College Football 2012: 51 Games on the Road to the National Championship

Joe PenkalaCorrespondent IApril 18, 2012

College Football 2012: 51 Games on the Road to the National Championship

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    With the full 2012-13 college football schedule out, teams can now begin to outline their path to the national title.

    Some will face huge challenges in their out-of-conference schedule, some teams face early conference tests and some have to grind their way through a season full of challenges. 

    As we take a look at the full schedule, there are plenty of games that will ultimately play into which team heads to the BCS National Championship.

    Here is a look at 51 games that will help shape that path. 

Week 1: Michigan vs Alabama

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    In the opening week of the season, Michigan and Alabama meet in Texas to kick off the 2012-13 campaign. This will be a game that is spotlighted and will receive a lot of attention. 

    Look for the Tide to control this one from start and be on the way to defending their title. 

Week 1: Clemson vs Auburn

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    After they fell apart late in 2011, the Clemson Tigers have a lot of their weapons back in 2012.

    In the opening week, both of these teams will have a lot to lose. But Clemson has a great chance of making a BCS title run, and a loss to open the season would derail that.

Week 1: Boise State at Michigan State

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    A lot of attention will be on this game, as well as the Broncos go on the road to open the year without Kellen Moore. A loss in the first week of the season would take care of any BCS conversation surrounding Boise State.

Week 2: Georgia at Missouri

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    Georgia came out of the gates slow last year but managed to string 10 straight wins together. This year, they play Missouri early on and need to come out with a win to gain some early momentum. 

Week 2: Texas A&M vs Florida

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    Texas A&M gets their welcome to the SEC by hosting the Gators at home. Early on in the year, we will see if there is any noticeable improvement from the Gators and also how the Aggies handle being in their new conference. 

Week 2: Washington at LSU

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    Last year, the LSU defense was amazing and not much will have changed coming into 2012. While the Huskies may be able to put up some points, the Tigers will be too much for them to handle especially at home.

Week 3: Alabama at Arkansas

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    It doesn't take long for business to pick up in the SEC. Last year, Arkansas only lost to Bama and LSU, both coming on the road. This year, both teams play the Hogs on the road, and if Arkansas has any aspirations of making a title run, it has to start here.

Week 3: USC at Stanford

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    Maybe the only bump in the road for USC before their game against Oregon comes against the Cardinal. Without Andrew Luck, Stanford will have a hard time keeping up, but if the run game and defense can stand tall, this could be an interesting battle.

Week 4: Michigan at Notre Dame

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    Last year, these two teams hooked up for an instant classic at Michigan Stadium. This year, the game heads to South Bend, and with both teams having high expectations on the season, it will be a huge win for whichever team comes out on top.

Week 4: Clemson at Florida State

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    Last year, Clemson had to dodge some early tests and this year will be the same. After an opening week game against Auburn, Clemson must find a way to take down the Seminoles for the second straight season.

Week 4: Kansas State at Oklahoma

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    Both teams enter the 2012 season with the talent to win the conference. In this early conference game, the Wildcats and Sooners go head to head. This will likely be an elimination game in the conference race and potentially derail national title dreams.

Week 5: Arkansas at Texas A&M

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    The Aggies remember last year's game all to well last years. With a second-half lead, Texas A&M watched Arkansas come all the way back and pull off the win. This year, the Hogs are hoping to still be in title contention, making this game even bigger. 

Week 5: Texas at Oklahoma State

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    Oklahoma State is going to be in a rebuilding phase, and it may take a loss to Texas to realize they are not going to be in this year's BCS title race.

Week 5: Wisconsin at Nebraska

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    Wisconsin has won the Big 10 the past two seasons, but this year, they are without Russell Wilson but held onto Montee Ball. Both teams have a solid shot at winning the conference and have an outside chance of going to the national title game if things swing their way. 

Week 5: Ohio State at Michigan State

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    While no one may be talking about them, the Spartans will have a strong defense and may surprise some people this year. A second consecutive win over the Buckeyes may grab some people's attention both in the conference and nationally. 

Week 6: West Virginia at Texas

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    The Mountaineers are in a different world now, as they play their first season in the Big 12. The Texas defense should be strong as usual, and West Virginia will likely be still undefeated at this point of the season. 

Week 6: Arkansas at Auburn

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    The schedule marches on for Arkansas, as they take on Auburn. While the Tigers have the depth to replace the loss of Michael Dyer, it may take some time. Arkansas hopes to keep things rolling towards a potential title berth. 

Week 6: Washington at Oregon

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    While USC's bump in the road takes place at Stanford, Oregon's challenge before meeting up with USC will be at home against the Huskies. The only way the Huskies can stay in this one is to score like they did against Baylor and hope Oregon doesn't show up until the second half. 

Week 6: Georgia at South Carolina

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    This game could go a long way to deciding which team goes to the SEC title game. Both teams have a ton of talent on offense, and the coaches in this game will not be afraid to put the points on the board. 

Week 6: LSU at Florida

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    With the recent decline in Florida's play, this game appears to have more meaning to LSU than the Gators. LSU's disappointing performance in the 2011 title game should still be fresh in their minds and will motivate them early in the season. 

Week 6: Nebraska at Ohio State

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    Despite not being bowl eligible this year, the Buckeyes can still ruin things for other teams. Nebraska has a solid team on both sides of the ball, but this could be the first of many statement games for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes. 

Week 7: Oklahoma vs Texas

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    One of the best rivalries will take place in Week 7, when Oklahoma and Texas come together. The Sooners may still have a shot at an undefeated season, and if that isn't enough, the Sooners or Longhorns rarely need motivation to beat up on each other. 

Week 7: South Carolina at LSU

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    LSU has a lot of motivation this season. With the way that last year ended, the Tigers should have a good chance of being unbeaten at this point and have the defense to shut down the Gamecocks offense. 

Week 7: USC at Washington

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    A couple weeks before their game with Oregon, USC ventures back out on the road to take on Washington. Washington's offense can put up the points but will have a hard time keeping up with Matt Barkley and company. 

Week 8: LSU at Texas A&M

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    LSU gets a look at the newest member of the conference but will get it on the road. With their huge home game against Alabama looming two weeks later, the Tigers must remained focused and get this win. 

Week 8: Kansas State at West Virginia

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    Kansas State has to head on the road for a huge conference game. While both teams have dynamic and high scoring offenses, the Mountaineers will be hard to beat at home in this game. 

Week 8: Michigan vs Michigan State

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    This will be another rivalry game that will get extremely heated. Michigan State comes in with a great defense, and Michigan has a great offense. The winner will have bragging rights and a huge win on their resume. 

Week 8: Virginia Tech at Clemson

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    Where have we seen this matchup before? Well, how about twice last year. 

    These two teams meet up, and the stakes will likely be there again, as both need a win for their national title hopes. But it may not be the only time they play this year.

Week 9: Michigan State at Wisconsin

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    Last year, Michigan State and Wisconsin gave us two of the most entertaining games of the season. While one or more may be out of the national title race, this is sure to be a classic that will keep the nation talking. 

Week 9: Florida vs Georgia

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    Georgia has a great chance of keeping their title hopes alive to this point. If the Bulldogs can pick up where they left off during last year's regular season, they should be in good shape, especially with Aaron Murray at the helm. 

Week 9: Notre Dame at Oklahoma

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    If the Irish can get through their games against the Michigan schools, there is a good chance that they could be undefeated and meeting up with an undefeated Sooners team. If this is the case, prepare the hype machine now. 

Week 9: Ohio State at Penn State

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    While Ohio State may not be bowl eligible, their game against Penn State could have implications on the Big 10 race and maybe on the title race. Despite their poor offense, the Nittany Lions have a solid defense that could surprise some people again this year. 

Week 10: Virginia Tech at Miami

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    If Virginia Tech is able to get through their game against Clemson, they will still have a shot of being undefeated. While they should beat Miami, they head on the road and could overlook this game, which could be costly. 

Week 10: Alabama at LSU

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    Nobody would be stunned to see these two teams meet up and be undefeated for the second straight year. With the game already set for night at Death Valley, this will be an instant classic. 

Week 10: Oregon at USC

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    Can you imagine four teams that are undefeated play each other during the same week? This could act as a mini playoff, but Oregon and USC sure have the schedules to meet without a loss.

    If they do, the winner could have the inside track on being at home for the conference title game and a potential title berth. 

Week 10: TCU at West Virginia

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    Both of the teams new to the Big 12 will be on display in this game at West Virginia. While TCU will not be a pushover in the Big 12, the Mountaineer offense should prove to be too much for the Horned Frogs. 

Week 10: Nebraska at Michigan State

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    This game between Michigan State and Nebraska could go a long way to determining which team goes to the Big 10 title game. While both teams could have a loss at this point, they may still be one of the one-loss teams under consideration. 

Week 11: Florida State at Virginia Tech

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    Should Virginia Tech get past Clemson, they could still be looking at an undefeated season. While the Seminoles will pose a huge threat to that run, the game is in Blacksburg, and the stadium will be rocking on this Thursday night. 

Week 11: Texas A&M at Alabama

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    Texas A&M will get a good close look at the defending champs as they head to Alabama for this game. Should Bama still be undefeated after games against Arkansas and LSU, the Aggies may be on the train tracks in this matchup. 

Week 11: West Virginia at Oklahoma State

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    The Mountaineers could continue to have success in the Big 12, but this is a game they could look past. With Oklahoma going to Morgantown the following week, West Virginia must not let up on the road against the Cowboys. 

Week 12: Ohio State at Wisconsin

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    Last year, these two teams played to an outstanding finish. This year, Russell Wilson is gone for Wisconsin, but Montee Ball is capable of carrying the load. Look for a classic to go down at Camp Randall. 

Week 12: Oregon vs Stanford

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    As we saw last year, a one-loss team could have a shot at the national title game. If the Ducks have a loss or are undefeated, this will be a huge game as the Cardinal will still have a strong run game to go up against the Ducks defense. 

Week 12: Oklahoma at West Virginia

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    This may be the game of the year in the Big 12. Both teams have the capability to go undefeated to this point, and it will be loud as ever in Morgantown. Look for both teams to come out firing, but this could come down to the home-field advantage. 

Week 13: Michigan at Ohio State

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    Last year, Michigan broke a streak of wins by Ohio State and came out on top. Even if the Wolverines lose their opener to Alabama, they could be a one-loss team at the end of the season, making this a must win. 

Week 13: TCU at Texas

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    This is a game that will be important to teams like Oklahoma, West Virginia or possibly Kansas State. If the conference hopes to get one of their teams into the national title game, they need teams that can perform well. 

Week 13: Auburn at Alabama

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    As the season begins to wind down, Alabama hosts the Iron Bowl, and it is always a battle with Auburn. With a shot at going to the SEC title in their sights, the Tide need to win this game. 

Week 13: Wisconsin at Penn State

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    Happy Valley will be rocking at the end of the season as Wisconsin comes to town. This is a game that will be won between the tackles, as both teams have strong running games and  solid defenses. 

Week 13: South Carolina at Clemson

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    As Clemson's season comes to an end, they need to avoid a late-year collapse like last year. With this game being at home, Clemson can earn some momentum as they potentially head to the ACC title game. 

Week 13: LSU at Arkansas

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    As LSU's season comes to an end, they may have one loss or be undefeated, and the same goes for Arkansas. With these kind of potential outcomes, this will be a game that both teams desperately need to win. 

Pac-12 Title Game

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    No matter which team wins the game in Southern California, these two teams appear to be on a collision course for the Pac-12 title game. The winner of this game could be undefeated or only have one loss, which would be huge in terms of earning a shot at the national title game. 

SEC Championship

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    Over the past few years, it's become apparent that the winner of the SEC title game heads to the national title game. This year, the SEC has teams like Alabama, LSU and Arkansas, all of which could end up winning the conference and heading to the BCS title game.