While I would never suggest to anyone to skip a weekend of college football action, reality is not everyone is into the sport as much as myself and some others. As such they won’t watch all 14 weeks of action in order to catch all the best games available to them. So in my usual gracious mood I’m here to provide you, the reader, with all the info you need on the five best weekends of action this year. While some games may appeal to the diehard fan that I didn’t include, I tried to take the premier games each week that should be at the top of your viewing totem pole. As we dive into Part 8 of the offseason preview, lets recap what has been done this offseason in case you’re a new reader:
Post National Signing Day Top 25
Also Parts 1-7 of the offseason preview that preceded this one can be found below:
Part 1: Ten Teams on the Rise
Part 2: Ten Teams Due For a Fall
Part 3: New Coaching Faces
Part 4: Replacing 2011′s Stars (CFB Replacements)
Part 5: Top 5 Non-AQs Not Named Boise St.
Part 6: Coaches Feeling The Heat
Part 7: Top Storylines Entering 2012
So here’s how we’ll break down the games each week. Last year I just completely overdid it. I listed about 12-15 games each week at times and reality is unless you’re rocking one of those TVs that has 5-6 games on the screen at once you can’t possibly watch all the games. So we’ll break it down into a similar method as last year with Five Weekends to Circle in College Football:
Appetizers: Five appetizers per week. These are the games that if you’re absolutely going to have to miss games you can skip these but you should still try to catch them. Not to mention, when you’re at a place with appetizers not everyone likes every appetizer usually. If you do try all the appetizers you probably need to lose weight. STOP EATING EVERY APPETIZER! So hand pick 2 or 3 of this group to watch. They’re the treats to set you up (maybe not chronologically) for the tastier games later.
Entrees: Two entrees per week. These are two high quality games that are must watch. They’ll likely have major implications in the conference races or potentially national title chase. You can smell them as they’re coming up and you crave to get a bite of them. Not many excuses can be accepted in my opinion to not watch these games.
Dessert: One dessert per week. It’s the game of the week. Everyone loves dessert to wrap up a good day of eating and it is the sweetest, most delicious game of the bunch. There’s zero excuses outside of death for not watching this game. They will make up some of the best games of the entire season. The outcome of these games could change the landscape of the entire season. If you’re really lazy and only going to watch one game, this is the one to watch.
#5 Week 9: Saturday October 27th
BYU at Georgia Tech- While this game may not have the name appeal of some of the other games, what you’re getting here is two teams who should be pretty good football teams in 2012 with the potential to surprise some people. BYU is a non-AQ who coming into 2012 really went out and challenged themselves with their schedule and will be coming off a trip to Notre Dame entering this game. Georgia Tech is a team I think could be a sleeper this season with a number of starters coming back on both sides of the ball but especially in their ground game. With five upper-classmen coming back on the O-line as well as their main pieces in the triple-option, this could be one of the most dangerous triple-option cores Paul Johnson has had since he’s been there. Bronco Mendenhall and BYU will present a strong defense opposite the Yellow Jackets ground game and I’m always intrigued by non-ACC teams who don’t face it annually (or every couple years) going up against it. BYU will have one week of preperation. Will that be enough?
Tennessee at South Carolina- Both teams will be well into their SEC East schedules when they square off at this point in the season so this game may take on bigger meaning for one team than the other. South Carolina is along with Georgia considered the two main favorites to win the division led by their very talented defense and an offense that has some question marks but does get Marcus Lattimore back off his knee injury. Tennessee has much higher hopes after their season last year was derailed by injuries to QB Tyler Bray and WR Justin Hunter. I personally feel Tennessee has sleeper, top 25 potential this season with the offensive weapons they bring back not to mention a strong secondary. This game would seem to favor South Carolina heavily with home field being a good starting place but the Gamecocks’ pressure up front against the passing attack of Tennessee plays favorably as well. If Tennessee’s run defense which was the straw that broke the camel’s back for them last year hasn’t fixed itself in the offseason, Lattimore could run wild.
TCU at Oklahoma State- TCU is getting the newcomers treatment with the schedule makers in their first Big 12 season. This game at Stillwater starts a five game stretch against the Cowboys, West Virginia, Kansas St, Texas and Oklahoma. For Oklahoma State it’s the first year without the dynamic combo of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon. Both teams could potentially be unbeaten in Big 12 play if TCU can avoid any upsets and if Oklahoma State can beat Texas at home. Last season TCU’s secondary struggled mightily in their games against strong passing offenses and Oklahoma St obviously has been an elite passing attack under Mike Gundy. How freshman QB Wes Lunt handles his first season with the starter’s role could play a prominent role in this one. Casey Pachall has shown he can play well away from home and TCU won’t be intimated by the environment. We could have an exciting shootout here.
Florida vs Georgia (at Jacksonville) 3:30 PM ET- The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is one of those games you just about have to watch every year. Even when these teams aren’t elite it usually proves to be a solid game. Add in the history of struggles Georgia has had (4-18 since 1990) and it’s years like this where Georgia is expected to be very good and Florida I don’t have much faith it and we see what can happen. Richt skirted his way to a division title last year almost solely on the basis of their cross-division schedule and it sets up favorably for them again. However with a trip to Columbia this year, the Bulldogs will again have to bank on winning as many games outside that as possible on the chance they don’t come away with the road win. South Carolina has their share of tough games. Some feel Florida can compete for the East division crown in 2012 (I don’t) and if they want to do so this would be close to a must-have for them given their tough SEC schedule.
Ohio St. at Penn St 6 PM ET- Two teams who may be better known for their off the field issues entering the season, both Penn State and Ohio State welcome in new coaches looking to lead their programs into a better future than the one they enter under. Ohio State will be an interesting case all year with the USC mentality this year that the Trojans used in route to their PAC-12 south 1st place finish last year. With the postseason not in the cards for them, Ohio St will have only pride to play for in Urban Meyer’s fist year. Still I am very high on this bunch Urban Meyer enters 2012 with and think they’re a top ten caliber team from day one with an elite defense coming back and an offense that though was inconsistent a year ago should be much better with Braxton Miller running Urban’s offense. On the flip side Penn State could be in for a long season. On top of the negative perception most of the country will carry for them, it wouldn’t be unfair to say they overachieved immensely last year. The offense is still very one-dimensional with really no answer at QB yet and I’m not sure the defense will be able to bail them out repeatedly again. Despite the fact I think the Buckeyes could cruise here, I’ll still be interested to see this matchup.
Michigan at Nebraska 8PM ET- Last season Michigan really began to regain momentum for their Sugar Bowl berth with a blowout win over Nebraska at home. The win over Nebraska, coupled with a end of the season victory over Ohio State was enough to get them over the hump and into position for an at-large berth. Nebraska looked lethargic all afternoon as the defense was gashed repeatedly in yet another example of the inconsistent football they played last year. As was the case last year, these two teams will compete with Michigan State for the Legends Division crown and with this game coming the week before the Michigan St-Nebraska game, it could put the nail in the coffin for Nebraska’s hopes with Ohio St, Wisconsin and Northwestern matchups preceding it. Bo Pelini certainly will look forward to another shot at Denard Robinson and I’m sure Cornhusker fans are licking their lips for a shot at payback vs the Wolverines.
Notre Dame at Oklahoma- A very appealing matchup due to the program names in play, we’ll know at this point in the season whether it has a chance to match the hype on the field. Oklahoma loses Ryan Broyles from last season but still brings back Landry Jones, a solid receiving core and a running back staple that although struggled last season should have Dominique Whaley back at some point who emerged as a very reliable and productive back. There’s few questions about what Oklahoma should be able to do this year. The question lies with Notre Dame. Notre Dame has been getting love for years and failing to live up to it. They self-imploded with mistakes in crunch moments time and time again last season perhaps costing them the chance at an extra 2-3 wins. IF and it’s a big if, Brian Kelly can get the Irish to cut out the mistakes and play to their strengths in the passing game, they can probably keep this one entertaining. A win is likely a long shot on the road however.
Michigan State at Wisconsin 3:30 PM ET- These two teams played two of the best football games of the entire college football season a year ago with each team winning in shockingly, dramatic fashion. Michigan State’s win on a last second Hail Mary was one of the first upsets of the season while Wisconsin returned the favor with a Big Ten title game win that involved trickeration, comebacks and a “roughing” the kicker penalty that wiped out a 1st and goal for Michigan State with only a minute or so left in the game. Wisconsin is head and shoulders above the rest of the Leaders Division (with Ohio State ineligible) for the favorite while Michigan State certainly has a case to be the favorite in the Legends division. It is entirely possible we could be watching these teams play twice again this season and if last year taught us anything it’s that who wouldn’t want that?
#4 Week 6: Thursday October 4th – Saturday October 6th
USC at Utah 9 PM- USC barring total self-destruction will win the PAC-12 South. However if anyone was feeling the desire to roll the dice a bit Utah would likely be the team that they would choose to dethrone the Trojans. USC will bring back a loaded offense and an improving defense from a year ago, specifically a secondary that needs to improve upon its 94th ranking nationally. Last season in Los Angeles these two played a very competitive game that wasn’t decided until the Trojans blocked a last minute FG attempt to seal the victory. For Utah they’ll be happy to have QB Jordan Wynn back who had battled shoulder injuries most of his career. DeVonte Christopher who carved up the Trojans last year for 136 yards and a score will have to likely put up a similar performance for the Utes to have a shot.
Georgia Tech at Clemson- While the Gamecocks have a special place in hell to the Clemson fanbase annually, recently the Yellow Jackets are certainly next in line. Georgia Tech has ruined many dreams for Clemson teams and fans in recent years with two wins over them in 2009 including the ACC Championship Game and ending their unbeaten season last year. Atlanta has been a House of Horrors for Clemson but the Tigers did well the last time Georgia Tech came to Death Valley winning in 2010. There’s a good chance the 4-game (with a bye in there) stretch for Clemson against FSU, BC, GT and VT could determine their season. The Triple Option gave Clemson fits all game last year and it almost always determines the games between these two. Clemson’s offense can’t be on the sideline for 42 minutes of the game and with an experienced O-line and all three compliments of their option back, you know Paul Johnson will feel they can do just that.
Washington at Oregon- I fully expect the Huskies to get blitzed. Despite the hype coming into the season on Keith Price and what could be a “surprise” Washington team, the only thing that would surprise me is if Washington stays within two touchdowns. Despite the losses of Darron Thomas and Lamichael James, the Ducks will again be loaded offensively with Kenjon Barner and Deanthony Thomas giving Chip Kelly more than enough speed and skill to keep defenses on their heels. While Washington has some offensive clout that may lend some belief to a shootout, in Eugene I fully expect the Ducks to remind everyone why the PAC-12 North is really a two-team race.
Miami, FL at Notre Dame 7:30 PM- In a rematch of most recently the 2010-2011 Sun Bowl, these two traditional powers will meet in a broke man’s version of their encounters from the early 90′s. Miami in their second year under Al Golden is looking to move on full-time from the Jacory Harris era finally and is off to a good start with a top ten recruiting class this offseason. Stephen Morris will get the full-time job and has some talent at the skill positions but has to be much more careful with the ball than Harris was. Notre Dame is still in the process of getting to where Brian Kelly thought they would be last year with some QB dilemmas of their own. If for nothing other than the gross overreaction we’ll get to the winner’s remaining “potential”, I think this is a game to catch.
Nebraska at Ohio St. 8 PM- Last year Ohio St. managed to cough up an enormous lead at Nebraska that basically was a 60 minute display of the Jekyl and Hyde team they were for most of the year. The Cornhuskers chewed Ohio St. up on the ground rushing for 232 yards as the Buckeyes blew a 21 point lead. With Ohio St playing Michigan State, Nebraska and Michigan in cross-division play they’ll have quite the impact in determining the Legends division champ and any of those teams getting a win over the Buckeyes could be a slight edge at the end of the year if they split the games among each other as they did a year ago. Will we get the high-scoring game we got a year ago (for these teams’ sake) or will we see more of a defensive slugfest?
LSU at Florida- This game still has major appeal despite Florida not being the juggernaut they were just a few years ago. Last season LSU tore Florida in half in Baton Rouge with of course Brad Wing’s taunting penalty, the first time the rule was enforced sticking out as one of the more memorable moments from an otherwise uninspiring game. This year Florida gets LSU in the Swamp as one of the few challenging road games LSU will encounter this year as they look to repeat as SEC Champs. LSU is considered by many the favorite for the national championship while the verdict is still out on Florida’s potential. As we said prior, Florida’s desperate need to find reliable quarterback play will be a key in this game as the Tigers certainly keyed in on the fact the Gators couldn’t do much of anything in the passing game a year ago.
West Virginia at Texas- West Virginia’s debut season in the Big 12 will have a number of intriguing and important games but their trip to Texas is one game that is very appealing to me. You got the sense West Virginia wasn’t challenged as regularly as they should be in the Big East (despite finishing in a 3-way tie a year ago) and with their success in BCS games this past decade I know I have been looking forward to their move since it was announced. The biggest thing I’ve wondered since the Orange Bowl ended and projections started coming in for 2012 is how much Mountaineer is simply overreaction to the Orange Bowl and how much is deserved. Their passing attack is second to few and Geno Smith has a number of weapons at his disposal, most notably Tavon Austin who went off in the Orange Bowl. Texas has been mired in mediocrity for a couple seasons now and the feeling is Mack Brown is feeling some heat to get Texas back to a top team or it could spell doom soon.
Georgia at South Carolina- The way it turned out last year it feels silly to suggest that this game could determine who has the best chance to win the SEC East. After all, South Carolina went into Athens last year and won, yet it was the Bulldogs who ultimately made it to the SEC title game. Given Georgia’s lighter cross-division schedule again in 2012 compared to South Carolina, the Gamecocks almost have to win this game at home to keep themselves in division contention because of the two teams they are far more likely to lose games outside this one. Georgia brings back a lot of talent from a team that won 10 games last year and that’s led to whispers of them returning to Top 5 material. With 3 SEC East games before this one, Georgia could sit at 4-0 in SEC play with the tiebreaker and it’s hard to imagine that couldn’t hold up over the final 4 games. For South Carolina, their defensive line is expected to be among the best in the country again and getting pressure on Aaron Murray could be the difference in the game. Last year was highlighted by DE Melvin Ingram’s two TDs and a monster sack by Jadeveon Clowney that put the nail in the coffin. Either way, outside of the matchups between the three heavyweights out West, this will be the biggest SEC East game to catch all year.
#3 Week 4:Thursday September 20th – Saturday September 22nd
BYU at Boise St. 9 PM- Though Boise St. will almost certainly (I would guarantee but I’ll never count a Chris Petersen team out) take a step back from where they have been the past few seasons, BYU-Boise St. provides perhaps the most intriguing game between non-power conference teams in all of 2012. Boise St. obviously had a massive overhaul offensively and will turn to Joe Southwick to take over the reigns of an established program. They’ll also be replacing the bulk of their skill positions and three linemen on each side of the ball giving them a tall task to expect another 11 or 12 win season. On the flip side BYU enters the season as my #1 non-AQ not named Boise St. and I think has a good chance to win this road game. They’ll be very experienced on both sides of the ball with a veteran QB, a solid WR core led by Cody Hoffman and a defense that is projected to start 10 juniors/seniors. Also to watch: BYU will be coming off a road game vs their annual rival Utah with only 5 days to prepare. Could be significant in a close game.
Cal at USC- Much like Oregon-Washington, this game probably could get out of hand. Things have been rough for Jeff Tedford the past couple seasons and though Cal has given some top teams fits in recent years (look no further than Oregon two years ago), the skill edge in this one may be too much to overcome. As we noted already, USC is looking head and shoulders above the PAC-12 with the exception of Oregon and maybe Stanford. Despite a pretty solid defense last year, Cal still surrendered 30 points to USC and this year they have one of the lowest returning starter rates in the country with only 5 on defense. At home in the Coliseum, Cal will need to find a way to contain the prolific passing attack USC will throw at them or else it could be a long afternoon.
Miami, FL at Georgia Tech- With Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech taking place the first week of the season, Georgia Tech could put themselves in the driver’s seat from day one if they win there and thus would play Miami in week 4 with games against Virginia Tech and Virginia already in the books. Realistically the Yellow Jackets could own 3 wins over their division foes before the month of September is even over. Likewise they could take themselves out of contention before the month is over if they don’t get results. On the flip side Miami will be playing its second ACC game when they visit Georgia Tech and this game will serve as a kickstart to a very tough seven game stretch where they’ll play six ACC games and Notre Dame. Last year Miami completely locked down one of the elite rushing attacks in college football holding them to seven points and 134 yards rushing. Most impressive on the day may have been the fact the Canes won the time of possession battle, limiting the Yellow Jackets’ long, time-consuming drives. It will take a similar defensive effort to possibly pull the upset in Atlanta.
Missouri at South Carolina- As I’m sure you’re figuring out as we move along, there’s a lot of SEC East games in play this year with a number of teams possibly contending for that East division crown. Missouri gets a rude awakening from the schedule makers in their first SEC season with Georgia and South Carolina in their first two league games. The Tigers return quarterback James Franklin who made strides last season into a very productive playmaker for them. His shoulder surgery that still has him expected back for the fall will be one to watch as the Tigers already have to cross their fingers leading rusher Henry Josey can rejoin the team at some point after his brutal knee injury vs Texas last year. With T.J Moe back in the fold and #1 recruit Dorial Green-Beckham ready for action, the Tigers may have to rely on a heavy dose of passing with little proven talent returning in the backfield. The Gamecocks have to feel good getting Georgia and Missouri at home as well as Tennessee. You won’t hear the Gamecocks feeling sorry for Missouri however as they’ll be rejoiced for the return of Marcus Lattimore who suffered his own ACL injury last season and missed plenty of time.
LSU at Auburn- Gene Chizik won’t have his offensive guru Gus Malzahn with him when Auburn goes up against an LSU team who barring a huge upset could very well be the #1 team in America when they come visit in week 4. While Malzahn is off at Arkansas St., Auburn will have to figure out ways to get offensive production against a team who held them to 10 points last season and dominated the game from start to finish. Auburn will be looking for more consistent play from the quarterback position where they had a musical chairs situation last season. Malzahn was high on Kiehl Frazier who he recruited to run his offense and while Frazier slowed flashes of potential in Auburn’s bowl win over Virginia, we’ll see how much trust Chizik has in him against perhaps the most talented defense in America. While LSU does bring in Zach Mettenberger who possesses better passing skills than either Jarrett Lee or Jordan Jefferson (get in line with your jokes here), the fact is their staple of running backs will be licking their lips if the 2011 Auburn run defense shows up that ranked 89th in America. Auburn may very well need some of that 2010 magic dug up if they want a chance to pull a major upset.
Michigan at Notre Dame 7:30 PM- With all due respects to Maryland, Ohio St., Clemson, Oklahoma St. and anyone else I’m forgetting who coughed up a game or two last year, Notre Dame’s loss to Michigan last season may take the cake for most gagworthy performance of the season. Despite taking the lead a mere minute earlier and on the brink of a big win, they allowed Denard Robinson to complete two floating ducks that led to the winning TD and one of Brian Kelly’s many aneurisms from 2011. It was almost a sign of what was to come the rest of the year as Notre Dame never recovered, floundering to the end and Michigan rode the wave of the comeback to a BCS bowl and Sugar Bowl win. Notre Dame gets a chance for revenge in 2012 with Michigan perhaps finally recovered from the massacre beating I expect them to take in Week 1 against the Crimson Tide in Dallas. While the two programs may rub some the wrong way, it’s a game I look forward to whenever it comes around.
Kansas St at Oklahoma- Last year Kansas St. was one of the main surprise stories in college football under legendary Bill Snyder before Oklahoma chewed them up in Manhattan and spit out a team that more closely resembled the Kansas Jayhawks. It would be perhaps the last time we’d see an elite Sooners team however as Dominique Whaley and Ryan Broyles would ultimately go down with injuries and pretty soon the lone team many thought could dethrone Oklahoma State was a fraction of itself. Kansas State will return Collin Klein who took the nation by surprise with his dominant 2011 season and I think the biggest question many have, including myself, is was 2011 a fluke or is this a team that can contend for a Big 12 title? Landry Jones, a QB many figured would be off to the NFL by now returns for his senior season and will have to live without Ryan Broyles this season, a loss last year that clearly impacted Jones’ play. In Norman, Oklahoma will undoubtedly be favored but one has to think between motivation from last year and perhaps a less talented Sooners team, Kansas St. should make a better game of it in 2012 than we saw last year.
Clemson at Florida State- While the ACC hasn’t done much to boast its reputation in recent years, Florida State and Clemson should be an opportunity for two teams to face off with a lot on the line and many eyes upon it. Perhaps the biggest obstacle from at least top 15 teams squaring off will be Clemson’s season opener against Auburn. If Clemson can escape that game with a win we should get two top 15 teams, maybe at least one top ten when the Tigers roll into Tallahassee. Last year Clemson won in Death Valley 35-30 which really raised the expectations for the team and put Clemson on the radar as a major player in the ACC title chase, regardless of how many orange-colored predictions had been made in the preseason. Frankly, I’ll go so far to say that the winner of this game will go on to win the ACC Atlantic next year. Both teams are loaded with talent and it will be an interesting note to see if Clemson can duplicate the offensive success of a year ago against an elite Seminoles defense. They’ve been battling in the recruiting ranks and while the Noles have gained more notoriety in the rankings services, it’s been Dabo Swinney whose made the biggest strides in recent months. In a game between ACC powers which could decide who becomes the league’s most serious contender, there may be more at stake than simply an ACC division crown. For my money it is the Clemson game I look forward to above all others.
#2 Week 13: Friday November 23rd – Saturday November 24th (Rivalry Week)
South Carolina at Clemson- South Carolina for the lack of better expression has been Clemson’s daddy the last few years in sports, in reality since I transferred to Clemson. If there weren’t history sources to support it I probably wouldn’t believe Clemson has been better head-to-head historically. The Gamecocks have gotten the better of Clemson the last three seasons and despite two ACC Atlantic crowns and one ACC title in his 3 full seasons, Dabo Swinney certainly feels the weight of that losing streak. Clemson freshman sensation Sammy Watkins rekindled some flames this offseason when he said the Tigers would have won the game last season if he didn’t drop an early would-be TD. While it may not have the clout of some other rivalries in college football, the stakes could be at an extreme high in late November if both teams live up to their potential.
Auburn at Alabama- The last three Iron Bowls have had national championship stakes on the line and all three times the underdog was denied an opportunity to crush their rivals dreams. None stick out moreso than the 2010 game where an unbeaten Auburn team went to Tuscaloosa, got punched in the mouth and made a ridiculous comeback that to this day still stands out to me as the most stunned I’ve been at a comeback. Quite possibly the most fanatical rivalry in college football, when they’re not poisoning trees or toilet papering them they’re likely calling into Finebaum’s show to insult the other side’s sisters. Alabama will be the better team and at home unless Auburn discovers another Cam Newton, it’s hard to think they can win a second straight in Bryant-Denny. Very few can reload like Nick Saban does and I anticipate will be reminded of that when this matchup comes up.
Florida at Florida State- While it may not have the shine it had in the 90s when these two teams were competing for national titles (and even played one another in one), the Seminoles are once again, for the 5th-6th season in a row “back” while the Gators try to figure out what happened last year after an impressive reign with Urban Meyer. The 2011 edition of this game was a giant insult to the sport of football and the 2012 version can’t possibly be as bad or worse which is reason enough to tune in. Both teams possess elite defenses and questionable offenses so we could be in for a good ole fashion grinder with mistakes being the culprit in one team’s demise. Can Florida State live up to the team that was picked by the established Phil Steele to play for the national title? Will Florida show us why Will Muschamp was so highly coveted?
Notre Dame at USC- USC will face a couple challenges in the PAC-12 but Notre Dame presents the only realistic chance for a non-conference loss in 2012. Last season Notre Dame performed one of their classic meltdowns we’ve referenced with a fumble on the one yard line down 17-10 that was recovered by USC at the 20 and returned 80 yards for a score. While USC certainly didn’t bring their A-game, Notre Dame did everything imaginable to cough up their lunch. In 2012 one gets the feeling Notre Dame can’t simply bank on correcting their mistakes and everything else will be fine. USC is the more talented team, will be at home and can play much better than the one in South Bend last year. The Irish have one tough schedule in 2012 with at least 8 teams who could be bowl caliber and potentially even more. Depending how the season goes, USC could be playing to stay in national title contention while Notre Dame if some things fall apart could be playing for bowl eligibility.
TCU at Texas- S-E-X-Y. No other way to put it. The traditional power program in a state that bleeds Orange vs the state’s best team over the last five years. There likely will be high school teammates going head to head between two strong teams from the Lone Star State. At this juncture of the season we’ll know where both teams stand in the Big 12 title chase but in a conference that looks to have 5-6 legitimately strong teams, there could be more than just state bragging rights on the line when the Horned Frogs take a bus to Austin. TCU is finally getting a shot to prove the last few seasons haven’t just been a one or two week fluke and that they’re every bit the power program their league so often won’t get credit for. What better way to prove that than going to Austin and slaying the Longhorns?
Oklahoma State at Oklahoma- Bedlam. So good it only requires one word. Two years ago saw a classic game that wasn’t decided until the final moments, enough to push Oklahoma to the conference championship game. Last season proved to be a mismatch as the Cowboys got some revenge, pummeling their in-state rivals in a fashion that had some wondering if it would be enough to push them into the title game over Alabama. However ultimately it wasn’t and Oklahoma St was forced to settle for a Fiesta Bowl trip. Oklahoma should enter the game as the favorite in 2012 with the return of Landry Jones to school to coincide with the turnover at Oklahoma St. replacing both Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon. Still if we’ve learned one thing over the years it’s that you can never assume anything in this matchup. Get ready for some fireworks.
Michigan at Ohio St. 12 PM- The Buckeyes really let me down last year. With all my chips pushed to the center of the table on Michigan being a fraud, the Buckeyes had the last crack at knocking Michigan out of BCS contention and while they played them tough for a while, ultimately came up short. Brady Hoke survived his first Michigan-Ohio St. game last year and Urban Meyer will look to do the same this season. There’s a good chance these teams could be playing twice a year in the future if they continue to recruit at the level they’re recruiting and that would only add to the already heated environment surrounding this rivalry. For all the mentions of Ohio State’s regular season “being their bowl games” and such, perhaps nothing matters more than a win over their rival in a season where any other accomplishments aren’t in play. It’s one of the most anticipated games every season and nothing should change that in 2012.
LSU at Arkansas 2:30 PM- The last two years and now going on a third, any matchup between two of the big three in the SEC West just oozes intrigue. The Hogs have had quite the tumultuous offseason with the firing of Bobby Petrino and many are wondering if the team can continue the caliber of play they’ve performed with the past couple seasons. With the utmost faith in Tyler Wilson, Kniles Davis and an always potent passing attack I think the Hogs have a chance with home games against LSU and Alabama to steal one of those two games. For LSU this may be the last step in a run to an unbeaten regular season if they can handle the games they should and beat Alabama at home. Each of the last two seasons we’ve had two elite teams squaring off in this game and if the football Gods are being friendly, we’ll get that again in 2012. Soooooooooiiiiiiiieeeeeeee!!!!
#1 Week 10: Thursday November 1st – Saturday November 3rd
Virginia Tech at Miami, FL 7:30 PM- A Coastal Division rivalry that has given K.M Venne endless trolling material over the years, the Hokies and Hurricanes return to Miami this season after Virginia Tech’s frantic comeback a year ago to steal victory from the jaws of defeat. Virginia Tech once again will be led by Bud Foster’s defense with 9 starters returning from last year’s team. Still, no name stands out on the Hokies more than QB Logan Thomas, a physical specimen who may have had his most memorable performance last year in this very game. Miami came to the ACC expected to dominate the Coastal Division but since their arrival its been the Hokies who have been the dominant force. Could 2012 be the year someone other than Georgia Tech dethrones them?
Missouri at Florida- While for me personally this game doesn’t have a ton of appeal, there are quite a few people, specifically those in SEC circles who are looking forward to it. However we won’t really know the magnitude of this game until a few weeks into the season after Missouri has played Georgia and South Carolina while Florida has played a few SEC games themselves. This game drops off significantly if either of those teams stumbles out of the gate and enters with two-three conference losses. The game could very well come down to the Missouri passing game against the Gators secondary.
TCU at West Virginia- The newbies to the Big 12 square off in Morgantown in a game that could light up the scoreboards. For all the notoriety and praise the West Virginia passing attack gets, the TCU air game really showed it isn’t exactly chopped liver either. After the graduation of Andy Dalton, some thought it may take a season for Casey Pachall to succeed in the starting quarterback position. However he quickly put those doubts to rest in the season opener a year ago (albeit in a loss) at Baylor with a strong performance. Overall his 25 TDs and 7 INTs for slightly under 3000 yards were a sign TCU would be just fine at the QB spot. Neither defense last year gave much confidence against explosive offenses and TCU’s secondary was bordering on terminally ill. Expect this game to come down to the 4th quarter with perhaps the defense that steps up first winning it.
Oklahoma State at Kansas State- Last year Kansas State almost played spoiler to Oklahoma State’s unbeaten season before Iowa State did in a late season game in Stillwater. However they were unable to find the endzone late in a potential game-tying sequence and as a result fell for the second time. This year the Cowboys make the road trip and Kansas St has to feel good about their chances to redeem last year’s loss. Kansas State’s run-first, run-second and run-third offense can’t be banking on having to score 40+ points if they want to win. The defense has to be better than a year ago.
Eastern Michigan at Ohio 6 PM- This is the one week of the season that has MACtion with at least other games that are great. Do yourself a favor and just watch it. I don’t need to explain it anymore. You’re all grown adults. Ignore at your own peril.
Nebraska at Michigan State- To this point it may be a wonder why this week is above some of the others. After all the appetizers are practically stale tortilla chips compared to some of the other weeks but starting now is when we see a shift. Michigan State got pummeled in Nebraska last season. The Cornhuskers made Sparty look like a team that belonged nowhere near the Big Ten title game while showing glimpses of the team some (but not yours truly) had going to the Rose Bowl. The defense played one of their best games of the year and the game was never really in question after the early 3rd quarter. Nebraska is 6-0 all-time against Michigan State and has outscored them 205-37 in those games, never surrendering more than 14 points. Maybe it’s time for Sparty to change those fortunes.
Oregon at USC- Alright, forget all that fake bravado I just gave you for the last 6 games of this week. You want to know why this is the best weekend of the college football season? It’s because this is the SECOND best game of the weekend. A game that could very well determine who goes into the PAC-12 title game with a shot at the national championship is the second-best game of the weeked. INSANE. Listen, some may downplay this game because let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment: there’s a strong chance this will just be a tune-up for a rematch in the PAC-12 title game. But before you suggest that warrants this game irrelevant, note that the PAC-12 title game is played on the team with the best league record’s home field. So there’s a lot at stake here. Nonetheless there will be two elite offensive teams on the field, coached by two self-loving coaches who call a spade a spade with national championship implications most likely. If you don’t want to watch this game, you simply hate sports.
Alabama at LSU 8 PM- GAME OF THE YEAR. Haters gonna hate, SEC gonna dominate. People were bored by the regular season game last year because people are far too fascinated with offense and video game stats instead of high quality football with high stakes. The two best teams in college football played a terrific regular season football game last year that wasn’t decided until overtime. At the time it appeared Alabama’s hopes for a national title were shot after losing 9-6 but fortunately for them Oklahoma State threw up on their prom dress and LSU brought a new date to the dance. Alabama would redeem their regular season loss with a drubbing in the title game to win Saban’s third BCS title and second at Alabama. In 2012 some faces look different but the fact remains, the two heavyweights of the SEC appear to be on a different level from everyone else (with me holding out a sliver of hope for the Hogs) and there’s a good chance the winner of this game goes to the SEC title game as the overwhelming favorite. Alabama has some defensive pieces to replace, LSU has a new quarterback and the game shifts to Baton Rouge. It’s the best two teams from the nation’s best conference. In the words of Keith Jackson “Whoa, Nellie.”
Week 14 has some great Big 12 action with games featuring TCU-Oklahoma, Baylor-OKST and Texas-Kansas St. while week 15 is reserved for the always classic Army-Navy game so don’t forget to check those out as well. The season doesn’t stop after Week 13.