Baylor Football

In three weeks, the 2015 college football season will commence, entering the second year of the College Football Playoff format. Last year was an instructive experience, as we all learned that the CFP committee is a vast departure from the BCS with its computers and polls.

With that in mind, some games this season will take on more meaning because of its CFP implications. But a few others will also grab the spotlight because of who's involved. And finally, there'll be the timeless rivalries that are special every season.

Here are our list of 10 games to especially keep an eye on, in chronological order:

Michigan at Utah (Sept. 3)

Jim Harbaugh's hiring this offseason was by far the biggest coaching splash in football -- pro or college -- and his coaching debut at his alma mater will render everything else on the season's opening night into a sideshow.

But Harbaugh has anything but a cupcake to kick things off. The Utes routed Michigan at the Big House last season and will be tough to handle at Rice-Eccles for a Wolverines squad still in search of a starting quarterback. Rest assured cameras will be trained on Harbaugh the entire game to see how he handles things.

Frank Beamer

Ohio State at Virginia Tech (Sept. 7)

The Hokies were the only team to inflict a loss on Ohio State before it went on to claim the inaugural CFP championship. That loss at the Horseshoe nearly cost the Buckeyes a spot in the playoff, thanks mostly to VT's awful season, including the infamous 0-0 tie at the end of regulation against Wake Forest.

To be sure, the Buckeyes won't take the Hokies lightly this time, but they will have plenty of adversity to deal with. Not only is this game in hostile Blacksburg, Ohio State will be without four suspended players, including star defensive end Joey Bosa. Urban Meyer's defending champs can easily open the season 0-1.

Boise State at BYU (Sept. 12)

The Broncos crashed the CFP party with a victory over Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl, their third win there in the past 10 years. While Boise is poised to claim the New Year's Six bowl bid guaranteed to a non-Power 5 team once again, BYU has similar ambitions as well.

The Cougars have a difficult schedule with four Power 5 opponents and seven of their eight other opponents come from either the Mountain West or American Athletic. BYU can play its way into an NY6 bid as an at-large, and a win over Boise State will help things considerably.

Oklahoma vs. Texas at Dallas (Oct. 10)

Both of these programs are trying to rebound from subpar seasons and reclaim their supremacy in the Big 12. Bob Stoops is under siege after a preseason top 10 team disintegrated in an 8-5 season at Oklahoma. Texas' Charlie Strong got a pass for his first season, but Longhorns fans won't be patient for long.

This version of the Red River Shootout probably won't decide the Big 12 title, but it'll give us an idea which team is closer to returning to elite status.

Bush Push

USC at Notre Dame (Oct. 17)

There hasn't been a USC-Notre Dame game that had national title implications since the 2005 classic in which the two-time defending champion Trojans prevailed on a late Matt Leinart QB sneak thanks to the "Bush Push." This year, both teams have national championship aspirations once again.

This game will mean more to the Irish in this respect: Without a conference title game, their only path to the CFP playoff is by going 12-0 or at worst, 11-1. A loss to USC might be a deal breaker as Notre Dame must negotiate a brutal stretch in its first seven games.

Florida State at Clemson (Nov. 7)

Clemson won 20 of its past 24 ACC games, but three of the losses were against Florida State and therefore denied the Tigers a shot to even make it to the conference title game. But Dabo Swinney and Co. hope this season will be different, as his team is now favored to dethrone the Seminoles.

Florida State managed to beat Clemson last year despite starting little-used Sean Maguire because Jameis Wnston was suspended. The Noles might have to do that again with Maguire, unless he's beaten out for the starting QB job by Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson.

USC at Oregon (Nov. 21)

It's the titanic tilt between the Pac-12's old money and new money. USC ruled the conference in the Pete Carroll era only to be supplanted by the Ducks when it was hit by severe NCAA sanctions.

The Trojans are back near full strength now and their late-season clash might not be the only time the teams meet this year. The last time those two faced each other in Eugene, USC pulled off a 38-35 upset that denied Oregon a shot at the BCS title game that season.

Baylor at TCU (Nov. 27)

Last year, this game essentially decided the Big 12's playoff fate. With Baylor pulling off a stunning comeback in the fourth quarter, the teams shared the conference title but both got left out of the four-team CFP field.

This year the conference has voted to declare a single champion in the event of a tie, so this game might very well serve as either a winner-take-all or the tiebreaker. And it might take something like 61-58 to decide it again.

Ohio State at Michigan (Nov. 28)

In 1969, first-year Michigan coach Bo Schembechler shocked his mentor Woody Hayes' defending national champions at the Big House. Will history repeat itself for Bo's protege now?

Jim Harbaugh would like nothing less than that, of course, even if his team most likely will be playing spoiler as he restocks a program that's fallen into mediocrity. Urban Meyer, on the other hand, will do his damnedest to make sure he comes out ahead in the most celebrated coaching matchup of the year.

Iron Bowl

Alabama at Auburn (Nov. 28)

Two years ago the Iron Bowl gave us perhaps the most memorable finish in the history of college football. As the game returns to Jordan-Hare Stadium, there's plenty of hype and hope for another classic.

Both teams are expected to be a national title contender, but only one of them will get to play in the SEC championship game. The stakes will be enormous even considering that the SEC West might turn out to be even tougher than last year.

-- Samuel Chi is the managing editor of and proprietor of Follow him on Twitter at @ThePlayoffGuru.

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Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

As a junior in 1985, Harbaugh led the Wolverines to a final national ranking of No. 2 after a 10–1–1 season that culminated with a win against Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl. Harbaugh finished third in the Heisman voting as a senior while leading Michigan to the Big Ten championship and a spot in the Rose Bowl, where the Wolverines lost to Arizona State 22-15. Harbaugh was the Bears' first-round pick in 1987 and played 14 NFL seasons.


Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

Harbaugh is headed back to Ann Arbor after four seasons with the 49ers that included three consecutive NFC championship games and a Super Bowl appearance. In his fourth and final season at Stanford, Harbaugh led the Cardinal to a 12-1 record, a win against Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl and a final national ranking of No. 4.


Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech

Beamer was a three-year starter at cornerback for the Hokies in the 60s, when Virginia Tech twice went to the Liberty Bowl after nearly two decades of not going to a bowl at all. After working his way up the coaching ranks, Beamer became Virginia Tech coach in 1987.


Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech

Under Beamer, Virginia Tech has had 22 consecutive winning seasons and bowl appearances, including six BCS games. The Hokies just capped their 2014 season by defeating Cincinnati 33-17 in the Military Bowl in Annapolis as Beamer worked the game from the press box while recovering from throat surgery. He has turned down opportunities to leave Virginia Tech.


Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

Gundy was the Cowboys quarterback in the late 80s when he shared a backfield with Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas, and helped the team win two bowl games. Gundy's streak of throwing 138 passes without an interception to begin his career stood as an NCAA record until Robert Griffin III broke it in 2008. He began his coaching career as an assistant with Oklahoma State. He also held assistant posts at Baylor and Maryland.


Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

After serving as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, Gundy was promoted to head coach when Les Miles left for LSU in 2005. The program progressed gradually under Gundy, with the highlight being the 2011 season that featured a Big 12 championship, a 41–38 win against Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl and a final national ranking of No. 3.


Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

Fitzgerald was a two-time All American linebacker who helped the Wildcats win back-to-back Big Ten championships in the mid-90s. In 1995 he won the Nagurski and Bednarik awards as the nation's best defensive player. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.


Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

Fitzgerald was thrust into the job at age 40 when Wildcats coach Randy Walker died suddenly in the summer of 2006. Fitzgerald led Northwestern to its first bowl win since the 1949 Rose Bowl by beating Mississippi State in the 2013 Gator Bowl. But the team has struggled with consecutive 5-7 finishes after that 10-3 season.


David Shaw, Stanford

Shaw was a receiver for the Cardinal in the early 90s, under coaches Dennis Green and Bill Walsh. He made 57 receptions for 664 yards and five touchdowns. Shaw was an assistant for nine years in the NFL with the Eagles, Raiders and Ravens. He joined Jim Harbaugh's staff at University of San Diego in 2006.


David Shaw, Stanford

When Harbaugh got the job at Stanford, Shaw came him with him as offensive coordinator. Then after Harbaugh was hired by the 49ers in 2011, Shaw was named his successor at Stanford. The Cardinal won the Pac-12 championship in 2012 and 2013.


Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech

Kingsbury won the Sammy Baugh Award as the nation's best passer in 2002 when he threw for 4,445 yards with 41 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Kingsbury appeared in one NFL game with the Jets in 2005. He began coaching with the University of Houston in 2008. He was Texas A&M's offensive coordinator in 2012 when Johnny Manziel won the Heisman.


Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech

Kingsbury was hired as Texas Tech coach in December 2012 after Tommy Tuberville left for Cincinnati. The Red Raiders went 8-5 in 2013, including a 37-23 win against Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl. Injury issues contributed to a 4-8 season in 2014.


Paul Chryst, Wisconsin

Chryst was the Badgers quarterback in the mid-80s. His coaching career has included stints with the old World League of American Football and the CFL as well as college programs, including Oregon State and Illinois State. He had two separate tenures as a Wisconsin assistant, first as tight ends coach and then as offensive coordinator.


Paul Chryst, Wisconsin

After seven seasons as offensive coordinator with the Badgers, Chryst became Pitt head coach in 2012. He went 19-19 in two seasons with the Panthers. When Gary Andersen left Wisconsin for Oregon State after the 2014 season, the Badgers hired Chryst.

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