Breaking Down the 50 Biggest Games Of the 2010 College Football Season

Tim Bielik@bielik_timSenior Analyst IAugust 24, 2010

Breaking Down the 50 Biggest Games Of the 2010 College Football Season

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    Mark Ingram ran wild against Florida in the 2009 SEC Championship Game. These two teams will meet again on October 2 in Tuscaloosa.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    On any given Saturday in college football, there are up to 60 different games in Division I football, a good portion of which are played at the same time.

    And out of the thousands of games that happen throughout the course of the season, there are only a small amount of games that make or break a season, that catch our eyes, and that, in some circles, we wait a whole year for.

    With so many games to choose from, it was difficult for us to cut it down to a final 50, and even harder to put it in order.

    But this is a year where there are many more questions than in years' past, including questions about each of the top teams, that make 2010 very intriguing.

    Here are the top 50 most important games of the 2010 college football season.

50. Arizona State at Wisconsin, September 18

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    Dennis Erickson and the Sun Devils make their longest road trip of the season traveling up from Tempe to Madison to face a Wisconsin team that surprised many by beating Miami in the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl.

    An inconsistent offense was the downfall of Arizona State in 2009, despite the success their defense had as the top rushing defense in the Pac-10.

    But with new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone installing a more up-tempo offense, expect ASU to ramp up the scoring, and hopefully the defense can keep playing well also.

    However, visitors to Camp Randall rarely ever have a fun time, as it is a house of horrors, especially with Wisconsin's physical run game led by John Clay and a very physical defensive unit anchored by DL J.J. Watt and LB Chris Borland.

    If QB Scott Tolzien can be efficient once again, it could be a tough game for the Sun Devils.


49. Kentucky at Louisville, September 4

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    The Kentucky Wildcats have been used to being shut down by Charlie Strong's defense while he was the defensive coordinator for the Florida Gators during the past few seasons under Urban Meyer.

    Now, these same Wildcats will be the first team Strong faces as head coach of rival Louisville, a program that struggled heavily under former head man Steve Kragthrope.

    Strong will bring Florida's spread attack to Louisville to be run by Adam Froman, who only threw for six touchdowns in 2009, but his challenge will be to rebuild a defense that returns only four starters from a unit that gave up 26.3 points per game.

    In Lexington, the Wildcats begin the Joker Phillips era, and he hopes that QB Morgan Newton continues to improve in his second season as a starter.

    This game will be intriguing because it is easily the most important game featuring two new coaches, and it is a rivalry game.

    But Kentucky has too much established talent which should help Phillips get his first win as a head coach.

48. Colorado at Nebraska, November 26

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    This matchup is undoubtedly a gimme win for the Huskers as Colorado is one of the weaker teams in the Big 12.

    But this game is important because it marks the end of an era for Nebraska.

    In 2011, Nebraska will leave the Big 12 and all of its rivals from the old Big Eight Conference to go to the Midwest and join Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan among others in the Big Ten.

    This contest will be the last home game for the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Big 12, who arguably has been the biggest school to leave a conference for another in the chaos that is collegiate expansion.

    As for the game itself, expect Nebraska to win this game going away as they pay the Big 12 farewell.

47. Houston at SMU, October 23

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    While these two programs aren't exactly competing for a BCS berth like Boise State and TCU are, if you are a fan of shootouts, you will want to watch this one.

    Houston had the top offense in 2009 featuring Heisman Trophy sleeper Case Keenum, who returns his favorite offensive target in WR James Cleveland.

    But the question for the Cougars will be if they can overcome the loss of offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen to the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

    The Mustangs appear to be on the road back to relevance, somewhere they haven't been since they were given the NCAA Death Penalty.

    Former Hawaii coach June Jones installed the run-and-shoot offense and QB Kyle Padron will lead a unit that put up 45 points on Nevada in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

    The unit should be more explosive in 2010, so if your a fan of offense and you have this game on your TV, check it out.

46. Nebraska at Washington, September 18

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    On paper, it seems like Nebraska has an easy win over a Washington team still rebuilding from a winless 2008 season.

    But then again, LSU said the same thing last season before barely escaping Seattle with a 31-23 win. And this Huskies team will look to build once again from a five-win season that included home upsets of USC and Cal.

    Jake Locker will be a senior and will look to get to his first and only bowl game of his career before he bids goodbye to Husky Stadium and hello to the NFL.

    The Huskies should be improved, especially on the defensive side of the ball, but it is all about Locker and RB Chris Polk in Seattle.

    While an upset is a little unlikely, don't be surprised if this is a back-and-forth contest much like the Huskies' contest with LSU a year ago.

45. Georgia at South Carolina, September 11

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    This early SEC clash is a matchup of a team back on the upswing versus a team that has its back against the wall.

    When it comes to Georgia, all eyes will be on new starting QB Aaron Murray, a highly-touted high school prospect that seems to be ready to get to the next level.

    With a solid group of RBs and WRs, the Georgia offense should be as good as usual. And if new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham can make the Bulldogs' defense formidable, UGA could be a sleeper pick in the SEC.

    In Columbia, Steve Spurrier came to town still thought of as an offensive mastermind, but has fielded very inconsistent offensive units.

    With 17 returning starters including QB Stephen Garcia and a very good secondary, the time is now for South Carolina to have some impact on the SEC East.

    This matchup a year ago was a very exciting, high-scoring matchup in Athens with the Bulldogs pulling a win out in the clutch.

    2010 should be just as entertaining if not more.

44. Penn State at Ohio State, November 13

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    With his future always a question mark, its very likely that this trip to Columbus may be the last for Penn State coach Joe Paterno.

    Already the winningest coach in Division I history, Paterno's Nittany Lions have done fairly well against Ohio State in the Big Ten, winning six games against arguably the best program in the conference.

    But he will have to find a way to keep the Spread HD rolling with a new starting QB in the fold, whether that is sophomore Kevin Newsome or freshman Robert Bolden.

    The defense as always should be very good despite the losses of DT Jared Odrick and LBs Sean Lee and Navorro Bowman.

    Everyone knows what Ohio State brings to the table, including Heisman hopeful QB Terrelle Pryor, and a very stout defense anchored by superstar DE Cameron Heyward.

    An upset win by Penn State would be huge if Paterno is looking to get back to the Rose Bowl, but an experienced Ohio State team makes such a task unlikely to happen.

43. Ole Miss at Arkansas, October 23

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    Three years ago, Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett and Ole Miss QB Jeremiah Masoli were both on the field, but as backups at Michigan and Oregon respectively when the Ducks dominated the Wolverines in Ann Arbor.

    Now these two signal callers will meet in an SEC West rivalry game, with Mallett being a Heisman candidate and Masoli coming off a Rose Bowl appearance in Eugene.

    Arkansas is expected to be a dark horse contender in the SEC West along with Auburn and LSU trying to challenge Alabama for a shot at an SEC title.

    And if the Razorbacks' defense is improved from a year ago, Bobby Petrino could find his team back in contention for a division title.

    Ole Miss will look to rebuild after losing many of their top players, including QB Jevan Snead and RB Dexter McCluster.

    If Arkansas truly is the type of team that believes they can contend for an SEC West crown, this is a game they need to win over a division rival.

42. Arizona at Oregon, November 26

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    Last year, these teams met in a surprise contest for a Pac-10 title that ended with Oregon pulling out a big OT win in Tucson.

    With the scene shifting to Eugene in 2010, these are two teams that have a shot each of going to Pasadena.

    The Wildcats have plenty on offense including QB Nick Foles and RB Nic Grigsby, part of a unit that returns 10 starters. The thing that could keep this team from playing in Pasadena is the lack of a consistent defense.

    Meanwhile in Eugene, the Ducks are still looking for a replacement for Jeremiah Masoli at QB to trigger Chip Kelly's spread read attack. The job should be easier with the new starter having LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner getting a majority of the touches

    The defense should be better from a young group, especially in the secondary.

    It would not be surprising if when these teams play each other again, a shot at the Rose Bowl was on the line.

41. Washington at USC, October 2

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    Last season, Washington pulled off one of the most shocking upsets of the season by stunning USC in Seattle on a last-second field goal.

    This time around, Matt Barkley and the Trojans will be looking for revenge at home against Steve Sarkisian's Huskies.

    The Trojans have undoubtedly lost some of their luster due to NCAA penalties and the loss of Pete Carroll to the NFL.

    They will not be able to play in a bowl game for two seasons, but that doesn't mean USC will have nothing to play for.

    This group is still very talented, and should be able to get revenge on the Huskies in L.A.

40. Oregon at Tennessee, September 11

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    The first FBS opponent for Derek Dooley as head coach of the Volunteers is no easy task in the defending Pac-10 champion Ducks.

    Tennessee has gone through a chaotic stretch including the resignation of long-time headman Philip Fulmer and the shocking departure of Lane Kiffin to USC which caused a major uproar in Knoxville.

    Now in the chaos and instability including the saga of talented back Bryce Brown leaving the program, Dooley has to find some way to put his program back on the right track.

    There is little time to make an effective turnaround in the SEC and with a BCS team coming to town two weeks into the 2010 season.

    The mystery of the game is what makes it an intriguing matchup.

39. BYU at TCU, October 16

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    The Mountain West Conference has had quite a summer with Boise State joining, but it appears now that Utah and BYU will both be leaving very soon.

    So this may be one of the last times these two teams will match up in conference play, but the Horned Frogs have lately gotten the better of this rivalry.

    Bronco Mendenhall and the Cougars will have to find a way to replace Max Hall and most of their top offensive skill players, and there are other questions that need to be answered in Provo.

    But four straight 10-win seasons have to keep optimism alive for BYU.

    Conversely, TCU carries a large amount of hype after reaching the BCS for the first time in program history, and QB Andy Dalton returns along with eight other offensive starters.

    The talent in the top three teams in the MWC (TCU, BYU, and Utah) can certainly match up well with the top three in any conference, and games like this deserve more exposure.

    But TCU's home field advantage should be too much for BYU to overcome.

38. USC at Oregon State, November 20

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    Two years ago, Oregon State denied USC another undefeated season after the Trojans blew out the fifth-ranked Buckeyes on national television.

    Now a year after the Beavers fell one game short of going to the Rose Bowl, they will host Lane Kiffin and the Trojans to begin a tough stretch, with other matchups against Stanford and Oregon.

    The Rodgers brothers, Jacquizz at RB and James at WR, are back after being such thorns in USC's defense two years ago, and DT Stephen Paea returns to anchor what should be an improved defense.

    But Oregon State will need their new QB, most likely sophomore Ryan Katz, to develop quickly and become efficient enough to lead the Beavers over another upset win over USC.

    And if they can do that going into their gauntlet, Oregon State will have generated momentum before they go to face Stanford and host Oregon in the Civil War.

    But if USC can be stout defensively, the Trojans could get a big road win.

37. Michigan at Ohio State, November 27

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    The greatest rivalry in college football returns later than ever, being played for the first time in history after Thanksgiving.

    But because of the lack of success Michigan has had in the past two seasons, the significance of The Game has diminished greatly.

    Rich Rodriguez's time in Ann Arbor is running short and he needs a big season to keep his job, and a win over the Buckeyes wouldn't hurt.

    And three seasons has really created a divide between the schools: Michigan is mired in mediocrity, and Ohio State is one of the biggest challengers to Alabama for the national championship.

    The bigger question of the rivalry in the future is whether or not Big Ten expansion will cost this rivalry a shot to be the final game of the season.

    But as it stands, this game will be the end of the 2010 campaign, and a very likely finish to a great season for Ohio State that could put them in the national championship game.

36. LSU at Arkansas, November 27

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    The last time these two teams met a year ago, LSU premiered their Pro Combat uniforms and christened them properly with an overtime win.

    Greg Childs burned the Tigers for 124 yards on only five catches, but it wasn't enough for Arkansas to pull off an upset in Death Valley.

    In 2010, the scene shifts to Fayetteville, with Ryan Mallett and Jordan Jefferson set to face off once again in their respective teams' season-ending clash.

    While Arkansas returns many of their defensive starters, LSU has a lot of unknowns and question marks on that side of the ball outside of DB Patrick Peterson and LB Kelvin Sheppard.

    But hopefully for the Tigers, those questions on defense are answered before the last game of the season against the Razorbacks.

    If LSU can have a solid offensive line to go with a good defense, this can be a great matchup for second place out in the SEC West.

35. TCU vs Oregon State at Arlington, Texas, September 4

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    The campaign for 'Quizz for the Heisman Trophy will begin with a huge challenge as the Beavers and seventh-ranked TCU meet at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

    And it will be a big matchup of OSU's offense vs. TCU's defense, which should be stout as usual despite the losses of DE Jerry Hughes and LB Daryl Washington.

    But as it normally is in big games like this, the game will be won and lost on the other matchup, with TCU's offense led by QB Andy Dalton vs Oregon State's D anchored by DT Stephen Paea.

    But if TCU has championship dreams, this is the one they need to get and unlike Boise State, they have strong in-conference competition with BYU and Utah in the Mountain West this season.

    A win by Oregon State would create the belief that Mike Riley can finally win the Pac-10 after falling one win short in 2009.

    Either way, this is a game where the outcome could decide the ultimate fates of these two teams throughout the entire season.

34. Purdue at Notre Dame, September 4

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    Did Notre Dame finally get their guy? If you base his career off early interviews, new coach Brian Kelly has done a great job of recognizing the importance of being at Notre Dame.

    His first game September 4 against in-state rival Purdue and second-year coach Danny Hope will be Kelly's first chance to prove that he can be a winner as the coach of the Domers.

    Kelly has won everywhere he has been, from Grand Valley State to Central Michigan, and at Cincinnati where he took the Bearcats to their first ever undefeated regular season.

    But he will have his most potential-loaded QB ever in Dayne Crist to lead his high-powered spread attack and hopefully improve the defense with its 3-4 scheme.

    Meanwhile, Danny Hope generated more excitement in his football program with the big upset win over Ohio State last year.

    With QB Robert Marve and DE Ryan Kerrigan pacing the way on both sides of the ball, the Boilermakers will be a surprisingly complex opening opponent for Kelly in South Bend.

33. Oregon State at Boise State, September 25

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    Oregon State might have one of the toughest schedules in the country, especially to start and end its season in 2010.

    The Beavers open at home against TCU, and three weeks later travel to Idaho to face the team that beat the Horned Frogs in Glendale, Boise State.

    The Broncos return 21 starters on offense and defense, having lost only DB Kyle Wilson, a first-round pick of the New York Jets, from their undefeated 2009 squad.

    The entire starting offense returns, with QB Kellen Moore, RB Jeremy Avery, and WRs Titus Young and Austin Pettis working to build off a spectacular season.

    But this will be the year that once and for all should determine whether or not BSU deserves to be in the discussion with the big boys of college football.

    And if Boise State cannot beat Virginia Tech to start the season, the significance of this game drops tremendously. But regardless, it still should be a fun game to watch on the blue turf.

32. Oklahoma vs Cincinnati at Paul Brown Stadium, September 25

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    When these two teams meet at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, it will be arguably the most talented team to come to UC since Ohio State last visited in 2002.

    It probably wont be as much of a blowout as it was back in 2008, when Oklahoma beat the Bearcats 52-26, and because of injuries, helped begin the career of former UC QB Tony Pike.

    This time around, new coach Butch Jones will have no time to get a feel for his new surroundings, even with talented QB Zach Collaros running the offense.

    The next step for UC will be to improve a defense that was the Achilles' heel in their final games of 2009, especially in their blowout loss to Florida in the Sugar Bowl.

    Oklahoma will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2009, and Landry Jones will look to build on a very strong first season at QB.

    If the offensive line can mature and if the defense can return to old form, Oklahoma can bounce back and it will have to start in Southwest Ohio by the end of September.

31. Texas A&M At Texas, November 25

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    Rivalries never get old, especially the Thanksgiving week clash between Texas and Texas A&M, this year taking place in Austin.

    Garrett Gilbert will get his first crack at the rival Aggies to end his first full season as a starter after the showing he had in the championship game against Alabama, where he showed flashes of brilliance.

    He will only have to look to the other sideline to see a stud QB in A&M's Jerrod Johnson and a high-powered offense.

    But unlike at Texas, the Aggies do not have a talented defense which has cost them many wins in the past few seasons.

    The Longhorns should have another very stout defense up front which will help ease pressure off of Gilbert as he transitions into a full-time starter.

    By the time these rivals meet, Gilbert and Johnson could be lighting up the Godzillatron scoreboard in Austin.

30. Georgia Tech at Georgia, November 27

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    Otherwise known as Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate, the in-state rivalry between the Yellow Jackets and Bulldogs has been a very entertaining series since Paul Johnson arrived in Atlanta.

    The defending ACC champions will have several holes to fill, especially trying to replace RB Jonathan Dwyer, WR Demaryius Thomas, and DE Derrick Morgan.

    But Josh Nesbitt is back running the triple option, along with backs Roddy Jones and Anthony Allen, who will look to replace the production lost by Dwyer.

    And if the defense can improve, especially after the losses of Morgan and S Morgan Burnett, GT can make a repeat run to the BCS.

    What makes this game much more interesting is how competitive the last two games have been between the in-state rivals.

    In 2008, GT outscored UGA 33-14 in the second half to overcome a 28-12 deficit to beat the Bulldogs in Athens.

    Last year, Georgia got revenge in Atlanta after Thomas dropped a fourth down pass that would've kept a late game drive going.

    Who knows what will happen in round three of Mark Richt vs. Paul Johnson? All we know is it should be a fun ride.

29. BYU at Utah, November 27

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    When Utah leaves for the Pac-10, the mystique of the Holy War with BYU could very well diminish.

    But with the reemergence of BYU and the consistency of Utah as the first-ever BCS buster, the Holy War has lately been a game full of big time players.

    And since Kyle Whittingham took the helm at Utah, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall has gotten the better of his counterpart in three of their five games, winning all three by a possession or less.

    QB Jordan Wynn is making his second go-around as the starter, and RB Matt Asiata may be one of the best backs west of the Rocky Mountains.

    If the Utes can improve on defense, another Mountain West title is not out of the question, especially with BYU and TCU both coming to Rice-Eccles Stadium.

    But like with BYU-TCU, the Holy War needs to be one of those games featured on ESPN because it's one of those great rivalries that almost nobody knows about.

28. Cincinnati at West Virginia, November 13

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    Since Brian Kelly is no longer the main man at Cincinnati, the top of the Big East is almost a dead heat between Pitt, WVU, and the Bearcats.

    And down in Morgantown, Bill Stewart's bunch will be looking to run past the other teams in the Big East, especially with RB Noel Devine in tow.

    He and new starting QB Geno Smith will have to play at a high level to put the Mountaineers back in the BCS picture, and it has to be there if they want to dethrone the Bearcats.

    Defensively, the 3-3-5 is a strength for the Mountaineers, especially in the secondary. The matchup between UC's receivers and WVU's secondary will be the most intriguing, especially with talented receivers Armon Binns and DJ Woods lining up for Zach Collaros.

    This matchup will go a long way to deciding the race for the Big East crown in 2010.

27. Florida State at Miami, October 9

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    The Seminoles were only a few yards away from beating the Hurricanes in Bobby Bowden's final crack at his in-state rivals.

    Now it's Jimbo Fisher's turn to take the reigns, and so far the early reviews in Tallahassee have been nothing short of positive.

    The offense returns 10 starters, including QB Christian Ponder who is one of the best QBs in the country but has gone unrecognized with his team's mediocrity in recent years.

    Fisher brought in Mark Stoops to modernize the defensive scheme that cost the team several games under Mickey Andrews in past years, even with the elite athletes FSU can recruit on defense.

    On the other side of the ball, Miami had a very good 2009 season and returns most of the squad under Randy Shannon including QB Jacory Harris and DE Allen Bailey.

    If the other powers of Florida build again, they could eventually challenge the Gators for Sunshine State supremacy.

    But on this day, this is going to be a very high intensity edition of a rivalry game, especially with Jimbo driving the Seminole express.

26. LSU vs North Carolina At Atlanta, September 4

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    The SEC has a 2-0 lead over the ACC in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic at the Georgia Dome.

    This year presents one of the more intriguing matchups featuring a young team in LSU and probably the most loaded defense in the country in North Carolina.

    The most interesting matchup will be seeing that UNC defense anchored by DE Robert Quinn, DT Marvin Austin, and LB Quan Sturdivant go up against QB Jordan Jefferson and WRs Terrance Tolliver and Rueben Randle and the rest of the LSU offense.

    LSU should have the advantage in this game because their weaker unit, the defense, should be much more serviceable than UNC's offense, which was anemic at times last year.

    Weak offenses plus good defenses should equal a low scoring affair, but in college football, we should always expect the unexpected.

    If the UNC offense can play a decent game and put up two or three scores, Butch Davis' Tar Heels should be able to walk out of Atlanta with a win unless we see the breakout game from Jordan Jefferson that LSU fans have been waiting for for a long time.

25. Ohio State at Wisconsin, October 16

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    If the game were in Columbus or a neutral site, Ohio State would be the clear favorite to get a win. The fact that the game is in Camp Randall Stadium makes this more of a toss up than most people think.

    Historically, the Buckeyes have had problems in Madison, especially losing in 2003 which snapped a 19-game winning streak dating back to their national championship season of 2002.

    OSU did manage to win in 2008 with a big drive by then-freshman QB Terrelle Pryor who turned in a fantastic TD run to put the game away in the final minutes.

    Now Pryor is more experienced and more mature, and the Buckeyes are much better because of it.

    But Wisconsin still has the mental edge of being at home, and they are willing to play much more physical than most teams, which gives them another mental edge.

    In the end, Ohio State is typically too talented to win this game, but playing at Camp Randall makes this a much closer game than last year.

24. West Virginia at LSU, September 25

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    This matchup is very much a contrast of styles: WVU's spread attack and 3-3-5 versus LSU's power running and basic defensive sets.

    The big challenge for LSU will be if their front seven can be physical enough to contain Noel Devine and limit the big plays in the running game.

    On offense, LSU will have to balance their attack, especially if the running game featuring redshirt freshman RB Michael Ford can become a force.

    West Virginia will need to match LSU's physicality, especially on defense if they want to slow down the power running attack.

    The offense just needs to find ways to limit the effectiveness of LSU DB Patrick Peterson, who may be the best shutdown corner in the country along with Nebraska's Prince Amukamara.

    Playing in Death Valley very much sways this outcome in favor of LSU, but it will be a pretty close game.

23. Stanford at Notre Dame, September 25

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    Jim Harbaugh and Stanford may have been the biggest surprise of the college football season, so much so that fans in schools like Michigan want him to take over soon.

    But Harbaugh and the Cardinal will now have to deal with expectations, and one of their biggest games is when they head up to face Brian Kelly's team in South Bend.

    The Irish and Cardinal played a fantastic game last season in which Toby Gerhart scored the game-winning touchdown with 59 seconds left for a 45-38 win.

    Gerhart is gone, but Andrew Luck is still in Palo Alto and a year more experienced and a defense that should be more improved.

    Both teams need to improve their defenses before they can take the next step, but the rematch should be another shootout.

    The Irish should be able to get their revenge this time around, but never sleep on Harbaugh as 2009 showed.

22. USC at Stanford, October 9

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    Since Mark Bradford (pictured above) shocked the world in the Coliseum in 2007, Jim Harbaugh has been a thorn in USC's backside, including their blowout 55-21 win a year ago.

    How they stack up in Lane Kiffin's first matchup against Stanford will be very interesting, especially with the matchup at the QB position between second-year starters Matt Barkley and Andrew Luck.

    The home game against the Trojans caps off a rough three-week stretch where the Cardinal face off against teams that they had surprising wins against and all who want revenge.

    It's unsure how much energy this team will have going into the game with the Trojans after facing Notre Dame and Oregon back to back.

    Stanford can certainly make it two wins in a row against the Trojans, but based on the gauntlet Stanford has going into this game, USC is a slight, and very slight, favorite.

21. LSU at Florida, October 9

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    The Florida Gators will not have any reprieve after their game at Alabama when they return to the Swamp to face rival LSU.

    By October 9, John Brantley should have had plenty of experience as the starter for the Gators before the matchups against Alabama and LSU.

    And although the Gators hung a 50-spot on LSU in 2008, they only managed 13 points the next year against the Tigers with basically the same offense.

    This year could be much more interesting with a less experienced, but not necessarily less talented defense that lost many players to graduation and the NFL Draft.

    The game could be easy for Florida if Jordan Jefferson has not turned the corner and LSU RB Michael Ford and the rest of LSU's backs cannot run on the defense.

    If LSU can establish the ground game and if Patrick Peterson can be shutdown as usual, it might be a much tougher game for Urban Meyer's Gators..

20. Notre Dame vs Navy at Baltimore, October 23

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    It took 43 years for Navy to beat Notre Dame in 2007, with a stop in triple overtime. It took only two more years for the Midshipmen to get another one, beating the Irish in South Bend 23-21.

    Now Brian Kelly and the Irish will travel to Maryland to get his first crack at Ken Niumatalolo's triple option attack.

    Navy showed quite a bit in 2009, falling just short of upsetting Ohio State, beating Notre Dame again, and blowing out Missouri in the Texas Bowl, which surprised many experts.

    QB Ricky Dobbs is back for his second and final season as a starter, and may be the best passer out of the option game that Navy has had since Paul Johnson installed the option attack in 2002.

    The Navy defense is full of many fast defenders that fly to the football, though they are an undersized unit.

    If Notre Dame can play sound, assignment defense, use their height advantage, and most importantly, play a full 60 minute game, they can get back on the winning track against Navy.

    If not, Navy will continue to establish itself as a team to be reckoned with.

19. West Virginia at Pittsburgh, November 26

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    The Backyard Brawl is without a doubt the fiercest rivalry in the Big East, and should once again play a huge role in who has a shot to play in the BCS.

    Each of the last three matchups have been decided by four points or less and neither team has gone above 20 points in any of the three games.

    Pittsburgh will be the site of this game, but the Panthers will have some work to do, as they will have to replace 11 starters including their starting QB.

    But this matchup is all about running backs, Pitt's Dion Lewis versus West Virginia's Noel Devine.

    Based on recent history, the first team to start running wild should be the one to win this game.

    And even though West Virginia is the road team, they should have an edge as long as they keep the Pitt defense from getting to the QB.

    This one should be a good old-fashioned physical outing in Heinz Field.

18. TCU at Utah, November 6

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    Last season, TCU exploded on Utah, almost doubling up the Utes 55-28 in a surprising blowout win.

    TCU should be just as deadly this year, but the question will be how much does playing in Salt Lake City change this matchup?

    It may not matter, but it is certainly something to consider as these teams will meet in conference play for the last time before Utah joins the Pac-12 in 2011.

    Considering that, the Utes, the original BCS buster, will want to go out on a high note against the latest BCS buster.

    The Horned Frogs are at least a slightly better team, especially with the explosive offense led by QB Andy Dalton and WR Jeremy Kerley.

    If Utah can go into this game undefeated, which is a legitimate possibility, the final MWC matchup between these two teams could be one of the best in this rivalry's history.

17. Florida vs Georgia at Jacksonville, Florida, October 30

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    This rivalry certainly has had its moments in recent years; Georgia's full-team TD celebration in 2007, Urban Meyer's two late timeouts in 2008, and the infamous eye poke of Georgia RB Washaun Ealey by Florida LB Brandon Spikes in 2009.

    2010 could make for another very interesting twist in the recent history of the rivalry, with two new starters at QB in UGA's Aaron Murray and UF's John Brantley.

    The question will be if new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has something special in his playbook saved for Steve Addazio's Gator offense, especially after Georgia gave up 40+ points to the Gators in back-to-back matchups.

    If the defense can finally be stronger, the offense should be able to get more opportunities to score points, especially since defensive coordinator Charlie Strong is now coaching in Louisville.

    Florida should be able to win this game once again, but it might be closer than it has been in past years

    But there is no doubt that Meyer has owned Georgia the way few coaches do in big rivalries, like Jim Tressel has done to Michigan and Pete Carroll did to UCLA before leaving USC.

16. Auburn at Alabama, November 26

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    Last year's Iron Bowl in Jordan-Hare Stadium was quite a show as Auburn looked to have the upset right in their hands, but Alabama QB Greg McElroy led a late game-winning drive to keep their perfect season alive.

    This year, the scene shifts to Tuscaloosa where the Tide will close out their season of being the defending national champions against an Auburn team that should be much improved from their 2009 squad.

    Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn will enjoy having new QB Cameron Newton running the offense as he is a guy who can both run and throw pretty well.

    With super freshman RB Michael Dyer in the fold, the running attack has just one more big weapon at their disposal.

    And if Auburn's defense can get stronger, especially in the back seven, they can give the Tide a challenge.

    But the depth of the Tide offensively is too much for Auburn to handle, especially with Alabama having home field advantage.

    Auburn may have to wait one more year to get a win over Alabama.

15. Georgia Tech at Clemson, October 23

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    These two teams put together two of the best games in the ACC in 2009, including C.J. Spiller's 300+ all-purpose yard performance in the ACC Championship Game, a 39-34 win for the Yellow Jackets.

    The difference is that this year, the best two backs in this matchup, Spiller and GT's Jonathan Dwyer, are both gone, but the QBs are still intact. And for Clemson, the return of Kyle Parker is probably the best news of their season.

    If Clemson can replace his production with the combination of Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper, the Tigers should be just fine in 2010.

    The defense does have many weapons that can help deal with GT's triple option game, including star DE Da'Quan Bowers and talented safeties DeAndre McDaniel and Rashard Hall.

    Whichever defense comes to play in this game should be the one who's team leaves Death Valley with a win.

    But Clemson has the home advantage and a better defense on paper, which gives them a slight edge over the Yellow Jackets.

14. Oregon at Oregon State, December 4

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    The Civil War in Oregon may have had its greatest game in recent memory as for the first time, the Ducks and Beavers met for the Pac-10 title in Eugene, with the Ducks winning 37-33.

    Mike Riley and the Beavers will be in search of their first win over UO since 2007 and this game could possibly decide the Pac-10 once again.

    If the Beavers can resolve their QB situation, the offense could be as good as it was a season ago when they pushed the Ducks to the brink.

    But both teams should have improved defenses from a year ago and offenses that can still go up and down the field almost at will.

    The Ducks should be able to go three straight as long as they have their QB situation taken care of.

    Don't be surprised though if Oregon State can take home field advantage and use that to exact some revenge on Chip Kelly's Ducks.

13. Notre Dame at USC, November 27

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    This rivalry has quickly become a case of one team on the way up and another that is on the decline.

    Optimism in South Bend is high for Notre Dame as Brian Kelly seems to understand what it means to be the coach at Notre Dame, which means you have to beat USC.

    If he can inject new energy into his team, which it seems he has been able to do so far, the Irish can turn the corner and get back on their way to being one of the better programs.

    On the other hand, USC will not be in bowl games for two seasons and is on probation for a perceived "lack of institutional control."

    With limited scholarships and many players transferring from Los Angeles, Lane Kiffin may have a hard time in 2010.

    When the Irish come to Los Angeles in late November, the dynamic between the two teams could be very different with the enigmatic Brian Kelly facing the embittered Lane Kiffin.

    The Trojans right now are still the better team, but that could easily change as it does in great rivalries.

12. Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, December 4

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    2009 was the year of the great conference championship games, even if they were in conferences that don't have official championship games.

    Such was the case in the Big East, but that didn't stop Pitt and Cincinnati from putting on a show, as the Bearcats came back from a 21-point deficit and capitalized on a missed extra point to beat the Panthers at home 45-44.

    The loss came despite star RB Dion Lewis running for 194 yards and three touchdowns, which was arguably the signature performance on a freshman season for the ages.

    This game will also have two new QBs, which will favor UC and Zach Collaros who was spectacular in relief of the injured Tony Pike.

    But who knows what the Bearcats will look like under new coach Butch Jones, who like former coach Brian Kelly came to the Queen City from Central Michigan.

    Cincinnati does have a slight advantage in this matchup, but if Lewis goes off and his Heisman campaign hinges on this game, put money on Pitt riding his shoulders to a win.

11. Florida at Florida State, November 27

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    It has been since 2003 since Florida State last claimed a win over their arch rivals from Gainesville.

    Urban Meyer, as with Georgia, just doesn't lose to rivals. But the scope of the matchup could be different with just one coaching change.

    Jimbo Fisher and his new defensive coaching staff will have their hands full with the Gators' offense.

    But if Mark Stoops can make use of his talented athletes including DB Greg Reid and put them in a modern defensive scheme, it could present a surprising challenge to Florida.

    This will also be the last chance for QB Christian Ponder to claim a win over his rivals, and if the offense can live up to its potential, Florida's new defensive staff may have to be creative with how they attack.

    Florida State has too many if's to really give them the edge in this game even with the home field advantage at Doak Campbell Stadium.

    A strong start season could ease Seminole worries as they could end up playing spoiler to Florida championship aspirations in 2010.

10. Oregon at USC, October 30

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    One thing is for sure: USC might be out for blood on the revenge tour through the Pac-10 in 2010.

    But the biggest piece of revenge they might need to dish out will be against the team that knocked them off their pedestal atop the Pac-10, the Oregon Ducks.

    Last season, Oregon blew out USC in a stunning 47-20 win and made the Trojans' defense look like Swiss cheese, as they ran for 391 of their 618 yards of total offense.

    Now the scene shifts to the Coliseum, where revenge will be painted all over the crimson and gold uniforms of the Trojans.

    It will be defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's job to find a way to slow the zone read of Oregon and keep RB LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner from ripping more holes in the USC Tampa two defense.

    The other concern will be if QB Matt Barkley gets enough protection against an aggressive Oregon defense to make big plays in the passing game.

    If he does, Lane Kiffin and USC could very well get revenge. But if UO QB Nate Costa can make people forget about former UO and current Ole Miss QB Jeremiah Masoli in a good way, it will be a long night for the Trojans.

9. Alabama at LSU, November 6

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    In the past two seasons since Nick Saban returned to play his former team in Death Valley, the Crimson Tide have only gotten the best of the Tigers by the skin of their teeth,

    It will be LSU's second chance at home to get back at their former coach who left Baton Rouge for a short-lived NFL coaching career.

    As it always is when these teams meet, it is always a nasty, physical clash in the newly-dubbed Saban Bowl.

    If LSU is going to have any shot to upset Alabama, they will have to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and establish their run game powered by Stevan Ridley and Michael Ford.

    But if LSU is expecting Greg McElroy and the Tide offense to make mistakes, they are mistaken themselves. They will need to find a way to create pressure and force mistakes, something LSU was never able to do since their championship season in 2007.

    In the end, if LSU is unable to establish their physicality and rule the ground, Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson could run all over them and give the Tide a big road win once again.

8. Florida State at Oklahoma, September 11

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    The first matchup of Oklahoma and Florida State since the 2001 Orange Bowl will also be the first ever Stoops Bowl between Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops.

    Florida State, although they have been mediocre in past years, showed that they can still win big games on the road by blowing out BYU in Provo 54-28.

    With new coach Jimbo Fisher getting his first test against Oklahoma, it will be interesting to see what direction the new Seminoles coach will be taking his team.

    The QBs in this game, OU's Landry Jones and FSU's Christian Ponder should light up the scoreboard at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman.

    But Oklahoma gets the nod because they have a much better defense than the Seminoles do, although the younger Stoops could do wonders with the FSU unit.

    Expect the Sooners to continue their 30-game home winning streak on September 11, but that doesn't mean it will be easy by any stretch.

7. Penn State at Alabama, September 11

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    For some perspective on this matchup, during Penn State coach Joe Paterno's 44-year coaching career, Alabama has had nine different head coaches.

    But the matchup between the Crimson Tide and Nittany Lions, despite their great amount of geographic separation, presents two teams that are somewhat similar.

    Alabama plays more of a Big Ten style of a football, predicated on a physical, downhill running game and a stout, attacking defense, but with athletes from the Southern states.

    Penn State will need to figure out their QB situation and fast because this will easily be the toughest game on their schedule, despite road trips to Iowa and Ohio State later on in the Big Ten season.

    If Tom Bradley's defense can be stout up front, they can make a competitive game of their trip to Tuscaloosa.

    But the newly revamped and expanded Bryant-Denny Stadium and a bigger amount of talent equate to an Alabama win.

6. Oklahoma vs Texas at Cotton Bowl, October 2

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    The Red River Shootout hit its peak in 2008 with an epic duel between Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and Texas' Colt McCoy, but fell flat of high expectations in a less exciting 2009 clash.

    2010 presents a new, interesting chapter as both schools will break in first-time starters to the rivalry: Garrett Gilbert of Texas and Oklahoma' Landry Jones, who already has nearly a year of experience under his belt.

    The matchup this year could come down to the running game and the defenses, where Texas has an advantage in the latter.

    Texas' rush defense has been scary good in the Big 12 in recent years, and has held Oklahoma's running attack silent in the last two Red River matchups.

    But should Oklahoma be able to rule the air as they are capable of doing with Jones and receivers Ryan Broyles and Brandon Caleb, it would be very possible for Bob Stoops to win the game and start to put Oklahoma back on the level of the top teams.

    This game, as it has in history, is always unpredictable and can go either way regardless of where the records stand.

5. Ohio State at Iowa, November 20

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    In the last season before the Big Ten gets an official conference championship game, Ohio State and Iowa should meet again for the de facto Big Ten championship game as they did last year in a classic.

    Iowa came back from a 14-point deficit behind backup QB James Vandenberg and pushed Ohio State to overtime, where K Devin Barclay hit a game-winner in overtime to win it 27-24 and send OSU to Pasadena.

    This time around, the game will be in Iowa City, and the best players on both teams should be back once again, including Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi, who barring health problems should be back for the game.

    But if OSU QB Terrelle Pryor is healthy unlike last year where he had a torn PCL ligament, the matchup could be very different.

    With two great teams and stars everywhere for both teams, this matchup could be one for the ages in the Big Ten.

    It's tough to exactly gauge where this matchup will go, because Iowa has the home field advantage, and OSU has the mental edge of having been there and done that for several years now.

4. Miami at Ohio State, September 11

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    Miami football has had to live with the demons of the pass interference call heard around the world in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, which led to their 34-game winning streak and chances at back-to-back national titles evaporate in the desert against the Buckeyes.

    Now as we enter a new decade, Randy Shannon, the defensive coordinator of the U in 2002, will take his Canes from South Beach to Columbus in search of long-awaited revenge.

    Motivation should play a huge factor for the Hurricanes, at least early on in the game, and a young team that returns 16 starters from last season will look to mature and develop into a title contender.

    But on the other sideline is an Ohio State team that has national title aspirations and is desperate to exorcise the demons of past OOC failures.

    The QB matchup between Miami's Jacory Harris and OSU's Terrelle Pryor will be very entertaining as they are very different QBs. Harris is more of a pure pocket passer while Pryor is more of a dual-threat who appears to be developing as a passer.

    But if Miami's offensive line cannot stop OSU's talented defensive line from getting to a mistake-prone Harris at QB, it could be a long day in the Horseshoe for Miami.

3. Texas at Nebraska, October 16

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    One second. That was the difference between the biggest upset of the Big 12 season and Texas going to Pasadena.

    One second has been the rallying cry in Lincoln ever since the Huskers lost the game after thinking they won it when Colt McCoy's final pass went out of bounds and the clock seemed to run out.

    And with the recent drama that has developed over Big Ten expansion and a power-hungry Texas program that has taken over the new Big 12 in influence, Nebraska has called for a worldwide Red Out on October 16 when the Longhorns come to Memorial Stadium for possibly the last time.

    Nebraska returns most of their offense from a year ago, which is not necessarily good considering the unit was anemic in 2009.

    But the Huskers should be fine on defense led by DT Jared Crick and shutdown DB Prince Amukamara.

    If last year's game was any indication of things to expect, Texas' Garrett Gilbert could have a long night against a ferocious Blackshirt defense.

    If Nebraska musters any semblance of an offense more than they did in the 2009 Big 12 Championship Game, they could get the revenge they have waited almost a whole year for.

2. Boise State vs Virginia Tech at FedEx Field, September 6

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    This could finally be the answer to the question we have waited for for several years: Is Boise State truly an elite college football team?

    We should be closer to a firm answer when the Broncos travel across the country to Landover, MD to face the Virginia Tech Hokies in the marquee game of the opening week of the 2010 season.

    Unlike in past years where Boise State has played good teams on the blue turf, they must go on the road this time and prove that it belongs with the big boys.

    But the last time Boise State played a marquee opponent away from the blue turf, it got ran out of Georgia by the Bulldogs 48-13 in 2005. Then again, this is not the same Boise State team as it was five years ago.

    If Boise State is to pull off a big win, it must stop VT's three-headed running attack in QB Tyrod Taylor, and star RBs Darren Evans and Ryan Williams.

    But an inexperienced Hokie defense will have to find a way to stop a Boise State offense that returns everybody including talented QB Kellen Moore.

    This game could mean they would have a shot at the national title if they win, but it seems too close to call at this stage.

    If Boise State loses, they should not expect to go back to the BCS in 2010, and the Hokies could be primed to go back to the BCS after missing out in 2009.

1. Florida at Alabama, October 2

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    This may be the game in the country, with two of the top three teams in the country meeting again, this time in the regular season.

    In the past two seasons, Alabama and Florida have met in Atlanta for the SEC title, producing a big comeback win for the Gators in 2008, and a Tide roll over Florida the following season.

    Now begins round three, in a game which certainly can end up with a rematch back in Atlanta on December 4th.

    But the talent level on both teams from an experience standpoint took big hits after 2009.

    Florida lost both of their best leaders, including superstar QB Tim Tebow and talented LB Brandon Spikes, along with many other superstars.

    Alabama has to replace eight starters on defense, including NT Terrence Cody and LB Rolando McClain.

    But both teams are so deep that neither one should experience a hangover after losing all that talent in 2010.

    The question for Florida will be if new QB John Brantley can shake off the nerves of going into Tuscaloosa on the national stage and help the Gators get revenge over being dominated a year ago.

    All eyes will be on Brantley when the Gators have the ball and Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram when Alabama has the ball.

    This should no doubt be the most exciting game of the season, but Alabama should be able to walk out of Bryant-Denny Stadium as victors.

    Whatever happens, do not expect this game to be the only time these teams see each other this season.