College Football 2011: The 38 Fan Bases That Should Be Most Excited

John Rozum@Rozum27Correspondent IJuly 14, 2011

College Football 2011: The 38 Fan Bases That Should Be Most Excited

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    Just like any sport, everything begins anew with the next season, and college football is no exception.

    Sure, other schools have more experience and difficult schedules, but it is still no guarantee how the season will play out.

    Therefore, whichever school is your favorite, there always has to be some anticipated anxiety as the first game approaches.

    With that, some fans do have legitimate reasons to be stoked for their team's 2011 season.

    The season is coming up fast, and everyone is getting excited, especially these 38 fan bases. 

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Folks, Notre Dame football is back on the rise.

    Head coach Brian Kelly has won everywhere he's been, and South Bend should be no different.

    This season, the Irish have an outside shot at going 11-1 (not going to beat Stanford) but can realistically finish the regular season at 9-3 or 10-2.

    Add in the bowl game and Notre Dame will be rolling heading into 2012.

Oregon Ducks

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    NCAA allegations aside, we have to remember "innocent until proven guilty," despite it being the other way around in the eyes of society.

    Nonetheless, Oregon remains a national contending school and has the tools to repeat as conference champions.

    And this season may be the last shot the Ducks have for while (chances are LaMichael James and Darron Thomas go pro in 2012), so the team, the school and the fans have to go insane throughout the fall.

Oklahoma Sooners

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    Every season, the Oklahoma Sooners' fans expect a national title, and 2011 shall be no different.

    The offense will be stellar behind the right arm of Landry Jones, and coach Bob Stoops brings in another excellent recruiting class.

    The defense won't have much pressure because of the offense.

    So as long as they even just slow down the opponent, the Sooners will be in the national title game.

Alabama Crimson Tide

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    After a disappointing 2010 campaign (yes, 10-3 is disappointing in Tuscaloosa), 2011 has to make up for it.

    The SEC won't take lightly to the Crimson Tide, but with all will be fine with QB A.J. McCarron, RB Trent Richardson and CB Robert Lester leading the way.

    Add in the tragic destruction from the tornadoes and it's going to be an even more emotional year.

    But emotion adds motivation, and the fans will ignite that throughout Bryant-Denny Stadium as well as on the road.

Boise State Broncos

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    2010 although successful, was not how Boise State pictured it ending.

    However, with Kellen Moore returning for his senior season, the Broncos have excellent leadership and experience.

    Add in a favorable schedule for year-one in the Mountain West, and the Blue Turf Monsters in the stands will be rocking.

    Not to mention TCU comes by for a visit as well.

South Carolina Gamecocks

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    If there's a year where the South Carolina Gamecocks win the SEC, this is it.

    Last season was a bit unexpected, so they're on the SEC radar this year.

    Combine a great recruiting class with a lot returning, and it has much potential.

    As for the fans, well, they need to sellout Williams-Brice Stadium every game all while getting Sir Big Spur jacked up.

    2011 could be very special in Columbia, South Carolina, and the fans have their role as well.

Michigan State Spartans

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    At the beginning of 2010, the Michigan State Spartans were unranked.

    By the end of 2010, they had won a share of the Big Ten title for the first time in 20 years.

    Coach Mark Dantonio has significant players coming back in QB Kirk Cousins, RB Edwin Baker, WR B.J. Cunningham and DBs Johnny Adams and Trenton Robinson.

    The newly aligned Big Ten will surely create some excitement on its own, but East Lansing has the opportunity to greatly enhance that for their Spartans in 2011.

Michigan Wolverines

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    Now that a Michigan-man (Brady Hoke) is in charge of the football program, all feels right in Ann Arbor.

    As long as the offense keeping burning the scoreboard and the defense improves (even a little), Michigan will definitely have a strong 2011 campaign.

    The Big House will need to erupt with each game, especially when Notre Dame comes to visit early on for the stadium's first-ever night game.

    As of college football fan, I'm getting goosebumps already.

Stanford Cardinal

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    The fact that Andrew Luck alone is coming back should be enough to get amped about Stanford's 2011 season.

    The Cardinal have another chance to contend for a conference title and, if they beat Oregon, then a national title.

    The Ducks travel south to Stanford in mid-November, so mark your calenders right now. 

LSU Tigers

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    It's impossible to talk SEC football without discussing LSU.

    Each year the Tigers bring in a sick recruiting class and are in the fight for SEC supremacy.

    Additionally, that may also indicate national supremacy.

    The fans tailgate just as well as (if not better than) any fans in college football.

    Baton Rouge lives for LSU football, and every year gets more exciting.

Florida State Seminoles

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    When Florida State was winning ACC after ACC title during its dynasty years, the Seminoles should have just put a patent on winning the conference.

    That said, they did falter a bit in the 21st century in comparison to the late-'80s and '90s.

    However, 2011 has very high expectations and a ballpark possibility of being a national contender.

    A lot return on both sides of the ball, and head coach Jimbo Fisher has hit the ground running in a phases.

    If you're in Tallahassee this fall, do yourself a favor and check out the 'Noles.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    Even though Nebraska is entering its first year as part of the Big Ten, there is a legitimate shot for the Cornhuskers to win the conference.

    It's a lot more even across the board with Ohio State's off-the-field mishaps, so the Huskers will be chomping at the bit.

    Not to mention they open up conference play at Wisconsin, but then get Ohio State and Michigan State at home.

    Lincoln will be pounding this fall with a new level of synergy.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

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    It seems every year that Oklahoma State has a shot at winning the Big 12, but then bully rival Oklahoma comes and steals its hopes and dreams.

    Or, the Cowboys manage to fend off the mighty Sooners, but then trip up from a non-contending school.

    2011, on the other hand, has excellent potential and the Cowboys should go into the Oklahoma game unbeaten.

    2010 was a big year, but 2011 is a rare open window for the residents of Stillwater.

Utah Utes

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    Just when you think the non-BCS contenders were come and gone, Utah (the originators of busting the BCS) is now the first of the busters to enter a BCS conference.

    Last season Utah had turned some heads by starting out 8-0, but finished 2-3 to close out at 10-3.

    Now the Utes are a part of the newly aligned Pac-12 and look to shake things up even more.

    The schedule is somewhat favorable being that Oregon and Stanford are in the other division of the conference, so the Utes have an outside shot at appearing in the conference title game.

    It's definitely a good time to be a Utes fan.

UCF Knights

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    2010 marked to be the best in UCF football history as it finished 11-3, won the Conference USA and beat Georgia of the SEC in the Liberty Bowl.

    2011 has increased expectations (as it should), and UCF should earn some early preseason poll respect.

    There's also a chance that the Knights could run the table.

    So although Florida, Florida State and Miami rule, the UCF Knights are coming up in the rear-view mirror.

    Keep an eye on 'em this season because their fans have a lot to cheer about.

Hawaii Warriors

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    With Boise State gone to the Mountain West, Hawaii will be the WAC favorite in 2011.

    And the fact that this will be the Warriors' final WAC season in football should only be added motivation.

    Then count in the return of QB Bryant Moniz, along with some solid defensive players in Corey Paredes and Aaron Brown, and Hawaii won't lose a step.

    Vili Fehoko will be stoked about it and so should we. 

Georgia Bulldogs

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    The main attraction for the Georgia Bulldogs this autumn will be QB Aaron Murray, who threw for more than 3,000 yards and 24 TDs, with only eight picks.

    And for those that don't know, he did that as a freshman in the SEC.

    Make no mistake about it, the Dawgs will be better this year, but a lot is riding on Murray.

    Either way, the fans have even more to cheer about as Murray will be matured as a sophomore.

    2011 will be very interesting in Athens. 

West Virginia Mountaineers

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    Despite being in arguably the worst BCS conference, West Virginia still holds its own versus superior opponents.

    But, the Mountaineers sometimes play down to inferior opponents.

    Any way you slice it, though, each year is very interesting and filled with drama in Morgantown.

    And I mean that in a good way.

    The Mountaineers always play exciting football, and 2011 should be their return to the top of the Big East.

    There they'll be out to prove the naysayers (me) wrong about the Big East.

Northern Illinois Huskies

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    With Illinois and Northwestern struggling virtually every year in the Big Ten, the Northern Illinois Huskies provide some solid mid-major talent.

    They've played in two MAC title games since 2005 and have a chance to contend for another title this year.

    Not to mention their head coach is former Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Doeren.

    There's a lot to be excited about for their fans in the MAC this fall.

Troy Trojans

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    Those that really don't follow college football most likely are not aware of how successful the Troy Trojans have been this century.

    Prior to the 2001 season they were an FCS school (NCAA D-1AA) and had excellent success.

    Since moving up to the FBS Division 1-A level, they have only had two losing seasons, and have been atop the Sun Belt conference for five consecutive years.

    And 2011 should be no different.

    So if you're a Troy Trojans fan, get pumped because this season could be ridiculous.

    With three big games on the road (at Clemson, at Arkansas, and at Navy), Troy could make a lot more noise than usual.

Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Finally, after all the smoke has cleared, Ohio State can get back to what matters most: playing football.

    A fresh start with Luke Fickell at head coach will be good, but there will be some players in more crucial roles than they're use to handling.

    However, there's only one way to get experience, so don't be surprised if the Buckeyes continue their Big Ten dominance.

    Not much will be expected from outsiders either, so that only gives them that much more motivation to prove skeptics wrong.

Texas Longhorns

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    Last season was definitely an unexpected occurrence in Texas Longhorn football.

    But that will happen at college football's highest level from time to time, so it has to be taken as a learning experience more than anything.

    That being said, Mack Brown still brought in a sick recruiting class and has Texas back on the rise (Bevo would approve).

    Plus, with Nebraska gone to the Big Ten, it's going to make surviving the Big 12 a little easier.

    One thing that the Longhorns must remember: Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State won't just roll over. 

Texas A&M Aggies

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    Definitely one of the most difficult places to play in throughout college football, Texas A&M has a somewhat favorable schedule.

    The Aggies get Oklahoma State, Missouri, Texas and Baylor (on the upswing) at home and have the Sooners on the road.

    Make no mistake about it, those home games aren't walks in the park, but it's better to have them at home.

    Nonetheless, if last season is any indication about how good Texas A&M can be this year, the Big 12 better watch out.

TCU Horned Frogs

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    TCU has been like the Wisconsin Badgers of the non-BCS schools.

    The Horned Frogs don't bring in a juggernaut recruiting class and they don't light up the scoreboard, but all they do is win games.

    Run the ball and play defense.

    Well, you can expect more of the same from the Horned Frogs in 2011, except that this is their final year as a non-BCS school.

    You know this is an important year for coach Gary Patterson because it can gain them much momentum heading into 2012.

Wisconsin Badgers

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    Just like the aforementioned TCU Horned Frogs, the Wisconsin Badgers don't play sexy, flashy football.

    Nor are their recruiting classes anything like Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma or Florida State's.

    But, they know how to win, and that's all that matters.

    And being in the newly aligned Big Ten, Badger fans have many reasons to party about.

    However, welcoming the Nebraska Cornhuskers to the conference (at home in Madison, mind you) is one perk that may be above all the rest.

Navy Midshipmen

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    In 2002, the Navy Midshipmen went 2-10. A year later they went 8-5.

    2002 was their most recent losing season, and the Midshipmen have had a tremendous amount of success in their nine consecutive winning seasons.

    Two of which were 10-win years, and 2011 has 10-win potential if not more.

    Navy has been gradually improving since 2002 and shows no signs of stopping.

    It's good to see the alma mater of Roger Staubach back on the rise.

Army Black Knights

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    In 1996, the Army Black Knights finished 10-2 but lost the Independence Bowl to the Auburn Tigers 32-29.

    That was the most recent bowl season appearance for Army until 2010 when it defeated SMU 16-14 in the Armed Forces Bowl.

    It took West Point 14 years to get back to bowl season; however, don't think it will take that long again.

    Army football has a great tradition and going 7-6 last year only gives the team more incentive for 2011.

    Also, it's going to make this year's Army-Navy game even more exciting.

Mississippi State Bulldogs

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    For years the Mississippi State Bulldogs have been knocked around in the SEC.

    Since joining the conference in 1932, the Bulldogs have one SEC championship (1941) and one championship game appearance (1998).

    In 2010, they battled through a ridiculous SEC West where five of the six teams finished ranked in the top 20.

    For 2011, they have the potential to be better than Auburn and Arkansas and have their best chance to upset Alabama and LSU.

    If you're going to bet on a dark-horse sleeper in the SEC, Mississippi State is that team.

Virginia Tech Hokies

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    The Hokies lost a lot of talent after the 2010 season.

    However, another solid recruiting class enters for Frank Beamer, and they have a fairly favorable schedule.

    Virginia Tech football is always consistent and should contend for another ACC title.

    Blacksburg will be electric once again, even though it may appear to be a rebuilding season.

Miami University Redhawks

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    Coming off a MAC championship season where Miami University beat Northern Illinois 26-21 in the conference title game, the Redhawks have a tough journey in 2011.

    They open up on the road to Missouri and then to Minnesota (I know it's Minnesota, but they're still a Big Ten school).

    At home Cincinnati and Army come to visit, but neither of those games are a given.

    Add in Toledo, Temple and Ohio University on the road and everyone will be gunning for the Redhawks.

    However, that only gives the fans more reason to be stoked because if they run the table (or come close), then that's a testament to how good they actually are. 

Florida Gators

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    A new era begins with Will Muschamp in Gainesville, and QB John Brantley still has a lot of room to improve.

    RB Jeff Demps is once again in the backfield, but with the SEC being, well, the SEC, the Gators have to quickly reload.

    But don't expect The Swamp to be quiet, ever.

    Because no one expected Chris Leak to win a national championship, but he did.

    Therefore, don't ever, ever, underestimate the Florida Gators.

Pittsburgh Panthers

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    Now that Dave Wannstache (bad mustache joke) is gone, the Pittsburgh Panthers should quickly rebuild in the Big East.

    Todd Graham comes in as his replacement, and let's just say he made Tulsa relevant in Oklahoma. That's how good he is.

    His first season at Rice University he took the Owls to the New Orleans Bowl and then spent four years in Tulsa going 36-17, including three years of 10 wins or more.

    Pittsburgh fans should be elated because Graham only knows how to win. 

Cincinnati Bearcats

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    It's definitely safe to say that the Bearcats are in a rebuilding state after two consecutive BCS appearances under Brian Kelly.

    Now to start 2011, however, Cincinnati could begin 6-1 (at best—won't beat Tennessee on the road) heading into the Pittsburgh game.

    The Bearcats also get WVU and UConn at home, so the schedule pans out in their favor.

    The question is whether Zach Collaros can keep the tempo rolling on offense while the defense improves in slowing opponents down.

Connecticut Huskies

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    Coming off its first BCS appearance and Big East title, UConn is gradually becoming not just a basketball school.

    Now, every other Big East school will be out for blood, so it's important for the Huskies to use the thwomping that Oklahoma put on them as motivation.

    2011 by no means is going to be easy, but the confidence carry-over from 2010 will definitely help.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

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    Prior to the 2003 season, Tulsa football was rather irrelevant to the state of Oklahoma, as well as the college football universe.

    However, since then it has had only two losing seasons and four seasons with nine or more wins (three of the last four were 10 or more wins).

    And the Golden Hurricane must have opened some eyes because they kickoff the 2011 season at Oklahoma and then verse Oklahoma State two weeks later.

    Then after the Cowboys, they travel to Blue Turf country in Boise, Idaho.

    It's for sure going to be a rough first month of 2011 in Tulsa, but they have earned their stripes in a major college football state, so here's hoping they keep it rolling.

Miami Hurricanes

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    The only thing that would have made this guy's appearance better would be if he were to dye his chest and stomach hair the school colors (just sayin').

    Anyway, the Miami Hurricanes haven't really done anything to the level of their tradition since the 2003 season (finished 11-2 and ranked No. 5).

    But Al Golden looks to regain that magic back in South Florida, and he definitely is the man for the job.

    For one, he made Temple relevant—enough said.

    Fear not, 'Canes fans, you are heading back to national prominence.

Florida International Golden Panthers

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    In 2002, Florida International University decided to field the school's first ever football team.

    It began as a NCAA 1-AA school but went up to the FBS level in 2005.

    And until after the 2010 season, the Golden Panthers did not have a winning record.

    Last year they went 7-6 (6-2) and won the Little Caesars Bowl over the Toledo Rockets, 34-32.

    They have a great head coach in Mario Cristobal, who was a part of two national championships for the Miami Hurricanes in 1989 and 1991.

    For the FIU fans that are out there, remain loyal because a young program is beginning to lay a solid foundation under coach Cristobal.

San Diego State Aztecs

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    Despite losing Brady Hoke to his alma mater in Michigan, San Diego State University has gotten back on the map for the first time since the days of Marshall Faulk.

    QB Ryan Lindley is back along with RB Ronnie Hillman, so watch them whenever possible because they are filled with highlights.

    The schedule is pretty rough with games at Michigan, Air Force and Army.

    Additionally, the Aztecs have TCU, Boise State and Washington State at home.

    However, if the boys from So Cal hold their own, then 2011 could be better than expected.

    There's an ample amount of opportunities for them to shine, so it will be interesting to see how the Aztecs perform under pressure.

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