Georgian football will play its share of big games this season. Still, other matchups around the country that don’t involve the Dawgs could have a significant impact on the College Football Playoff.
The defending national champions are looking for another playoff berth in 2022, so the results of some of those games could determine who Georgia faces if it makes the playoffs again.
Georgia’s results matter, of course, and doing so every week is important, but it’s also interesting to see what other teams have to do to make the playoffs. Sometimes it’s these games that decide who gets in and who gets the start.
Let’s take a look at the most important game in each Power 5 conference, where the level of importance is determined by the battle for the conference title and playoff berth.
Georgia football should pay attention to these Power 5 matchups.
While the Dawgs don’t play those games, it’s still something to keep an eye on and watch because as long as the Dawgs keep winning, a loss to one of these teams could mean a lot.
SEC — Alabama vs. Texas A&M
In what will likely be the most anticipated matchup of the season, the Aggies will travel to Tuscaloosa for a game that could decide the West.
Bama will be looking for revenge after a disappointing loss in 2021, and after a long offseason of controversy and finger-pointing, this game will be personal for both sides.
Expectations for A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher have never been higher with the recent level of recruiting he’s done. Coming out on top against the Tide in back-to-back seasons would go a long way in solidifying the Aggies as a contender in the West. However, this is unlikely as there are still questions at the point guard position.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban is hoping to avoid another rebuilding year, but that shouldn’t be a problem as the Tide are double-digit favorites in every game this season.
The offense will continue to be led by Heisman-winning quarterback Bryce Young, and the additions of Jameer Gibbs at running back and Jermaine Burton at wide receiver should produce another elite offensive season. Will Anderson highlights a defensive unit that should improve and could be considered a top-five pick at the end of the year.
This game should be competitive for a while before Alabama finally asserts itself and pulls away. Surprises may happen, but the Aggies will be outmatched by a better all-around team.
Forecast: Alabama 38 – Texas A&M 13
Big Ten — Ohio State vs. Michigan
Another matchup worth watching in 2022 with serious playoff implications and the possibility of a rematch is The Game.
Last season, Michigan earned its first win over Ohio State since 2011, ultimately leading to its first College Football Playoff appearance. However, the Wolverines still lost some of the production from last year’s team, so the tables could turn on the Buckeyes this season.
Ohio State will contend for the best offense in the nation, led by star quarterback C.J. Stroud. While the Buckeyes lost some talent on offense, things are not the same after returning their leading receiver and rusher from 2021.
Jackson Smith-Nigba has the potential to become the best player in the country after a breakout season last season. Rebounding running back Trewayon Henderson will look to build on a stellar freshman season in which he had over 1,500 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns.
Ohio State has dominated this rivalry recently, winning 16 of the last 20 games. Expect that trend to continue in 2022 as the Buckeyes push for the playoffs.
Forecast: Ohio State 45 – Michigan 20
ACC — Clemson vs. North Carolina State
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney will look to make amends this year after a disappointing 2021 season.
The winner of the matchup will likely be the favorite to win the conference since the ACC Coastal Division won’t be as competitive. The Wolf Pack topped Clemson in double overtime last year, and this year the game could be just as close.
Clemson will feature one of the best defensive fronts in the country, but questions remain on offense. The Tigers’ 362 yards per game on offense ranks second in the conference. Fans are hoping to see defender DJ Uiagalelei bounce back from a terrible 2021 season.
NC State boasts one of the best running backs in the conference in Devin Leary. He will have a lot of work to do against Clemson’s front seven, but his play could be the difference in the game.
Clemson will be a better team in 2022, and with a solid defense, all it needs is for the offense to at least be competent to win games. North Carolina State will give the Tigers a game, but the better defense should prevail in this matchup.
Forecast: Clemson 24 – NC State 20
Big 12 — Oklahoma vs. Baylor
The Big 12 is wide open, with no clear favorites to compete for the conference championship.
Baylor will look to defend its conference title by returning its dominant defensive front. Question marks surround the offensive line after losing a significant amount of talent to the NFL. Still, a new starting quarterback and a highly touted offensive line could be promising for the potential of the Bears’ offensive unit.
Oklahoma is a program in major transition and will look significantly different than it did in 2021. New head coach Brent Venable needs to address one of the Sooners’ persistent weaknesses — defense. For a team that has been known for its offense in recent years, there is still uncertainty surrounding entering 2022, but that might not be such a bad thing.
After losing the team’s top two running backs last season, Oklahoma was able to land UCF transfer Dillon Gabriel. New offensive coordinator Jeff Labby previously coached Gabriel, who held the same position at UCF in 2019. Labby left UCF after that season for Ole Miss, and the success he’s had with that offensive lineman and defensive end Matt Corral bodes well for what’s to come. attack of the Ranors.
Oklahoma could surprise someone this season. With Baylor having to travel to Norman for this matchup, winning this contest could be very difficult.
Prediction: Oklahoma 30 – Baylor 21
Pac 12 — Utah vs. USC
The excitement seems to be returning to the Pac 12, and this matchup could be the deciding factor in the conference’s potential to field a playoff team in 2022.
Utah returns much of its production from 2021, highlighted by quarterback Cameron Rising and running back Tavion Thomas. Rising will look to improve on a successful year after throwing for 2,493 yards and 20 touchdowns with just five interceptions. Thomas carried the load out of the backfield, carrying the ball 204 times for 1,108 yards and 21 touchdowns.
The Utes will have some production that can be replaced defensively at the midfield spot, but overall plan to field another highly competitive team with big goals in 2022.
The new USC Trojans will be one of the most exciting teams this season. Newly hired head coach Lincoln Riley has fans excited about his next offense after producing multiple Heisman winners during his time at Oklahoma. That side of the ball could be electric after running back Caleb Williams and wide receiver Jordan Addison come out of the transfer portal.
The biggest question mark surrounding Riley’s Oklahoma teams will follow him to USC. Defense has never been a strong suit for these teams, and the Trojans were one of the worst defensive teams in the country last season. That’s likely what will keep USC from immediately jumping into the playoff conversation.
Some see Utah as a dark playoff contender. A win in this game would allow the team to win their second straight conference title. Utah will be battle-tested after opening the season against Florida in the swamp, and a win in both games could help the Utes’ case for a playoff spot.
Forecast: Utah 38 – USC 31
Keep an eye on these non-Georgia football games because there is so much at stake as everyone wants to be one of the teams in the final four. Georgia is looking to repeat, but a little help from other Power 5 teams that are mutually exclusive is making things easier for the Dawgs.