2022 will be the last FBS college football season with seven independent schools. Current independents BYU, Liberty and New Mexico State will be joining a conference for the 2023 season, so UMass, Notre Dame, UConn and Army will be what remains of the independent slate in 2023.
Even though these schools don’t have a conference championship to contend for, they don’t have limitations on their opponents which creates interesting matchups. Here are the top-three football games for the 2022 season that will include an independent school.
Notre Dame vs. Ohio State, Saturday, September 3rd, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Marcus Freeman is going to have a tough test in his first season as the head coach of Notre Dame. Not only will he have tough tests against the ACC and a regular-season finale against expected powerhouse USC, but Freeman and Notre Dame will open against C.J. Stroud and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
The Fighting Irish finished 11-1 last season with their lone loss coming against Cincinnati. They have matched up with the Buckeyes six times in program history and Ohio State is currently ahead in the series 4-2. Notre Dame will have veterans back on both sides of the ball while the Buckeyes will be looking for some young stars to hit the ground running. This will be their first matchup since 2018.
BYU vs. Baylor, Saturday, September 10th, 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
This matchup is a preview of BYU’s future in the Big 12. These teams have matched up three times and the Bears currently lead 2-1 over the Cougars. Baylor seems to be personally welcoming BYU to the Big 12 as they picked up the 38-24 win over BYU last season. At least BYU will be at home this year, and they will be looking to make a statement before joining the conference in 2023.
While Tyler Allgeier is gone from the Cougars, the 2022 offense will likely run through Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney. They will have playmakers on both sides of the ball, but they will need to see an uptick in recruiting to keep up with the Big 12. The biggest question at Baylor is who is going to step up as a receiver, because 2021 receiving leader Tyquan Thornton is a member of the New England Patriots.
Liberty vs. Arkansas, Saturday, November 5th, Time and TV TBD
Speaking of making a statement, Hugh Freeze makes another return to the SEC. The former Ole Miss head man is no stranger to playing Arkansas, but hasn’t matched up against them during his tenure at Liberty.
The Flames are going to have a tough test to show that their success wasn’t just due to quarterback Malik Willis. He is now a member of the Tennessee Titans, and Freeze will look to Baylor/Utah transfer Charlie Brewer to carry their new-look offense. The Razorbacks will have KJ Jefferson back under center, but will be without wide receiver Treylon Burks. If Arkansas gets off to a rough start and Liberty is clicking, this could be a big late-season opportunity for the Flames to make a statement.