College Football 2011 Preview: Top 10 Rivalry Games for Next Season
It's never too early to start talking about next football season—especially if you're from the Southeast like me.
All sports are better with rivalries. They turn states, friends and sometimes families against each other. With players leaving and a complete toss-up for who goes to the big dance in New Orleans next year, the biggest rivalries next year could determine much more than just bragging rights.
But that's all that really matters in the end—let's not kid ourselves.
Honorable Mention: Army Vs. Navy
This article is based on rivalries that may have some relevance in the national championship picture. The winner of the Army-Navy game usually doesn't shake many things up, but I'd feel ridiculous writing an article about college football rivalries without even mentioning this historic game.
This game is easily in my top five games in need to see before I die. The term tradition is often overused in the college football world, but when mentioning this game, it falls nothing short of one of the most traditional games in all of sports.
Navy leads the series 52-49-7. Navy has recently dominated the rivalry, winning nine years straight and 11 out of the last 12.
10. Texas Vs. Texas A&M
With Nebraska and Colorado out of the Big 12 next season, the Texas and Texas A&M game means much more in the light of a Big 12 championship and possibly a national title.
Depending on how well these teams play, their Thanksgiving Night game could be the deciding factor in who goes to the Big 12 championship. I could only hope that would be the case. There's nothing better than two huge rivals fighting for it all in November.
9. Florida Vs. Florida State
After Florida State finally broke Florida's win streak over them last season, this rivalry is finally worth watching again (if you weren't from the state of Florida).
Both teams are at a strange point with their programs. They both need to do some rebuilding but also have enough talent to take their schools very high up in the Top 25. The only difference is Florida has a completely new coaching staff.
There are tons of stories in this year's game between these two bitter rivals.
How well will coach Will Muschamp do in his first year?
Can Florida State find a good replacement for Christian Ponder?
Will John Brantley be the starter all season, or will Jeff Driskel get a shot?
Can Jimbo Fisher keep up the good work he's done so far and turn it into great work?
If these teams make a run, we could be looking at both teams being undefeated for their annual meeting.
8. USC Vs. Notre Dame
Home of the "Bush Push."
Notre Dame and USC's rivalry is one of college football's oldest and is full of tradition, including 11 Heisman Trophies. Since USC is on probation, this game will mean nothing more than bragging rights to the Trojans. The Fighting Irish need this win though.
Notre Dame has been less than relevant in college football for years now. If they want to return to the level they once were, Brian Kelly needs to will his team to victory against the Trojans.
It's not likely that the Irish will get a shot at the title this year, but who knows? When a program gets desperate enough, good things tend to happen. But they should try beating Navy first.
7. Georgia Vs. Florida
"The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party."
This game has some potential this season. Florida is talented as always and has a new coaching staff, and nobody knows how well the staff will do.
Georgia took a huge shot losing A.J. Green to the draft but is still very young and very talented. Aaron Murray had a breakout season as a freshman and will only improve over the spring and summer.
The most important part of the rivalry this year is how weak the SEC East is right now. Whoever wins this game could easily determine who goes to the SEC championship, and history has shown that even a two-loss SEC team can make it to the national championship with a win in the SEC championship.
6. South Carolina Vs. Clemson
The "Old Ball Coach" was so close last year, bringing his Gamecocks all the way to the SEC championship.
South Carolina is no joke this year in the SEC. Like I said before, the SEC East is weak right now, and it's South Carolina's for the taking once again.
Stephen Garcia is leaving, but the Cocks return an absolute STUD at wide receiver in Alshon Jeffery, and freshman phenom Marcus Lattimore will be carrying the workload at running back.
Clemson started off slow last season but finished strong. The Tigers are returning plenty of talent and could be a force in a frankly terrible ACC.
5. Ohio St. Vs. Michigan
Denard Robinson vs. Terrelle Pryor, Round 2.
Michigan introduces a new face at head coach in Brady Hoke, and Ohio State has its major players sitting out for the first five games of the season, including starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Consequently, both teams should have pretty slow starts to the season.
Since they both play in the Big Ten, the two teams should find a way to get over their slow starts and have pretty good seasons. Ohio State has a great opportunity to go undefeated as long as it makes it through the first five games, where its only real test is at Miami.
Either way, this huge rivalry could possibly determine one spot in the national championship game next year.
4. Alabama Vs. Tennessee
On the third Saturday of November, the Alabama Crimson Tide plays the Tennessee Volunteers. The winners get victory cigars.
Alabama should be the nation's best team next season as far as talent goes. Many argued they were the best team last year but fell short in a few games. Returning running back Trent Richardson should cause a lot of Heisman talk early.
If the transition at the quarterback position goes smoothly, the Tide should be undefeated at this point in the season and looking for a huge finish.
Tennessee finished really strong last season, and Tyler Bray looks like he'll be the starter next season after some late-season brilliance. Coach Derek Dooley could turn around his team quicker than most expected and make a run for the SEC East.
One thing's for sure: These teams hate each other. No matter what their records are, this is one of the most physical games each year.
3. Oregon Vs. Oregon St.
The Civil War.
LaMichael James is more than likely going to be the Heisman favorite at this point. Aside from the Heisman, Oregon will probably be undefeated and No. 1 in the country.
Just a guess.
That makes this rivalry even more important. Oregon State plays Oregon so well that there's always a possibility for the upset.
However the game goes, I'm sure Boise State will be hoping for a loophole to get in like every year.
2. Oklahoma Vs. Texas
The Red River Rivalry.
Oklahoma is an early favorite to make it to New Orleans. Texas is trying to forget a dismal season that ended in no bowl game.
If any team could ruin Oklahoma's season, it would be the Longhorns. Everything nationally is set aside, and the states of Texas and Oklahoma are completely shut down to see who gains rights to the Red River.
It wouldn't surprise me to see an upset this season. "Big Game Boob" got his name for a reason.
1. Auburn Vs. Alabama
The Iron Bowl.
Here it is: the biggest and arguably the most important rivalry in college football next season. The winner has determined the national champion two years in a row.
Alabama is more or less reloading instead of rebuilding. However, after losing your starting quarterback, Heisman Trophy-winning running back and possibly the best receiver in school history, your offense is bound to take a little hit.
Auburn, on the other hand, must replace four starting offensive linemen, Nick Fairley and Cam Newton. Easier said than done.
Regardless of players lost, both teams are loaded with talent and are only getting more with signing day coming up.
Hopefully this game will mean as much as it has in the past two seasons. SEC champ and national champ on the line. Maybe the most sought-after bragging rights on the line.
College football is just so much better when the Iron Bowl is this big.