Oregon-LSU game will shape the season 

February, 10, 2011

Before we get to this week's edition of Three Down and Punt, I want to offer a quick Laurel and Hardy handshake to reader Tom M. from Columbus, who was one of many to respond to my post last week on the top five recruiting head coaches. Tom, whom I assume is from Columbus, Ohio, not Columbus, Ga., sent me this early Valentine:

"I saw you on the TV show NASCAR Now once and as soon as I heard your hick redneck southern accent I should have known you would write this kind of biased southern fried drivel. Sure, Nick Saban is number one on your list. When he was here in the Big Ten where there are actual rules about oversigning he didn't do squat. Goodbye you SEC country bumpkin."

To the plays!

1st Down: The perfect 2011 schedule

As I write this, the 2011 college football season is still just a smidge over 200 days away. But as far as I'm concerned, it's never too early to start digging into the schedule to start figuring out which games are most likely to be each weekend's most scintillating matchup.

With that in mind, I have compiled what I believe to be the most delicious possible 2011 schedule, chock-full of games that figure to shape the season. Now, if I could only get ESPN The Magazine to green light the travel budget ...

Week 1: Sept. 3
Oregon Ducks vs. LSU Tigers in Dallas

This game edges out the Boise State Broncos' trip to Atlanta to face the Georgia Bulldogs because it will pit the Oregon offense, which loses three linemen and little else, against LSU's top-10 defense. Yes, the Tigers will be without Patrick Peterson, but they will return at least a half-dozen starters on D and all but one starter on offense. One of these projected-top-5 teams will have its national title hopes dashed (or at the very least, severely wounded) in the season's first week.