FOX announces Friday Night College Football TV Schedule with top game for them to be Utah at UCF: I think I’ll pass on this one

Ranking the top five games of the FOX Friday night college football slate
from Brad Schultz, with YardBaker.com/www.yardbarker.com

As the college football landscape continues to evolve, the TV schedule does as well.

Last week, FOX announced its lineup of Friday night games primarily featuring Big Ten and Big 12 teams. The package will include 11 regular-season matchups and the Mountain West Championship Game on Dec 6.

Let’s rank the top five matchups of this new series:

5. Iowa at UCLA (Nov. 8)
While this might not be a contest that jumps out to the casual fan, die-hards will easily understand this one. The Hawkeyes have lost four consecutive games at the historic venue, including the 1986 Rose Bowl to UCLA.

On the other side, the Bruins are a bit of a mystery coming into the season as they enter 2024 with a new head coach in DeShaun Foster, new faces on both sides of the ball and the difficult challenge of playing in the Big Ten.

The game will also present a unique clash of styles, with Iowa preferring to play the smash-mouth style of football and the Bruins operating in a more passing style headed up by new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.

Expect many Hawkeye fans to make the trip to Pasadena, Calif., for this intriguing November clash.

4. Illinois at Nebraska (Sept. 20)
It doesn’t seem possible, but Nebraska hasn’t been bowl-eligible since the 2016 season — the longest such streak in the Power-Five conferences. Now, with a second season under head coach and known program builder Matt Rhule, the Huskers hope to reach that goal this year.

To help them reach that goal, they will have to battle an Illinois defense that ranked in the top 10 nationally in 2023, and should return to that status this season under defensive coordinator Aaron Henry. While the Illini offense has struggled the past few seasons, the team returns starting quarterback Luke Altmeyer along with some key offensive weapons.

Expect an old-school Big Ten matchup under the lights here.

3. Michigan State at Oregon (Oct. 4)
Michigan State was awful the last two seasons under former head coach Mel Tucker, but new head coach Jonathon Smith comes over from Oregon State after building the Beavers into a nationally ranked team. The Spartans will hope he can duplicate that success in East Lansing, Mich., but a tough schedule won’t make that easy.

Michigan State will venture into Eugene for a Friday night contest against Oregon, which is one of the favorites to win the Big Ten in its first year in the conference. The Ducks lost former standout QB Bo Nix to the NFL, but return a strong nucleus of players including wide receiver Evan Stewart. They also added QB Dillon Gabriel from Oklahoma.

If Michigan State can get some early momentum at the beginning of the season, a fun matchup awaits in Autzen Stadium.

2. Arizona at Kansas State (Sept. 13)
The first Big 12 matchup on the list is an important one, and it happens to be the first game on the FOX Friday night schedule.

Even with conference expansion, there is no clear-cut favorite to win this league. Arizona went 10-3 and won the Alamo Bowl last year, but lost head coach Jedd Fisch and many key players to the transfer portal due to the coaching change. Nevertheless, the Wildcats still have a solid team built for their inaugural Big 12 season.

Though the league is wide open, Kansas State is expected to be at or near the top of preseason Big 12 predictions. Highly touted QB prospect Avery Johnson will enter the season as the starter after winning MVP honors in the Pop-Tarts Bowl. Joining him is Penn State transfer Dante Cephas, who figures to be one of Johnson’s top targets.

Though both squads have lost key pieces from their 2023 rosters, this game will be a key early factor in determining the Big 12 title picture.

1. Utah at UCF (Nov. 29)
The top game from this list also resides in the Big 12, as title contender Utah travels to the Sunshine State to take on UCF.

The Utes enter their 20th season of leadership under head coach Kyle Whittingham, and finally return senior QB Cam Rising from his ACL injury that he suffered in the 2023 Rose Bowl. Joining Rising will be Arizona transfer wideout Dorian Singer and talented defensive end Logan Fano along with several impact newcomers.

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The Knights went a respectable 6-7 in their first season in the Big 12, but head coach Gus Malzhan worked hard in the offseason to build up the roster, resulting in 15 talented players transferring into the program, including former Arkansas QB KJ Jefferson. UCF returns speedy running back RJ Harvey, who rushed for 16 touchdowns a season ago.

This game represents the final Friday night game on this schedule, and it could easily decide the conference title.

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