The Big 12's most important games of 2011

The season kicks off with a nice appetizer in Week 1, but these are the main courses that will decide how 2011 is shaped in the Big 12.

1. Dec. 3, Oklahoma at Oklahoma State: This one takes precedence only because it's the finale. Oklahoma may be in the national title hunt. Oklahoma State might be, too. Texas A&M may be waiting and watching, hoping one of these teams can knock off the other and influence their conference title hopes. Either way, plenty of eyes will be on the Dec. 3 conference finale, moved to championship weekend in lieu of a Big 12 Championship game.

2. Sept. 24, Oklahoma State at Texas A&M: Call this one a Big 12 semifinal. Loser will fight an uphill battle to a Big 12 title or a BCS bowl. Winner emerges as the lead contender to knock off reigning champ Oklahoma. There should be plenty of offense to go around, and if all goes as planned, this could be a premiere matchup of top 10 or even top 5 teams. "College GameDay" in College Station, anyone?

3. Oct. 8, Oklahoma vs. Texas in Dallas: The Big 12's premier rivalry takes a backseat here, but the atmosphere at the Cotton Bowl and State Fair of Texas should be as lively as ever. Texas wants to prove it can get back to the top? Beating Oklahoma is the quickest way to do it. And a rivalry game on a neutral site is as easy a setting as any other to have a march to the national title derailed.

4. Nov. 5, Texas A&M at Oklahoma: Count me among the folks that don't see the Aggies winning this one, or even coming within single digits, but that's only because of Oklahoma's history at Owen Field when their 36-game winning streak has looked like it was in jeopardy. The Aggies knocked off Oklahoma by two touchdowns in College Station next year. Revenge? Or sweet vindication once again on the way to a conference title before leaving for the SEC for the Aggies?

5. Nov. 24, Texas at Texas A&M: This one would have been last on the list, or perhaps not even on it, if all was well in the offices of Big 12 administrators. But alas, that's not the case. This may end up being the last chapter in one of the league's great rivalries, with the Aggies looking like they're headed to the SEC and Texas looking like it's not too concerned about keeping the series alive. Either way, this thing is ending in an S-E-C chant from somebody. Texas should expect extra special treatment from the fans in attendance. Nobody gave the Horns a chance in last season's farewell game against Nebraska in Lincoln. How will the Longhorns look three months from now?

6. Sept. 24, Missouri at Oklahoma: Those poor Tigers. Scheduling has them taking a Big 12 backseat to the biggest game of Week 4, but the Tigers could make a huge statement with a win in Norman. Does anyone see it happening? Very few outside Columbia do, which could make it even more shocking if it does. Linebacker Travis Lewis may still be sidelined, which would help Missouri's case. A win makes the Tigers immediate Big 12 title contenders and perhaps more.