NCF Nation: 2011-conference-game-poll

Your calendars are marked and many of you will be in Big Ten stadiums every Saturday this fall.

But if you had only one Big Ten game to attend, where would you go? I know, there are some very tough choices. The Big Ten has its standard fare of rivalry games, and the schedule takes on a new dynamic this fall as divisional play begins. Suddenly a Michigan State-Iowa game or a Penn State-Illinois game means a little more than it did before.

There's also the arrival of Nebraska into the Big Ten. The league did the Huskers no favors with the 2011 schedule. The plus side is Nebraska will play several marquee games this fall.

It's time to select the Big Ten's can't-miss game.

Ohio State's trip to Nebraska on Oct. 8 certainly jumps out as a possibility. It marks Nebraska's Big Ten home opener, the return of quarterback Terrelle Pryor and four other Buckeyes players from suspension, and, at least for now, the return of Ohio State coach Jim Tressel to the sideline. All eyes will be on Lincoln as the Buckeyes and Huskers meet under the lights.

Nebraska's first game as a Big Ten conference member also is on the can't-miss radar. The Huskers visit Wisconsin on Oct. 1 in what should be an electric atmosphere at Camp Randall Stadium. Nebraska's clash with Michigan State's later in the month could decide the Legends division.

Speaking of division-deciding games, Wisconsin at Ohio State certainly qualifies. The teams shared the Big Ten title with Michigan State last season, but Wisconsin's victory against the Buckeyes pushed the Badgers to Pasadena.

And let's not forget The Game, as Brady Hoke leads Michigan for the first time against the team he refers to only as "Ohio."

There are many more marquee games, but I was limited to five choices.

It's time to cast your vote for the Big Ten's can't-miss contest.
The Big 12 had plenty of classics last year. Texas A&M-Nebraska. Oklahoma-Oklahoma State. Missouri-Oklahoma. Oklahoma-Nebraska. Oklahoma State-Texas A&M.

This year, there should be plenty more. Sometimes they're easy to spot in the preseason. Other times? Not.

But which game are you most looking forward to watching?

Oklahoma and Oklahoma State featured four touchdowns in 92 seconds late in the fourth quarter, but the Sooners clinched the Big 12 South with a win. This year's game will be on championship weekend and the winner could earn a BCS berth.

Oklahoma State and Texas A&M played a classic last year. Both teams erased 14-point deficits before the Cowboys won on a last-second field goal. This year, the winner could deliver a big blow to the other's Big 12 title hopes, but whoever comes out on top, there should be enough offense to make us all winners.

Texas A&M knocked off the Sooners in College Station last year, but the Aggies' Big 12 title hopes go through Norman this year. Texas A&M lost their last date in Norman, 65-10, but can Mike Sherman join Les Miles as the only Big 12 coach to beat Bob Stoops in Norman?

Can't get enough of the corny dogs? Oklahoma and Texas may not be two top-10 teams this year, but it's always an atmosphere unrivaled across the Big 12. Can Texas prove it's back with a win over the Sooners?

Missouri knocked off the Sooners last year to become the Big 12's last undefeated team. Now, the Tigers head to Norman for the first time since 2007, when Oklahoma handed the Tigers their first loss of that season. What's in store this year?

Vote: Can't miss non-AQ game

May, 13, 2011
5/13/11
5:00
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We have given you plenty of opportunities to vote on a wide variety of topics over the past two days. So we end our week with one final poll question, "What is the can't miss non-AQ conference game of the 2011 season?"

This is an easy one for me: TCU at Boise State on Nov. 12. It is also one of my three non-AQ games to watch, as featured in my spring wrap-up. A mini-rivalry has developed between fans of these schools. Unfortunately, there is no way this one will develop further since this will be their only meeting as conference rivals. Still, many are expecting this game to determine the conference title. Boise State is nearly unbeatable at home with two losses there since 2001 (one of them was a bowl game). The teams split their past two meetings in bowl games -- TCU won the Poinsettia Bowl in 2008, Boise State won the Fiesta Bowl the following season. This one is going to be good.

My other choices: Houston at Tulsa could decide the team to play in the C-USA championship game; Air Force at Navy could determine who wins the Commander-in-Chief Trophy; Air Force at Boise State features the Broncos' first conference crack at stopping the triple option; TCU has a difficult road game at San Diego State as it tries to leave the Mountain West with another conference title. I have plenty other AQ games to watch, both in conference and out of conference, but these are my top five.
Historically, the winner of the Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech game has decided the winner of the entire Coastal Division.

That streak might end this season.

With uncertainty looming over Georgia Tech’s quarterback position, no clear progress being made in special teams, and an underlying question of the current team’s talent level, the Yellow Jackets might take a backseat in the conference race for a second straight year.

North Carolina had one of the most impressive springs in the ACC, and despite depending on a first-year starting quarterback, could be one of the teams in the Coastal Division, along with Miami, to trip up the Hokies. The Miami-Florida State game lost some of its luster last year, and while it will always be one of the nation’s better rivalries, its actual importance to the national audience will be diminished until the Hurricanes catch up with Florida State in the polls.

In the Atlantic Division, the Florida State-Clemson game could go a long way in determining the division winner, but NC State should also be considered a contender. Last year’s game between the Noles and Wolfpack haunted Florida State until the final snap of the regular season. If Boston College is going to make some noise in the ACC race, though, it will have to beat Florida State at home on a Thursday night in early November.

Every league game is important, but some will carry more weight than others.
Just about every week in the SEC, there's a so-called "don't miss" game.

Some are bigger than others, and some mean more. But the beauty of this league is that every week matters.

As former Florida coach Urban Meyer used to say, there's a playoff every week in the SEC.

So as we point toward the 2011 season, which games warrant being on the "don't miss" checklist?

For starters, there are several nonconference games that should be dandies, and it starts the first week of the season with LSU taking on Oregon in Arlington, Texas and Georgia facing Boise State in Atlanta. The second week of the season, Alabama travels to Penn State.

But inside the league is where memories are made, and we won't have to wait long to get a beat on the Eastern Division race. South Carolina pays a visit to Georgia the second week of the season. That same weekend, we also find out a lot about Auburn post-Cam Newton and post-Nick Fairley when the Tigers take on Mississippi State in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

From there, it's on and doesn't let up until the SEC champion is crowned on Dec. 3 in Atlanta.

We're depending on you to tell us what game next season is the one none of us want to miss. Go to our poll and vote, and we'll take a closer look at the one you selected next week.
Every season, certain games get circled in red pen. And because Pac-12 teams aren't fraidy-cats like many teams in other AQ conferences, some of those are nonconference games.

Such as Oregon facing LSU in Cowboys Stadium. That could be the national game of the year, pitting two teams expected to be ranked in the preseason top-five in the season opener.

Hard to beat that.

Of course, you might just get two more top-five teams starting nose-to-nose when the Ducks visit Stanford on Nov. 12. Oregon handed the Cardinal its only loss last year, and the Cardinal will be thinking about revenge. Oh, and the game will feature Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck and Oregon running back LaMichael James, so it might decide the Heisman Trophy, too.

Stanford plays two other potential marquee games. For one, it's developed a bit of a rivalry with USC. In 2009, coach Jim Harbaugh ran up the score on the Trojans in the Coliseum. Last season, the Cardinal broke the Trojans hearts with a last second field goal for a second consecutive victory. Might USC spoil a special Stanford season?

Stanford's final game also is of note: a visit from Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are always a draw, even when they are down. But coach Brian Kelly is expected to have them back up. And who knows what the stakes might be for the Cardinal?

Finally, the potential top two teams in the conference's south division meet on Sept. 24 when USC visits Arizona State. That's a measuring stick game for both programs. Are the Sun Devils for real? Is USC back? One or the other team figures to be ranked afterward.

What's your take?
Big East Decision 2011 comes to a close with our final poll question of the week. The last topic: What are the must-see conference games this season?

In this league, you have to watch every week because, truly, anybody can beat anybody. So narrowing this to just five nominees was awfully tough. But here's my final five for your voting pleasure:
  • West Virginia-Pittsburgh: The Backyard Brawl is always Big East must-see TV. And with Dana Holgorsen vs. Todd Graham in a potential Wild West shootout? Yes, please.
  • West Virginia-South Florida: The Bulls have given West Virginia fits, especially in Tampa, and this is set up as a potential de facto conference title game on the final Thursday night of the season.
  • Connecticut-Rutgers: This game has given us thrilling endings for the past few years, with Rutgers getting the upper hand on the Huskies in a growing rivalry.
  • South Florida-Pittsburgh: We'll get an early read on whether the Bulls or the Panthers are a contender when USF goes to Heinz Field in late September.
  • Syracuse-Connecticut: New Huskies coach Paul Pasqualoni will face the team he coached for years when the Orange come to Rentschler Field.

So there are your nominees. Now it's time to let your voice be heard, one last time.

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