From saturdaydownsouth: It’s never too early to look ahead. But I’m not talking about just looking ahead to the start of 2018. I’m talking well beyond that. Why not fast forward to matchups that’ll be played 5 years from now? The addition of the LSU-Clemson matchup inspired me to want to look at the SEC’s best future nonconference matchups over the next 5 years. I went with 5 years instead of 10 because in all likelihood, the landscape of the sport will be drastically different in a decade. For the record, this doesn’t include reported matchups like Texas-Georgia, which still hasn’t been finalized. A few rules before we begin: Only one game from a series can be listed All games must be on the schedule from 2018-2022 I also should note that I favor home-and-home games over neutral site games. To me, the atmospheres are just not quite the same at NFL stadiums. Also, annual nonconference matchups like Florida-Florida State or Clemson-South Carolina don’t count, just because we’ve already seen them a billion times. And speaking of that, nonconference games that we just saw don’t really move the needle for me. Alabama-USC and Georgia-Notre Dame are both really solid, but I get a bit more excited for something new. There’s probably one other caveat I should mention. I like seeing SEC teams travel to play true road games rather than play at home. That’s why I went with the road games for a lot of these series. So with that said, pick these apart: 10. Sept. 2, 2018: LSU vs. Miami (in Dallas) The debut of Joe Burrow has me looking forward to this one. The fact that it’s a matchup with Top 25 teams on a Sunday night in Jerry World only adds to the buzz. Mark Richt against the SEC will always be a fun matchup in my opinion … which you’ll find out as you work your way through this list. 9. Sept. 3, 2022: Georgia vs. Oregon (in Atlanta) It sort of baffles me that Pac-12 teams like Washington and Oregon agreed to play in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, and not at least in Houston or Dallas where it’s a true neutral-site game. Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports A pair of Nick Saban disciples will battle in what figures to be a game with top-15 teams to kick off the season. Perhaps the only question is how many No. 1 recruiting classes and national titles will Kirby Smart have by 2022. 8. Sept. 4, 2021: Alabama vs. Miami (in Atlanta) The Richt-Nick Saban reunion (tentatively speaking) will be played in a place where it feels like Alabama is an automatic win. But I fully expect the Canes to be rolling as a yearly top-10 team by 2021. Richt still hasn’t really even put his stamp on the offense yet. This has potential to be one of Saban’s toughest openers, but I’m not foolish enough to bet against him in Atlanta. 7. Sept. 12, 2020: Tennessee at Oklahoma Herein lies the importance of why we project with some of these matchups. In Year 3 of the Jeremy Pruitt era, there’s a chance that we’re talking about a Tennessee team that’s competing for a division title. A huge early-season showdown at Oklahoma could easily be one of the top nonconference matchups of the 2020 slate, especially if Lincoln Riley sticks around in Norman. Though I suppose that’s not a given considering how much NFL buzz he got this offseason. 6. Sept. 1, 2018: Auburn vs. Washington (in Atlanta) This is easily the best SEC nonconference game of 2018, and it’s perhaps the best of the entire 2018 slate. A pair of preseason top-10 teams will have major Playoff implications at stake in Atlanta. A couple of the game’s top offensive minds will have to deal with 2 of the nation’s best defenses. Whoever wins a game like this could have a huge leg up on earning a top-4 ranking early in the season. If this was a home-and-home, it’d be a top-3 game on this list. 5. Sept. 7, 2019: Texas A&M at Clemson I’ll say this. I don’t think is a fair fight in 2018 even though the game is being played in College Station. However, when Clemson loses a wealth of defensive line talent to the NFL and Jimbo Fisher brings in what could be a top-2 recruiting class, this game gets a lot more interesting. A&M might still be a couple years away from really competing for division titles, but on a given Saturday, the Aggies might give a new-look Clemson squad a run for its money. 4. Aug. 31, 2019: Florida vs. Miami (in Orlando) Yes, this is the neutral-site matchup that I’m most looking forward to it. No, it isn’t just because it’ll be played down the road from where I live. Part of it is because it feels like a true neutral site in the state of Florida, though there are more Gators fans than Miami fans in Orlando. Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports Let’s not forget that these teams will have played in the regular season just twice in the past 15 years, and once in the past decade. Both teams might finally have their long-term coaches in place, too. Year 2 of the Dan Mullen era will kick off in epic fashion. 3. Sept. 7, 2019: LSU at Texas I’m calling it right now. This will be the premier nonconference game in 2019. It’s not just that Tom Herman picked Texas over LSU. It’s that this could be a legitimate matchup of top-10 teams next year. Both of these teams have extremely young rosters that project better for 2019 than 2018. Joe Burrow will be back to lead an LSU team that could have sky-high expectations. And best of all, it’s being played in Austin. Sign me up for this one on what’s already looking like a headliner-filled Week 2 in the SEC next year. 2. Sept. 18, 2021: Auburn at Penn State On the rare occasion that an SEC power travels north, it should be celebrated. It feels like an epic event. It was when Georgia went to Notre Dame last year. Something tells me that it will be when Auburn travels to Penn State in a few short years. Happy Valley is one of the top atmospheres in the country, which doesn’t bode well for Gus Malzahn’s .500 road record. But still, a pair of potential top-10 teams playing in a true home-and-home is enough to catch the attention of any college football fan. 1. Sept. 10, 2022: Alabama at Texas I can’t wait for it. By “it,” I’m referring to all of the strolls down memory lane leading up to this one about when people thought that Saban was leaving to take the Texas job. Wasn’t that fun? In all likelihood, Saban will still give weekly updates in 2022 about how he has no plans of retiring anytime soon. But besides that narrative, we could also have the narrative of a pair of top-5 teams playing in a home-and-home. This will also be Alabama’s first nonconference road game since it traveled to Penn State in 2011. Seriously. This is the ultimate nonconference showdown. And no, it’s not to early to mark it on your calendar for it.