Saturday, July 2, 2022

College football schedule 2022: Ranking the chaos potential of each week this season

There are always certain games that get circled on the schedule as the biggest of the season in college football — think Texas A&M at Alabama in the season ahead — but the best Saturdays of each season often come at unexpected times. College football thrives on chaos, and it typically comes in the form of landscape-shifting upsets or just plain wacky games that produce strange circumstances and heroes we wouldn’t have predicted.

When the big matchups fail to provide drama, most fans find the remote and start searching for mayhem. Take Week 12 of last season, for example. Instead of delivering the goods, a showdown between No. 4 Ohio State and No. 7 Michigan State turned into a 56-7 beatdown by the Buckeyes. That same week, No. 23 Utah crushed No. 3 Oregon and No. 10 Wake Forest produced a dud against Clemson and lost 48-27.

Those outcomes weren’t chaotic, and a week that appeared to have some promise was a bit of a snoozer compared to what transpired the week before. In Week 11, Kansas upset Texas, Mississippi State roared back from 18 down to beat AuburnBaylor handed Oklahoma its first loss and Florida trailed at halftime to Samford of the FCS. Wake Forest vs. NC State, Arkansas vs. LSU and Pittsburgh vs. North Carolina were also thrillers that week. It was chaos, and it was great.

So which weeks could provide the most chaos in the 2022 season? Here’s an attempt at ranking them from best to worst based on chaos potential. For the sake of brevity, no more than five games for each week are listed. But in some cases, the list of potential chaos games goes much deeper.

1. Week 13 (Nov. 26)

With bragging rights at stake in a series of rivalry games, division and conference title races coming down to the wire and College Football Playoff spots on the line, the final full week of the regular season is always chaos. Consider, also, that it’s spread out over three days, beginning with the Egg Bowl (Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State) on Thursday, and you’ve got what could be the most chaotic week of the season.

2. Week 11 (Nov. 12)

  • TCU at Texas
  • Georgia at Mississippi State
  • Alabama at Ole Miss
  • LSU at Arkansas
  • Washington at Oregon

The SEC could have a chaotic Week 11, especially the teams in the state of Mississippi. In Mike Leach’s first game at Mississippi State in 2020, the Bulldogs defeated then-reigning national champion LSU. Leach will get a chance to do it again when Mississippi State hosts Georgia that week. Just down the highway, Ole Miss hosts Alabama as Lane Kiffin looks for redemption from a dud showing against former boss Nick Saban last season. Elsewhere, TCU is at Texas in a matchup that is always entertaining, North Carolina plays at Wake Forest in a contest that may induce whiplash and Oregon hosts Washington in a battle of Pac-12 North rivals who both have new coaches. Throw in LSU at Arkansas, South Carolina at Florida and Texas A&M at Auburn, and you’ve got the makings of a noon ’til midnight goody bag.

3. Week 6 (Oct. 8)

  • Ohio State at Michigan State
  • Texas A&M at Alabama
  • Texas vs. Oklahoma
  • Auburn at Georgia
  • North Carolina at Miami

The headliner of the Week 6 slate happens to be a rematch of an elite 2021 chaos matchup that had lighter fluid poured on it this offseason. Alabama should be at least a touchdown favorite at home against Texas A&M. But, then again, the Aggies were 18.5-point underdogs when they pulled off a stunning 41-38 win over Alabama last season. Given the Aggies’ yearning to dethrone Alabama in the SEC West, the war of words between coaches Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher and the insanity of last year’s game, this one should be epic. The No. 2 chaos game of Week 6 is probably the No. 1 game of almost any other week as Texas and Oklahoma square off in one of the sport’s top rivalry games.

4. Week 5 (Oct. 1)

  • NC State at Clemson
  • Oklahoma State at Baylor
  • Texas A&M at Mississippi State
  • LSU at Auburn
  • Alabama at Arkansas
  • Michigan at Iowa

Several potential CFP contenders have tricky games in Week 5 on a slate that could be ripe for chaos. NC State travels to Clemson in a key ACC Atlantic showdown, while Baylor hosts Oklahoma State in a rematch of last season’s Big 12 title game. Texas A&M is also in a tough spot at Mississippi State as the Aggies play their first true road game of the season amid the temptation to look ahead to a potentially legendary showdown with Alabama the following week. Speaking of the Crimson Tide, they’ve got a trap game at Arkansas as well. Throw in Oklahoma at TCU, Michigan at Iowa and LSU at Auburn, and you’ve got a slate full of potential upsets with national implications. 

5. Week 10 (Nov. 5)

  • Clemson at Notre Dame
  • Florida State at Miami
  • Alabama at LSU
  • Baylor at Oklahoma
  • Wake Forest at NC State

Considering its spot on the calendar as the first weekend of November, Week 10 could provide us with a few games that wreak havoc on the CFP picture. Clemson at Notre Dame, Alabama at LSU and Baylor at Oklahoma are each great matchups that feel certain to have playoff implications. Florida State at Miami could also get chaotic, as it would be a bad look for third-year FSU coach Mike Norvell to lose against first-year Miami coach Mario Cristobal.

6. Week 2 (Sept. 10)

Week 1 features clearly more eye-catching headliner matchups than Week 2, but the second week of the season is sneaky strong in its potential for chaos because of the weirdness created by nonconference games. Alabama is on the road vs. ex-offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and Texas in what will absolutely be an uncomfortable spot for the Crimson Tide. Some of the day’s ancillary games could get weird, too. Notre Dame struggled with Toledo in Week 2 last season, and Marshall may irritate the Fighting Irish. USC will get its first test of the Lincoln Riley era on the road at Stanford, Wisconsin will have its hands full with Washington State and Florida gets a tough game with Kentucky. Capping it off is a perfect chaos matchup with Mississippi State playing at Arizona in a game that may feature more points scored than TV viewers by the time it concludes sometime around 2 a.m. ET on Sunday.

7. Week 9 (Oct. 29)

  • Florida vs. Georgia
  • Michigan State at Michigan
  • Ohio State at Penn State
  • Ole Miss at Texas A&M
  • Arkansas at Auburn

Penn State has been close to knocking off Ohio State at times during the Buckeyes’ current five-game winning streak in the series, and should have another good chance to knock off its East Division rival with the game at home in Happy Valley. In the SEC, it may not be called the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party anymore, but the fact that it ever was tells you all you need to know about the potential for chaos in the Florida vs. Georgia game. The rivalry should be one of the tougher tests on a manageable schedule for the defending national champions. A couple of SEC West showdowns — Ole Miss at Texas A&M and Arkansas at Auburn — have prime ingredients for weirdness as well.

8. Week 1 (Sept. 3)

  • West Virginia at Pittsburgh
  • Oregon vs. Georgia
  • Utah at Florida
  • Notre Dame at Ohio State
  • Florida State vs. LSU

Week 1 has plenty of appeal with some great games on tap. But barring a highly unlikely result, such as an Oregon win over Georgia in Atlanta or a Georgia Tech win over Clemson, the potential for chaos is somewhat limited. Be on the lookout for North Carolina at Appalachian State, though. Whomever agreed that UNC should play in Boone. North Carolina, really should have thought twice.

9. Week 7 (Oct. 15)

  • Penn State at Michigan
  • Clemson at Florida State
  • USC at Utah
  • LSU at Florida
  • Arkansas at BYU

With Penn State at Michigan likely serving as the headline game, Week 7 looks a little weak at first glance. But there is at least some potential for chaos here. Regardless of how poorly things go for Florida State in the season’s first half, you know the Seminoles will be up for a home game with Clemson. Then, USC’s physicality will get an unpleasant test against Utah. While the SEC’s slate is a little light on A+ fare, a meeting of first-year coaches in LSU at Florida should be fun, and Alabama may be tested on the road against Tennessee’s high-flying offense. Finally, Arkansas at BYU has chaos written all over it. Let’s hope that one winds up in the ultra-late TV window and delivers some shenanigans to cap what could be a sneaky good week.

10. Week 4 (Sept. 24)

  • West Virginia at Virginia Tech
  • Texas at Texas Tech
  • Clemson at Wake Forest
  • Notre Dame at North Carolina
  • Arkansas vs. Texas A&M

Wake Forest hosts Clemson in a game with huge ACC Atlantic Division implications, and Arkansas vs. Texas A&M at the Cotton Bowl should be good. Otherwise, it will be on North Carolina to keep it interesting vs. Notre Dame at home to give Week 4 some chaotic glamour. Texas Tech hosts Texas in a game that also has the tendency to get weird.

11. Week 12 (Nov. 19)

  • USC at UCLA
  • Utah at Oregon
  • Miami at Clemson
  • Georgia at Kentucky
  • Oklahoma State at Oklahoma

Oklahoma State hasn’t won two straight over Oklahoma in their annual series since 2001 and 2002. Week 12 presents an excellent opportunity for the Cowboys to change that after they snapped a six-game losing streak against OU last season. Out west, a pair of Pac-12 showdowns should have big league title implications as UCLA hosts USC and Oregon hosts Utah. The potential for chaos this week feels a bit limited unless Kentucky can make it interesting vs. Georgia. Miami upsetting Clemson would also qualify as chaotic since the Tigers have outscored the Hurricanes 138-20 in the last three meetings.

12. Week 3 (Sept. 17)

  • Cal at Notre Dame
  • BYU at Oregon
  • Texas Tech at NC State
  • Michigan State at Washington
  • Miami at Texas A&M

Miami at Texas A&M is a massive game for both teams, and Michigan State could get get tripped up at Washington. Otherwise, this one is relatively tame in comparison to some of the other weeks on the schedule.

13. Week 8 (Oct. 22)

  • Texas at Oklahoma State
  • Ole Miss at LSU
  • Mississippi State at Alabama
  • Cincinnati at SMU
  • Iowa at Ohio State

Alabama has won 14 straight against Mississippi State. Unless that streak ends in Week 8 on the Crimson Tide’s home field, then the chaos will have to come from somewhere unforeseen. This isn’t the 2022 season’s most intriguing week by any stretch.

14. Week 0 (Aug. 27)

It will whet the appetite, sure, but Week 0 isn’t going to get your heart rate up. If it does, you may need medical assistance.

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