The 50 Most Important Days of the College Football Season

Luke Pashke@@luke_pashkeCorrespondent IMarch 26, 2012

The 50 Most Important Days of the College Football Season

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    The college football season is more than just a few Saturdays in the fall. In fact, the sport and the season are so huge, it's almost impossible for fans to wrap their heads around all the important days it entails.

    Luckily for you, we here at Bleacher Report have decided to compile a list of the 50 most important days of the immense season, just for your convenience.

    So without further ado, get your calendars ready and enjoy.

April 2: The End of College Basketball Season

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    Each year, college sports fans rely heavily on college basketball to fill the void for the lack of football. March Madness is an amazing sporting event, but unfortunately it can't last forever.

    When it ends, college sports fans turn their attention completely to college football and the preparations for the upcoming season.

Early April: The Beginning of Spring Practice

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    Spring practice is a time for the fans to finally quench their desperate thirst for college football action and discussion. More importantly, it is also a time for intense position battles and the implementation of new systems (in the event of a coaching change).

    This time period cannot be ignored by analysts, fans, coaches or players and should be followed intently.

April 14: Several Spring Games

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    Spring games have become increasingly popular in the past decade and it's obvious why. They're the only college football action available to passionate fans until the end of August and to wait that long is a tall order for a big-time college football fan.

    Notable programs playing their spring games on the 14th include: Florida State, Clemson, Alabama, Georgia and Michigan.

April 16: EA Sports Announces Heisman Trophy Cover Boy

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    This year, EA sports is allowing fans to vote for a cover co-star to appear on the annual college football game, NCAA Football. The co-star will be a former Heisman Trophy winner and will adorn the cover alongside the most recent Heisman trophy winner, Robert Griffin III.

    The eight eligible candidates are Eddie George, Barry Sanders, Desmond Howard, Andre Ware, Marcus Allen, Doug Flutie, Herschel Walker and Charlie Ward.

April 21: Several Spring Games

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    All spring games can't be played on one day and this is great news for us. For one, it spreads out college football, which means more of it, and it also gives us options on when to do the yard work we promised our significant other we would do.

    Speaking of significant others, the significant programs performing their spring games on the 21st include: Ohio State, Penn State, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame.

April 26: NFL Draft

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    Although most people associate the NFL draft with professional football, it is also an extremely important day for college football. Fans get the chance to see where their beloved college stars will continue their careers at the next level and get to contemplate on the potential of the NFL prospects based on their performances in college.

    Sounds like a win-win situation for NFL and NCAA fans, doesn't it?

April 28: Several Spring Games

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    If you haven't noticed the spring games pattern, then you should be paying closer attention. April 28 is the final Saturday of this hotbed of spring action.

    Unfortunately, past this, fans must wait until late August for more action. Hopefully these can hold you over until then.

    The major programs with spring games scheduled on the 28th include: Oregon, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Kansas State and Texas A&M.

May 15: College Football Hall of Fame Inductees Are Announced

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    In February, the College Football Hall of Fame announced their 2012 list of potential nominees, and it is chock full of big names, per usual. Some of these major names include Orlando Pace, Danny Wuerfful, Phil Fulmer, Raghib Ismail and Ty Detmer.

    On May 15, the Hall of Fame will announce who will be inducted later in the year.

May 18: Robert Nkemdiche Announces His Decision

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    According to Sporting News, top recruit Robert Nkemdiche is set to announce his college decision on May 18 after his high school's spring game. Nkemdiche is considered the top defensive end in the nation and even the top overall player in the 2013 class.

    As of now, Georgia, Alabama and LSU appear to be the front runners to land this Peach State native.

Early June: Release of Preseason All-Americans

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    In early June when the All-American list is released, anticipation for the upcoming season really starts to heat up.

    It's an excellent opportunity for fans to find out who to take a special look at throughout the season and what players could attain national recognition for their respected teams.

July 10: NCAA Football 2013 Is Released

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    Every year, college football fans rush to the stores to pick up a copy of EA Sports' annual NCAA Football video game. This year's game displays Robert Griffin III on its cover, along with a former Heisman trophy that will be determined via fan vote.

    EA Sports never disappoints; expect the hype surrounding this year's installment to be completely worthwhile. With the release of this game, the eagerness for college football can be held off with a few virtual games. 

Mid-July: The Release of the Watch List for Major Awards

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    Awards for each position are given out annually in college football and it is a beloved tradition. These awards range from the best quarterback of the season to the top placekicker and everywhere in between.

    With the release of watch lists before the season, fans are given the opportunity to take note of the top players in college football at their respected positions.

Mid-August: Release of Official Preseason Polls

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    Come mid-August, college football fans all over the country will keep their eyes peeled for USA Today's first preseason polls. Along with USA Today, the Associated Press will release their preseason polls, which will set the precedent for the rankings at the beginning of the season.

    It's always intriguing to see what program is graced with the No. 1 overall preseason ranking.

August 28-September 1: The First Week of College Football

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    This is the moment we have all been desperately waiting for since Alabama defeated LSU in the national championship. After dismal months without college football, our beloved sport has finally arrived for another exciting season.

    The first games should begin as soon as August 28 and there are a slew of big-time games throughout this week that would get even the casual college football fan salivating for more.

    This first week pairs major expectations with on-field reality, constant analysis with concrete evidence and preseason polls with actual play. It's everything a college football fan could dream of. 

August 30: South Carolina vs Vanderbilt

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    Although this matchup doesn't jump out at you on first glance, there is a major storyline to this game that revolves around Heisman hopeful Marcus Lattimore.

    The Gamecock running back showed an amazing amount of potential in his freshman season and followed up this hype in his second year before a season-ending knee injury cut it short. This game will prove if Lattimore is prepared to make a serious run at the Heisman trophy and gives him a national stage, on a Thursday night ESPN game, to campaign for the prestigious award. 

August 31: Boise State vs Michigan State

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    The matchup of Boise State pitted against a major BCS program has become annual kickoff to the college football season. Michigan State is the Broncos' latest big-time non-conference opponent, but they look to end Boise State's recent success in these types of games.

    The game will be played the Friday before the season's first full Saturday of games and has the potential to really set things off for the first weekend of the season.

September 1: Alabama vs Michigan (At Cowboys Stadium)

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    Played in "Jerry World," Alabama vs Michigan is arguably the biggest non-conference game of the season and the storylines are endless.

    Denard Robinson looks to make a strong statement in his Heisman campaign while Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide set out to defend their title. Not to mention, anytime a Big Ten power faces an elite SEC team, the rivalry between the two conferences only heightens the hype surrounding the game.

    Hopefully this game can meet the expectations or even exceed them with a close, hard-nosed battle. 

August 3: Georgia Tech vs Virgina Tech

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    This battle of tech schools offers fans the unique but beautiful opportunity to watch college football on a Monday.

    That's right, you won't have to deal with a college football hangover after the first weekend of the great sport. What more could a fan really ask for?

    Both schools are well-coached, solid programs that always put on a great show. When you get down to it, there really is nothing like watching that triple-option offense pitted against a solid defense. This should be an interesting and intriguing matchup to hold you over until the next Saturday.

September 8: Missouri and Texas A&M Play in Their First SEC Conference Game

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    Conference realignment is one of the hottest topics in college football and two of the biggest movers so far have been Texas A&M and Missouri. The two former Big 12 programs have officially made the jump to the SEC and will partake in their first conference games on September 8.

    Missouri will take on Georgia, while Texas A&M is matched up against the Florida Gators. It will be extremely interesting to see how the two teams perform in their first conference games. It could set the tone for them the rest of the year.

September 15: TCU vs Kansas

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    For years, TCU has embraced the "David" role very well. We have become accustomed to a tough TCU team out of a smaller conference, but due to the recent conference realignment craze, the Horned Frogs are now one of the "Goliaths."

    Effective this season, Gary Patterson and company are a part of the Big 12 and play in their first conference game on September 15. Throughout the season, fans will be keeping an eye on the Horned Frogs to see how they handle playing in a BCS conference.

    Kansas is their first Big 12 obstacle.

September 22: Michigan vs Notre Dame

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    Last year's rivalry matchup was an absolute thriller and if this year's game manages to exceed expectations, it might be the best game of the year. The two storied programs have recently produced extremely entertaining, high-drama football and contain all the aspects for a great college game.

    It has the tradition of both programs and the parity of both teams in order to make for a big-time nail-biter. On top of all this, it also holds the intrigue of a Heisman hopeful in Denard Robinson. Look for Robinson to aim to make a major statement in his Heisman campaign on such a large national stage.

September 29: West Virginia vs Baylor

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    This game would normally mean little to nothing, but again, due to conference realignment, it is a much bigger deal than meets the eye. I know I have made this a recurring theme, but these conference firsts intrigue me greatly.

    West Virginia has been a solid program out of the Big East and even won a BCS bowl game last year, but still made the jump to the Big 12. Their first conference game is against Baylor, and while Baylor won't be nearly as good as they were last year, this game also offers the chance to see WVU's quarterback, Geno Smith.

    Smith could be a dark horse possibility in the upcoming season's Heisman race, but will need to make a statement in virtually every game in order to remain in the conversation.  

October 4: USC vs Utah

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    Clearly, Matt Barkley is the Heisman race front runner to start off the season and on October 4, he has an excellent chance to aid his own cause on national television. The Trojans will be taking on Utah on a Thursday night ESPN game where Barkley should shine. Also, due to its unique day of the week, all eyes will be on the Heisman hopeful in prime time.

    Not to mention, Thursday games like this one are another excuse to avoid watching an America's Next Top Model rerun with your significant other. This definitely can't be underestimated.

October 6: Georgia vs South Carolina

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    When these two SEC East teams play, it is always a special treat. Every year, fans expect a hard-nosed, well-played football game and every year, they are not disappointed.

    One of these teams will most likely represent the East division in the SEC championship game, and this head-to-head matchup could be the deciding factor.

    Along with this, both teams offer two of the best offensive players in the conference in Marcus Lattimore of SC and Aaron Murray of UGA. It's hard to say if this game will be a a defensive war or an offensive explosion, but either way, it will be an excellent showing.

October 13: Texas vs Oklahoma

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    The Red River Rivalry is one of college football's greatest rivalries and both these teams are on the rise. Oklahoma returns their star quarterback Landry Jones while Texas welcomes in a solid recruiting class and looks to return to their winning ways.

    The tradition and intensity of this rivalry is enough to make this a must-watch game, but it also could hold major Big 12 championship implications for both teams.

    Also, Landry Jones has the opportunity to make a Heisman push in a game that the whole nation will be watching.

October 14: The First BCS Rankings Are Revealed

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    The craziness that is college football is all run by the BCS. After October 13, the top programs in the country will officially know where they stand as things heat up in the 2012 season.

    The BCS rankings can be difficult to understand, but one thing is clear, they are the final word. No other poll matters once the BCS rankings are released and teams must do whatever they have to do in order to place themselves on top.

    With the release of these polls, the media and fans will also be able to start projecting possible bowl matchups later on in the year.

October 20: Virginia Tech vs Clemson

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    This matchup on October 20 will be a rematch of the 2011 ACC championship game and that is just fine with us. Both of these teams are expected to compete for an ACC title next year and this very game could hold major implications for their chances.

    That being said, anytime you have an opportunity to watch Clemson's Sammy Watkins take the field, you better take it and enjoy it, no matter who the Tigers play. The rising sophomore was a complete stud as a freshman and is easily one of the most exciting players in the nation heading into 2012.

October 27: Notre Dame vs Oklahoma

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    Notre Dame and Oklahoma are two of the most prestigious programs in the country, which is why this matchup is so intriguing. Both teams didn't experience great success last season, but they are on the rise and could offer an extremely exciting game.

    When the Fighting Irish visit Norman, they may be fielding highly-touted incoming freshman QB Gunner Kiel, which only raises the interest of this game.

    Notre Dame has struggled in recent years and big-time stages like these are exactly where they need to capitalize in order to put themselves back on the map.

November 1: Virginia Tech vs Miami

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    When you've had it up to here with your boss or your not sure how you can stomach another day of school, hope that it's this week and flip on the Thursday night ESPN game. This matchup could be the perfect cure for whatever struggles you're experiencing during the work week and may even put a smile on your tired face.

    Miami is slowly improving under Al Golden and Virginia Tech always fields a solid team. If for some reason this game isn't enjoyable for you, give a Lifetime movie a try. Anything to lift your spirits.

November 3: Alabama vs LSU

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    Apparently these two teams played twice last year and the rematch was a pretty big deal. Somehow that didn't cross my radar, but I do know that these two programs are probably the best in the SEC. Both coaches reel in top recruiting classes each year and this shows on the field.

    Very few teams field as much talent as LSU or Alabama and anytime these two schools meet, it's a complete war—or so I've heard.

November 8: Florida State vs Virginia Tech

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    Another 2012 Heisman hopeful, E.J. Manuel could make a major push in the race with a big game against Virginia Tech.

    Per usual, Virginia Tech is playing in 15 Thursday night games this season and this is one of them. Therefore, Manuel will have the stage all to himself on November 8. If he can put together a great game, he will assert himself in the Heisman conversation.

    Also, Florida State has a talented team coming into 2012 along with an impressive recruiting class, so they should be extremely competitive in the ACC.

November 10: Georgia vs Auburn

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    Known as the "Deep South's Oldest Rivalry," Auburn and Georgia have been duking it out on the gridiron since 1892. This rivalry has become a great college football tradition, but due to conference realignment, it is in danger of ending.

    With such a great tradition on display, I suggest you take full advantage of it while it lasts, considering its future is not completely set in stone.

November 17: Ohio State vs Wisconsin

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    Braxton Miller officially arrived on the scene against Wisconsin last season when he launched a game-winning touchdown pass in the final minute to give Ohio State a huge victory.

    Fast forward a year later and the Buckeyes are now led by Urban Meyer, who upset Bret Bielema with some of his recruiting tactics. Although the two coaches claim the situation was resolved, you have to think they are both taking this game personally.

    All that aside, any opportunity to watch the young QB Braxton Miller play should be taken.

November 23: Arkansas vs LSU

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    Although it may seem impossible, all of you must roll out of bed the day after Thanksgiving in order to watch this great matchup. LSU and Arkansas should be near the top of the SEC West division and this game will mostly have very high stakes.

    Last year, Tyrann Mathieu stole the show and received a ton of Heisman hype in the process. If he manages to replicate his performance from last season, he may find himself as a front runner in a wide open Heisman race.

    For Arkansas, QB Tyler Wilson will be the key to their success in this game and depending how the season goes, he could find himself in the Heisman conversation with a big game the day after Turkey Day.

November 24: Rivalry Weekend

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    One of college football's most appealing aspects are the intense rivalries that are embedded in the sport. No other weekend on the schedule displays more intense rivalries than November 24.

    Some of these passionate rivalries being played on this day include: Ohio State vs Michigan, Auburn vs Alabama, Clemson vs South Carolina, Florida vs Florida State, Georgia vs Georgia Tech and Notre Dame vs USC.

    If you are only allowed to watch one Saturday of football a year, do yourself a favor and get out of that situation and for now, choose this Saturday.

November 25: The Sunday Before the Conference Championships

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    By this stage in the season, we are now afforded the chance to understand exactly where everyone stands in terms of the BCS. Teams atop the BCS rankings will be partaking in their respected conference championships and may only have one final road block in front of them and a shot at a national title.

    These stakes make for extremely intriguing conference championships and the week leading up to them is almost impossible to get through. Keep your eyes on the prize, people.

November 30: The Pac-12 Championship Game

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    Due to USC's postseason ineligibility, poor fans all over the country missed out on what could have been an epic rematch between them and the Oregon Ducks.

    Moving on, hopefully lightning will strike twice on the Pacific coast and the Trojans will be forced to meet Oregon twice in one year and this time, it can actually happen.

    Nonetheless, whoever emerges from this game as the victor will not only be named Pac-12 champions, but will also receive an automatic Rose Bowl bid.

December 1: Conference Championships

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    Conference championships have countless implications on the line. Not only are you playing for a conference title, but also an automatic BCS bowl bid or even a national championship bid.

    On December 1, the Big Ten, SEC and ACC host their conference championships and at least one, if not both national championship contenders will be playing in one of these matchups.

    This will be one of the most entertaining weekends in the season and if you put off yard work until this Saturday, you will be extremely sorry.

December 2: The Final BCS Rankings Are Released

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    On December 2, all the speculation, predictions and analysis will be ended with the release of the final BCS rankings. ESPN will most likely host a show that releases the BCS rankings and then the bowl games that result from it.

    Unfortunately, you will have to wait a few weeks to see your team play again, but it is always exciting to find out where your team will be competing in the upcoming bowl season.

    Also, above all else, the national championship will be laid out and as fans or media, we will begin to analyze the biggest matchup of the entire season. 

December 4: College Football Hall of Fame Inducts Their 2012 Class

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    Right after the circus that is the release of the BCS rankings, the College Football Hall of Fame will induct their 2012 class. Expect Orlando Pace of Ohio State and Tommie Frazier of Nebraska to headline the class.

    Other possibilities include: Phil Fulmer, Danny Wuerffel, Raghib Ismail and Ty Detmer. This event gives fans the opportunity to appreciate the great past and tradition of college football.

December 6: College Football Award Ceremony

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    The college football award ceremony is a fan favorite for many reasons. For one, the ceremony covers every position and gives recognition to student-athletes that don't normally get their names in the papers.

    Also, fans love to tune in and see if their team's top players will bring home any hardware. The ceremony gives us a chance to reflect on the season that just passed and may raise our awareness of some players that we may have never known without it.

December 8: The Heisman Trophy Award Winner Is Announced

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    One of sport's most prestigious awards will be handed out on December 8. After a long and exciting season, the Heisman trophy is award to the most outstanding college football player in the nation.

    Some years, by the middle of the season, most people already know who will win the award but in 2012, it looks like it will be a wide-open race to the finish. As of now, the front runner is probably USC QB Matt Barkley, but this can change at any moment, especially in college football. 

December 15: The Very First Bowl Game of the Year

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    Bowl season is a great way to see other programs you wouldn't normally see during the year. Smaller teams are given the opportunity to play on a national stage and we, as fans, eat it up.

    Whether you are a casual sports fan who will watch it when it's on, or an intense fanatic that fills out a confidence sheet, bowl season is a great time for everyone.

    December 15 should mark the beginning of the bowl season and while it may include small-market teams with small followings, the entire country will welcome it with open arms.

December 18-January 1: Capital One Bowl Week

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    Every year when that certain Capital One Bowl Week commercial comes on ESPN, I get a warm feeling inside. As the week rages on, the bowl season leaves the smaller-market games in the rear-view mirror and gets into the thick of big-time matchups.

    The further into the week you get, the more intriguing the games become and the bigger the stars shine. Just don't blink, because it goes by fast.

December 24: The Hawaii Bowl

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    In between watching A Christmas Story over and over again, gather around your loved ones on Christmas Eve and enjoy some football. Santa will wait for this game to end before he visits your residence, so feel free to indulge in this unique bowl game.

    This is one of my favorite bowl games and most likely on Christmas Eve you'll find yourself in a good mood, so why not enjoy it even more with the sport you hold so dear to your heart?

New Year's Day

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    Besides resolutions, nothing is more associated with New Year's Day than college football. Along with a slew of solid bowl games throughout the beginning of the day, you also get to watch the Rose Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl.

    I strongly suggest that this year you make your resolution to sit in one spot the entire time and completely devote the day to watching great college football.

January 2: The Sugar Bowl

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    Last year's Sugar Bowl was a competitive overtime thriller between Michigan and Virginia Tech that even had a fair share of controversy. In the past few years, the Sugar Bowl has delivered on its expectations and supplied us with a pretty solid game to watch.

    Expect this year to be no different, because the Sugar Bowl always seems to bring in two teams that put on a great show.

January 3: The Orange Bowl

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    In recent years, the Orange Bowl has probably been the least entertaining BCS bowl game due to the decline of the bowl game's two automatic bid conferences in the ACC and Big East. This past season, the Orange Bowl was a complete blowout of Clemson, orchestrated by West Virginia.

    Nonetheless, it is one of the last college football games left, so no matter how it goes, people will most likely tune in. Hopefully next year, the game will actually be competitive for more than the first five minutes. 

January 4/5: The FCS National Championship

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    With just the BCS National Championship left, many fans turn to the FCS subdivision to quench their desperate thirsts for football. The game is normally played a few days before the FBS national championship and will most likely include a school you didn't know existed.

    But hey, with so little football left, there really is no room to complain from here on out.

January 7: The BCS National Championship Game

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    After another long, beautiful, exhilarating and passionate college football season, January 7 will cap it all off and determine the BCS national champion. By the time this game comes around, both teams will be completely dissected by analysts and the anticipation leading up to the game will almost be unbearable.

    However, as you watch the game, you won't be able to help but feel a little bittersweet, as you are completely aware that the season is officially coming to an end. But after experiencing such joy throughout the year, you know the next season is more than worth the wait, right?

    Of course it is. I already know your answer.