With the BCS National Championship game coming up on Monday night, I had wanted to list my Top 5 College Football games of the regular season that I watched in 2011. With so many things going on in the fall 2011, it was easy for me to forget that the 2011 College Football season was best college football season in the last couple of years. But that’s my opinion, feel free to disagree. Before I get started with my list, however, I wanted to say two things.
First, I have not watched every college football game that was played in 2011, and I didn’t even come close to watching every game. I’m sure that there were other great college football games that took place in 2011 and perhaps some of those games are better than the games in my Top 5, but since I have not watched those games, I can not put them in consideration for my list. I’m not an ESPN college football analyst who spends hours watching game film. I’m just a regular dude. So therefore my list only took in consideration the games that I was able to watch in 2011.
Second, since I live in the state of Michigan, I am biased towards my home state college teams, namely Michigan State and Michigan and I do root for them.
So here’s my Top 5 2011 Regular Season College Football games:
#5) November 19 – #18 USC vs. #4 Oregon
Coming into this game, I’m not sure how much of an underdog USC was. The Trojans had a record of 8-2, with their two loses coming from the hands of Arizona State and Stanford (with Andrew Luck). Meanwhile, the Oregon Ducks had only lost 1 game, and that was to eventual #1 LSU in the season opener. After that the Ducks pulled off 9 victories in a row to rank #4 before this game.
With the Trojans winning this game 38-35, this was probably the game that put USC in the conversation for contender next season, as they will probably be ranked rather high in next season’s preseason rankings. I believe the Trojans will also become eligible for a bowl game next season, and I’m sure this played a factor in QB Matt Barkley’s decision to return to USC.
#4) November 5 – #1 LSU vs. #2 Alabama
This was probably the most hyped up college football game of the 2011 regular season, and probably the most hyped up regular season college game of the last couple of years. And in my opinion, this game definitely lived up to the hype.
It was a showdown between #1 and #2, and my biggest fear coming into this game is that perhaps it would turn into a lopsided affair, with one team outrageously outscoring the other team, and then win by a large margin. Thankfully that didn’t happen, as it was a close throughout the entire game.
In fact, there was hardly any scoring at all. It was a low scoring affair, and perhaps people don’t like that. I’ve heard several refer to this game as “an ugly game”. But I absolutely loved it!
I compare it to a pitcher’s duel in baseball, where one single big play or a single mistake can be the difference between victory or defeat.
I wasn’t rooting for either team, I came into this game just wanting to watch a great, entertaining football game between the nation’s top two college teams. And this game definitely delivered, with LSU pulling off the victory with a field goal in overtime, winning 9-6.
#3) November 18 – #2 Oklahoma State vs. Iowa State
This was a Friday night game and I remember coming home that Friday evening extremely exhausted. I was only in the mood for watching TV and this game was on TV. I was’t expecting much, but I was in for a very enjoyable night of college football.
Unranked Iowa State was playing #2 Oklahoma State, and I remember the ESPN analyst saying several times during the game that if Oklahoma State lost this game, it would throw the rankings into chaos.
The other thing I remember the analyst saying is that Oklahoma State’s rival, Oklahoma, was rooting for Oklahoma State to win this game, because if they did, Oklahoma State would remain #2, so if Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State later on, then Oklahoma would move up in the rankings and possibly have a shot at the BCS championship game.
In this game, I myself was rooting for the underdog, Iowa State. I have nothing against Oklahoma State and if the roles were reversed – if Iowa State was #2 and Oklahoma State was unranked, then I would have rooted for Oklahoma State.
The game went into 2 Overtimes, and it was Jeff Woody’s TD run in the second OT that finished Iowa State’s upset over #2 Oklahoma State, 37-31. It was a very suspenseful, exciting finish.
#2) September 10 – Notre Dame vs. Michigan
This was one of the earlier games of the 2011 College Football season, and it was one of the best. It was the first night ever night at Michigan stadium and it certainly lived up to the hype. Michigan was trailing Notre Dame 24-7 at the end of the third quarter, but the fourth quarter was a wild one for the Wolverines. Michigan mounted their comeback, and they took the lead 28-24 with a TD pass from Denard Robinson to Vincent Smith. There was only a little over a minute left to play in regulation and I figured this would be the end of Notre Dame.
However, the last couple of minutes of the game was extremely exciting, with neither team giving up. Notre Dame had the ball and they actually scored a touchdown rather quickly, going up 31-28. There was only about 30 seconds left on the clock, and I was a bit worried for Michigan, that their fourth quarter comeback to (briefly) take the lead was for nothing.
But Michigan never laid down, and in the final seconds of the game, they were able to pull off a very exciting victory, beating Notre Dame 35-31 on a TD pass from Robinson to Roy Roundtree.
It’s hard to believe that this was the first ever night game at Michigan Stadium, but I would imagine that there would be more night games to come.
#1) October 22 – #4 Wisconsin vs. #15 Michigan State
Wisconsin is the current Big Ten college football powerhouse, there’s no denying that. Ohio State is currently in rebuilding mode (although with newly added head coach Urban Meyer, it probably won’t be long before the Buckeyes become contenders again). Michigan and Michigan State have good teams that aren’t quite at championship level yet.
In 2010 regular season, the Wisconsin Badgers lost to only one team. That team was the Michigan State Spartans. Coming into this 2011 showdown with the Spartans, Wisconsin was again undefeated and was ranked #4. They were looking for revenge for last years’ defeat. Meanwhile, the Spartans were looking to repeat what they did the previous year. This was a game that both teams wanted to win very badly, and it showed.
Tied at 31-31, it came to a last second hail mary pass from Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins to Keith Nichol, who made a great catch. Through shear willpower alone, Nichol fought off two Badger defenders to barely break the end zone plane. The play was reviewed, and Michigan State was given the TD, which gave them the victory 37-31. What an amazing finish! What an incredible game!
It’s a shame that when these same two teams met weeks later in the Big Ten Championship, Michigan State couldn’t pull off the victory, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that this game was my favorite college football game of the 2011 regular season and it was the most memorable college football game that I’ve watched in the last couple of years.
Alright, I’ll end this blog post with my prediction for Monday night’s BCS Championship game. My pick to win this game is LSU.