The dog days of summer are arriving in earnest, but college football scheduling announcements are here to at least whet our appetite in the meantime. And, as is tradition, Week 1 of the 2021 slate has some monster games that could shape the sport’s landscape in the fall. With kickoff still more than three months away, television times have been set for a handful of the biggest matchups of the weekend.
Three SEC vs. ACC matchups take center stage as Miami (FL) takes on defending national champions Alabama on Saturday, Sept. 4, during the afternoon. That will be followed by a classic rivalry revisited when Clemson and Georgia face off in a primetime neutral-site game featuring two College Football Playoff contenders. Florida State and Notre Dame will occupy a rare Sunday evening slot while Louisville and Ole Miss will wrap up the weekend on Labor Day evening.
Let’s take a look at the big matchups set to open the 2021 season. Dates, times, television information and game breakdowns can be viewed below. All kickoff times Eastern.
Alabama vs. Miami (FL) — 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
The first of two Chick-fil-A Kickoff games in Atlanta, Georgia, will take place in the mid-afternoon window. The reigning, defending champs have to replace Heisman winner DeVonta Smith, QB Mac Jones, RB Najee Harris and WR Jaylen Waddle, among many others. But if there’s one thing we have come to expect from Nick Saban’s group, it’s that it has plenty of blue-chip talent waiting in the wings to have breakout seasons. This will also be the first look we have at QB Bryce Young as he takes over the Crimson Tide offense. Young was the No. 1 quarterback recruit in 2020, and his debut as the full-time starter has been highly-anticipated.
The other sideline will also feature one of the top signal-callers in the nation in D’Eriq King. The second-year Cane eschewed the NFL draft in favor of one more year in college after accounting for more than 2,600 yards passing and 27 total touchdowns a year ago. With Clemson not on the regular-season schedule for the Hurricanes, Alabama should pose the toughest test for Manny Diaz’s group.
Clemson vs. Georgia — 7:30 p.m., ABC
The Saturday primetime matchup features two regional rivals that once again should be in the national conversation for both the playoff and the national championship. But their respective journeys start in the Duke’s Mayo Classic at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. The Bulldogs return quarterback JT Daniels as the offense looks to finally take that next step under offensive coordinator Todd Monken. Daniels was terrific coming back from his knee injury in the final four games of the 2020 season, throwing for 10 touchdowns to just two picks. With a full offseason under their belt, it’ll be fascinating to see just how much Georgia can open things up — especially without top receiver George Pickens, who is out with his own ACL injury.
Clemson has moved on from the Trevor Lawrence era, but DJ Uiagalelei seems perfectly equipped to take the reins. The sophomore was excellent in his two big games last year — vs. Boston College and Notre Dame — with 781 yards passing and four touchdowns along with two more scores on the ground. Dabo Swinney’s group has thrived in these types of regular-season nonconference games in the past, typically relying on defense to get the job done.
Notre Dame at Florida State — 7:30 p.m. (Sunday), ABC
What would have been a conference game last season now goes back to the normal scheduling agreement between the Fighting Irish and the Seminoles from the ACC. Still, this is a big matchup for both sides. Fresh off a playoff appearance, Notre Dame looks to reload quickly and start fast against a Florida State group that’s still searching for some direction under second-year coach Mike Norvell. The Noles shocked North Carolina a year ago … can they notch another marquee win against the Irish this time?
Louisville vs. Ole Miss — 8 p.m. (Monday), ESPN
Labor Day evening games have typically drummed up some fun matchups in previous years. This one should be no different with two top-notch offensive minds, Scott Satterfield of Louisville and Lane Kiffin of Ole Miss, wrapping up Week 1. The Cardinals were an offseason darling in 2020 but sputtered to a 4-7 record. Ole Miss finished 5-5 but played in some of the more exciting SEC games in Kiffin’s first year. Most notably, Kiffin gave his old boss, Nick Saban, his toughest game last season in a 63-48 loss. Can Kiffin draw up another barn burner, but without top wideout Elijah Moore?