2012 Must-See College Football Games

This year there are over 800 NCAA FBS games to watch, but I'll help you decide which ones are the must-see games each week. Put these games on your calendar: Week 1 (8/30-9/3):

Michigan vs. Alabama - This is the game of the year. If you aren't watching this game you aren't a college football fan. Alabama is the defending National Champion and Michigan would like to make a triumphant return to the Rose Bowl. 8pm on ABC. Michigan leads the series, 2-1.

Clemson vs. Auburn - This will give you an hour to kill until the real game (above) starts. Neither team is expected to win their conference nor appear in a BCS game, but this game is in the Georgia Dome and college football games in the Georgia Dome always lead to exciting fourth quarters. 7pm on ESPN. Auburn leads the series, 32-12-2.

Week 2 (9/6-9/8):

Washington vs. LSU - This game is at Death Valley at night, which in itself makes it among the most interesting of the weekend. LSU’s defense will have a week to figure out how it will perform without Tyrann Mathieu and Washington's quarterback Keith Price will look to expose to LSU. 7pm on ESPN. LSU leads the series, 2-0.

West Virginia vs. Florida State - Florida State should win their conference to get them to a BCS game, but West Virginia is no slouch. Their offense scored 70 points in the Orange Bowl over Clemson. Jimbo Fisher is entering his third year and this would be a marquee win for him and his Seminoles. 8pm on ESPN 3. Florida State leads the series, 3-0.

Week 3 (9/13-9/19):

Alabama vs. Arkansas - This is the best game on the opening weekend in the Southeastern Conference. Though John L. Smith is coaching on a short, ten month contract, winning this game and taking early control the SEC West would almost lock him into a long-term deal, assuming he doesn't slap himself in a press conference. For Alabama, this will be their second test against a very good offensive team. Expect this to be a close game. 3:30pm on CBS. Alabama leads the series, 12-8.

Notre Dame vs. Michigan State - This game will be in East Lansing at night on national television. On paper, there isn’t another game this week that will be as good as this game. In 2011, the Irish upset Sparty in South Bend and you can bet Mike D'Antonio and company will be looking for revenge. The schedule makers were kind to us this week, as we can watch Alabama vs. Arkansas early and finish the night off with this great matchup. On the line: The Megaphone Trophy. 8pm on ABC. Notre Dame leads the series, 46-28.

Week 4 (9/20-9/22):

BYU vs. Boise State - These two teams have met twice before and neither result was positive for the Cougars. BYU needs to win this game convincingly because their only other difficult game will be in South Bend in a month. Lucky for us, this game is on a Thursday, which saves me from suffering through another bad episode of “Two and a Half Men.” The Broncos are the only school left in the Mountain West that plays football. That said they also need to win convincingly. 9pm on ESPN. Boise State leads the series, 2-0.

Michigan vs. Notre Dame - Detecting a theme? Yep, the Irish have the most difficult schedule in FBS and they provide weekly excitement. Last year this game was played in the Big House, at night, and Michigan won in the final two seconds to stun the Golden Domers. I expect this game to be just as exciting. It’s a 7:30pm start time, because NBC always has to do everything different. Michigan leads the series, 23-15-1.

Clemson vs. Florida State - I’ve never been to Doak Campbell, but it looks like a fun place to be, Tomahawk Chop and all. The Marching Chiefs at 470 members claim to be the largest collegiate band in the world. Back to football. This game should be fun, I don’t know tons about this game, but I’ll be paying attention because I want to see how Florida State handles Clemson. This game is generally very close, so pay attention. This will likely be a night game on ESPN/ABC. Florida State leads the series, 17-8.

Week 5 (9/27-9/29):

Ohio State vs. Michigan State - Fear not Ohio State fans, you knew you'd make this list once your team played someone worth dropping everything else to watch. This is the week. I think you're the best team in the Leaders Division even though you're ineligible for post-season play. Make me look good with a win over Sparty. Oh, beating MSU no doubt helps your rival Michigan, so keep that in mind. Ohio State leads the series, 27-13.

Arkansas vs. Texas A&M - The welcome to the SEC tour continuees when the Aggies welcome their old Southwestern Conference rival Arkansas for back to College Station for the first time since 1991. The two have played at Cowboys’ Stadium the past three years as recruiting game for both teams. Texas A&M isn’t great, but they’ll want to exact revenge for last years four point loss and losing the previous two games. This game will be good. Arkansas leads the series, 41-24-3.

Wisconsin vs. Nebraska - This game didn’t start or end well for Nebraska in Madison. Nebraska hopes a change of scenery will help them improve. Key to this game is the same as always with the Cornhuskers: make sure Taylor Martinez doesn’t become a turnover machine. 8pm on either BTN or ABC/ESPN. The series is tied, 3-3.

Week 6 (10/4-10/6):

Georgia vs. South Carolina - This game should determine the Vice President of the Southeastern Conference. We know the President will come from the West Division. Either of these two teams could win the division, but right now I have more faith in Steve Spurrier than Mark Richt. Georgia leads the series, 46-16-2.

Nebraska vs. Ohio State - Ohio State fans remember this game from last season. It wasn't pretty early for Taylor Martinez (is it ever?), who forgot what color jersey he was supposed to throw to and it wasn't pretty for Ohio State who scored just seven points in the entire second half. As entertaining as that was, I expect Ohio State to win this game which will be at night in Ohio Stadium. Ohio State leads the series, 2-1.

Honorable Mention: Miami (FL) vs. Notre Dame - I'll probably get yelled at for using this, but it's the renewal of the "Catholics vs. Convicts" rivalry from the 1980s. This game shouldn't be super interesting, but the game will be played at Soldier Field in Chicago and will feature Notre Dame in some very interesting uniforms. It's worth watching the first quarter before Nebraska and Ohio State get started. Game time is 7:30pm on NBC. Where else do the Irish play? Notre Dame leads the series, 16-7-1.

Week 7 (10/11-10/16):

Texas vs. Oklahoma - Red River Shootout. No political correctness here. No game time announced but we can assume this game will be at high noon. If you've never been to the Cotton Bowl or the Texas State Fair, both are worth going to and this is an easy way to see both, as well as one of the most storied rivalries in college football. They fry everything there. If that isn’t motivation enough to go, then what is? Assuming this game is at noon there will be nothing else on worth watching. Nothing. Texas leads the series, 59-42-5.

South Carolina vs. LSU - A premier game of top-ten teams in Death Valley. If CBS is good to us, they'll let us watch this game in primetime. This game features one coach who spits a lot and talks a lot of smack (Steve Spurrier) and another that eats grass and was born with a horseshoe in his rear end (Les Miles). We all have a good idea of who will win the game, but I'm watching this strictly for the two characters on the sideline. Louisiana State leads the series, 16-2.

USC vs. Washington - This is a Pacific-12 cross-division game and neither team features a defense. I hope this is a 10pm game so I don't miss a moment of it. This game features two of the highest-powered offenses in the conference and there is a good chance both teams score on every possession. For those who hate defense, this is your game. Southern California leads the series, 50-28-4.

Week 8 (10/18-10/23):

BYU vs. Notre Dame - Battle of the Independents. The Cougars haven't played the Fighting Irish since 2005 and will be their second test after facing Boise State a month earlier. If BYU has any hope of getting any BCS credibility, they have to beat Notre Dame in South Bend. 3:30pm on NBC. Notre Dame leads the series, 4-2.

Michigan State vs. Michigan - If the football gods are good to us, this will be a night game in the Big House. Each year both teams compete for the Paul Bunyan Trophy, but last year’s game was particularly ugly. I’m not talking about the game, which was played in the rain, I’m talking about the uniforms. Hopefully this year, both teams will stick with their regular uniforms. Oh, and barring anything crazy the winner of this game should win the Legends Division. Michigan leads the series, 67-32-5.

Week 9 (10/25-10/27):

Florida vs. Georgia – The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party and the longest name of a rivalry, ever. At this point Georgia will either solidly be in control of the East Division or Mark Richt will be looking for another job. Florida has won seven of the past ten meetings in Jacksonville, which is not a place I would send my worst enemy. This game is always good, but it’s up against another 3:30pm game that could be just as interesting. 3:30 on CBS. Georgia leads the series, 47-40-2.

Michigan State vs. Wisconsin – Sparty hasn’t won at Camp Randall since, get ready for this, 2001. Yeah I thought that was a little insane until I noticed that Wisky only has one win in East Lansing in the same period. Bud Selig calls that “parity.” I call it typical home-field advantage in the Big Ten. 3:30 on ABC. Michigan State leads the series, 29-22.

Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma – The Irish haven’t been to Norman since 1966 and Boomer Sooner doesn’t have an amazing record versus Notre Dame. The teams last met in 1999 in what was one of the best games of the season. Notre Dame won 34-30 and featured Jarious Jackson (anyone know if he’s alive?) and Oklahoma with first year coach Bob Stoops (I’d say he’s worked out well). No game time is set, but expect this to me a night game at the “Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.” Nice name, huh? Notre Dame leads the series, 8-1.

Week 10 (11/1-11/7):

Alabama vs. LSU – Discounting the National Championship game, Louisiana State has won seven of the past ten meetings and all but two in Baton Rouge. Last year’s game was a super exciting defensive matchup that produced a 9-6 victory for the Tigers. If your memory is still fuzzy, there were no touchdowns scored in this game. If you love defense this is your game. If not, then hope for the best at the Coliseum (see next game). 8:00pm on CBS. Alabama leads the series, 46-25-5.

Oregon vs. USC – This will be the complete opposite of ‘Bama and LSU. These two schools have some of the highest academic traditions west of the Mississippi, but I don’t think either team can spell defense. If you’re looking for passing, throwing, kicking, punching and spitting this is your game. In the preview, I said USC beats Oregon in this game and I’m sticking to it. No time announced yet, but I’m guessing primetime on ABC. These two teams have split the series 5-5 in the last ten meetings. The Men of Troy lead the series, 38-18-2.

Honorable mention for the afternoon: Illinois vs. Ohio State – This is a fight for “Illy Illibuck,” and is a traditional rival game for each team. Illinois is not great, but they always find a way to make this game interesting. There is a good chance this game will be a Noon start at the Horseshoe. Ohio State leads the series, 63-30-4.

Week 11 (11/8-11/14):

Florida State vs. Virginia Tech – Probably thought I forgot about the ACC? Yeah, I did. They play football too, and this should be a good one. It is also a Thursday night game in Blacksburg, and because that is the only place I trust Frank Beamer I’m going to guess he’ll win unless he blows a blood vessel before this. Florida State is a nice team, but I do not see them winning this game in Blacksburg. Don’t worry, they’ll rematch again in the conference championship game, and I expect Florida State to win that game. I expect them to be in Miami, but at the Orange Bowl, not the National Championship game. Let’s be real about these teams and their conference. This is the first time these teams have met since the ACC championship game in 2010. The Seminoles have won eight of the previous ten meetings. 7:30pm on ESPN. Florida State leads the series 22-12-1.

West Virginia vs. Oklahoma State – This is another conference that features no defense. Each team will be required to file a flight plan with FAA before the game goes wheels-up. Expect lots of passing, a little running, many penalties, and if we are lucky perhaps, Mike Gundy will remind us how old he is. These teams have not met since 1987, but that meeting (Sun Bowl) finished with the Cowboys winning 35-33 over the Mountaineers of West “By God” Virginia. No defense in that game, and there won’t be in any this game. West Virginia leads the series, 2-1.

Texas A&M vs. Alabama – By the time this game rolls around the Aggies will think they made the best decision in the world by moving to the SEC or will realize how stupid they were. If the latter, Alabama will reinforce the point. For those that don’t know, Alabama’s greatest football coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant coached in College Station before he went home to Tuscaloosa in 1958. The two last met in 1988 and the Tide silenced the 12th Man 30-10 in College Station. Expect a repeat in T-Town. Alabama leads the series, 3-1.

Week 12 (11/15-11/20):

If you needed to take a weekend off from college football, this is the week to do it.

Ohio State vs. Wisconsin – Ohio State won’t see the post-season this year, but they’ll be doing their hardest to ruin everyone else’s chances of going to a great bowl game. Wisconsin will not be an exception to this theory. There were a total of four touchdowns scored in the last five minutes of the game last season. Braxton Miller threw a 40-yard touchdown with 20 seconds left to win the game 33-29. The rest of the game was an absolute snore fest. Ohio State has won six of the last ten meetings. Ohio State leads the series, 54-18. Told you - not worth watching.

Oklahoma vs. West Virginia – These two teams last met in the regular season in 1982. I was four months old. So, there’s that. This is a battle of two states that couldn’t be more different. And since this game is in Morgantown I expect some drama to unfold. This is the first Big 12 meeting between these two and assuming neither has committed the equivalent of BCS suicide this should be a good game with some meaning. I have nothing interesting to say about this game. These teams last met in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. West Virginia won 48-28. The series is tied, 2-2. Again, not worth watching…have a keg party instead.

Week 13 (11/23-11/24):

RIVALRY WEEK – Watch every game possible. Here are the best:

Auburn vs. Alabama – The greatest rivalry in college football. Alabama leads the series, 41-34-1.

Michigan vs. Ohio State – The best rivalry between two schools that are not in the same state. 12p on ABC. Michigan leads the series, 58-43-6.

Notre Dame vs. USC – You have other plans for Saturday night? Didn’t think so. Notre Dame leads the series, 43-35-5.

Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma – Bedlam. No one really knows what it means, but we will be watching. Actually, it is related to the rivalry between the two wrestling programs. You really didn’t think I knew? Don’t be stupid. Oklahoma leads the series, 81-18-7.

South Carolina vs. Clemson – Battle for the Palmetto State. That is really the name. I cannot support this game, but it could get interesting since it is at Clemson. Howard’s Rock and Running Down the Hill will be in all its glory if Clemson still has a chance in the ACC. Clemson leads the series, 65-40-4.

Kentucky vs. Tennessee - Rocky Top had won this game for 26 years, longest winning streak in FBS history, until last year. This game is back in Knoxville and if Derek Dooley finds a way to lose this game to a guy named “Joker” two years in a row I imagine he won’t have a job next year. Don’t watch this game, but pay attention to the highlights. It is always a hillbilly fest in Knoxville. Tennessee leads the series, 74-24-9.

Week 14 (11/29-12/1):

There are couple throwaway games this week, so here they are:

Oklahoma vs. TCU – Make no mistake about it, The Horned Frogs will be looking to beat Oklahoma. They haven’t done so since 2005. Oklahoma leads the series, 7-4.

Oklahoma State vs. Baylor – Sure. Why not? I don’t expect a lot from Baylor this year, since their only weapon is in the NFL now, but let’s see how this turns out. Oklahoma State leads the series 18-12.

Week 15 (12/8):

Navy vs. Army – The greatest rivalry in sports. Hands down and, don’t argue about how you think your two teams are better. They aren’t. This game is a battle of the future officers of our two strongest military branches, Army and Navy. As someone who has attended this game many times and many other college football games, I can tell you without a doubt there is not a more emotional rivalry anywhere. Put this game on your bucket list, and enjoy everything that goes along with it. 3:00pm on CBS. Navy (of course) leads the series, 56-49-7.

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