10 College Football Rivalry Games That Won't Even Be Close in 2014
College football and its ever-increasing popularity can be boiled down to its biggest draw—rivalries. Most of the memorable moments happen in these games, just ask Alabama, Notre Dame or Oklahoma what a loss in a rivalry game can do to your season.
While the insane finishes get all of the attention, sometimes it's a blowout victory in a rivalry game that also propels a team to greatness. It wasn't until Florida State blew out Clemson and Miami (FL) in two games in a three week span that its national title dreams became cemented in reality.
So, as 2014 inches ever closer, which rivalry games will end up as blowouts? Who could propel themselves with a statement game?
Let's take a look at the 10 rivalry games most likely to end in a lopsided score this season.
Michigan State vs. Michigan
Ever since Mark Dantonio came to East Lansing, the rivalry between Michigan State and Michigan has heated up. It has heated up to the point that both schools now consider each other fierce rivals. It helps that MSU owns a 5-2 record against Michigan since Dantonio arrived on campus.
What really helps make it a rivalry is that the Spartans have owned the Wolverines in most of those five wins, winning by two touchdowns or more in four of the five wins. It's average margin of victory has been 14.8 points per game.
History is great, but what makes the 2014 game a likely blowout? It's the makeup of these two teams and one teams lackluster spring performance.
Michigan State has a powerful offense to go with an equally powerful (albeit different looking) defense, while Michigan is still having issues figuring out its offense, and its defense is not on the same level as MSU's to date.
Michigan State's combination of offensive firepower and defensive track record suggest this could be a really bad meeting for the Wolverines once again. It's very likely Michigan State is parading around its stadium with the Paul Bunyan Trophy in emphatic fashion come October 25, 2014.
Air Force vs. Colorado State
The state of Colorado used to produce some really good football between Colorado and Air Force back in the 1990s—but that isn't the case any more. Instead, it's a one-horse race in the state, and the dominant team now is Colorado State.
Air Force may have the 31-20-1 series lead and may own an 8-2 record in the last decade of games, but it doesn't have the prestige it once had in the last 20 years anymore.
Colorado State proved that last season with a 58-13 beat down of its Ram-Falcon Trophy and Mountain West rivals.
Don't expect that to change much this season, even if CSU is losing all-everything running back Kapri Bibbs to the NFL. That's because Air Force has some major offensive issues of its own, losing quarterback Jaleel Awini to a suspension and eventual transfer to Colorado.
Head coach Troy Calhoun has his work cut out for him to lead the Falcons back to the top of the heap of the service academies, let alone competing with a Colorado State team that is clearly on the upswing.
Was 2013 a fluke victory? History suggests that when Colorado State wins, it wins big—and that's exactly what will happen this year too.
Florida State vs. Miami (FL)
Some of the most iconic games of the late '90s and early 2000s involved Florida State and Miami (FL), and a bitter rivalry became even more so once the Hurricanes joined the ACC. However, as of late, these programs have been going in different directions.
Florida State has been on the rise, while Miami has gone through much upheaval—including a coaching change, NCAA investigation, self-imposed sanctions and, finally, the NCAA's own sanctions. On the field it has taken its toll as well, with FSU winning each of the last four meetings in the rivalry.
Things don't look much more promising for 2014, as FSU is coming off of a national championship season and has its Heisman Trophy winning quarterback back. Miami may not be in NCAA investigation limbo anymore, but it now must deal with expected starter Ryan Williams suffering a torn ACL in spring practice.
Add that news to this—FSU has failed to score 30-plus points in just one of the last four contests, and Miami has but one game of 20-plus points to its credit in the same time frame.
It all points to another likely butt-kicking by the Seminoles in this bitter in-state rivalry.
Alabama vs. Tennessee
Sure, Alabama has won each of the last seven meetings and done so by an average margin of victory of 20.4 points per game, but this isn't the mess that has been Tennessee under both Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley.
Butch Jones has the Vols on a better track heading in to 2014, thanks to a solid recruiting class and some positive results in the SEC in 2013. A win over South Carolina and a near upset of Georgia in Neyland Stadium suggest that this team is close to being able to compete with the big boys at home.
Alabama happens to be the biggest hurdle to Tennessee, declaring itself back in the hierarchy of the SEC, but rivalries are made and regenerated with shocking results. It may be the year for Tennessee to pull off one of those shocking results in this rivalry.
With the game at home, an Alabama team facing a ton of change on the roster and a Tide coaching staff undergoing significant change, this could be one of the biggest surprises of the 2014 college football season.
Let's not forget that Tennessee also once owned a seven-game win streak of its own in this series, and it was ended by an emphatic 20-point defeat to the Tide in 2002. Look for a reverse result in this contest to turn the college football world upside down.
Ohio State vs. Illinois
One could consider this a bit of cheating, as Ohio State has owned Illinois in this series for, seemingly, forever. The Buckeyes not only lead 60-35 overall, but they also have won nine of the last 10 contests played (including one win that had to be vacated).
Could you even consider this a rivalry at that point? Take one step on either campus during the week and you'll find out that the students actually care, and it's all about the Illibuck turtle trophy that is passed between the two student sections.
The Illini appear on the upswing after a very good offensive performance in 2013, but there is a long way from on the upswing to competing for a potential national title. Ohio State happens to be on that national title level, and 2014 could be another year near the top of the polls for the Buckeyes.
Over the past decade, a blowout has been more common than a close game. Given the history and the gap between these two schools as of late, look for an ugly blowout by Ohio State once again.
Georgia vs. Georgia Tech
Given the nickname of Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate, it's safe to say that these two rivals from the same state don't really care much for each other. However, just like some of the other rivalries we've seen, there's been a clear front-runner, historically, in this rivalry between Georgia and Georgia Tech.
The Bulldogs own a 64-39-5 lead in this series, and as of late it's been all UGA—owning wins in 12 of the last 13 meetings.
Heading in to 2014, both teams are facing some interesting decisions at quarterback, and it could make this an interesting matchup to end the regular season for both teams. Georgia faces life without star QB Aaron Murray, who's off to the NFL draft, and Georgia Tech faces life after the transfer of Vad Lee.
Despite the transitions at quarterback, it could be the Bulldogs poised to be in a better position to win this contest in a big way. Its transition at quarterback won't be as stark, given the experience that, likely starter, Hutson Mason has behind center.
It's the difference-maker in this matchup for me, and given the fact that Georgia has won three of the last four meetings by an average of 26 points, another blowout shouldn't surprise anyone.
Michigan vs. Minnesota
Believe it or not, one of the oldest college football rivalries out there is Michigan vs. Minnesota for the Little Brown Jug. One wouldn't know it lately, given that the Wolverines have won every meeting but one since 1987.
Is this the year that streak comes to an end? Highly unlikely, thanks to last season's 42-13 beating and the long history of losing.
But there was a positive from the loss last year by Minnesota because the Gophers turned their season around and became the team with the better record, at 8-4, to end the regular season.
Gophers head coach Jerry Kill also wasn't around for last season's meeting, having suffered another seizure the day before this game, and that can't be overlooked in the loss.
However, given Kill's emphasis on winning a big rivalry game sooner rather than later, this could be an interesting matchup in 2014. Unfortunately, the Gophers defense loses a lot of talent from a season ago, and the offense needs to make a significant jump to pull off this upset.
Expect Minnesota to win a rivalry trophy, it just won't be this one. History repeats itself, and maybe this game is closer than 29 points, but not by much, given what we've seen from these teams this spring.
UCLA vs. USC
With the hire of Jim Mora, UCLA turned around its fortunes quickly over the last two years, and in the battle of LA it has meant an overtaking of its city rivals at USC. However, the Trojans are looking to stop that in the first year under new head coach Steve Sarkisian.
After five years of coming out ahead, USC has lost the past two contests by 10 and 21 points, respectively. One can bet Sarkisian will be putting a major emphasis on this important rivalry and division contest, but will it be enough to stop a rising UCLA team?
UCLA has the better of the offensive side of the ball on paper heading in to the season, while it is in reloading mode, defensively.
There's just something to be said for a program having another programs' number, and it just has that feel for UCLA over USC as of late.
The biggest question mark is just how fast Sarkisian and his coaching staff can turn around a team with a lot talent on its roster. Look for the Trojans to be a year away from making a game of this rivalry though.
Army vs. Navy
Army versus Navy used to be must-see television, and it's still true for the hardcore college football fan and those that represent the two military branches. On the field, well that's been a much different scene, as Navy has dominated the Black Knights for 12 straight years.
In 2014, Army will bring in successful Georgia Southern head coach Jeff Monken, but this is his first introduction to what this game is all about, and his rebuilding project is more than a one-season deal.
Army is about as bad as it has ever been. Monken is facing the challenge of rebuilding a program that has had one winning season since 1997 and has won a grand total of eight games in the past three seasons.
Navy also has the advantage of a really interesting prospect at quarterback in junior Keenan Reynolds, plus an experienced team overall. It all adds up to a blowout for win No. 13 in a row for the Midshipmen on December 13, 2014.
Red River Showdown
Call it the Red River Shootout, Red River Rivalry or the newly named Red River Showdown—whatever the name, this annual contest between Oklahoma and Texas has been highly entertaining as of late.
It's 5-5 over the past decade at the Cotton Bowl, but, more importantly to our purposes, it's also been three-straight blowout wins in the series.
Texas comes in to this contest with a new head coach and a new lease on life under Charlie Strong. It also comes in with a major target after handing out a surprising 36-20 beating to the Sooners. Additionally, there are a lot of questions about the health and ability of David Ash at quarterback.
Oklahoma has no such questions about Trevor Knight after his Sugar Bowl performance against Alabama, and one has to wonder if things would've been different with Knight at QB in last year's contest.
Head coach Bob Stoops isn't likely to take too kindly to last season's result, and looking at what's around on both rosters it appears on paper that Oklahoma will be the more experienced and loaded squad coming in to this contest.
Revenge will be a dish served very cold by Oklahoma and quarterback Trevor Knight in a fourth straight blowout for this series.
*Andy Coppens is a national college football featured columnist. You can follow him on Twitter: @AndyOnCFB.