July 17, 2009

By Adam Caparell
NCAA.com

Over the summer, NCAA.com will look at the FBS schedule, highlighting the top matchups, the can't-miss games and the best storylines for each of the 15 weeks of the regular season. Check in every week to find out which games you simply have to see.

FBS Calendars: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11
Week 12 | Week 13 | Week 14 & 15

Rivalry week used to last one weekend, but in today's college football it tends to get stretched over the final three weeks of the regular season. And with Week 12, the rivalries really begin. From Michigan-Ohio State to Cal-Stanford, some of the game's most storied series get set for another installment while conference races in the ACC, Big 12 and SEC could see seismic shifts. 

Week 12's Can't Miss Games

Saturday, Nov. 21 - Ohio State at Michigan  
Rich Rodriguez's Wolverines still might be another year or two away from making a run at the Big Ten title, but Rodriguez has a track record of producing very good second seasons at his coaching stops (Tulane, Clemson, West Virginia). So expect a much more competitive Michigan squad this season, which should make for a much more competitive game between the Big Ten rivals. Last year's 42-7 Ohio State win was one of the worst losses by either team in 40 years. Michigan leads the all-time series, which some call the greatest rivalry in sports and certainly the greatest rivalry in college football, 57-42-6. But since Jim Tressel took over the Buckeyes, the series has been dominated by Ohio State. The Scarlet and Gray have won seven of the last eight matchups versus the Maize and Blue. 

Saturday, Nov. 21 - North Carolina State at Virginia Tech
Sleeping on North Carolina State could turn out to be a big mistake. The Wolfpack just might feature the best quarterback in the conference in Russell Wilson. Only a sophomore, Wilson burst onto the scene last year to guide N.C. State to a bowl when it wasn't looking like Tom O'Brien's team would get there. On the other side is Tyrod Taylor, the quarterback many have said is tops in the conference. Something has to give in this one: Which signal caller will make the crucial late mistake? Which will rise up on a national stage? If Wilson is on his game he could have the Wolfpack in position to steal the ACC Atlantic and possibly set up a showdown with the Hokies in the ACC championship game.

Saturday, Nov. 21 - Kansas at Texas
Another contest that could very well be a preview of a conference championship game. The race for the Big 12 South will be between Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, but many of the preseason publications believe Kansas is the team to beat in the Big 12 North. Excellent QB matchup with Todd Reesing facing off against Colt McCoy. The Longhorns took it to the Jayhawks in last year's meeting, beating up Kansas by four touchdowns in Lawrence. This will be the second game of a very tough stretch for Kansas who comes off a meeting with Nebraska and then must prepare for their bitter rival Missouri the following week in Kansas City.

Saturday, Nov. 21 - LSU at Ole Miss
Huge. This one could very well decide who wins the SEC West. The race appears to be between Ole Miss, LSU and Alabama, and not necessarily in that order. It'll bear watching how that revamped LSU defensive line enters Oxford. There are a lot of new faces up front and if they haven't figured out things by the end of November then the Tigers, under new defensive coordinator John Chavis, could be in for a long day facing Jevan Snead. But then again, Les Miles trusts Chavis to improve a unit that let up a lot of points last year (including 31 to the Rebels last year) and struggled against the pass at times.

Other Games To Keep An Eye On

Thursday, Nov. 19 - Colorado at Oklahoma State
The Buffaloes have become a fixture on Thursday nights. Tough task against Oklahoma State in Stillwater where the Cowboys could still be gunning for the Big 12 South crown.

Saturday, Nov. 21 - Air Force at BYU
Big matchup in the Mountain West between these rivals. Last year, BYU overcame a halftime deficit at the Air Force Academy to walk away with a 14-point road victory.

Saturday, Nov. 21 - Cal at Stanford  
One of the game's top rivalries, and longest running, the Big Game is always a big deal even if both teams aren't in contention. Stanford leads the all-time series 55-45-11.