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College football schedule has Texas-Texas A&M, USC-Michigan. Hurray!

Today, I choose to see the bright side. Take that, Darth Vader.

I could write about the nearly unrecognizable state of the Big 12, which once supplied football that was as entertaining as you’d find anywhere, or mourn the loss of “Pac-12 After Dark.”

Such musings would be a look in college football’s rearview mirror. Let’s set our eyes today on this season, because plenty excites me about 2024 – including matchups we wouldn’t have without realignment.

Yes, it stinks that Bedlam won’t happen. It’s odd that Oregon and Oregon State will play in Week 3 rather than at the end of November. And you won’t convince me that Southern Cal and Rutgers belong in the same conference.

But, I’m parting the clouds today, remember?

With blue skies in mind, here are five 2024 games plus an honorable mention I’m looking forward to that are only happening because of realignment. Note: I’m not suggesting these are the five best games. Such list must include Texas at Michigan and Georgia at Alabama. Rather, these are five games that wouldn’t be happening if not for realignment.

So, embrace your power of positivity. Let’s get to it.

Honorable mention: Tennessee at Oklahoma, Sept. 21

The Josh Heupel returns game. Heupel endeared himself to OU by leading the 2000 Sooners to a national championship as a Heisman Trophy runner-up quarterback. Tennessee fans are all-in on Heupel. Some Big Orange faithful worry, though, that Heupel might fancy a return to Oklahoma. I think Heupel more eagerly desires a trip to the College Football Playoff – with Tennessee. The winner of this game must be taken seriously as a playoff contender.

5. Southern Cal at Michigan (Sept. 21)

Welcome to the Big Ten, Trojans. Allow Michigan to introduce you to the Big House. These storied programs have only met 10 times. Most of those matchups occurred in the Rose Bowl. Many fans weren’t alive the last time these teams played in Ann Arbor, in 1958. Each team faces a rugged early-season schedule, and one fan base might emerge from this game in “Fire everybody!” mode.

4. Ohio State at Oregon (Oct. 12)

One of college football’s all-time winningest programs will travel to face the nouveau riche. The scarlet and gray against whatever color the Ducks will wear – hot pink, maybe? A study in contrast. Also, a study of two programs that ought to contend for the national championship. This is one of those regular-season matchups that we might see again come conference championship weekend – and perhaps again in the playoff.

3. Alabama at Oklahoma (Nov. 23)

Holy blue bloods. You’ll find college football’s heart and soul in Oklahoma on this date. Kalen DeBoer’s Year 1 playoff quest could be in make-or-break mode by this point. OU’s season could be headed in any number of directions by late November. Put those narratives aside, though, and appreciate: It’s Alabama vs. Oklahoma on a late fall Saturday, with Thanksgiving around the corner. Delightful.

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2. Georgia at Texas (Oct. 19)

Georgia’s schedule features a number of rugged tests – none bigger than this one. Texas soars into the SEC, but are the Longhorns ready for the big leagues? Last year’s win at Alabama suggests yes, but we’ll know after this clash. We’ll also know more about each team’s national championship credentials. Like Ohio State-Oregon, this is a game with the potential of being played three times throughout the season.

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1. Texas at Texas A&M (Nov. 30)

Realignment taketh away, and now realignment giveth. This bitter rivalry was a Thanksgiving week hallmark, but the teams haven’t played since 2011, because the Aggies left the Big 12 for the SEC. Reunited, with no love lost. A playoff berth might be on the line, but I don’t care what the records are, this will rank among the biggest games played in Texas in more than a decade. That’s saying something. Asked recently what excites him most about joining the SEC, Longhorns athletics director Chris Del Conte exclaimed: “The games! Are you kidding me?” This one, especially.

Blake Toppmeyer is the USA TODAY Network’s SEC Columnist. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer.

Also, check out his podcast, SEC Football Unfilteredand newsletter, SEC Football UnfilteredSubscribe to read all of his columns.

Anna Harden

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