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Here Are The Top 16 Games On The 2016 College Football Schedule

Collage of logos of top college football programs.

It's been a little more than four months since Alabama beat Clemson to win the College Football Playoff title, and we're a little less than four months away from kicking off the 2016 season. We're basically at the mid-point of the off-season, but September will be here soon enough.

Across the country, fans are already dying to see their favorite teams take the field once again, hoping they can duplicate the championship-winning feat the Crimson Tide pulled off this past season. It's never too early to look ahead to the fall and try to predict with teams have a legit shot at a title run, which teams don't, and which games will mean the most when deciding the CFP field.

When poring over the 2016 college football schedule, not all games are created equal. We've decided to put a spotlight on some of next year's biggest games. These games will be for bragging rights, conference supremacy or keeping national championship hopes alive. Some will be for all three

Without further ado, here are our top 16 games on the 2016 college football slate, in no particular order.

No. 16 ??? >>>

16. Sept. 3 - Oklahoma vs. Houston (neutral site)

Coming off a 13-1 record Peach Bowl victory against Florida State, Houston Cougars enters the 2016 season with plenty of momentum behind second-year head coach Tom Herman, who recently signed a new five-year deal with the university. The Cougars will get a chance to prove themselves against Oklahoma right out of the gate.

Oklahoma, meanwhile, suffered a tough College Football Playoff loss against Clemson in the Orange Bowl. However, stud quarterback Baker Mayfield will be back under center in 2016, and with his help, Oklahoma is expected to be just as dangerous next season. 

">May 16, 2016

These two teams will play on a neutral field--NRG Stadium, home of the Houston Texans--during opening weekend, and college football fans can expect two electric offenses fighting to find a heartbeat to carry them throughout the rest of the season.

If Houston wants a shot to shake things up in 2016, it begins and ends with Oklahoma. And if the Sooners want to repeat as Big 12 champs, they won't want to drop this game to a non-Power 5.

No. 15 ??? >>>15. Sept. 17 - Michigan State at Notre Dame

Last year, Notre Dame was four points away from having the opportunity Michigan State had - playing the College Football Playoff - though, the outcome may not have been that much different. 

Losing to both Clemson and Stanford by two points during the regular season, the Fighting Irish's fate was sealed, and then they got clobbered by Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, only adding salt to the wound. Michigan State, on the other hand, pulled out nail-biters against Michigan and Ohio State and then Iowa in the Big Ten title game, earning its trip to the playoff. But that's where things went terribly wrong. That's where the Spartans ran into a brick wall (Alabama).

This heartbreak means everything for these teams in 2016. Fittingly, this match-up will be in primetime. 

">May 12, 2016

Notre Dame lost several stars to the NFL but returns plenty of talent, including two very gifted quarterbacks battling for one job. The Irish are searching for redemption; for the Spartans, it's all about proving they belonged last year. If either team wants to accomplish their goals, it all begins in South Bend when these two teams meet Sept. 17.No. 14 ??? >>>14. Sept. 17 - Alabama at Ole MissFour months ago, the Alabama Crimson Tide captured their 16th national title, and fourth in the last seven years under head coach Nick Saban. They're expected to be just as formidable in 2016. People are talking dynasty, as they should be, because no other team has been as dominant as Saban's Tide. Though, during the last couple of years, one team has caused the Alabama coaching staff to lose some sleep - Ole Miss. 

">@OleMissFB's Chad Kelly. https://t.co/d1YOQEvFbQpic.twitter.com/OAlubJfFkB — Athlon Sports (@AthlonSports)

Ranking the SEC's quarterbacks for 2016: Look no further than @OleMissFB's Chad Kelly. https://t.co/d1YOQEvFbQpic.twitter.com/OAlubJfFkB

— Athlon Sports (@AthlonSports) May 9, 2016

">May 9, 2016

The Rebels have beaten the Tide in each of the last two seasons, and with the return of quarterback Chad Kelly, they may present similar challenges in 2016. Ole Miss has recruited well of late, stockpiling enough talent, and more importantly enough size, to combat that of Alabama's, and therein lies the problem.

With this recent history, and Saban's disgust of losing, this game is already shaping up to be an exciting one next year. Both teams lost some major pieces to the NFL Draft, but talent doesn't seem to be an issue for either.

No. 13 ??? >>>13. Nov. 26 - Notre Dame at USC

Notre Dame's regular season finale will be a good one - on the road against USC - and it may very well determine the Irish's postseason fate. 

There's no sleeping on a loaded Trojans squad. Losing quarterback Cody Kessler makes things a little more difficult, but there's plenty of talent to go around at USC. Max Browne looks to be the favorite to replace Kessler under center, and wide receivers like JuJu Smith-Schuster and Adoree Jackson will undoubtedly ease that transition.

">April 16, 2016

Once the quarterback competitions at both schools are out of the way, it comes down to talent, and both of these teams are stacked. This regular season finale could very well be a deciding factor in determining the four playoff spots.

No. 12 ??? >>>12. Sept. 3 - LSU vs. Wisconsin (neutral site)

Before the NFL season even begins, Green Bay's Lambeau Field will be rocking as these two teams will probably be getting the College GameDay schedule started.

">April 13, 2016

LSU returns one of the most talented rosters in college football--anchored by running back Leonard Fournette--looking to redeem itself after a sub-par performance during the second half of the season. Fournette will be a Heisman favorite before the season begins, and the Tigers will go out of conference against Wisconsin to kick off the season. 

With losses scattered throughout last season, Wisconsin is looking to come out stronger in 2016, and is hoping for a different outcome than the one the Badgers got when they faced the Crimson Tide to open 2015. Wisconsin got a look at Alabama's Derrick Henry last season, which will absolutely help the Badgers' defense when preparing for LSU's Fournette. 

If you're looking for an exciting out-of-conference matchup to start the season, this should satisfy the soul.

No. 11 ??? >>>11. Sept. 3 - Clemson at Auburn

Clemson ended last season losing to Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship, and the Tigers will open up 2016 against the Crimson Tide's top rival.

Opening up the season on the road at Auburn, Clemson will have to hit the ground running in 2016 - which isn't all that bad. 

">May 11, 2016

Speaking of bad - Auburn was nothing short of that in 2015, but things should be different next season. Problems began and ended at the quarterback position for AU, and transfer quarterback John Franklin III, who once played at Florida State, could be the solution. Franklin is an uber-athletic dual-threat quarterback who will be able to take advantage of Gus Malzahn's system. The last quarterback to succeed under Malzahn? Nick Marshall. Franklin is probably more athletic than Marshall, and is no question a better quarterback. 

Clemson returns Heisman candidate Deshaun Watson, which is a great place to start an offense. With Watson's return, along with running back Wayne Gallman, the Tigers are fueled and ready to make another run at the title in 2016, and it all begins in Auburn. 

This is yet another out-of-conference barn burner to kick things off in 2016.

No. 10 ??? >>>10. Oct. 15 - Alabama at Tennessee

Alabama may have captured its fourth title in the last seven years, but there's no time to rest - the Crimson Tide's 2016 schedule is no joke. 

One of the team's biggest tests will come in Knoxville against Tennessee. The Vols gave 'Bama everything it could handle in 2015, coming up just short, but things are looking up at Tennessee in 2016. Returning plenty of talent, the Volunteers could very well win the SEC East and compete for the conference title come the end of the season. 

">April 16, 2016

But this matchup will be just the boost for either of these teams, and will likely help position a run at the postseason.

With the return of quarterback Joshua Dobbs and running back Jalen Hurd, this mid-October game has "upset special" written all over it. And what an upset it would be.

No. 9 ??? >>>9. Nov. 12 - Baylor at Oklahoma

Baylor was riddled with injuries in 2015, leading to somewhat of a disappointing season. But just when it looked like the Bears would labor during their bowl game against North Carolina, the Bears came up with the perfect game plan and rushed for over 600 yards against the Tar Heels on the way to a victory. 

What did we learn from that performance? Don't ever count out Baylor's offense, even when the Bears are without their quarterback. 

">April 30, 2016

That shouldn't be a problem in 2016 with the return of quarterbacks Seth Russell and Jarrett Stidham. The Bears are expected to be as electric as ever and compete with Oklahoma for the Big 12 title, which is why this game is so exciting - it is the Big 12. Yes, there are other talented teams in the conference, but none that impose their will like Oklahoma and Baylor. 

Fasten your seat belts come mid-November, because the house is coming down in Norman.

No. 8 ??? >>>8. Nov. 12 - Stanford at Oregon

Stanford is a team, led by running back Christian McCaffrey, that many college football fans are excited to see in 2016, and Oregon is probably a team that many people are sleeping on. 

Besides the fact that these two programs have decided to fate of the Pac-12 title in each of the last seven years, it was the Ducks that handed the Cardinal one of its two losses last season, keeping them out of the College Football Playoff. In fact, Stanford has lost the last two to Oregon. Though, David Shaw's group didn't let that bother them against Iowa in the Rose Bowl, where they crushed the Hawkeyes, 45-16. 

It was injury that kept the talented Ducks from making a splash last season, and with another transfer quarterback in Dakota Prukop, Oregon will once again hope to stay healthy enough to make a run at the conference title. 

For either team, this is the game that usually makes or breaks the season, and that will be no different in 2016.

No. 7 ??? >>>7. Sept. 3 - Alabama vs. USC (neutral site)

Both of these teams have some huge games to play in 2016, but none of them come before their opening weekend matchup in AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys. 

Kicking off 2016 with an out-of-conference showdown of this magnitude will only add tons of momentum to whichever team comes out victorious, and the fact that they get to play the game in a state-of-the-art facility like that only adds to the excitement. There is no bigger stage. 

">May 14, 2016

If some of college football's premiere talent meeting during the opening weekend doesn't get your blood pumping, I'm not sure what will. Both teams will have first-year starters at quarterback, but Calvin Ridley and JuJu Smith-Schuster working outside the hashes is enough to catch our interest.