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Every Week’s Top NCAA Football Game to Watch in 2021

By Dan Vasta in College Football
| July 12, 2021 8:37 am PDT

College football is arguably the most entertaining sport to watch, and to finally have fans back at games should be an amazing experience in 2021.

The question remains if things will officially get back to normal despite reports that many programs will be at full capacity. We have seen baseball stadiums open to 100% capacity and can only hope the college season is electric.

Either way, a full season with non-conference is the perfect step in the right direction for the fans that have been circling their calendars for years now.

ESPN’s College Gameday is always the perfect pre-game to start your day before 12-plus hours of football getting underway. Predicting where Gameday goes every week is a yearly event.

For my predictions, I will simply be looking at which game I will be most excited for every week.

It wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t look into my crystal ball, so here are the best 2021 college football games to watch each week.

Week 0: Nebraska @ Illinois

There are only five games on the final Saturday of August, and there are not many great options.

Football is back, though, which makes it the best time of the year.

This matchup will be the debut for Bret Bielema, and the Illini will be hopeful that his tenure in Champaign will be half as successful as it was in Madison. That alone makes this showdown stand out.

Nebraska’s start to 2021 will be under a microscope, though. Scott Frost enters the season near the top of the college football hot seat coaches.

I will make the case that there are two others from the Big Ten (Harbaugh, Brohm).

Those two have their work cut out for them, and the hope is that the Huskers will go back to the postseason with an improved fourth season under Frost.

  • Pick: Nebraska 30, Illinois 23

Week 1: Clemson vs. Georgia (Charlotte)

This game is everything college football fans around the country want; a pair of gunslingers under center with a bevy of weapons surrounding them.

This should be the number one game of the entire regular season with the most at stake. This is a crucial game in the College Football Playoff picture, with the loser having a tough road ahead of them.

Georgia needs it more due to their conference schedule and a likely date with Alabama in the SEC title.

Both coaches have major expectations, and none could be bigger than Kirby Smart. It has not been since 1980 in which Georgia has won the national championship. Plus, with so many close calls over the years, every season adds more pressure.

Will this finally be the season that the Dawgs breakthrough and capture the national title?

  • Pick: Georgia 28, Clemson 27

Week 2: Ohio State @ Oregon

I wanted this matchup last season so badly, even if the game was played at less than 100% production from Oregon. The Ducks had the majority of their secondary opt-out, and it would have been fun to see Justin Fields challenge that crew.

Instead, we have a new season with a ton of fresh faces on the offenses.

C.J. Stroud should be the Buckeye starter, and he will be running for his life against the premier defensive player in the nation. Kayvon Thibodeaux is a consensus top-five pick entering the season due to his speed and athleticism.

This game needs to be won by the Pac-12 since it is a conference that has not won its share of primetime games. Ohio State has a fairly tough schedule, so they need this one every bit as much.

The loser ultimately could be in deep jeopardy, but it should be one of the best college football games on paper heading into 2021 and stands out as the marquee game for week two.

  • Pick: Ohio State 30, Oregon 27

Week 3: Alabama @ Florida

Auburn at Penn State is the other viable option, but having Nick Saban at the Swamp against a likely Top 25 opponent is always must-see television.

Before the bowls, the final game of the college football season was a thrilling SEC championship game between these two.

I question the Florida offense after losing arguably the best offensive squad they have had since the Tebow era.

Kyle Task, Kyle Pitts, and Kadarius Toney were simply unstoppable when they played together. The clinic they put on in Atlanta against Alabama was highly entertaining.

Life will now be a bit tougher, and I know for a fact that Saban will lean on his defense in the event Bryce Young does not come out guns blazing in his first true road, hostile environment.

When in doubt, though, lean toward Nick Saban when his team is the top-ranked squad in America. Saban is a remarkable 79-8 as the top-ranked AP team, which will soon be more than double the wins compared to any other coach in history. 

  • Pick: Alabama 38, Florida 17

Week 4: Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin (Chicago)

This one should be an absolute slugfest between two legit teams that play with a ton of physicality. Who wins the battle in the trenches?

Notre Dame added Marshall grad transfer Cain Madden, who is highly regarded as one of the premier linemen in the nation.

Ultimately, the line play may decide who wins the matchup because I adore the overall job that Paul Chryst has done at Wisconsin. Last season certainly was an ugly one for their standards in the shortened season, but they should return as a Top 20 program.

Brian Kelly loses a ton of talent, and it was perhaps the best squad he has ever had. How will they bounce back from their ninth straight loss against an AP Top 10 foe in a January bowl game?

Look for them to keep it simple by pounding the rock with Kyren Williams, who can make anybody miss and turn it into a house call. Just watch this beast work.

This could be an imperative game for the Irish due to their brutal schedule. The Badgers, however, do have a lighter schedule where many are expecting them to capture the West division without a loss.

This game could go a long way for the winner since they both believe they have the goods for a Top 10 season, so it easily stands out as the NCAA football game to watch in week four.

  • Pick: Wisconsin 24, Notre Dame 23

Week 5: Ole Miss @ Alabama

This could be a week where we would see College Gameday choose an FCS matchup or perhaps one off the rails, but the Rebels are likely to be 3-0 at this point.

They also could have about 100 points or more scored in those games, which will make for an intriguing matchup.

Also, I need to throw in the fact that Nick Saban is 23-0 against his former assistants, and this would be one to watch. That’s absolutely something to consider when betting on Alabama games.

Lane Kiffin against Saban could be just what the doctor ordered.

Despite coaching changes over the years, Ole Miss has been a program that has had success over the years against Alabama.

Bo Wallace and Chad Kelly won’t be playing in this game, but it should feature some points with Matt Corral under center. While I am not expecting as many points as we saw last season, this could be one of the tougher tests the Tide faces all regular season.

  • Pick: Alabama 45, Ole Miss 27

Week 6: Oklahoma vs. Texas (Dallas)

The Red River Rivalry is bucket list material, with the Burnt Orange and the Crimson split 50-50 at the 50-yard line.

This season should feature a pair of young quarterbacks that could dazzle us soon. Spencer Rattler has already been spectacular and enters the season as the Heisman favorite (+550).

He’s presently the best bet of the top contenders going into 2021.

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Casey Thompson is among the top 20 contenders (+4000), and his performance in the Alamo Bowl against Colorado was virtuoso. Thompson is a good enough athlete to buy time, but he dropped the ball in the bucket on a few deep passes.

Filling in the shoes of Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, and Jalen Hurts was not expected to be easy, and yet Rattler was borderline flawless in some games as a redshirt freshman.

Now the same will be said for what Thompson will need to replace due to all the winning that Sam Ehlinger gave the Longhorns. Expectations are high for newly hired offensive-minded Steve Sarkisian, and he will look to keep up with Lincoln Riley, who has been outstanding for the Sooners.

  • Pick: Sooners 38, Longhorns 27

Week 7: Miami @ North Carolina

This week 7 college football tilt will be simply bonkers with one of the better matchups between signal-callers.

Sam Howell could be the top pick in the 2022 NFL Draft if he has an impressive season, but the athletic and explosive D’Eriq King could be primed for his most successful season.

The Canes bring a ton of returning production, and they are in line for another Top 15 or so season. Tearing his ACL against Oklahoma State in the first half of the Cheez-It Bowl was tough to witness, but he has battled and worked his tail off to be ready for the season opener against Alabama.

Miami is looking to finish their season in the final AP Top 10 for the first time since 2003, whereas North Carolina will be looking to do the same for the first time since 1997.

  • Pick: North Carolina 35, Miami 30

Week 8: Northwestern @ Michigan

Don’t get surprised by this one for one second. This matchup remains one of the more underrated in college football, and the 2000 matchup was an all-time classic between the two programs.

The Wildcats pulled one off in Evanston, 54-51, and we could see another one come down to the wire.

Northwestern will be 6-0 and likely somewhere close to the AP Top 10, which was where they finished last season despite most of America not noticing.

Jim Harbaugh enters the season atop the rankings among hot seat coaches, and despite his amazing skills at beating around the bush, this program needs to get back to national relevancy.

A loss here, however, could send Jimbo home packing for some extra khakis.

  • Pick: Michigan 27, Northwestern 23

Week 9: Georgia vs. Florida (Jacksonville)

The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail party is no more, but this is still among the best rivalries in the entire south. There are several good ones in the SEC, but the Gators against the Dawgs will be fun yet again.

I wish the folks in Athens had more fun in last year’s matchup since it was a dreadful performance, offensively speaking.

That was a slip-up, as the Bulldogs had handled the Gators in the previous three meetings.

  • 2017: Georgia 42, Florida 7
  • 2018: Georgia 36, Florida 17
  • 2019: Georgia 24, Florida 17

JT Daniels should carry the offense on his back, but he may not even have to in this one. Zamir White headlines a stable of backs that could run well behind any respectable line.

I smell revenge for Georgia, and some payback is in store after the debacle they had last season.

  • Pick: Georgia 27, Florida 13

Week 10: USC @ Arizona State

The Trojans and the Sun Devils could give us the game of the year in the Pac-12 this season, and most aren’t chirping about it just yet.

I have both teams at no worse than 6-1 entering this matchup with a decent shot of both remaining undefeated. That could make this one of the more underrated games of the year and likely the top game of week 10.

The South winner likely comes from this potential thriller, and the signal-caller battle should be one of the best ones from a national perspective. Jayden Daniels is a tremendous athlete with a plus arm, and many believe Kedon Slovis is even better.

I will gladly revisit that debate throughout the season after this battle. The Trojans and Sun Devils will both be Top 25 squads, and the hope is this will live up to the hype.

  • Pick: Trojans 38, Sun Devils 35

Week 11: Texas A&M @ Ole Miss

In case you haven’t been following along thus far, I believe these two are in for some special seasons in 2021.

The Rebels will need to pull off an upset or two if they want to challenge for the West crown. This might be one of the most realistic advantages they have playing at home in Oxford.

Most SEC home games have great rituals and experiences outside of your typical tailgating. The Grove is such an incredible pregame atmosphere, and the crowd is always electric on a fall Saturday.

Matt Corral will look to be taking it to the next level of greatness under his coach Lane Kiffin. Jerrion Ealy will help out Corral as the backfield has a ton of speed, which is what the Rebels offense is all about.

Don’t spend too much time in the kitchen because the Rebels will always be a play or two away from scoring this season.

Yes, all the points will be flowing on the scoreboard in Oxford.

The Aggies luckily have some hog mollies on both sides of the ball that can hang with any collegiate team on the planet. DeMarvin Leal is a monster up front defensively for the Aggies, and offensive lineman Kenyon Green is another star talent.

Great teams are always built from the inside-out, and Jimbo Fisher should be in store for another stellar year. Suffice to say, Texas A&M and Ole Miss facing off figures to be one of the top 2021 college football games and almost surely the best showdown for week 11.

  • Pick: Aggies 38, Rebels 36

Week 12: Iowa State @ Oklahoma

I am hopeful this will be the first of two meetings in 2021, but time will tell if both squads live up to the enormous expectations that will be placed on them.

Luckily, the overall roster talent of these two ranks among their best in recent memory.

Iowa State is coming off their greatest season in program history, and Matt Campbell is the real deal as a collegiate coach. He has been a wanted man across the country and reportedly even from a professional standpoint. The report this offseason was that the Detroit Lions offered him an 8-year deal worth $68.5 million.

If the Cyclones just stay healthy at their key positions with Brock Purdy and Breece Hall, this should be a double-digit win squad with a strong chance to put together another AP Top 10 finish.

The Sooners have to be licking their chops and anxiously awaiting the 2021 season with so much at stake this season. They could be the best team out there.

We know about star quarterback Spencer Rattler, but the trio of weapons he has at wide receiver would keep any defensive coordinator late up at night. Theo Wease, Jadon Haselwood, and Marvin Mims should go bonkers.

  • Pick: Oklahoma 35, Iowa State 24

Week 13: Alabama @ Auburn

The Iron Bowl seems to be boom or bust these days, as we witness an upset or a thrilling finish every few seasons. Saban has struggled at the Plains, and many feel this Crimson Tide team will have a ton to play for this season.

While Auburn may have a handful of losses entering this matchup, the Iron Bowl has seen some crazy moments and upsets involving Nick Saban. Bo Nix is athletic enough of a quarterback where he should be moving the ball against just about any defense. Not having Tank Bigsby in their Citrus Bowl against Northwestern was costly. If he can stay healthy, he should be the next great Auburn back.

The Tigers will need all the help they can get with a new man in charge. Former Boise State and Arkansas State head coach Bryan Harsin is hopeful of turning things around.

Gus Malzahn had plenty of good moments but was holding tough L’s more often than not. The schedule is a grind yet again, and it will only come to a boiling point in their regular-season finale against Alabama.

  • Pick: Alabama 52, Auburn 20

Tips for Betting on College Football in 2021

There is so much to consider when preparing to bet on NCAA football.

That’s no different going into 2021, where there is a bunch of turnovers, some rising teams, and – as you can see – some amazing matchups.

Hopefully, this post showed you the best college football games to watch each week in 2021, but this is really where your betting research begins.

As you gear up for betting on the 2021 college football season, consider the following.

  • Where teams rank prior to the season
  • Every team’s schedule
  • Team win total projections
  • Roster and coach turnover
  • Player ascension
  • Pricing at the top NCAA betting sites

See? There’s lots to think about.

We’ve got you covered with a lot of these, and you can hit some links below (as well as our college football betting blog linked at the top of this post).

But one of the big tips is just finding some reliable college football betting sites. From wager versatility to promotions to the best possible odds, finding the right sportsbook to bet at is a massive piece of the puzzle.

It’s a bit subjective, though, so do your own research while blending it with our suggested sites to bet at. With the 2021 college football betting season closing in, brush up on how you may want to bet with some of the posts below.

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