My oh my does it feel good to talk about actual football games.

After a summer dominated by NIL, the 12-team Playoff and conference realignment, it’s about time we talked a little ball.

And hey, unlike last year, we’re not sitting here wondering if a season is going to be canceled. Cheers to that.

Hopefully we’ll have full capacity crowds across the country because there are no shortage of major headliner games. Projecting a headliner game in the second week of August can be tricky. Obviously, we don’t know if a team like Coastal Carolina is going to turn into a national sensation. Shoot, if last year was any indication, we might not even know who Coastal Carolina is gonna play in a given week.

So take these for what they are — the games that are worth clearing out your schedule for. I think.

25. Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State

When — Nov. 25

Let’s start with the Egg Bowl. It’s as enticing of a rivalry game as there is, and if you can’t love a game that snaps you out of that tryptophan haze, well, we’re very different people. Mike Leach vs. Lane Kiffin, Part II should be a fantastic Thanksgiving showdown, especially if the Ole Miss defense and MSU offense can make that much-needed step.

24. Miami vs. UNC

When — Oct. 16

Sam Howell vs. D’Eriq King should be a dandy. Could it be a Heisman Trophy elimination game? Perhaps. Fingers crossed that both teams are still in contention for an ACC crown, too. Last year’s 62-26 beatdown was quite the flex for Mack Brown and Co. We’re due for some postgame dance moves if that repeats.

23. UNC vs. Notre Dame

When — Oct. 30

Night game in South Bend with a pair of potential top-15 teams? Sign me up. Howell and Co. against Marcus Freeman’s defense will be a fantastic matchup. A potential Playoff elimination game could be in the works.

22. Ohio State vs. Indiana

When — Oct. 23

Remember how incredible last year’s showdown in Columbus was? I think Ty Fryfogle just caught another touchdown pass. He and Michael Penix are back, as is a good chunk of Tom Allen’s defense, which picked off Justin Fields 3 times. Indiana is going to start as a Top 25 team for the first time since 1968. No longer will Ohio State be a game in which Indiana gets its stadium picture for the media guide to capitalize on the full crowd (which is usually full of Buckeye fans).

21. Auburn vs. Penn State

When — Sept. 18

Even though I have some doubts about both programs in 2021, I’m giving this a bump because it’s a unique nonconference home-and-home. If we don’t continue to incentivize these types of matchups, we’re only hurting ourselves. Bo Nix on the road? Like, where he has a career 104 passer rating? Meh. At least White Outs are fun.

20. USC vs. Notre Dame

When — Oct. 23

I just assume any time USC plays in South Bend, we’re gonna get The Bush Push 2.0. Fun fact: Tommy Zbikowski went to my high school and he’d come back and randomly visit with Jeff Samardzija. Even more fun fact: I spelled both of their names correctly on the first try. But anyway, a pair of potential top-10 teams could be facing off in this classic rivalry matchup. That hasn’t happened since … The Bush Push. See, I had a point!

19. Ohio State vs. Michigan

When — Nov. 27

I’m old enough to remember when this was automatically a top-5 game every year. But 8 in a row and 15 of the past 16 going to one side suggests that the pageantry of “The Game” ends with the opening kick. Sooner or later, it has to happen. Maybe just not in this lifetime for Jim Harbaugh, who was supposed to capitalize on the post-Urban Meyer and instead took a 56-27 beatdown at the hands of Ryan Day in their first and only meeting in 2019.

18. Alabama vs. Auburn

When — Nov. 27

Hey, the past 2 times Alabama went to Jordan-Hare, the home team came out on top. Will Auburn make that 3 home victories against Alabama in a row? I doubt it. But is the Iron Bowl still one of the best rivalries in all of sports? Absolutely. I’m holding out hope that we can see a healthy Tank Bigsby against that Alabama defense. Auburn might need 4 Tank Bigsbys to have a shot this year.

17. Florida vs. LSU

When — Oct. 16

“Who Throws a Shoe Part II” is what I’m officially calling this one. No, there won’t be Marco Wilson. There probably won’t be a bizarre, foggy haze, either. But there will be a promising quarterback battle, and both defenses are destined to improve. We’re looking at a potential matchup of top 10-20 teams, which usually means it’ll be a 1-score game that gets decided in the final minute.

16. Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin (in Chicago)

When — Sept. 25

I prefer home-and-homes over neutral-site games at pro stadiums, but this one has nice intrigue. Like, beyond which Walmart sweatshirt Paul Chryst will wear (I know he only does that for the bowl game). We’ve got the Jack Coan revenge game! Can he take down Graham Mertz and the Badgers? Get ready for an unlimited amount of reminders that Coan got hurt and gave way to Mertz once upon a time.

15. Georgia vs. Auburn

When — Oct. 9

The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry is going to feel a bit different with it going down in early October, but it should still at least be somewhat competitive. Bigsby will battle that Jordan Davis-led UGA front, JT Daniels will battle that Derek Mason-led Auburn secondary and all will still be right with the world. I’ll always at least think there’s somewhat of a chance that Auburn can hang with UGA at Jordan-Hare, though this year might put that to the test.

14. Cincinnati vs. Indiana

When — Sept. 18

Wait, what? Are you serious? In most years, Cincinnati at Indiana probably wouldn’t even crack the top 25 games of a given week. But yes, this year, there’s plenty of potential. Both will start as Top 25 teams. Cincinnati could even start as a top-10 team with a somewhat realistic Playoff path. That goes through Bloomington and containing Michael Penix and Ty Fryfogle. Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner on Fryfogle is quietly one of the top receiver-corner matchups of 2021, and Desmond Ridder vs. Micah McFadden and the IU defense should be plenty entertaining, too. Don’t sleep on this one in Week 3.

13. Liberty vs. Ole Miss

When — Nov. 6

Where do I start? How about the fact that Hugh Freeze is getting a reunion in Oxford? That in itself is worth setting your DVR several weeks in advance. How will he be received by the Ole Miss faithful? Also, how will Malik Willis handle a return to the SEC against a much-to-prove Ole Miss defense? This is the type of matchup that was supposed to be a throwaway, and instead, it turned into one far juicer than anyone could’ve imagined.

12. Ole Miss vs. Alabama

When — Oct. 2

I mean, last year’s game gave us 111 points and 1,370 yards of total offense. Sorry, defensive purists. That’s just some clean, American football fun right there. Lane Kiffin against Nick Saban is always good for some entertaining buildup, and this year will be no different. It’ll be interesting to see how much better Alabama’s defense looks against the Ole Miss offense that torched it last year. That’ll be a key test for the Tide’s title chances.

11. Iowa vs. Iowa State

When — Sept. 11

The Cy-Hawk Trophy is in for an epic chapter. They’ve never met as top-15 teams, which could be the case this year if Iowa can beat a solid Indiana team in the season-opener. Iowa State is worthy of some early Playoff buzz because of the returning trio of Breece Hall, Brock Purdy and Charlie Kolar. Iowa has a star on each side of the line of scrimmage (in the trenches of course). If the Cyclones want to have that historic season, they need to end a 5-game losing streak to their in-state rivals.

10. Texas A&M vs. LSU

When — Nov. 27

This has turned into a fantastic rivalry week matchup, even if the rivalry was a bit manufactured. Both teams have SEC West title aspirations, and there’s always that whole “Jimbo Fisher turned down LSU” thing. There’s also that whole “we can’t forget Fisher’s nephew thought he could take Kevin Faulk” thing.

What if I told you that was after the 7 overtimes?

9. LSU vs. Alabama

When — Nov. 6

Who could forget the last time these teams met in Tuscaloosa? Joe Burrow and Clyde Edwards-Helaire delivered a performance for the ages, which was followed by Ed Orgeron’s infamous postgame “Roll Tide! F— You!” Say what you want about LSU and Alabama. That was a much more entertaining afternoon of football than watching Alabama beat LSU 24-10. As per usual — not including 2020 — this game could decide the West.

8. Oklahoma vs. Texas (in Dallas)

When — Oct. 9

An SEC slugfest for the ages! OK, not yet. But it’s weird to think that there’s a decent chance that this ends up being the last Oklahoma-Texas game played in the Big 12. Steve Sarkisian vs. Lincoln Riley is going to be a fantastic chess match for years to come. Bijan Robinson against Alex Grinch’s defense should also be worth the price of admission. Could Texas stand in the way of Oklahoma getting to that Iowa State game unbeaten? That would be quite the Year 1 feather in Sarkisian’s cap.

7. Florida vs. Georgia (in Jacksonville)

When — On social media, forever (it’s actually Oct. 30)

How many times did I wonder about what it would’ve looked like with JT Daniels playing against Florida last year? Too many. This year, health permitting, we’ll get to see that. We’ll also get to see Emory Jones finally get to play significantly in this matchup. Is it safe to say this will be another SEC East title game? Probably. The winner of this game won the division each of the last 6 years. Don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

6. Cincinnati vs. Notre Dame

When — Oct. 2

What, more Cincinnati love? Yes. If Cincinnati gets a win at Indiana — something that’s not a given — all the talk in college football will be about the prime opportunity that awaits for the Bearcats to win at Notre Dame and open the path for the first Group of 5 team in the Playoff. Plus, we’ve got the Marcus Freeman revenge game! Oh, and the Brian Kelly revenge game!

5. Alabama vs. Florida

When — Sept. 18

Yes, I know. Nick Saban hasn’t lost to an SEC East team since 2010. He also hasn’t lost a game in the first half of the season since 2015. Wild, I know. Dan Mullen is also 2-28 vs. teams that finished in the top 10 of the AP Poll. Also wild. Alabama hasn’t been to The Swamp since 2011. That’s why this game, which will likely be the first full capacity SEC game at The Swamp since 2019, will be … wild. At least the atmosphere will be. Let’s see how Bryce Young and this new-look offense handle that atmosphere in Week 3.

4. Oregon vs. Ohio State

When — Sept. 11

We had to wait an extra year to get this matchup because of COVID, but it should still be a darn good one. Kayvon Thibodeaux vs. Ryan Day’s offense is going to be fantastic. Watching CJ Stroud handle the All-American in his second career start will be intriguing. Will this be the game that makes him a household name? Or will Mario Cristobal go into Columbus and leave with the Pac-12’s best shot at a Playoff berth in 5 years? This, for my money, is the best home-and-home nonconference game of 2021.

3. Iowa State vs. Oklahoma

When — Nov. 20

Don’t hate. Both teams could easily start in the top 7, and this could easily be a Playoff elimination game. Matt Campbell didn’t get the Big 12 title victory against the Sooners last year, but he actually owns a 2-2 regular season series split with Lincoln Riley. These teams always seem to go down to the wire. Now picture them going down to the wire in a late-November game with Playoff stakes on the line for both teams. Now that’s a headliner.

2. Alabama vs. Texas A&M

When — Oct. 9

If you want to just point to how lopsided this matchup has been in recent memory, that’s on you. I’ll instead point to the preseason comments from Jimbo Fisher about “beating Alabama’s a–” while Nick Saban is still there. And of course, Saban’s “in golf?” response was perfect.

I don’t know if this is finally going to be the year that Saban finally loses to one of his former assistants (in football). I do know that A&M, in its first real full capacity home game since 2019, is going to have a very 2013-like feel when the Tide roll in.

1. Clemson vs. Georgia (in Charlotte)

When — Sept. 4

Yep. You knew it was coming. Even though this is a neutral-site game, we’re talking about a potential No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup to kick off the year. That’s exceptional. These teams have somehow not crossed paths — on the field — since 2014. That was before Dabo Swinney got Clemson to where it is today, which is an annual title contender. DJ Uiagalelei vs. JT Daniels might be the best quarterback matchup of the regular season, and the UGA ground game against this Clemson front 7 should also be a heavyweight fight. This will have a Playoff-like feel to it. Here’s hoping it’s not a rematch of the 2017 Alabama-Florida State opener, which turned into an anticlimactic snooze fest in the second half.

But something tells me we’re going to start 2021 off with a bang.