College Football Predictions 2011: 10 Most Intriguing Rivalry Games This Season
Rivalries help fuel the intensity of college football because it the one game of the year that your team must win.
We know which rivalries are the greatest of all time, but they aren't always the top ones of today. In 2011, the must-see games are of course the big rivalries, but some will be much more intriguing than others.
These games will make or break a few teams and will stick with fans throughout the season.
The list that follows will feature the must see games of the upcoming season between some of college football's biggest rivalries.
10. Army vs. Navy
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It may not be the most high-profile matchup of the season, but Army vs. Navy is one of the best college football games no matter what the year. It is always a must-see game, and that should never change.
It's two teams that play for the love of the game and not the fame. None of them will go onto be professionals in the NFL, but they will be professional heroes and that's what makes this game so great.
Navy must replace do all quarterback Ricky Dobbs, which will not be easy. Never fear, though, for the triple option attack will always be tough to stop, especially with experienced running backs returning for the Midshipmen.
Army lost some key starters from 2010, but they return quarterback Trent Steelman and running back Jared Hassin, to make for a much better offense this year for the Black Knights.
Navy leads the series 55-49-7, and as always, this game will close out the regular season of college football, as they're the lone game on December 10th.
Winner: Army—The Black Knights may have a young unit, but with experienced skill players, they will get revenge on the Midshipmen.
9. USC vs. Notre Dame
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The USC Trojans may be on a bowl ban, but that isn't going to stop them from competing at a high level. The Fighting Irish own the series record, but lately it's been USC domination.
That may not be the case this year, as Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has a talented offense and and an improving defense hoping to knock off Lane Kiffin and company.
October 22 will feature a battle of quarterbacks in South Bend. The Trojans are led by Matt Barkley, who is being scouted as a first round quarterback for the 2012 NFL Draft. The Fighting Irish are led by senior Dayne Crist, who despite previous knee injuries has the experience to defeat USC.
The key to Notre Dame's success is to get Michael Floyd the ball early and often, or else the offense will struggle.
Winner: Notre Dame—The Trojans will fall short on their trip to Notre Dame as Crist and Floyd wreak havoc the entire game. The Fighting Irish's defense will make the needed stops, and Kiffin and company will go home empty handed.
8. Texas vs. Texas A&M
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Thursday, November 24th is the final game of the season for Texas and Texas A&M, and what a rivalry game it will be.
The Aggies will try to prove that they are the top team in Texas again this year, but the Longhorns have done a lot of growing since 2010. Head coach Mack Brown must decide on a quarterback, but by the end of the season whoever is the starter will emerge as the needed leader for the Longhorns.
Another reason this game is so intriguing this year is because the Aggies tried to distance themselves from Texas by joining the SEC. It didn't work out, but there is still tension between these two schools, which means it will be great to see them settle it on the football field.
Winner: Texas A&M—Ryan Tannehill, Jeff Fuller and Cyrus Gray will be too much for the Longhorns to handle. These three offensive play-makers are going to do wonders for the Aggies in 2011, and they'll finish it off with a beat down over their most hated rival.
7. Florida vs. Florida State
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The Florida State Seminoles may have demolished the Florida Gators a year ago, but a lot has changed down in Gainesville.
New head coach Will Muschamp and new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis have been hard work, making major modifications to the offense. Quarterback John Brantley will feel more at home in a pro-style offense, and many believe the Gators will surprise everyone in the SEC East.
Jimbo Fisher enters his second season as Seminoles head coach, and as a preseason top five team, Florida State is ready to destroy the Gators again. E.J. Manuel takes over at quarterback, but he has seen great game action when filling in for an injured Christian Ponder.
Winner: Florida State—Even though both teams have new quarterbacks, by November 26th both will be in great form. However, the Seminoles are a much more complete team with a better defense, and they will start their own win streak against Florida.
6. Notre Dame vs. Michigan
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The 2010 match up between Michigan and Notre Dame was an epic, down to the wire finish. The Wolverines came out victorious, but the Fighting Irish will want revenge in 2011.
The first ever night game at The Big House will be on September 10th, and it will not disappoint. Notre Dame has finally decided on a quarterback in Dayne Crist, and the senior wants to make sure he beats the Wolverines, especially since his defense let him down a year ago.
Both teams will hope their defenses have stepped up to new heights, or else 2011 will be another long year. The Wolverines have new coaches, and even though they bring in a new offense it won't be slowing down Denard Robinson.
Winner: Michigan—The Wolverines will edge out the Fighting Irish again this year because they cannot stop Robinson. Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison have revamped the Michigan defense, and they will make the necessary stops against the Fighting Irish.
5. Georgia vs. Florida
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Formerly known as "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party," these two teams battle it out on a "neutral" site in Jacksonville, Florida at the end of every October.
In 2010, the game went into overtime and the Gators won on a field goal. Don't expect anything less in 2011, as both teams will be at the top of their game. This match up could very well determine who wins the SEC East, and neither team wants to walk away the loser.
The Bulldogs lost some key players to the NFL and others to transfers or injuries, but they aren't letting it bring them down. They know they are still a talented bunch, and with Aaron Murray leading the way, Georgia can beat anybody on their schedule this year.
Winner: Georgia—The Gators are undergoing too many changes this offseason, and they will slip up in 2011. Their offensive line will struggle with the pro-style, and they will not be able to handle a much improved Georgia defense. Isaiah Crowell steals the show and the victory for Georgia.
4. Oregon vs. Stanford
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OK, so this may not be one of the biggest rivalries in all of college football, but it's going to be the best rivalry game of the newly formed Pac-12.
Both Stanford and Oregon are in the Pac-12 North Division, and since they're are no plans for these two to stop being top notch teams, this is going to be a huge rivalry for many years to come. In fact, when these two meet on November 12th, it will basically be the Pac-12 Championship game, because the winner will advance and have no trouble knocking of the Pac-12 South winner.
Both teams have high-powered offenses with Heisman candidates leading the way. Andrew Luck is looking for revenge against the only team that beat him in 2010, whereas LaMichael James and the Ducks plan to cruise by the Cardinal once again.
Winner: Oregon—Darron Thomas and James will need other players to step it up for the Ducks in 2011 if they expect to reach the BCS National Championship game again, but against Stanford it will be all about James running wild. He rushed for a season high 257 yards in 2010, and expect him to be untouchable again in 2011. The Ducks offense is no match for the Cardinal, which means Luck will likely fall in the Heisman race.
3. Michigan vs. Ohio State
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The greatest rivalry in college football history has lost it's edge over the past few years because, sadly, the Michigan Wolverines haven't put up a good fight against the Ohio State Buckeyes.
With the departure of Terrelle Pryor, Michigan has a strong shot to knock off the Buckeyes for the first time since 2003. The Big Ten put these two teams in different divisions to start off 2011, but thankfully, they have vowed to keep the rivalry going.
The Wolverines defense has to improve in 2011, especially if they hope to beat the Buckeyes. By November 26th we'll know what kind of play the Buckeyes are getting from whoever the starting quarterback is, and Ohio State fans are hoping it will be great. The Buckeyes have been through a lot this offseason, but all will be well if they can beat their least favorite team, Michigan.
Winner: Michigan—The Brady Hoke era will start off with a bang. The Buckeyes don't have a proven quarterback, but the Wolverines do. They'll struggle to slow down Denard Robinson, and Michigan will make the most of their opportunities.
2. Oklahoma vs. Texas
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Even though the Texas Longhorns were 5-7 in 2010, they still managed to give the Oklahoma Sooners a good fight. That's because it's the the Red River Rivalry, and neither team wants to be the loser.
The Sooners enter the season the No. 1 team in the country, and they are set to end the SEC's run as BCS National Champions. Replacing DeMarco Murray will be difficult, so expect to see the Sooners use a platoon of backs before a star hopefully emerges.
Texas has to decide if Garrett Gilbert or Case McCoy will be the starting quarterback. Either way, this will still be a great game to watch because it's the top team in the country taking on their biggest rival. The history of this series goes back forever, and the fact that they are always national powerhouses makes for an intriguing game.
Winner: Oklahoma—Landry Jones will have a field day against the Longhorns on October 8th, and the No. 1 team in the country will remain undefeated. Texas will give it their all, but they are no match for the best team in the nation.
1. Auburn vs. Alabama
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The anticipation leading up to the 2011 Iron Bowl is greater than any other rivalry game out there. It was one of, if not the best game of the season in 2010, and the expectations of 2011 won't be any different.
The Auburn Tigers will have an extremely rough time in the early part of the season as they figure out life, post Cam Newton. He was their entire offense last year, and he will be greatly missed. Barrett Trotter has been named the starting quarterback, but by the November 26th Iron Bowl we could be seeing a different starter for the Tigers.
Nobody knows how good the defending National Champions will be in 2011, which is what makes this game ever more exciting. The Alabama Crimson Tide enter the season ranked No. 2 in the country, and they want revenge against their most hated rival. They were up big a year ago, and if it happens again in 2011 the Crimson Tide will not let a victory slip from their grasp again.
Winner: Alabama—This is truly a no-brainer here because of the Crimson Tide's defense. Both schools have great running backs in Auburn's Michael Dyer and Alabama's Trent Richardson, but the winner of this game will have to have the better defense. The Crimson Tide are outraged at the outcome of 2010, and even though they don't have a true starting quarterback yet, the Iron Bowl is a game they will not lose.