck versus Quinn Ewers is the best quarterback battle of the 2024 season. The Heisman Trophy frontrunners are not only the two most valuable players in the land, but they also stand atop two of the favorite teams to win the national championship. If this is only the first of multiple meetings between the Bulldogs and Longhorns, then college football is in for a treat. The winner will have a clear case for the No. 1 overall seed in the first 12-team playoff, especially if they take care of business in the rest of their regular-season outings.

College football conference realignment creates 14 must-see showdowns for 2024 season (2024)
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