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August 26, 2011

Ultimate schedule: Best games each week

"I wanna live/where it's always Saturday"

In 1989, the band Guadalcanal Diary sang "Always Saturday." Though the band was formed in Georgia and based for a while in Athens, the tune isn't about college football; rather, it's about an idyllic life in the suburbs.

One of the most entertaining things about college football is being able to look at the schedule as a whole and pick out important games in Week 1, Week 4, Week 6, etc.

That's why the lyric quoted above, from Guadalcanal Diary's 1989 song "Always Saturday," should resonate with college football fans. Though the band was formed in Georgia and based for a while in Athens, the tune isn't about college football; rather, it's about an idyllic life in the suburbs. But what if every day in the fall was a Saturday - talk about an idyllic life.

Also idyllic would be attending the most important game each weekend. In that vein, let's take a preseason look at the best game each weekend this fall.

WEEK 1

The game: Sept. 3, LSU vs. Oregon in Arlington, Texas
Why watch: This matches two preseason top-five teams and is the best non-conference game of the season. There are a ton of storylines - on and off the field. The best on-field story line is whether a rebuilt Oregon offensive line can provide room for the Ducks' plethora of talented skill-position guys against a fast and aggressive LSU defensive front seven.
Others: TCU at Baylor (Sept. 2); Boise State vs. Georgia in Atlanta; BYU at Ole Miss; Fresno State at California; Tulsa at Oklahoma; Miami at Maryland (Sept. 5).

WEEK 2

The game: Sept. 10, South Carolina at Georgia
Why watch: This is one of the two or three most important SEC East games of the season, and it will be even bigger nationally if Georgia beats Boise State in its opener. South Carolina is the preseason favorite in the East, but the Bulldogs will take the mantle of "division team to beat" if they can win this home contest.
Others: Missouri at Arizona State (Sept. 9); Alabama at Penn State; BYU at Texas; Mississippi State at Auburn; Notre Dame at Michigan; Utah at USC.

WEEK 3

The game:Sept. 17, Oklahoma at Florida State
Why watch: The second-biggest non-conference game of the season, this is a chance for FSU to prove its back among the national elite. OU hammered the Seminoles in Norman last season, but this FSU team looks as if it will be a lot better than last season's group. Both defenses will be on the spot, especially Oklahoma's against the run.
Others: LSU at Mississippi State (Sept. 15); Auburn at Clemson; Michigan State at Notre Dame; Ohio State at Miami; Tennessee at Florida; Utah at BYU; West Virginia at Maryland.

WEEK 4

The game:Sept. 24, Oklahoma State at Texas A&M
Why watch: While Oklahoma seemingly is everyone's pick to win the Big 12, the Cowboys and Aggies traded the No. 2 spot in most preseason analysis. Oklahoma State returns the nation's best pass-catch combo in QB Brandon Weeden and WR Justin Blackmon, while A&M might have the nation's best "offensive trio" in QB Ryan Tannehill, TB Cyrus Gray and WR Jeff Fuller. Oklahoma State won a thriller last season. If you like defensive football, don't watch this, as there should be points aplenty.
Others: Arkansas at Alabama; Florida State at Clemson; LSU at West Virginia; Missouri at Oklahoma; USC at Arizona State.

WEEK 5

The game:Oct. 1, Nebraska at Wisconsin
Why watch: Welcome to the Big Ten, Huskers. Nebraska's first two league games are a visit to the madhouse that is Camp Randall Stadium, then a visit from Ohio State. This very well could be a preview of the first Big Ten championship game. QB Russell Wilson's presence means Wisconsin should have a truly balanced offense, and deep down, you have to think Nebraska coach Bo Pelini relishes the thought of trying to stop the Badgers.
Others: Alabama at Florida; Arkansas vs. Texas A&M in Arlington, Texas; Auburn at South Carolina; Michigan State at Ohio State; Washington at Utah.

WEEK 6

The game:Oct. 8, Oklahoma vs. Texas in Dallas
Why watch: After the debacle that was the 2010 season, Texas truly can announce "We're back" if the Longhorns can beat their archrival. OU, obviously, would like nothing better than to prolong Texas' misery.
Others: California at Oregon (Oct. 6); Auburn at Arkansas; Florida at LSU; Georgia at Tennessee; Miami at Virginia Tech; Ohio State at Nebraska; Texas A&M at Texas Tech.

WEEK 7

The game:Oct. 15, Arizona State at Oregon
Why watch: Arizona State already has been hit by a spate of key injuries, but the Sun Devils have as good a chance as anyone of winning the Pac-12 South. This is the toughest road game of the season for ASU, who rolled up 597 yards on Oregon last season and held the Ducks to 385, but still lost by 11 because of seven turnovers.
Others: Florida at Auburn; Miami at North Carolina; Michigan at Michigan State; Oklahoma State at Texas; South Carolina at Mississippi State; UCF at SMU.

WEEK 8

The game:Oct. 22, USC at Notre Dame
Why watch: This will be the first night game at Notre Dame Stadium since 1990. The Trojans have won in their past four visits to South Bend, but the Irish snapped an eight-game overall losing streak in the series with a 20-16 victory last season.
Others: Auburn at LSU; Boston College at Virginia Tech; Maryland at Florida State; Oklahoma State at Missouri; Wisconsin at Michigan State.

WEEK 9

The game:Oct. 29, Wisconsin at Ohio State
Why watch: The programs have split their past eight meetings, with two of the Badgers' victories coming in Columbus. This could be a de facto Big Ten Leaders Division title game. Ohio State will be coming off a bye week, while Wisconsin will be coming off what should be a tough game at Michigan State.
Others: BYU vs. TCU in Arlington, Texas (Oct. 28); Florida vs. Georgia in Jacksonville; Michigan State at Nebraska; Missouri at Texas A&M; Stanford at USC.

WEEK 10

The game:Nov. 5, LSU at Alabama
Why watch: This could be the de facto SEC West title game - and it also could serve as an elimination game in the hunt for a berth in the national championship game. LSU has won eight of the past 11 against the Tide, including four of the past five in Tuscaloosa. In his nine games as coach in this rivalry, Nick Saban has been on the winning side six times.
Others: Florida State at Boston College (Nov. 3); Oregon at Washington; South Carolina at Arkansas; Stanford at Oregon State; Texas A&M at Oklahoma;

WEEK 11

The game:Nov. 12, Oregon at Stanford
Why watch: If all the preseason prognostications are correct, this will match two top-10 teams and will be for the Pac-12 North title. It also could be a defining Heisman moment for either Stanford QB Andrew Luck or Oregon TB LaMichael James. Oregon has won eight of the past nine, thanks to a rally from 18 down last season. Forgive the respective defensive coordinators if they're a little antsy before the game: In the past 12 meetings, dating to 1997, the winning team has scored at least 50 points five times (including three of the past four seasons) and at least 40 points nine times.
Others: Auburn at Georgia; Florida at South Carolina; Miami at Florida State; Nebraska at Penn State; Oklahoma State at Texas Tech; TCU at Boise State; Texas at Missouri.

WEEK 12

The game:Nov. 19, Nebraska at Michigan
Why watch: This is the weakest week of the season - or at least it appears that way now. By the time we get this far into the season, this could be a huge weekend. Nebraska hasn't played in Ann Arbor since 1962, and it obviously will be the teams' first meeting as Big Ten foes.
Others: Boise State at San Diego State; Texas Tech at Missouri; SMU at Houston; USC at Oregon.

WEEK 13

The game:Nov. 26, Alabama at Auburn
Why watch: This is rivalry weekend, so the best game is in the eye of the beholder. But given that Alabama-Auburn is the nastiest rivalry in the country, a rivalry taken to new heights (or is it lows?) with the poisoning of the Toomer's Corner trees, and that the teams involved have won the past two national titles, we're betting that everyone - no matter who they root for - will keep an eye on this game. Last season, Alabama was at home and came up short in its quest to spoil the Tigers' unbeaten season. Could the roles be reversed this season?
Others: Texas at Texas A&M (Nov. 24); Arkansas at LSU (Nov. 25); Pittsburgh at West Virginia (Nov. 25); Clemson at South Carolina; Florida State at Florida; Notre Dame at Stanford; Ohio State at Michigan; Oregon State at Oregon; Penn State at Wisconsin.

WEEK 14

The game: Dec. 3, SEC championship game
Why watch: Each of the past five winners of this contest has gone on to win the national title, and it wouldn't be a surprise if that streak increases to six this season. Almost every preseason poll has SEC West teams Alabama and LSU in the top five, and the bet here is that one of those teams will be the SEC West representative in this game - and playing for a spot in the BCS national championship game.
Others: West Virginia at USF (Dec. 1); Oklahoma at Oklahoma State; ACC championship game; Big Ten championship game; Pac-12 championship game.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.



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