College Football 2011: Make-or-Break Game on Every Top 25 Team's Schedule

John SmithCorrespondent IIMarch 10, 2011

College Football 2011: Make-or-Break Game on Every Top 25 Team's Schedule

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    College football season is a little under six months away, but it is never too early for another look at predictions for the 2011 season.

    The focus on this article is examining the make-or-break game for each top 25 team.

    After closely examining the schedules of the top 25 teams, I have come up with a list of which games I expect to make, or break the seasons of these respected teams.

    Granted, for all of these teams, there are multiple games that will carry a great deal of importance, but I narrowed it down to one game.

    Even if the listed teams doesn't win the game I mentioned, that doesn't mean the season is a failure. It just means their chance of winning a national title, or even a conference title takes a hit.

    Also, the game mentioned could mean alot in regards to public perception of not only the team, but the conference as well.

    With that being said, what are the make-or-break games for every team in the top 25?


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25. Mississippi State

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    Make-or-Break Game: Sept. 10 at Auburn

    In 2010, the national champion Auburn Tigers escaped from Starkville, Mississippi with a 17-14 win.

    The Bulldogs will get a chance for revenge when they make the trip to Auburn, Alabama during the second week of the season.

    This will be a very important game for the Bulldogs for their placement in the SEC West.

    They will play better teams in the West, including Arkansas, LSU and Alabama, but the Auburn game will be a measuring stick game in the beginning of the season.

24. Penn State

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    Make-Or-Break Game: Nov. 12 vs. Nebraska

    The make-or-break could be the game against Alabama on Sept. 10, but this game will be more important to the Nittany Lions in terms of the Big Ten race.

    Penn State will have a difficult time competing for a national title, but the Big Ten is in their reach.

    The Nittany Lions will close out the 2011 season against the top three teams in the Big Ten; Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin.

    The Big Ten schedule up to that point isn't that difficult and very manageable, but the nation will know if this team is for real or not during the month of November.

23. Missouri

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    Make-Or-Break Game: Sept. 17 at Oklahoma

    The Tigers will try to compete in the new look Big 12, and the country will know how good they are when they make the trip to Norman, Oklahoma.

    Certainly the Tigers will be heavy underdogs, but this game will be more about how this team competes.

    The Tigers have some difficult games including games against Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State, but the game against Oklahoma will be a measuring stick game.

    Winning the game won't necessarily be the most important thing, but if they can compete at a high level, then the Tigers could finish near the top of the Big 12.

22. Texas

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    Make-Or-Break Game: Oct. 8 vs. Oklahoma (Dallas, Texas)

    The Longhorns finished the 2010 season with a disappointing 5-7 record, and will have to overcome the loss of Will Muschamp to succeed in the 2011 season.

    The schedule doesn't get much easier, and a measuring stick game will be the game against Oklahoma.

    Certainly Oklahoma is one of the favorites to contend for a BCS title in 2011, but this is a rivalry game, anything can happen.

    A loss here doesn't mean a disappointing season, but a win could make the season. The Longhorns still have to play Texas A&M and Oklahoma State, but a win here could mean a top spot in the Big 12.

21. Florida

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    Make-Or-Break Game: Oct. 1 vs. Alabama

    The whole month of October could be included in the make-or-break for the Florida Gators.

    Following the home game against Alabama to begin the month, the Gators will then face LSU and Auburn on the road, a bye week and then a game against Georgia in Jacksonville.

    If that isn't the hardest schedule for the month of October, I don't know what is. All four of those games could be ones that the Gators could lose, but the game against Alabama will start it all off.

    Will Muschamp has the ability to be a great coach, but his record might suffer in the first year with the schedule that is put in front of him.

20. Virginia Tech

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    Make-Or-Break Game: Oct. 1 vs. Clemson

    The Hokies catch a break with their tough games against Clemson and Miami being at home. Another break is that they don't have to play the best team in the ACC, Florida State, in the regular season.

    Outside of those two games, the Hokies will be heavy favorites for every game they play.

    The game against Clemson could be the difference between an undefeated regular season, and a record with a blemish.

    The Hokies are the favorites to win the Coastal division, and if they beat Clemson, they should lock up a spot in Charlotte for the ACC Championship.

19. Notre Dame

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    Make-Or-Break Game: Sept. 17 vs. Michigan State

    The Fighting Irish bring in a very good team to compete in the 2011 season.

    The Spartans went 11-1 in the regular season last year, and won a share of the Big Ten title.

    This is following the Sept. 10 game against Michigan, but the Fighting Irish should be able to hand Brady Hoke his first loss.

    Following the game against Michigan State, Notre Dame will play Pittsburgh, another tough game.

    The nation will get a better understanding of how good this Notre Dame team is come late September. However, expect Lou Holtz to mention Notre Dame as a national title contender leading up to the season.

18. Georgia

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    Make-Or-Break Game: Sept. 10 vs. South Carolina

    The Bulldogs finished 2010 with a disappointing 6-7 record, but should be much improved in 2011.

    Some might say that the game against Boise State to open the season is the make-or-break game, but that isn't the case.

    The game against Boise will be huge for the Bulldogs, but the game that has SEC implications is the make-or-break game for this team

    When the Gamecocks travel to Athens, Georgia on Sept. 10, the representative from the SEC East for the SEC Championship will be decided.

17. Nebraska

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    Make-Or-Break Game: Oct. 1 at Wisconsin

    Nebraska will open life in the Big Ten with a road trip to Madison, Wisconsin to face the Badgers.

    Welcome to the Big Ten.

    What makes the welcome even more grad is the game against a full-strength Ohio State team the following week.

    The nation will know how good Nebraska is following this two game stretch, and if the Cornhuskers can get through it perfect, then there is a great chance they could play in the first ever Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis.

16. South Carolina

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    Make-Or-Break Game: Sept. 10 at Georgia

    This is the make-or-break game for the Georgia Bulldogs, along with the South Carolina Gamecocks.

    Like I said before this matchup will decide who plays in the SEC Championship representing the SEC East.

    The reason is the schedule of the schools in the SEC East. Both the Bulldogs and Gamecocks do not have to play Alabama and LSU, the two best teams in the SEC.

    On the other hand, Florida and Tennessee will have to play both of those teams.

    Essentially what that means, is that the winner of the game in Athens on Sept. 10 will have a two game lead over every team in the East.

    That is why the game between the Bulldogs and Gamecocks is so important to both teams.

15. Michigan State

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    Make-Or-Break Game: Oct. 1 at Ohio State

    The game against Notre Dame on Sept. 17 will mean alot to this team, but the edge here goes to a conference game.

    This will be the fifth game of the year for the Buckeyes, so they will be without Pryor and Company.

    However, that doesn't diminish any importance of this game for the Spartans. This is still a game they need to win.

    Sparty will have a bye following the game against the Buckeyes, but will then have to play Michigan, Wisconsin and then at Nebraska.

    If the Spartans want another chance of clinching a Big Ten Championship berth, they will have to beat Ohio State in the beginning of October.

14. Auburn

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    Make-Or-Break Game: Oct. 1 at South Carolina

    The game against South Carolina will open the gauntlet of the Auburn Tigers' SEC schedule.

    Following South Carolina, the Tigers will play Arkansas, Florida and LSU.

    The Tigers will have a difficult time competing at the level they did last year for a couple of reasons. First, the schedule is more difficult. Second, there is no Cam Newton or NIck Fairley.

    The schedule for the Tigers is extremely difficult with road games against South Carolina, Georgia, Clemson, LSU and Arkansas, along with home games against Mississippi State and Alabama.

    They have the hardest schedule of any SEC team, and they will have a tough time even reaching 10 wins.

13. Arkansas

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    Make-Or-Break Game: Sept. 24 at Alabama

    The Razorbacks are the third best team in the SEC behind Alabama and LSU.

    Even with the loss of Ryan Mallet, there shouldn't be a drop off with Tyler Wilson. Also, don't forget that the Hogs have one of the best receiving groups in the nation.

    Arkansas will face LSU in the final week of the regular season, but the nation will know exactly how good this team is following their road trip to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

    This will be a very difficult task, but that's just life in the SEC.

12. TCU

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    Make-Or-Break Game: Nov. 12 at Boise State

    What other game would it be for the Horned Frogs?

    This is the game that will decide the Mountain West Conference, and the winner might have a chance to go to a BCS Bowl game.

    Wisconsin wanted a rematch with TCU, but the Horned Frogs declined because there was no return trip back to Texas.

    There is the game against BYU in late October, but the game against Boise State will have alot more importance to this team.

11. Wisconsin

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    Make-Or-Break Game: Oct. 1 vs. Nebraska

    This will be the first of many tough games for the Badgers. The game against Nebraska will kick off the Big Ten conference slate after a fairly weak non-conference schedule.

    The game between these two is a make-or-break game for both teams, however, they will be playing in different divisions in the Big Ten.

    This means that is a chance of a potential rematch in the Big Ten Championship.

    With that being said, this will be a judgement game for both teams, and the winner will have a leg up on the other competition in the conference.

10. Texas A&M

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    Make-Or-Break Game: Nov. 5 at Oklahoma

    This is a game that could decide the Big 12 champion for the 2011 season. Oklahoma is the favorite, but Texas A&M and Oklahoma State aren't far behind.

    The Aggies will play Oklahoma State in late September, but the game against the Sooners on Nov. 5 will be more important.

    Texas A&M will have to travel on the road for this game, which makes it even more difficult.

    With all of that being said, the season will be well under way by the time this game is played, but it will make or break the Aggies 2011 season.

9. Florida State

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    Make-Or-Break Game: Sept. 17 vs. Oklahoma

    The Seminoles will play the Clemson Tigers the following week, but the game at home against a top-ranked Oklahoma team is the game that will make, or break their season.

    This game will be used as a measuring stick for both teams when they meet, but this game is very important for the Florida State Seminoles.

    The ACC is not one of the better conferences in football, and when their best team plays another top team it is not only important for them, but for the entire conference.

    This game will have no impact on the ACC race, but it could add validity to a potential ACC champion.

8. Boise State

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    Make-Or-Break Game: Sept. 3 vs. Georgia (Atlanta)

    The Broncos do have a game against TCU later in the season, but their success will be judged following the game against an SEC opponent, the Georgia Bulldogs.

    Boise State has done very well in past years, but the knock on them is that they haven't scheduled the big-name, big-conference opponent.

    That will change when the Broncos meet the Bulldogs in the Georgia Dome to open the 2011 college football season.

    Granted, this is a Bulldogs team coming off of a 6-7 record, but it is still an SEC team that could do some damage in 2011.

    Georgia could put an end to the discussion of whether Boise State deserves a shot at a title, or they could give Boise State a great win on their resume to help them make their case.

7. Oklahoma State

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    Make-Or-Break Game: Nov. 26 vs. Oklahoma

    Yes, this is the last week of the season, but this is without a doubt, the biggest game for both of these teams.

    Without a Big 12 Championship game, this will be the last opportunity for these teams to show what they can do on the football field.

    The Cowboys do have games against Texas and Texas A&M earlier in the year, but Bedlam will be more important and will be used to decide the fate of this season.

    Even if this team goes into this game with an undefeated record, they could still end with a disappointing loss to Oklahoma in the final weekend of the year.

6. Ohio State

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    Make-Or-Break Game: Off-season vs. the NCAA

    With what has gone on with Jim Tressel and Tatoo-gate in the recent days, the Buckeyes have bigger things to worry about that games in the fall.

    There will be a time when that is important, but for now, the Buckeyes have to fear for what the NCAA is going to do.

    The Buckeyes have already fined Tressel $250,000 and suspended him for the first two games.

    Now, the Buckeyes are awaiting word from the NCAA. With what the NCAA has done to players such as A.J. Green and Marcel Dareus, it is hard to believe that this will be the end of this.

    Some have speculated that Tressel could be fired for what he did, and there is a possibility, but I don't see that happening.

    Ohio State can worry about games against Miami, Michigan State, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan later on this year, but for now, they just need to worry about the NCAA.

5. Stanford

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    Make-Or-Break Game: Nov. 12 vs. Oregon

    The Cardinals already caught a break with Andrew Luck returning to school for his senior season.

    Now, they have to worry about the 2011 season and the game against Oregon.

    Stanford is a very impressive team, and will be one of the better ones for the 2011 season.

    However, their season will depend on the result of their game against Oregon.

    Oregon will be a national title contender, along with Stanford, so this game has more importance than just the Pac-12 race.

    With the new look Pac-12, Stanford and Oregon will be in the same division, meaning that this game will most likely decide the North's representative for the first Pac-12 Championship.

4. Oregon

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    Make-Or-Break Game: Sept. 3 vs. LSU (Dallas, Texas)

    Just like Boise State, a game against an SEC opponent on the first weekend of the year will make, or break their season.

    This is a game the Ducks can certainly win, but it won't be an easy task going up against the LSU Tigers.

    LSU will be one of the best teams in the SEC, as well as the entire country.

    The teams will meet in Jerry World, and there is a good chance that the Gameday crew will be there.

    The game will be very important for the title hopes of both teams, but the game carries more importance for the Oregon Ducks.

3. LSU Tigers

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    Make-Or-Break Game: Nov. 5 at Alabama

    This is the biggest game of the year for not only the SEC season, but for all of college football in general.

    I might be a little biased living in SEC country, but a game featuring two of the best three teams in the country is hard to beat.

    The game will take place in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and will most likely decide who represents the SEC West in Atlanta come early December.

    LSU won this game 24-21 in Baton Rouge last year, and I expect another great game this time in Tuscaloosa.

    LSU has alot of question marks, especially surrounding the quarterback position, but they should have most of them answered by the time of this game.

    However, the answer that won't be answered until after this game, is how good this LSU team is.

2. Oklahoma

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    Make-Or-Break Game: Nov. 26 at Oklahoma State

    I know that this game takes place in the last weekend of the regular season, but this is Bedlam.

    It is Bedlam in Oklahoma, and this Bedlam will most likely decide the Big 12 Champion.

    With Colorado and Nebraska leaving the Big 12, there will be no conference championship game.

    This means that this will be the last chance for these teams to impress and show the country how good they are.

    The two teams might be undefeated coming into this game, but only one team will come out victorious.

1. Alabama

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    Make-Or-Break Game: Nov. 5 vs. LSU

    Just like LSU, the make or break game for the Crimson Tide happens in the first week of November.

    Alabama will have challenges before and after this game, but the game against the Tigers will be the most important.

    The Crimson Tide come in as my favorites to win the BCS Championship, and in order to accomplish that goal, they will have to defeat the LSU Tigers, along with every other opponent.

    As a fan of college football, and the SEC in particular, I cannot wait for this game. And I know the same holds true for player, coaches and fans of college football.

    There will be alot said about this game between now and kickoff, but one thing remains certain, is that this game carries a great deal of importance for both the SEC and national college football scene.