College Football 2011 Season Schedule: Must-Watch Games for This Year

Ed OrzaCorrespondent IIAugust 25, 2011

College Football 2011 Season Schedule: Must-Watch Games for This Year

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    The college football season is almost upon us.  

    College campuses all over the country are squirming in anticipation, awaiting Saturdays full of pageantry, tradition and plenty of chilling.

    The season ignites with a marquee matchup between two BCS top 10 teams, and the rest of the schedule doesn't look to slow down anytime soon.

    Here are 20 games you won't want to miss.  

Week 1: No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 4 LSU

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    This is one of the better "primetime" early games in recent years. 

    Oregon is coming off the loss of a national championship and a sketchy offseason and recently saw former 5-star recruit Lache Seastrunk transfer to Baylor.

    As usual, the Ducks offense should be lethal. Darren Thomas and LaMichael James are the ideal players to have in the backfield of a spread offense like Oregon's. 

    Regardless, they are loaded with talent and always exciting to watch on the offensive side. 

    LSU has been given a very lofty preseason ranking. 

    The Tigers are always a perennial defensive force in the SEC, a battle between a potent offense and a powerful defense is usually a dynamic concoction.  


    Key Players 

    1. Darron Thomas, QB, Oregon 
    2. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon 
    3. Jordan Jefferson, QB, LSU 
    4. Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU                           


    Winner: LSU 24-10   

Week 1: No. 19 Georgia vs. No. 5 Boise State

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    Georgia versus Boise State is a fresh matchup. 

    Georgia is a team on the rise with a lot of young talent, while this may be Boise and Kellen Moore's last chance at a national title. 

    Boise State likes to start off the season against a well-known opponent.  

    Both of these teams have something to prove in 2011. Boise is always battling the critics and Georgia is coming off a disappointing season in 2010.


    Key Players  

    1. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia    
    2. Isiah Crowell, RB, Georgia
    3. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State
    4. Tyler Shoemaker, WR, Boise State


    Winner: Georgia 

Week 2: No. 12 South Carolina at No. 19 Georgia

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    A hell of a way to start the year with Boise State and South Carolina in consecutive weeks. The Bulldogs will have to be at their best to beat a very talented South Carolina team. 

    Sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore is a rare talent and junior wide receiver Alshon Jeffery has equal ability.

    Georgia is full of developing talent, including Aaron Murray and Isaiah Crowell.

    Georgia playing at home may be the difference. Whatever the outcome, this game should have the pace of a sweet action movie.


    Key Players

    1. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina 
    2. Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
    3. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
    4. Bacarri Rambo, S, Georgia


    Winner: South Carolina  

Week 2: No. 23 Auburn vs. No. 20 Mississipi State

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    How Auburn will respond following the departure of Cam Newton is one of the biggest questions of the season. Newton's presence should not be underestimated.  His ability paired with the Tigers' offensive scheme was a match made in heaven. 

    That being said, Auburn's national championship victory had a bonus. The talent of Michael Dyer was illuminated under the bright lights of the biggest statge in college football.

    Its opponent Mississipi State has been given a favorable preseason ranking, to say the least.

    The Bulldogs do have a good amount of returning playmakers, and if they can claw their way through the gauntlet of their SEC schedule relatively unscatched, they could find themselves in position for a trip to the conference championship.


    Key Players

    1. Vick Ballard, RB, Mississipi State
    2. Chad Bumphis, WR, Mississipi State
    3. Michael Dyer, RB, Auburn
    4. Barrett Trotter, QB, Auburn


    Winner: Auburn  

Week 3: No. 1 Oklahoma at No. 6 Florida State

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    The Seminoles may have an opportunity to reach a BCS championship in the post-Bobby Bowden era for the first time. 

    Quartberack E.J. Manuel is blessed in spades with athletic ability, though he has yet to demonstrate he can flourish as a starter. If Manuel can step up and replace Christian Ponder, Florida State has players on both sides of the ball necessary to win a title.

    Oklahoma has been anointed to the throne as the preseason No. 1.

    Their duels along the course of the season will prove whether that praise was worthy. Either way, the combination of Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles is no less intimidating.

    The loss of linebacker Travis Lewis hurts, but the defense should still excel.


    Key Players

    1. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
    2. Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma
    3. E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State 
    4. Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State 


    Winner: Florida State 

Week 3: No. 17 Michigan State at No. 16 Notre Dame

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    Notre Dame has had a rough stretch in recent years, but it may be able to recover in a big way in 2011. 

    Senior quarterback Dayne Crist threw 15 touchdowns and seven picks last season, demonstrating some stability at the position. 

    Junior wide receiver Michael Floyd is a top NFL prospect and an incredible talent on the outside.

    Manti Te'o is a standout at linebacker for the Irish and will almost certainly be playing on Sundays.

    Michigan State has a lot of returning talent as well. Kirk Cousins returns at the helm and still has B.J. Cunningham to throw to.

    On the other side of the ball, Trenton Robinson is a preseason candidate for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's best defensive back. Robinson had four interceptions and 76 tackles last season.

    Le'veon Bell and Edwin Baker will keep opposing defenses honest with a consistent running game.


    Key Players

    1. Trenton Robinson, S, Michigan State
    2. Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State
    3. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
    4. Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame


    Winner: Michigan State 

Week 4: No. 15 Arkansas vs. No. 2 Alabama

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    Alabama's roster is peppered with future NFL players who have experience and a killer instinct. 

    Still, the Tide have felt the tremors of Greg McElroy's exodus to the big leagues. 

    Running back Trent Richardson is a junior who was hidden behind Mark Ingram for a few years,  but may have raw athletic ability than Ingram does. 

    Many of the Tide's players on the offensive side of the ball are unproven, but the playmakers on defense may be able to help the offense transition smoothly into the flow of the season. 

    For Arkansas, Knile Davis' season-ending ankle injury is a tough pill to swallow for the Razorback faithful. 

    Injuries aside, there is still hope for Arkansas in 2011. Senior wide receivers Greg Childs and Joe Adams will behead defensive secondaries, while Tyler Wilson is in his junior season and has experience behind center for the Razorbacks. He's poised for a big year now that Ryan Mallett is in the NFL.


    Key Players

    1. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
    2. Donta Hightower, MLB, Alabama
    3. Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas
    4. Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas


    Winner: Alabama 

Week 4: No. 9 Oklahoma State at No. 8 Texas A&M

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    Oklahoma State is in a solid position for a good run in 2011 with its No. 9 ranking in the BCS polls. 

    Justin Blackmon put up absurd numbers in 2010 and is blue chip NFL prospect. He had 1,782 yards receiving and 20 touchdowns.

    His quarterback, Brandon Weeden threw for 4,277 yards and 34 touchdowns with just 13 interceptions last year. 

    If the Cowboys defense can pull it together Oklahoma State can be a legitimate force in the Big 12 this season. 

    Texas A&M's starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill is in his first year behind center, but has played receiver for the Aggies the last three years. Tannehill took over the reigns from Jerrod Johnson last year and closed out the year with six straight wins.  The transition is still sketchy, but at least he has someone to throw to. 

    Jeff Fuller is a senior wide receiver who has produced throughout his career, but his junior season has been his best to date.  Fuller had 1,066 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns.

    The Aggies are another team ranked in the top 10 that had a less-than-exceptional season in 2010.  They do have 18 returning starters, including running back Christine Michael, who broke out last season.  

    This clash with the Cowboys will be a defining moment in their season. 


    Key Players

    1. Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M
    2. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M 
    3. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
    4. Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State


    Winner: Texas A&M  

Week 5: No. 23 Auburn at No. 12 South Carolina

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    Steve Spurrier may finally have a chance to wrap his hands around another championship trophy with this year's squad of Gamecocks. This is South Carolina we're talking about, so even if it blows a few games along the way, its big games should be still be entertaining. 

    Seriously, this year's South Carolina team is loaded. 

    If Stephen Garcia can stay out of trouble he has all the tools at his disposal to do serious damage in the SEC. 

    Auburn's story is the same—a lot of talent, but questions at quarterback are never a good thing. 

    Regardless, players like Michael Dyer and Neiko Thorpe provide plays offensively and defensively, respectively.  

    Thorpe had 64 tackles from the safety position last season and two picks in 2009.

    Corey Lemonier is a player to watch at defensive end for the Tigers; he had two sacks and five tackles for loss in limited action last season. 


    Key Players

    1. Stephen Garcia, QB, South Carolina 
    2. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina 
    3. Michael Dyer, RB, Auburn 
    4. Nosa Eguae, DE, Auburn 


    Winner: South Carolina  

Week 5: No. 10 Nebraska vs. No. 11 Wisconsin

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    Wisconsin doesn't get the recognition it deserves. In recent years the Badgers have been among the best teams in the Big 10, though they do face the obstacle of a new starting quarterback in 2011.

    Russell Wilson is a transfer from North Carolina State. He's a talented kid who also played baseball in his collegiate career. His natural skills could make senior receiver Nick Toon an even more effective target.

    Wisconsin is known for its pro-level offensive line play and consistent running game.

    Monte Ball and James White both ran for around 1,000 yards and more than 10 touchdowns. Each.

    Nebraska should be a force this year, as well. Taylor Martinez is only a sophomore starting at quarterback, but his raw potential was evident in 2010.

    Rex Burkhead is member of the Huskers backfield who will contribute heavily in the upcoming season. Junior college transfer Lavonte David snatched up 152 tackles and was the defensive newcomer of the year in the Big 12 last year.  He's a beast at linebacker.


    Key Players

    1. Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin
    2. Nick Toon, WR, Wisconsin
    3. Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska
    4. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska 


    Winner: Wisconsin

Week 6: No. 1 Oklahoma vs. Texas

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    Oklahoma looks great on paper, but, as we've all seen before, anything can happen in between those sidelines on Saturday. 

    The Sooners' playmakers are well known.  Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles are well-established stars, and wide sophomore receiver Kenny Stills may fight for some attention. 

    Texas is coming off one of its worst seasons in recent memory. 

    The good news is that it has a ton of young studs, with some veterans to hold things together.

    No. 1 overall running back recruit Malcolm Brown looks to make his presence felt early in Austin.

    Sophomore wideout Mike Davis is a player to look out for, and senior linebacker Keenan Robinson linebacker had 106 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions last season. 

    He'll need junior signal caller Garrett Gilbert to step up.  Gilbert is known for coming into the national championship after Colt McCoy was knocked out of the game.  Gilbert was a true freshman and led the Longhorns to a near comeback.  

    If Gilbert can rebound from a disappointing 2010, Texas could be a sleeper in the Big 12.


    Key Players

    1. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
    2. Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma
    3. Keenan Robinson, LB, Texas
    4. Garrett Gilbert, QB, Texas


    Winner: Oklahoma

Week 8: No. 9 Oklahoma State at No. 21 Missouri

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    Oklahoma State and Missouri has the potential to be one of the most scintillating offensive games of 2011.

    Oklahoma State is strapped like Rambo offensively and has an underrated defense. What makes for such a great contest is that Missouri has an offense that can keep pace with the Cowboys. 

    Michael Egnew is one of the best tight ends in the country and is a nightmare for defenses operating out of the spread offense. 

    T.J. Moe had 1,000 yards receiving and six touchdowns last year for the Tigers. 


    Key Players

    1. Michael Egnew, TE, Missouri 
    2. Xavier Gooden, LB, Missouri 
    3. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State 
    4. Shaun Lewis, LB, Oklahoma State 


    Winner: Oklahoma State

Week 10: No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 4 LSU

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    This is potentially one of the best games of the year. If both these teams can navigate the early part of their schedules without any battle damage, this encounter will be monumental. 

    Even if either team stumbles, the matchup will still be intense and full of NFL level talent.

    The quarterbacks will be the difference in this one. Jordan Jefferson may have the edge in experience, but A.J. McCarron is a wild card. 


    Key Players

    1. Jordan Jefferson, QB, LSU
    2. Ryan Baker, LB, LSU
    3. Dre Kirkpatrick, DB, Alabama
    4. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama


    Winner: Alabama

Week 11: No. 3 Oregon at No. 7 Stanford

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    This game is loaded with star power. 

    Andrew Luck is the favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick in next year's NFL draft. The question is whether he has enough weapons around him to contend for a title. 

    Oregon's offensive arsenal is well publicized and shouldn't disappoint in 2011. 


    Key Players 

    1. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon 
    2. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon
    3. Delano Howell, S, Stanford 
    4. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford


    Winner: Stanford

Week 11: No. 14 TCU at No. 5 Boise State

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    The underdogs duke it out in this one. 

    Both TCU and Boise State are perennially discredited because of their relatively weak schedules and supposed lack of pure talent. The playing styles of the Horned Frogs and the Broncos should create an atmosphere for an epic encounter.

    This season is Boise and Kellen Moore's best chance at a championship—they're going to have to go through TCU if they want to get there.


    Key Players:

    1. Ed Wesley, RB, TCU
    2. Tanner Brock, LB, TCU
    3. George Iloka, S, Boise State
    4. Tyrone Crawford, DE, Boise State


    Winner: Boise State

Week 13: No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 23 Auburn

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    The Iron Bowl should probably be a must-watch every year, but especially lately with both the Tide and Tigers flying high. 

    Auburn may be reloading a little bit after losing Cam Newton, but it still has some ammo left. 

    Both teams don't know how their quarterback position will turn out, as they're both throwing green signal callers into the fray in 2011. 


    Key Players 

    1. Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama 
    2. Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama
    3. Michael Dyer, RB, Auburn
    4. Neiko Thorpe, S, Auburn


    Winner: Alabama 

Week 11: No. 10 Nebraska at Penn State

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    Happy Valley is always an awesome setting for college football. 

    It should be an interesting welcoming party for Nebraska, this being its first year in the Big Ten. 

    Both these schools are old school.  They're tough, hard-nosed teams who adhere to the tried and tested philosophy of a reliable running game paired with a dominant defense. 

    The stage is set for a throwback, bare-knuckle brawl. 


    Key Players 

    1. Silas Redd, RB, Penn State 
    2. Derek Moye, WR, Penn State 
    3. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska 
    4. Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska 


    Winner: Nebraska 

Week 13: No. 6 Florida State at No. 22 Florida

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    The state of Florida gives birth to some of the most exciting football players at all levels of the game.

    Florida State is obviously stacked with swag, and while Florida isn't as strong as in years past they're always reloading not rebuilding.

    This rivalry's roots go deep, so expect a great show.


    Key Players

    1. E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State
    2. Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State
    3. Jelani Jenkins, DB, Florida
    4. Jon Bostic, LB, Florida


    Winner: Florida State 

Week 14: No. 1 Oklahoma at No. 9 Oklahoma State

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    The implications this rivalry game could have at the end of the season are biblical. 

    It could decide who has a shot at a national title in 2011. 

    The play on the field should be wide open with tomahawk missile-like explosiveness.


    Key Players

    1. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma 
    2. Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma 
    3. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
    4. Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State 


    Winner: Oklahoma