10 Rivalry Games That Will Have the Biggest Impact on the BCS

Amy DaughtersFeatured ColumnistNovember 6, 2012

10 Rivalry Games That Will Have the Biggest Impact on the BCS

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    The great thing about late-season rivalry games in college football is that they are often oozing with meaning for one or both of the teams involved.

    These concrete consequences take what was already a burning ember of dislike and douse it with lighter fluid until it becomes an unquenchable blaze of hate.

    Yes, when your team is squaring off against its biggest rival AND a divisional title, conference crown or BCS bid is on the line in the bargain, things that once seemed big become ginormous.

    The following slideshow pinpoints the 10 upcoming rivalry games that will have the biggest impact on the 2012-13 BCS picture.

    Each of these storied hate-fests will be amped up delightfully due to the fact that they will become the hinges on which the lucrative gate to the BCS swings.

Georgia vs. Georgia Tech

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    Series Began: 1893

    All-Time Series Leader: Georgia 62-39-5

    Recent History: Georgia has won 10 of the last 11 games; Georgia Tech last won (in Athens) in 2008 (45-42).

    One of five FBS rivalries that square off for a "Governor’s Cup" as the prize, the 2012 edition of Georgia vs. Georgia Tech will likely be fraught with meaning for the Bulldogs.

    Georgia is currently the highest-ranked one-loss team in the BCS standings and only needs to win at Auburn this Saturday to punch its ticket to the SEC title game.

    After that, the Bulldogs host FCS Georgia Southern in Week 12 and then will welcome the Yellow Jackets to Athens for this year’s version of the contest aptly billed as, “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.”

    Simply put, Georgia must beat Georgia Tech to stay atop the BCS rankings with one loss.

    If the Bulldogs were to beat Auburn and lose to the Yellow Jackets, then they’d still be in the SEC title game, but they’d risk a potential BCS berth by virtue of having two losses going into the SEC title game.

    With a win in the SEC championship game Georgia should, at the very least, garner a Sugar Bowl bid, but if the Bulldogs fall to Georgia Tech and then lose the conference title game, the three losses could cause a free fall past the likes of LSU, Florida and even South Carolina.

    Remember: In the current BCS scheme, only two teams from each conference can participate in the BCS bowl games, regardless of their standing in the final rankings.

Notre Dame vs. USC

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    Series Began: 1926

    All-Time Series Leader: Notre Dame 43-35-5

    Recent History: USC has won nine of the last 10 meetings; Notre Dame last won in 2010 in Los Angeles.

    The 2012 battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh (an Irish club or bat) could well be the deciding factor for Notre Dame’s bid to play for its first national title since 1988.

    What’s really fascinating regarding Notre Dame and USC’s traditional closer is that it’s the Irish that are likely to be playing for all the marbles instead of the Trojans, who started the season at No. 1 in many of the early polls.

    If the Irish can knock off Boston College this Saturday and then Wake Forest next weekend, the trip to Los Angeles to face USC will decide whether or not Notre Dame will be in the running for, at minimum, a BCS bowl berth.

    The next obvious question: If the Irish do indeed finish the year 12-0, can they jump over Oregon and K-State to the No. 2 ranking (minimum) that will be necessary for the title bid?

    The flip side of this year's battle for the bedazzled Shillelagh is that USC needs to finish its season without losing any more games in order to be considered for a BCS bid with three losses.

    Of course, the Trojans can automatically reach the BCS Rose Bowl if they beat Arizona State and UCLA and then knock off the North champ (presumably Oregon) in the Pac-12 title game.

    Either way, a win for USC over a Top Four-ranked BCS team would do wonders for its ranking and give a glimmer of hope that the Trojans could pick up an at-large bid (especially if top teams continue to fall).

Alabama vs. Auburn

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    Series Began: 1893

    All-Time Series Leader: Alabama 41-34-1

    Recent History: Alabama dropped six consecutive games to Auburn from 2002-07 before rebounding to take a 3-1 advantage over the last four meetings. 

    With an apparent mismatch pitting dominant Alabama against hapless Auburn, the 2012 edition of the Iron Bowl will definitely lack the hype that the last few games have enjoyed.

    Nevertheless, if the Crimson Tide can handle a visit from offensively minded Texas A&M this Saturday and then win over FCS Western Carolina the next weekend, the Auburn game will loom large.

    If Alabama is 11-0 when Auburn comes to town, it will have already punched its ticket for the SEC title game, but anything short of perfection will cost the Tide their leadership role in the BCS standings.

    And this is more meaningful in an SEC that played out marginally easier than was anticipated coming into the 2012 season (think: strength of schedule combined with one loss).

    A rivalry game as heated as the Iron Bowl is dangerous regardless of the circumstances, and you could argue that it’s even more scary by virtue of the fact that the teams are so mismatched on paper.

    To illustrate what can happen in a game like this, think back to 1989 when the 1-15 Dallas Cowboys scored their only win on the season over 10-6 Washington.

Oregon vs. Oregon State

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    Series Began: 1894

    All-Time Series Leader: Oregon 59-46-10

    Recent History: Oregon has won the last four meetings; Oregon State last beat the Ducks away at Eugene in 2007 (38-31 OT).

    If the situation at both Oregon and Oregon State remains static, the 2012 edition of the Civil War may well be the most meaningful rivalry game of the season.

    What needs to happen for this scenario to play out is fairly simple: First, the Ducks must win at Cal and then at home against Stanford; then, the Beavers must win at Stanford this Saturday and then at home vs. Cal.

    Ironically, both Oregon teams must beat Stanford and Cal in order to make it to the final week of the season still in the hunt for a Pac-12 title and a BCS bid.

    If all this becomes reality, then an Oregon win means a Pac-12 title and a shot at the BCS crown. If Oregon State shocks the world, then suddenly the Beavers play for the conference crown and have a strong case (if they win) as a one-losser.

    A Ducks win basically solidifies the BCS picture, while a Beaver victory would shake things up in an intriguing way.

Florida vs. Florida State

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    Series Began: 1958

    All-Time Series Leader: Florida 33-21-2

    Recent History:  After winning six straight games over Florida State from 2004-09, the Gators have dropped the last two games vs. the Seminoles.

    This year’s Florida vs. Florida State game won’t have anything to do with who plays in the SEC or ACC title games, but it could have a huge effect on the ever-growing one-loss BCS picture.

    With just a trio of regular-season games left for most teams, it’s still plausible (especially given upcoming league championships) that only one team will be left undefeated.

    And that means that the top-dog one-loss teams will vie for the second slot in the BCS title game. This is a scenario that could involve Florida or Florida State.

    The “or” in the case is operative because one team will have to lose this epic game and walk away with a minimum of two losses.

    Florida, which can only play in the SEC title game if Georgia loses to Auburn this Saturday, must beat Louisiana-Lafayette and FCS Jacksonville State in order to make it to the Tallahassee, Fla., road trip unscathed.

    Florida State, on the other hand, has back-to-back road trips to Virginia Tech and Maryland between it and the finale against the Gators.

    If both of these teams finish their business (which seems more than doable), then the game between the two could become a key factor in the BCS picture, depending of course on the fate of teams like Oregon, K-State, Alabama and Notre Dame.

    Either way, this is a rivalry that will take a step back up the ladder in terms of national relevancy in 2012.

Clemson vs. South Carolina

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    Series Began: 1896

    All-Time Series Leader: Clemson 65-40-4

    Recent History: Clemson dropped its last three games to South Carolina but held a 6-1 advantage over the 'Cocks from 2002-08.

    Playing for the coveted Hardee’s Trophy, Clemson and South Carolina will rip it up in their traditional finale for more than fast-food-inspired hardware and state bragging rights.

    Indeed, the Tigers and the Gamecocks are two teams that share a huge common factor: Neither can afford to lose even one more game.

    South Carolina is 7-2 and ranked No. 8 in the BCS standings, making it the second-highest two-loss team in the land (behind LSU, which is at No. 7).  The Gamecocks’ losses to LSU and Florida are justifiable since both foes are still top-10 material, but another loss could sink Carolina’s chances of making a what is an unrealistic BCS run.

    In order for the Cocks to make an unscripted BCS trip, LSU and Georgia would both need a loss and Florida would need two, a scenario which would only be realistic if the Gators were to find their way (via a Georgia loss to Auburn) to the SEC title game (before that, they’d have to lose to Florida State).

    Still, it could happen.

    As far as Clemson (8-1) is concerned, it could get a direct shot back to the BCS Orange Bowl if Florida State loses to either Maryland or Virginia Tech, which would catapult the Tigers back into the ACC title game.

    If they win the title, regardless of what happens vs. South Carolina, they are in the BCS.

    The other approach that works for Clemson is if Florida State beats Virginia Tech and Maryland and then loses to Florida (it could happen) or drops an egg in the ACC title game.

    Either way, Clemson would become the only one-loss team in the ACC (with its only loss being to Florida State), which would put the Tigers in great shape for an at-large bid.

    Regardless of how it plays out, both the Gamecocks and Tigers desperately need to win out in their respective conference slates and then triumph in their shared rivalry game to stay alive in a BCS race that is still sumptuously fluid.

Michigan vs. Ohio State

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    Series Began: 1897

    All-Time Series Leader: Michigan 58-44-6

    Recent History: Michigan stopped a seven-game losing skid to Ohio State with a 40-34 win over the Buckeyes in Ann Arbor in 2011. The last time the Wolverines tasted victory in Columbus was 12 years ago, in 2000.

    In what is arguably one of the top three rivalry games in the history of college football, Ohio State vs. Michigan won’t have the impact of other grudge matches on our list, but this fiesta of hate still has BCS implications.

    Regardless of how many wins the Buckeyes can rack up in 2012, they’re completely out of any postseason considerations due to NCAA sanctions banning the Bucks from playing after their Nov. 24 finale with Michigan.

    The Wolverines, on the other hand, remain relevant in the BCS equation not because of their 6-3 record, but due to the fact that some team has to win the Big Ten.

    And that the winning team will play in the BCS Rose Bowl, regardless of its BCS ranking.

    Yes, Michigan’s not even in the latest BCS standings, but that doesn’t mean they can’t join in the big-money dance.

    What makes Ohio State vs. Michigan significant comes down to the race for the Big Ten Legends Division title, which is the ticket to the second annual conference championship game.

    For the Wolverines, this means that Nebraska (which beat Michigan on Oct. 27) must lose to either Penn State, Minnesota or Iowa and then Michigan must win out.

    So, the Wolverines must best Northwestern this Saturday and then sink Iowa in Week 12 before traveling to Columbus to face the Buckeyes.

    And if this all plays out as scripted, then a win at the Horseshoe could equal a trip to Indianapolis to play default Leaders Division champion Wisconsin or Indiana.

    The end result of this game is, again, a BCS bid regardless of BCS standing.

Louisville vs. Rutgers

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    Series Began: 1976

    All-Time Series Leader: Rutgers 7-4-0

    Recent History: Rutgers has lost its last two meetings with Louisville but before that won back-to-back contests over the Cardinals. The Scarlet Knights' last home win over Louisville was in 2008 (63-14).

    Calling the Louisville and Rutgers series a “rivalry” may be a criminal misuse of the term, but if the Big East continues its football operations, these two schools could develop something special.

    And this all starts with a 2012 meeting that oozes with potential impact.

    What could be on the line when the Cardinals travel to New Jersey to square off with the Scarlet Knights in the finale is nothing short of a league title and a titillating bid to the BCS Orange Bowl.

    Both teams must win out for this blockbuster scenario to come to fruition.

    For Louisville (9-0, No. 10 in the BCS), this means beating Syracuse on the road this Saturday and then winning at home against UConn in Week 13 after a Week 12 bye.

    For Rutgers (7-1, No. 23 in the BCS), the task ahead is beating Army this weekend and then icing Cincinnati and Pitt in back-to-back road games.

    If this all plays out, Louisville would be facing Rutgers for a Big East crown and a shot at the Orange Bowl, but if the Cardinals remain unscathed, it’s a chance to royally screw up the BCS picture.

    Indeed, what would happen if the only undefeated teams in the final BCS standings are Louisville and Alabama?

    For Rutgers, a win over Louisville would mean a shot at its first league crown (though they won the Middle Three Conference in 1974) and a chance to represent the teams that played the first-ever college football game (an honor Rutgers shares with Princeton) in the modern-day BCS.

Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State

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    Series Began: 1904

    All-Time Series Leader: Oklahoma 82-17-7

    Recent History: Oklahoma State beat the Sooners last season (44-10), but prior to that Oklahoma won eight straight over the Cowboys. The last time Oklahoma State won in Norman was in 2001 (16-13).

    Though the 2012 edition of Bedlam isn’t likely to have any bearing on the Big 12 title or what team represents the conference in the BCS Fiesta Bowl, if the Sooners have any hopes of securing a BCS at-large bid, they need to beat Oklahoma State.

    Oklahoma currently sits at 6-2 and ranked No. 12 in the BCS. The Sooners' losses are to top-ranked Kansas State and Notre Dame, meaning that winning out vs. Baylor, at West Virginia, vs. Oklahoma State and then at TCU could propel them into a wacky BCS picture.

UCLA vs. USC

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    Series Began: 1929    

    All-Time Series Leader: USC 46-28-7

    Recent History: USC has won the last five straight; UCLA last won in 2006, which marked the only Bruins win over the Trojans since 1998.

    UCLA’s 66-10 drubbing of Arizona last Saturday completely altered the race for the second-ever Pac-12 South Crown.

    And this is a prize that, if won, comes not only with a brand-new Ford Probe but also includes a prize package complete with a shot at a Pac-12 championship and a trip to the BCS Rose Bowl.

    What this all means in relation to the USC and UCLA rivalry is that if the Bruins (in the driver’s seat in the South by virtue of a 4-2 record in conference play vs. the Trojans’ 4-3 mark) win out, they go to the title game.

    For UCLA, the road starts this Saturday at Washington State, followed by a visit from USC for the clash for the Victory Bell.

    The Bruins' path ends with a visit from still-ranked Stanford, a game (if they’ve knocked off the Cougars and Trojans) that could be their ticket to the Pac-12 title game and beyond.

    For USC, the Trojans must take care of Arizona State this Saturday and then beat UCLA the next weekend to make it to the Pac-12 title game, and as a bonus they’ll have to ice Notre Dame in the finale—unless they want to try to go any further with four losses.

    Either way you slice it, if the Bruins and Trojans both win the two games leading up to their rivalry clash, it will be one of the most meaningful crosstown battles in recent history.