Every college football season is going to be packed with passion, intrigue and plenty of reasons to tune-in every single Saturday. But while rivalries are renewed every season, one thing that does change from year-to-year is revenge.
We spend 12 months talking and thinking about a sport that plays just 12 regular season games, so the weight of one result far exceeds what we see in other sports. There are occasional rematches in a season, even for the national championship, but in many cases when a game goes poorly for one side that team, and all of its fans, have to wait a year until they get a chance to get some revenge.
We’ve scanned the 2022 schedule in hopes to identify some of the biggest revenge game spots. In eight of the 10 games mentioned — five featured, five honorable mention — the team looking for revenge will be at home, creating an intense and passionate environment with thousands of fans antsy to celebrate after spending all year holding that “L.” Another common thread through the five games featured is how 2021 included a lot of streak-snapping wins, which then sets the stage not only for revenge but a win that could make last season’s defeat look like an anomaly in the series. Finally, we tried not to get too hung up on traditional rivalries but revenge is an emotional thing and nothing is more emotional than college football rivalries.
Speaking of emotion, we start at No. 1 not with a traditional rivalry but certainly a rivalry that has continued off the field, on the recruiting trail and in front of microphones and cameras.
When Texas A&M beat Alabama 41-38 in prime time on CBS last year, it was the first time Nick Saban had been defeated by a former assistant. Then it happened again in the national championship game, and then that first former assistant, Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher, engaged in a war of words that set the college football world on fire in the usually-slow month of May. We already had Texas A&M’s return trip to Alabama circled as one of the great revenge spots on the 2022 college football schedule, but the ongoing Saban-Jimbo saga took this early October SEC West showdown to the next level. Both coaches insist they’re moving on from the spat and we should too, but that’s not the way bad blood works in college football. It bubbles until things can be settled on the field.
2. Michigan at Ohio State (Nov. 26)
Ryan Day was 23-0 in Big Ten games as Ohio State’s coach when the Buckeyes took the field in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the final Saturday of the regular season. Ranked No. 2 in the country, Ohio State had it all laid out to win the Big Ten East for a fifth straight season and likely make a third-straight College Football Playoff. But after eight straight losses in “The Game,” Michigan snapped the streak and snatched the division title, going on to win the program’s first outright Big Ten championship since 2003. Now Day and Ohio State have adopted the revenge angle of this rivalry, and when the two teams meet again in late November it’s expected that the game will once again carry Big Ten title and College Football Playoff implications.
3. Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (Nov. 19)
This is the first of two selections that take on the same storyline, with 2021 throwing us curveballs in a couple of the sport’s biggest rivalry games. We get excited for Bedlam every year, and while the games have provided some thrilling action the results have mostly been one-sided for the Sooners. Oklahoma entered last year’s game having won six straight and 16 of the last 18 meetings dating back to 2003. Oklahoma State’s thrilling 37-33 win was sealed not with a game-winning touchdown but a game-winning sack, fitting for a defense that had been stellar all season for the Cowboys. If Oklahoma had many almost any other hire to replace Lincoln Riley the revenge angle might not have been as strong, but Brent Venables connection to the Sooners program gives him full understanding of how much that loss hurt Oklahoma fans and how important it is for him to get revenge during his first Bedlam game as head coach.
The second of three losses in Clemson’s “down year” of 10-3 in 2021, NC State was able to make it clear early in the season that the ACC was wide open with the Wolfpack’s 27-21 double overtime thriller. The Tigers’ sterling reputation as the kings of the conference was already shaky after totaling just two offensive touchdowns in its first two games against FBS opponents, and NC State was poised for a breakthrough in the series after a couple close calls across an eight-game losing streak. Now Clemson’s taking aim at the Wolfpack and the rest of the conference as they look to make a return to the ACC Championship Game and the College Football Playoff, but neither of those goals are going to be as feasible if the Tigers don’t get revenge against the Wolfpack in early October.
Welcome to the upside down where Kansas, not Oklahoma, gets highlighted for a revenge game. Texas did lose another chaotic edition of the Red River Rivalry, blowing a lead in the process, but when the Longhorns take the field in Dallas this fall is it going to seem like getting revenge without Lincoln Riley on the sideline and Caleb Williams on the field? That brings our attention to Kansas, a program that has defeated Texas in two of the last five meetings and a coach in Lance Leipold who, like Steve Sarkisian, was in his first year when the Jayhawks stunned the Longhorns 57-56 in overtime on a walk-off two-point conversion. The loss, in Austin, Texas, was Texas’ sixth of the season and one of the final blows in a seven-game losing streak that kept Sarkisian and the Longhorns out of the postseason.
Plus, if your team’s suffering gets turned into an NIL ad — as it did for Kansas tight end Jared Casey, who scored the winning two-point conversion — that quickly becomes grounds for a fight. There should be a lot more pent up aggression for Kansas among Texas football fans than anyone would have ever expected in their current lifetime, but on Nov. 19 there will be nothing but revenge on the mind of Longhorns everywhere.