College Football 2011: Each Week's Biggest Matchups
Looking at the upcoming 2011 college football schedule, one can only wonder when and where the best matchups are going to be. Luckily for us fans, there are big games each and every week, no matter what color flag is waving from your car window.
Each slide has the top three games for each week. There are several ingredients that make a game worth watching, and it's not just each team's rankings.
I took into consideration National or Conference Championship implications, recent drama, inter-team hatred and, of course, rankings (USA Today Coaches' Poll).
3 Oregon vs 4 LSU
7 Boise St at 22 Georgia
15 TCU at Baylor
The 2011 season starts off with a bang as two Top Five teams square off to get us underway. Oregon is still sore from its BCS Title game loss and will be looking to get a return trip on track early against one of the most athletic (and scary) defenses in the country. Yet another case of unstoppable force vs. immovable object.
Boise State makes another attempt to gain national respect and starts its season off with a big-name opponent. Its win against Virginia Tech in last year's opener would have helped had it not blown one against Nevada later in the year.
TCU takes on an improved Baylor team as both look to earn respect early in the year.
2 Alabama at 25 Penn St
18 Notre Dame at Michigan
Utah at USC
Their first meeting wasn't close (24-3 'Bama) but the two storied programs complete the back end of their series at the Nittony Lions' Beaver Stadium, which is one of the loudest and largest crowds in the country. No doubt every single one of the 107,282 seats will be filled with raucous fans ready to cheer on their team.
Notre Dame and Michigan are two programs looking to rebound from past disappointments. Last year, Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson scored with 27 seconds to play, ending a fierce Irish comeback and winning the game.
New Pac 12 addition Utah gets a warm welcome to the league as it travels to the LA Coliseum to play USC, who have been crowned conference champs 38 times.
1 Oklahoma at 5 Florida St
17 Michigan St at 18 Notre Dame
16 Ohio State at Miami (FL)
Top-ranked Oklahoma and Florida State meet for the third time this century. Last year, OU handled FSU easily in a 47-17 rout in Norman. The other time the schools met? The 2001 Orange Bowl where OU won 13-2 to win a National Championship. Bad blood? I'd say so.
Last year's Michigan State/Notre Dame game produced one of the wildest finishes all season, as MSU coach Mark Dantonio rolled the dice and scored on a fake field goal to win in overtime. The coach literally had a minor heart attack after the game.
The media coverage for this year's Ohio State/Miami game will be unprecedented considering the schools' rankings and dim National Title hopes. The two schools have been swirled in scandal during the offseason. Shady deals and ruthless boosters have tarnished the programs for a long time to come. The schools would be smart to just play it safe and not invite any recruits to this game.
8 OK State at 9 Texas A&M
2 Alabama at 14 Arkansas
4 LSU at West Virginia
The two up-and-comers from the Big 12 face off at Kyle Field, a stadium that should be on the bucket list of any college football fan. OSU and A&M have played second fiddle in their respective states (Sooners, Longhorns) for too long and will fight to position themselves to take a shot at a Big 12 Title.
Alabama and Arkansas will vie for an early jump on the SEC West race after playing a hard-fought 24-20 game last year that saw the Crimson Tide escape with a win in Fayetteville.
The Mountaineers have been dealing with their own drama this year, as new coach Dana Holgerson took over for crowd-favorite Bill Stewart. West Virginia is talented, though, and Holgerson called plays for an Oklahoma State team that finished Top Five in total offense a year ago. LSU better come ready to play.
11 Nebraska at 10 Wisconsin
2 Alabama at 23 Florida
9 Texas A&M at 14 Arkansas
Big 10 favorites collide early as the hard-nosed Badgers welcome conference rookies Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are no lightweights themselves, though, as this looks to be the game of the year in the Big 10.
Alabama and Florida traded off thumpings in the 2008 and 2009 SEC Championship games, following each win with a National Championship. The two powerhouses are always worth a watch.
Former Southwest Conference members try to renew their long-standing rivalry. The Razorbacks won 24-17 last year, but a revamped Aggies squad will be the favorite this year.
1 Oklahoma vs 24 Texas
23 Florida at 4 LSU
Miami (FL) at 13 Virginia Tech
No matter where the teams are ranked, the Red River Rivalry (say that five times fast) is always a blood bath. Texas is reeling, coming off its worst season in recent memory but a win against the Sooners could bury it all under the rug.
Yet another highly ranked SEC matchup sees the Gators travel to Baton Rouge to play in arguably the most hostile environment in the country.
Miami and Virginia Tech have formed an exciting, albeit relatively short-lived, rivalry that has spanned the Big East and ACC. The Canes hold the series lead at 17-11, but the Hokies have won four of the last five meetings.
8 OK State at 24 Texas
12 South Carolina at 20 Miss St
USC at Cal
A surging OSU ended a 12-year losing streak to the opposite-of-surging Longhorns last year in Austin, dominating them from start to finish in a 33-16 beat down. This is one of several revenge games circled on Mack Brown's calender (UCLA, K-State, Iowa State, Oklahoma...you get the point) and his Longhorns will come in hungry.
The rest of the slate this week wasn't too eye-catching, but the games listed should provide plenty of entertainment.
USC at 18 Notre Dame
10 Wisconsin at 17 Michigan State
8 OK State at 21 Missouri
The USC/Notre Dame rivalry is one of the richest in all of football. Notre Dame ended an eight-game winning streak (including the infamous "Bush Push" in 2005) by the Trojans last season, winning 20-16 in Los Angeles. Both teams look quite talented this year.
Wisconsin and MSU are two of the three teams (Nebraska) that will compete for the Big 10 title this year, so the winner will have the inside track. Last year, the Badgers lost their only game to the Spartans 34-24. I can only imagine that the wound is still fresh.
OSU and Missouri will have two of the top offenses in the country this year, so if it's touchdowns you want, I'd tune into this Big 12 matchup.
6 Stanford at USC
22 Georgia vs 23 Florida
10 Wisconsin at 16 Ohio State
Stanford and USC will be battling Oregon for a Pac 12 title this season, so this midseason battle will have huge West Coast implications. It will be a battle of QBs as Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley will be on Mel Kiper's Big Board come draft time next year.
The remaining two games see big-name schools from top conferences fighting for respect and hopefully conference titles.
4 LSU at 2 Alabama
9 Texas A&M at 1 Oklahoma
12 South Carolina at 14 Arkansas
Week 10 is an absolute gem as the conference races in the SEC and Big 12 take shape. A potentially huge tussle in Tuscaloosa will likely decide the SEC West and if A&M lives up to the preseason hype, the same could be true in Norman.
3 Oregon at 6 Stanford
15 TCU at 7 Boise St
25 Texas at 21 Missouri
Last year's shootout in Autzen was Stanford's only loss as Oregon paved the way to the BCS Championship game. The Cardinal were in control early but the Ducks scored 28 unanswered points in the second half to win 52-31.
TCU and Boise State have become BCS underdogs in the last decade, fueling the anti-BCS fire more and more each year. Both teams could easily be undefeated heading into Boise this year, pushing the winner even higher in the polls toward the coveted Top Two.
11 Nebraska at Michigan
USC at 3 Oregon
Arizona at Arizona St
Things have come a long way since Nebraska and Michigan last met in 2005. Bill Callahan and Lloyd Carr were the respective head coaches (both gone today) and Chad Henne still had a reputable name. If Michigan can get things turned around this year, the game might have serious consequences in the Big 10.
Oregon is attempting to take over USC's spot as regular Pac 12 favorite and a third win in a row over the Trojans could help do just that.
The Territorial Cup is always a classic, and last year's battle was no different. The Sun Devils won 30-29 in the rivalry's first overtime game after blocking two—yes, TWO—extra points, one at the end of regulation and another to win in the second overtime.
2 Alabama at 19 Auburn
18 Notre Dame at 6 Stanford
24 Texas at 9 Texas A&M
The teams might look different from last year's classic (no Cam Newton, Mark Ingram, Julio Jones), but have no doubt, this is one of the most heated rivalries around. Adding to this year's drama is a precious poisoned oak tree in Auburn and a clever intern who played "Go On, Take The Money and Run" when Cam Newton took the field last year. Get your popcorn ready!
Notre Dame and Stanford finish out their regular seasons on a high note. Stanford's first back-to-back wins in the series ended a seven-game streak for the Irish. Can QB Andrew Luck make it a three-peat?
1 Oklahoma at 8 Oklahoma State
BYU at Hawaii
West Virginia at South Florida
The Bedlam game takes center stage this week and rightfully so. This game is always an exciting one, but last year's 47-41 shootout was one of the series' best as 31 combined points were scored in the final four minutes of play. OSU has been on the rise the last few seasons, but big brother Oklahoma has always been there to knock it back down, taking an eight-game series winning streak back to Stillwater. Is this the year?
Army vs. Navy
This game is a piece of Americana and no matter what the records are of either team, they both come to play. A packed stadium will once again cheer on this classic matchup. One of the coolest sights in college football is seeing the stands filled with uniformed cadets cheering on their teams, just as they have for well over 100 years.
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