SEC Football: Power Ranking the Best Rivalry Games of 2013

Kurt WirthCorrespondent INovember 13, 2013

SEC Football: Power Ranking the Best Rivalry Games of 2013

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    (Birmingham News/Mark Almond)

    Some of the Southeastern Conference's biggest rivalries have seen, and will likely see, some exciting and season-altering outcomes in 2013.

    Rivalry games regularly lose coaches their jobs, turn seasons around and help determine championships. They're some of the most well-attended and well-covered games all season and shape the attitudes of fans toward their own programs.

    And, unsurprisingly, the SEC has the biggest rivalries around.

    Here's a look back, and forward, at the league's most important and scream-inducing rivalry games this season.

7. The Magnolia Bowl

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    Ryan Moore, Gerald Herbert/AP

    Opponents: LSU and Ole Miss

    Overall Record: LSU advantage, 58-40-4

    First Game: December 3, 1894 (Ole Miss W, 26-6)

    Streak: Ole Miss W1

     

    This year's matchup marked the 102nd time these two teams have met, standing as the second-most played rivalry for either team. The rivalry was officially named in 2008 by both student bodies, named after the state flower of both team's home states.

    Though Ole Miss has battled between being an SEC doormat and a player in the Western Division, this rivalry has been a competitive one. This rang true when the unranked Rebels hosted eighth-ranked LSU and sent the Tigers packing with a 27-24 upset.

    That loss meant two of three for the Bayou Bengals after a loss to Alabama and essentially knocked LSU off its pedestal in the West.

    This game has often been a stumbling block for the Tigers, as Ole Miss pulled off two straight upsets of nationally ranked LSU in 2008 and 2009.

    Though head coach Hugh Freeze is still working to establish Ole Miss as a legitimate threat in the powerful SEC, LSU is aware that the Magnolia Bowl will be a battle each and every year.

     

    Random Fact: The trophy was subject to an unfortunate design decision until being redesigned into its current form.

6. The Egg Bowl

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    Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

    Opponents: Mississippi State and Ole Miss

    Overall Record: Ole Miss advantage, 61-42-6

    First Game: October 28, 1901 (Mississippi State W, 17-0)

    Streak: Ole Miss W1

     

    After 25th-ranked Mississippi State defeated rival Ole Miss in Oxford, 31-23, MSU head coach Dan Mullen exclaimed to his locker room, "We’re never losing to this team again."

    Turns out that lasted two years. After a Bulldogs three-peat, a resurgent Ole Miss claimed the trophy in 2011 with a 31-3 win in Starkville.

    Standing as the 10th-longest uninterrupted rivalry game in collegiate football, the two teams haven't missed a year since the series began in 1901. The "Golden Egg" was incorporated in 1927.

    The 2013 version will again be played in its traditional Thanksgiving night time slot. Though Ole Miss has already secured a bowl berth, its positioning will be in the balance while the Bulldogs of Mississippi State will likely need the win to reach bowl eligibility.

    With what is perhaps the most pure hatred shared between any two fanbases, this one promises to have its share of fireworks and controversy.

     

    Random Fact: The Egg Bowl trophy was created after a mass violence event broke out between the two fanbases in 1926.

5. The Battle for Tennessee

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    Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

    Opponents: Tennessee and Vanderbilt

    Overall Record: Tennessee advantage, 73-29-5

    First Game: October 21, 1892 (Vanderbilt W, 10-0)

    Streak: Vanderbilt W1

     

    Spanning 30 years, Tennessee has dropped just two decisions to the Commodores.

    That fact, though, masks the intensity of the rivalry. Head coach James Franklin's Vanderbilt squad is emerging as a competitor in the SEC Eastern Division, having been invited to two consecutive bowls for the first time in the school's history.

    The Vols, the league's second-most winningest program, are working on a rebuilding project of their own. Head coach Butch Thompson is hoping to help UT avoid missing a bowl for the third straight season, and with six losses, a win at home against the school's in-state rival is a must.

    Vanderbilt hasn't won against Tennessee in back-to-back years since the 1920s and has a real shot at making history in 2013 by knocking the Vols out of bowl contention.

    High stakes and two programs looking to establish their presence in the SEC East should make for a fun watch in the 2013 edition of this rivalry game.

     

    Random Fact: Tennessee won just two of the teams' first 24 matchups. The Vols have only lost to their in-state rival 10 times in the following 85 years.

4. The Third Saturday in October

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Opponents: Alabama and Tennessee

    Overall Record: Alabama advantage, 50-38-7

    First Game: November 28, 1901 (Tie, 6-6)

    Streak: Alabama W7

     

    Combining the Southeastern Conference's two all-time most successful programs, the Third Saturday in October is named such due to the traditional scheduling of the rivalry before the conference split into divisions in 1992.

    Though this rivalry is historically hate-filled and down right nasty, the lack of competition has dampened it a bit. The Tide have won seven consecutive games in the series as the Vols have found themselves with new coaches and out of the national limelight.

    Alabama won nine straight in against UT in the 1970s and '80s and marked its seventh straight win in 2013 with a 45-10 shellacking.

     

    Random Fact: In honor of a tradition started by Alabama head trainer Jim Goostree, the winning team began in 2005 handing out cigars to players and staff. The team then self-reports the NCAA violation every year.

3. The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party

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    Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

    Opponents: Florida and Georgia

    Overall Record: Georgia advantage, 49-40-2

    First Game: November 6, 1915 (Georgia W, 37-0)

    Streak: Georgia W3

     

    Played in Jacksonville, Fla. since 1933 (with two exceptions), this rivalry has traditionally become the effective SEC Eastern Division title game.

    The two teams have struggled, particularly in 2013, and head coach Steve Spurrier's South Carolina Gamecocks have joined Missouri to alter the division's balance of power.

    Known for big plays, mouthy coaches and attracting well over 100,000 not-so-sober fans, the game is nearly always competitive. The previous four games have been decided by a total of 18 points, including this year's 23-20 Bulldogs victory.

    UGA has posted three consecutive wins in the series for the first time since the late 1980s, and if 2014 sees even half the injuries for these two teams that 2013 wrought, the stakes could be much, much higher.

     

    Random Fact: The then-Florida star quarterback Steve Spurrier, a week removed from securing the Heisman Trophy, threw three interceptions in a 27-10 loss to Georgia in 1966.

2. Old Wealth vs. New Power

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    Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

    Opponents: Alabama and Texas A&M

    Overall Record: Alabama advantage, 4-2-0

    First Game: January 1, 1941 (Alabama W, 29-21)

    Streak: Alabama W1

     

    Though this rivalry has not officially received a name yet, it's quickly become perhaps the hottest and most entertaining rivalries in the SEC.

    Entering the game ranked first in the nation and the returning national champion, the Alabama Crimson Tide were heavily favored at home over 15th-ranked Texas A&M in the November 10, 2012 game. The Aggies were enjoying a surprising rise to power in their first year in the SEC, but a trip to Bryant-Denny Stadium seemed to pose a formidable challenge.

    Texas A&M and head coach Kevin Sumlin won that game, 29-24, shocking the nation and vaulting starting freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel to the Heisman Trophy.

    In 2013, the Tide returned the favor. Alabama outgunned A&M's prolific offense in a 49-42 win in College Station and handed its new rival its first loss of the season.

    No, this game doesn't have history, and no, it doesn't have a name. But based on the games that we've seen since Texas A&M joined the conference, this old vs. new, offense vs. defense battle will soon establish itself as the most purely entertaining rivalry in all of college football.

     

    Random Fact: Since the narrow win, Alabama has defeated seven opponents by a combined score of 284-43.

1. The Iron Bowl

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Opponents: Alabama and Auburn

    Overall Record: Alabama advantage, 42-34-1

    First Game: February 22, 1893 (Auburn W, 32-22)

    Streak: Alabama W2

     

    Ever see those lists that always have the same winner? College rankings, car reviews, athletic facilities. Some things never change.

    The foreseeable future will feature Alabama and Auburn's heated rivalry as among the best in the nation, just as the past has for so many decades.

    The series got so heated, in fact, that the two teams stopped playing for over 40 years in the early 1900s due to disagreements over compensation and officiating.

    This rivalry is out for blood both on and off the field. The most recent stake to the flames came in 2010 when, down 24-0, future Heisman winner Cam Newton led the second-ranked Auburn Tigers to an improbable road win over in-state rival Alabama.

    That win propelled Auburn to the national title and marked Auburn's most recent win over the Tide. Alabama rebounded to win the next two BCS National Championships.

    Named the Iron Bowl due to the traditional home of the game in Birmingham, Ala., the rivalry has seen its share of incidents off the field as well. Perhaps you've heard of a man by the name of Harvey Updyke: an Alabama fan who, in that 2010 Auburn campaign, poisoned the trees at famed Auburn landmark Toomer's Corner.

    This year's Iron Bowl promises to be one of the series' biggest. Alabama has long since been ranked atop the national polls, and seventh-ranked Auburn, with only a single loss, could steal the SEC Western Division title out from under the Tide and perhaps enter the national title conversation with a win.

    All eyes will be in Auburn on November 30 for this epic meeting of two formidable, embittered rivals.

     

    Random Fact: The SGA president of the Iron Bowl's losing team must recite the opposing team's fight song at halftime of the Alabama/Auburn men's basketball game on the winner's court.