Let’s face it: At this point, amid the COVID-19 crisis, the first game is every team’s most important game of the season. Because that means we’re playing football. But for this exercise, let’s break it down and picture a season that goes on as it was regularly scheduled. If we can be so fortunate, here’s every Top 25 team’s most important game.
Like last season, Clemson’s path to an ACC title isn’t particularly difficult, but the biggest challenge should come early with a home date against Louisville. The Cardinals revived the program in coach Scott Satterfield’s first season in 2019, and while the final score wasn’t all that close, they did give Clemson one of its tougher games. With a tumultuous offseason around the country, September could certainly come with a few upsets, so it might be to Louisville’s advantage to get the Tigers in Week 2, before Dabo Swinney & Co. really get rolling. — David M. Hale
Bill Connelly points out some of the stats below on why the Penn State game is so important for the Nittany Lions. It also, obviously, will be important for Ohio State, but just to have something different here, we’ll go with the Oregon game for the Buckeyes. The Ducks are going to have a really good, young defense as well as a new offensive coordinator in Joe Moorhead, who was the Penn State offensive coordinator from 2016 to 2017 and has some familiarity with Ohio State. To have that game as the second one of the season will be a good test for Ohio State, and it will be crucial for the Buckeyes to get a win if they want to get back in the College Football Playoff. — Tom VanHaaren