The Friday Tailgate: Rivalry Games With the Biggest Impact in 2010
We are one week closer now to the start of the college football season. Just like summer, things are heating up.
Utah is headed to the Pac-10, The Big 12 will remain in tact minus two and USC is still under probation.
It has been a busy offseason.
This week's the article is coming out a little early as I make my pilgrimage to Wazzu country in Eastern Washington starting on Friday.
This week instead of five things to watch heading into the season, I wanted to talk about ten rivalry games that will have the biggest impact on conferences and the BCS.
So take the telephone trophy off the hook, put on that gold hat and flip over an old oaken bucket and relax for this week's Friday Tailgate.
Texas-Oklahoma: October 2nd, The Red River Rivalry
We start the countdown with a bigger game than even the carnies at the state fair can come up with, the Red River rivalry.
As usual, the winner of this game will have an inside track at the Big South crown.
At quarterback, Landry Jones returns for Oklahoma. Garrett Gilbert will get his first taste of the rivalry. However, the winner of this game may not be the team who has the better effort at QB.
This game could be a battle of the backs between Texas sophomore Tre' Newton and Oklahoma senior DeMarco Murray. Overall, I would give the edge to Murray with experience although I think the Texas offensive lline is a little bit better.
The winner of this one heads to the last Big 12 title game as we know it.
FSU-Miami: October 9th
There are no jugs, hats or buckets in this rivalry. Simply a mutual hatred between to rival schools.
Last year, the 'Canes were able to hold off a late drive and fend off the Seminoles in Tallahassee. This year, they get the home field when they face their arch rivals.
If FSU rebounds from last year and Miami can continue to build on their success of recent years, this could easily be a match up of top 15 teams. BCS positioning will be at stake.
In this game defense is going to win it.
I will simply say that Miami has the better defense. However, never overlook what Christian Ponder and his offense, which returns ten starters, can do.
A possible ACC title preview and a big BCS positioning bash on South Beach.
Iowa-Wisconsin October 23rd, The Heartland Trophy
This late October game will have more meaning to each of these teams than the bronze bull trophy they play for.
Wisconsin will have already played Ohio State at home the prior week, while Iowa could and should be unbeaten heading into this game at Kinnick.
Iowa returns a veteran QB, strong running game, and solid defense. The Badgers have a balanced attack lead by possible Heisman candidate John Clay.
The difference in this game may be the Iowa defense, which is clearly better on paper.
Or it could be the 70+ thousand screaming fans at Kinnick that make it a nightmare for opponents coming in.
The winner here not only keeps high BCS hopes alive, but have an inside track at the Big Ten title.
Fresno St-Boise St.: November 19th, The Battle For the Milk Can
OK, I will be the first to say that I have never heard of this one. I knew both schools have been very good over the past decade and have developed a rivalry, but why a milk can?
Either way, this could be a big game within the conference and even bigger game for a BCS contending Boise State team.
Fresno will come in a heavy underdog. They may not even be in contention at all for the conference crown.
So why is this one big?
It is simply a let down game for Boise on the schedule and it a nationally televised ESPN game.
Plus, Boise has a potentially huge trip to Reno the following week that could decide the conference crown.
This is one to keep your eyes on when things start to get wild near the end of the season.
Pitt-West Virginia: November 26th, The Backyard Brawl
Now we are up to the day after Thanksgiving and things are really going to get nasty.
We start the day with this match up of contending Big East squads and a spirited rivalry between the Mountaineers and the Panthers.
Last year West Virginia squeaked out a 19-16 win, earning a tie with the Panthers for second in the conference.
This year, it will probably be for all the marbles and a trip to the Thrifty, Sunny Delight, BP Orange Bowl.
Both teams major offensive weapons come out of the backfield. Pitt with Dion Lewis and West Virginia with Noel Devine.
This one is easy. The team that runs the ball better wins, right?
Not so fast, my friend!
Look for the team that has the more balanced attack to earn the "W" and conference crown.
Kansas-Missouri: November 26th, The Border War
Two years ago this, game had a national prime time spotlight and a possible BCS berth on the line.
This year, I see it as a battle for the BIg 12 North as Nebraska could be dreaming of Paternos, Buckeyes, and Michigans.
Both teams have some weapons on offense and are considered questionable on defense. Both squads will have already gone into Lincoln.
So who wins, and what will the division outlook be?
This will be a game that is won by the entire team and not one single player. Turner Gill will have the Jayhawks playing much better on defense than they did last year. Blaine Gabbert will be one of the conference's best QBs.
Watch for Missouri tailback Derrick Washington to be the key guy if there is one. If he runs for over 100 yards, then it may be over. The same could be said for whoever is starting by that time for Kansas in the backfield.
Winner of this one goes to play the winner of Oklahoma-Texas in the title game.
And sorry Nebraska, I have Mizzou beating you in Lincoln.
Alabama-Auburn: November 26th, The Iron Bowl
Last year the Tigers held their own against the eventual National Champions. A 26-21 loss at home in which they had opportunities to win the game will fuel this rivalry game when it moves to Tuscaloosa.
Both teams appear to be in the top tier of the Western division. I am going to go out on a limb and say it will be for a trip to the conference title game.
'Bama has a lot of talented players on offense, including Heisman winner Mark Ingram,. The Tigers look to improve a defense that allowed nearly 30 ppg.
On paper, you could say that the Tide should indeed roll. However, these rivalry games have a funny way of playing out, especially on Thanksgiving weekend.
Look for a solid effort out of Auburn back Mario Fannin and a relentless defense to keep this one close.
It may be too early to start picking upsets, but I think this one has a chance, even though it is going to be played in Tide country.
BYU-Utah: November 27th, The Holy War
So before the Utes head to the land of wine and cheese, they still have another year to make a run at the Mountain West crown.
BYU is staying in the conference, for now, and will look to replace Max Hall at quarterback.
A conference crown is not expected out of the Cougars this year.
But, this is a rivalry game. A game in which it is basically the church versus the state. Anything can happen.
On paper, the Utah defense and running game lead by Eddie Wide is far better than the BYU defense that has been known to give up some points.
The key ingredient in this game is the BYU running attack that is without Harvey Unga after he withdrew from school this spring. If the Cougars can hand the Utes an unexpected home loss, they could help send TCU to their second straight crown.
Florida-Florida St.: November 27th, The Sunshine State Showdown
Tim Tebow and Bobby Bowden may be both gone from college football, but that does not take away the importance of this game.
In recent years Florida has, well, handled the Seminoles.
This could be the year the 'Noles get back in the win column.
Florida is again loaded with talent and speed, but FSU is no slouch. Jimbo Fisher will be making his rivalry debut as the head coach. Oh how getting a win against the Gators could increase his stock.
This game will be all about which defense can shut the opposing offense down. Both squads will probably be a bit pass happy. Christian Ponder has been in this game, while John Brantley has not.
This will be an important BCS at large match up. Both will play in their respective conference championship games but the loser of this one will definitely have to win the following week to grab a BCS berth.
The smarter quarterback wins this one. It is as simple as that.
Oregon-Oregon St.: December 4th, The Civil War
When an in-state rivalry game is nicknamed "The Civil War," you know it has to be good.
Last year, the Ducks punched their ticket to Pasadena with a 37-33 win on their home field in front of a national TV audience. This year, they must make the trip to Corvallis where a revenge minded Beaver team will be ready.
I believe that five or six teams can be in contention late in the season and many think that this one will be for the conference crown again.
Both have talented running backs in LaMichael James at Oregon and Jacquizz Rodgers at OSU. Both guys have the ability to win games all by themselves.
Where Oregon looks better is on defense and at QB.
The Beavers must replace Sean Canfield at QB and have several holes to fill defensively.
The Ducks, even with the loss of Jeremiah Masoli, appear strong at the position with either Nate Costa or Darron Thomas. Oregon is loaded on defense with a number of starters returning from last year's team, including linebacker Casey Matthews.
The big plus for the Beavers is that it is at home, a huge advantage.
Look for the winner of this one to be the team that makes the fewest mistakes.
By now I am sure there are fans in L.A., Columbus, and maybe even Ann Arbor, wondering where their team is on the list.
In defense of leaving off Michigan-Ohio State and many others, they simply are not as important as a whole this year.
Ohio State should kill a struggling Michigan program. USC can't play in a bowl even if they beat UCLA. Notre Dame rivalries are kind of weak.
I am not saying that there won't be a few games not on the list that will turn out to be relatively huge. However, for the most part, the ten rivalries I selected have far more greater appeal at this point.
As always, that's just my opinion and I could be wrong.
Which rivalry games do you think will shape conferences and the BCS? Are there trophies out there that you scratch your head at? How many Paul Bunyan axes do Big Ten teams play for?