The 2018 college football season is roughly six months away. It will be here before you know it.
ESPN's Heather Dinich, who specializes in the College Football Playoff, ranked the 12 games from next college football season that will have the biggest impact on the playoff. There are some big-time matchups next fall.
You can read Dinich's full list here.
Dinich's No. 1 game will take place on opening weekend. It is the renewal of the rivalry between Notre Dame and Michigan.
As Dinich notes, the winner of this game will get a huge boost to start the season. The loser won't be eliminated from the playoff race, but will find itself behind the proverbial 8-ball with a long, tough schedule ahead.
This game will feature two coaches who are both desperately trying to remain relevant through November, but it starts here. With no conference championship to play in, Brian Kelly knows the Irish can probably afford only one loss all season. The Irish also have road trips to Virginia Tech and USC this season. Technically, there are no elimination games in September, but if the Irish start with a loss, every game after that will certainly feel like one. Michigan can lose this game and still win the Big Ten, but starting the season with a win over the Irish is exactly what Jim Harbaugh needs.
Considering Harbaugh is now in Year Four and fans are looking for him to deliver on massive expectations, he probably has slightly more pressure on him than Kelly does. However, Kelly's seat in South Bend is always one or two losses away from catching fire, so he isn't exactly playing with house money in this game either.
A loss for either team could be damning. Notre Dame has those road trips to Virginia Tech and USC that Dinich mentioned, but also has to play Stanford and Florida State, albeit at home. Michigan must travel to Ohio State and Michigan State and face Wisconsin and Nebraska at home.
We're going to go out on a limb here and say the loser of this one will not make the playoff field.
Michigan and Notre Dame will kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC on Sept. 1.