College Football: Best Rivalry Games, Week-By-Week, on the 2011 Schedule

John SmithCorrespondent IIFebruary 9, 2011

College Football: Best Rivalry Games, Week-By-Week, on the 2011 Schedule

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    In America there are two seasons: football season and waiting for football season.

    Rivalry games in college football show this in the clearest way.

    These games, although they are filled with hate, show the dedication and commitment of college football fans. I wouldn't have it any other way.

    Before you read this, realize that I live in the heart of SEC country in Athens, Georgia. I will admit that I am biased and I have seen first-hand how much rivalries mean in the SEC.

    Almost every single game between these schools is a rivalry game. No one cares more about a sport than the SEC does with college football.

    This list is full of games featuring SEC teams, and for good reason. For some of these weeks there just aren't any "rivalry" games. There are also a couple weeks where no rivalry games take place, especially early in the season.

    Notre Dame, Texas, USC, Oregon, Oklahoma, Michigan, Ohio State, the list can go on and on. Those schools have great tradition, great rivalries and they have great fan bases, but those don't really compare to the ones down in the south.

    That wasn't meant to spark debate, that's just one man's opinion.

    With that being said, here are the top rivalry games of the 2011 season, done in a unique format, week-by-week.

     

    NOTE: The Big East and ACC have not released their conference schedules so their games are not included on this list. Miami-Florida State and Pittsburgh-West Virginia would both be strongly considered for this list.

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    Follow me on Twitter @sportswithmike

September 3: None

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    Although there are no rivalry games to start the 2011 season, that doesn't mean that there aren't some great matchups.

    The opening weekend will be headlined by the matchup in Dallas, Texas featuring the Oregon Ducks and LSU Tigers.

    What a great way to start the college football season.

    The truth of the matter is that we don't care who plays in the first week of the season, we are just going to be glad that college football is back. Who knows, it might be the only kind of football in the fall.

    Another game that weekend is the game in the Georgia Dome featuring the Boise State Broncos and the Georgia Bulldogs, a game I will be attending.

September 10: Notre Dame at Michigan

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    What makes this game special:

    Brady Hoke is a Michigan man and in his second week he will be thrown into the fire of the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry.

    This isn't a conference rivalry game or even an interstate rivalry game, but this is a matchup of two of the more elite football programs in the country.

    Michigan and Notre Dame respectively rank number one and two in winning percentage and number one and three in all time wins.

    Michigan leads the series 22-15 winning the last two games in a row.

     

    Way too early prediction:

    Michigan over Notre Dame

September 17: Ohio State at Miami

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    What makes this game special:

    I know this isn't the traditional rivalry, I am not sure it can be called that all. However, this game is special because of the 2003 Fiesta Bowl.

    Remember the last-second pass interference call that went against Miami and propelled Ohio State to a National Championship.

    This game will take place in Miami, and the Hurricanes are looking for revenge for that '03 game as well as the game that was played in 2010. This is the return trip for the Buckeyes following their win against Miami last year in Columbus.

    The bottom line is that there aren't many rivalry games to start the season, so I will admit that I am grasping for air in these first couple weeks, but there isn't anything else I can do.

     

    Way too early prediction:

    Ohio State over Miami.

September 24: None

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    On the previous slides I was grasping for air, I will proudly admit that, but for this week I cannot even do that.

    The fact of the matter is that rivalry games are played near the end of the year. The majority of college football programs spend the first couple weeks of the season playing the "little sisters of the poor."

    The reason for the National Championship trophy on the left is because this is the goal of every football program. No team wants to falter in the first couple weeks of the season, which is why it is rare for big time rivalries to be played.

    Looking ahead, every single week is filled with a top level rivalry game. I tried to incorporate as many conferences as I could, but at the end, the SEC just ended up dominating the weeks.

    They are the best conference in the country for a reason. They have better talent, coaching, fans and rivalries as a whole than any other conference.

October 1: Lou Holtz at Lou Holtz Notre Dame Prediction

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    SATIRE—

    In a slide show full of hate, it's time for some much needed comic relief, unless you are a Notre Dame fan, just go to the next slide.

    Come early October, the prediction Lou Holtz made about Notre Dame going 12-0 and going to the National Championship is crumbling.

    In the preseason all you hear about from him is how Notre Dame has an easy schedule, great returning players and how well they will do in the following year.

    However, when it comes time for Notre Dame to actually play, they don't live up to the hype that former coach Holtz gave them.

    Expect the same thing this year, because it has happened the last couple years.

    Now, back to the real college football rivalries.

October 8: Oklahoma-Texas in Dallas, TX

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    What makes this game special:

    It's Oklahoma vs. Texas, it's the Red River Rivalry, it's one of the best rivalries in all of college sports.

    Oklahoma is one of the favorites going into the 2011 season, which should give Texas even more motivation coming off of a 5-7 year. 

    It was a disappointing year for Texas after not even qualifying for a bowl game. Oklahoma had a great year, winning the Big 12 and winning the Fiesta Bowl.

    They are two of the most storied football programs in the country and when they meet it is something special regardless of how good the teams are playing in that current year.

    There was never even a second guess about putting this game in this place, and it should be a great game in 2011.

     

    Way too early prediction:

    Oklahoma over Texas

October 15: Michigan at Michigan State

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    What makes this game special:

    There is always something special about intra-state rivalries. These rivalries are reinforced with bragging rights 365 days a year with people you live and work with.

    While this isn't Michigan's biggest rival, it is Michigan State's most important game of they year.

    Even though this isn't the biggest rival for either school, it is still a game that these fans and students care about.

    East Lansing, Michigan and Ann Arbor, Michigan are two places that are identifiable with their college football program. While these cities aren't Duke-North Carolina close, they are only an hour away.

     

    Way too early prediction:

    Michigan over Michigan State

October 22: USC at Notre Dame

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    What makes this game special:

    This rivalry is another one featuring two programs with a football-rich tradition. These two teams combine for 22 national championships and 13 Heisman Trophy winners (not including Reggie Bush).

    These two teams are nowhere near each other; they come from different parts of the country, but the football tradition of these schools is what makes this a great rivalry.

    The teams play for the Jeweled Shillelagh, and after beating USC for the first time since 2001 last year, the trophy returned to South Bend, Indiana.

    These schools feature more All-American, College Football Hall of Famers and future NFL Hall of Famers than any other collegiate series.

    This game is one of the great rivalries in the sport, and it is the best rivalry for this week.

     

    Way too early prediction:

    USC over Notre Dame

     

    Honorable Mention:

    Tennessee at Alabama

October 29: Georgia-Florida in Jacksonville, FL

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    What makes this game special:

    The Georgia vs. Florida Football Classic (or Florida vs. Georgia Football Classic) is one of the great rivalries in college football today.

    These schools can't even agree on the number of meetings or the all-time series record.

    Georgia claims this game has been played 89 times, while Florida claims the game has been played 88 times. Georgia says they have a lead of 47-40-2, while Florida doesn't count one of Georgia's victories.

    However, in the past 20 years it hasn't been much a rivalry with Florida winning 17 of 20 games.

    Florida has won two National Championships and two Heisman Trophies in this period, while the University of Georgia has been left in the dust.

    As a Georgia student this makes me sick to my stomach, and hopefully that will change in 2011.

    Way too early prediction:

    Georgia over Florida

November 5: LSU at Alabama

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    What makes this game special:

    The Saban Bowl. 

    While this isn't the official name for the rivalry, Nick Saban's actions in the last couple years has dictated this name for this great rivalry.

    When I said that almost every single game in the SEC is a rivalry game, I am not kidding.

    Most of the time, this game can determine who goes to the SEC Championship and who doesn't make the trip to Atlanta.

    Both of these teams have won National Championships in the last five years and they have been a part of the SEC dominance over college football.

    Alabama leads the overall series 45-24-5, but LSU won last year's game in Baton Rouge 24-21.

    Way too early prediction:

    Alabama over LSU

November 12: Auburn at Georgia

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    What makes this game special:

    It is the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry. The first matchup between these two teams dates back to February 20, 1892 in Atlanta.

    Both teams have bigger rivals, but the second Saturday in November between these teams is something special.

    I have had the privilege of attending the last two meetings and this is a unique rivalry. This is a friendly rivalry with the two schools having a respect for the other team.

    Neil Callaway, Georgia's former offensive coordinator, said "Both places are good schools, good places. Both of them have good people. That's what makes it special."

    This friendly rivalry may have taken a turn for the worse following the game last year, but come November 12, 2011 Athens, Georgia will be ready to host the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry.

    Way too early prediction:

    Georgia over Auburn

November 19: Harvard at Yale

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    What makes this game special:

    The Game.

    Every single college football Saturday there are many games played, but this is The Game.

    It is the second oldest college football rivalry, dating back to 1875, and it has been played the third most times, 127. Yale holds a 65-54 lead.

    Other matchups that I mentioned earlier featured programs with football-rich tradition, but this game is special for a different reason, an academic reason.

    The game between Harvard and Yale features schools that are among the nation's most prestigious and oldest universities.

    Although this game doesn't have the taste of the other rivalries that i have mentioned, it is still a very important rivalry to the students and alumni of the schools.

     

    Way too early prediction:

    Harvard over Yale

November 26: Rivalry Weekend

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    To pick one game on this weekend would do a disservice to college football fans. This is one of the greatest weekends of any sport period.

    Hearts are broken, trash talking will reach its height and students, fans and alumni circle this date on the calendar before the season even starts.

    A team can make or break its season based on what happens in this game.

    The truth of the matter is that I could put together a 25 page slide show featuring all of the great rivalries this weekend, but for now here is a list of the top rivalries this weekend. I apologize for leaving anyone out, I cannot include everyone.

    Alabama at Auburn

    Oregon State at Oregon

    Florida State at Florida

    Texas at Texas A&M

    Oklahoma at Oklahoma State

    Clemson at South Carolina

    Ohio State at Michigan

    The list goes on and on. There are so many to choose from and I left a lot of good ones out. The truth of the matter is that this weekend makes or breaks team's schedules and the fanbases of the winner get the 365 days of bragging rights until the next game is played.

December 3: Championship Weekend

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    This weekend not many rivalries are played, they are more created on this date.

    The ACC, SEC and now the Big Ten and Pac-12 will all crown their champion on this weekend.

    While these games might feature a rivalry, it doesn't really matter who plays in this game.

    The championship level atmosphere will speak for itself.

    With a conference championship, BCS bowl berth and potential national championship berth on the line would you expect anything different during Championship Saturday.

    With that being said, there are no rivalries to look forward to on this date, but that doesn't matter. Go to the next slide to see the final rivalry of the 2011 schedule.

December 10: Army-Navy

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    What makes this game special:

    In a slide show full of hateful rivalries, I figured I would conclude this hate with a rivalry that has no hate.

    Army vs. Navy.

    This is one of the few games where everyone that plays, regardless of the outcome, is a winner.

    They might lose the game, but these cadets will fight bigger battles down the road that are a lot more important than a simple football game.

    This game is on my bucket list of college football games to attend, and the same should be said about any college football fan if they have the opportunity.

    The Army-Navy rivalry is a game that means so much more than the game of football.

    These programs dislike each other on the football field, but they are on the same team when it comes to defending this country.

     

    Way too early prediction: Navy over Army