Friday Nights Lights: Ranking the FOX College Football Friday Slate From Worst to First

    The FOX College Football Friday slate has something for everyone, but a few matchups stand out as must-watch in the 2024 campaign.

    Friday night lights aren’t only for high school football. FOX’s 2024 schedule of Friday college football contests comes equipped with several must-watch matchups and one conference championship. Which games on the Fox College Football Friday slate deserve your attention?

    Ranking the 2024 FOX College Football Friday Night Slate

    All FOX College Football Friday Night kickoff times are 8:00 p.m. ET unless noted otherwise.

    12) Northwestern at Maryland, October 11

    After flashing in four starts last season, Brendan Sullivan entered the transfer portal, leaving the Wildcats with a major question mark under center. And with Taulia Tagovailoa off to the NFL, Maryland isn’t in a much better situation. Both sides have talented defenses, so don’t expect many points to be scored.

    11) Washington at Rutgers, September 27

    Greg Schiano’s squad went 7-6 last year, the program’s best record since joining the Big Ten in 2014. However, swapping incumbent QB Gavin Wimsatt for Minnesota transfer Athan Kaliakmanis likely sets the offense back, as Kaliakmanis isn’t nearly the same rushing threat Wimsatt was — and he isn’t a much better passer either.

    Meanwhile, the Huskies will look nothing like they did in their national title-contending 2023 campaign. Kalen DeBeor took much of his coaching staff and returning players to Alabama, and several other starters left for the NFL. Yet, Arizona HC Jedd Fisch comes in, along with Mississippi State transfer QB Will Rogers, so Washington should remain an offensive powerhouse.

    10) Rutgers at USC, October 25, 11:00 p.m.

    Copy and paste for Rutgers, but color us more interested in seeing USC and Lincoln Riley without Caleb Williams than an entirely new Washington team. Miller Moss is slated to take the QB1 reigns for the Trojans, and he has the offensive talent to keep the points pouring in.

    Perhaps more important is USC’s emphasis on the defensive side of the ball this offseason, including several transfer additions and the hiring of UCLA DC D’Anton Lynn.

    9) Purdue at Michigan State, November 22

    Purdue QB Hudson Card played well in his first year as a full-time starter after transferring from Texas, and Aidan Chiles followed Oregon State head coach Jonathan Smith to East Lansing. The Spartans will have to be aware of where star safety Dillon Thieneman is lined up on every snap, as he snatched six INTs last season.

    8) Iowa at UCLA, November 8, 9:00 p.m.

    With Tory Taylor gone, Iowa has lost some of its appeal, but the return of QB Cade McNamara and TE Luke Lachey provides optimism for the offense. On the other sideline, UCLA will look vastly different this year with a new coaching staff in place. How the Bruins perform in new head coach DaShaun Foster’s inaugural season will dictate their future trajectory.

    7) Illinois at Nebraska, September 20

    Bret Bielema vs. Matt Rhule. Luke Altmyer vs. Dillon Raiola. Facing Illinois’ always respectable defense early in the year will provide good experience for the five-star true freshman QB.

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    Offensive transfers Isaiah Neyor, Jahmal Banks, and Micah Mazzccua bolster the unit, while the Fighting Illini have their own offensive additions in LT J.C. Davis and LG Kevin Wigenton II.

    6) Oregon at Purdue, October 18

    This one likely won’t be as close as any of the previous contests, but anytime you get to watch Dillon Gabriel unleash bombs to Tez Johnson and Evan Stewart, you take it. Plus, RB Jordan James will rattle off a few chunk plays, and the defense has numerous big-name playmakers ready to feast in Jordan Burch, Jeffrey Bassa, Jestin Jacobs, and Jabbar Muhammed.

    5) Mountain West Conference Championship Game, December 6

    The Mountain West Championship hasn’t had a close game since 2018, but the conference is routinely one of the most entertaining to watch. Boise State will challenge for a spot in the expanded 12-team College Football Playoff and will presumably feature in the MWCC. And whoever they face, whether UNLV, Fresno State, or someone else, will want to play spoiler.

    4) UCLA at Washington, November 15, 9:00 p.m.

    Ethan Garbers vs. Will Rogers isn’t the most exciting QB matchup on paper, but both should have their offenses running smoothly. This will be the first contest the two programs play as members of the Big Ten, and it could mean even more if the Huskies are in the conference race at this point in the season.

    3) Michigan State at Oregon, October 4, 9:00 p.m.

    This game ranks so high because it’s basically the Oregon vs. Oregon State rivalry in a different skin. Jonathan Smith took several of his coaches and players to Michigan State and will certainly have this game circled on his calendar.

    Theoretically, Dan Lanning and Co. shouldn’t have any issue defeating the Spartans, but Smith will do his best to have his players rise to the challenge.

    2) Utah at UCF, November 29

    KJ Jefferson joins a backfield with two 1,000-yard rushers in RJ Havery and Peny Boone. That trio alone will cause headaches in the Big 12, which welcomes Utah this season. Kyle Whittingham runs a tight ship, and with QB Cam Rising and TE Brant Kuithe returning for their seventh seasons, the Utes should be in the thick of the conference standings.

    1) Arizona at Kansas State, September 13

    Utah-UCF, UCLA-Washington, and the Mountain West title match may have higher stakes, but no FOX College Football Friday night game matches the excitement of Arizona-Kansas State in Week 3.

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    Arizona QB Noah Fifita and WR Tetairoa McMillan form one of the deadliest QB-WR duos in the country. Kansas State QB Avery Johnson and RBs DJ Giddens and Dylan Edwards shape one of the best backfield trios in the nation. Which one will produce the most points? I don’t know, but I will have my TV on and popcorn in hand as we find out.

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