Predicting the Winners of Every College Football Rivalry Game in 2014
When college football schedules are released each year, the first thing that fans ask is: When do we play our rivals?
It could be the team across town, the one up the road or the program from the other side of the state line. Whatever the case, rivalry games bring out the most interest—and passion—from fans of both teams.
Because of the added intensity and emotion, rivalry games don't always play out like a normal contest. The best teams don't always win, and the unexpected has come to be expected when rivals collide.
Who will win the 2014 season's most significant college football rivalry games? We take a way-too-early stab at predicting these results, which are sure to go horribly wrong.
Colorado vs. Colorado State
Date and site: Aug. 30 in Denver (neutral site)
The Rocky Mountain Showdown in-state rivalry isn't one that gets much national attention, but don't tell that to the teams or fanbases involved. Colorado and Colorado State have met every year since 1985, and most of those games have served as the season opener.
Colorado State got blown out in last year's game but ended up having a far better season, finishing 8-6 and winning a bowl game. Colorado went 4-8 for its eighth straight losing season, though improvement was seen.
Played at the home of the Denver Broncos, this game is a huge draw for college fans in the state, and as last year shows, it doesn't automatically lead to continued success.
Michigan vs. Notre Dame
Date and site: Sept. 6 at Notre Dame
Notre Dame's move to loosely join the ACC's scheduling matrix has jeopardized several of its Midwest rivalries, most notably this great series that's been played most years since the late 1970s. Sadly, this season's game is the final one on the schedule at this point.
Michigan is one of the few regular opponents that Notre Dame doesn't have a winning record against, going 16-24-1 all time in matchups with the Wolverines. The Fighting Irish have only won two of the last eight games, but one of those was in 2012 en route to an unbeaten regular season and a berth in the BCS title game.
This is the toughest game for either team in the first month of the season, so the hope is both sides will bring their best effort. Maybe they can give us one last fantastic finish for old time's sake.
Winner: Notre Dame
Iowa vs. Iowa State
Date and site: Sept. 13 at Iowa
Since 1977, this game has been waged prior to the start of both teams' conference schedules, with Iowa taking roughly two-thirds of the all-time meetings. The Hawkeyes took last year's clash by six on the road after losing the previous two meetings.
It's been one of those back-and-forth series, but unlike the ones toward the end of the season, the result hasn't always led to momentum for one team or the other. The rivalry game has more served as a barometer for in-state pride and bragging rights before both teams move on to more important goals associated with the Big 12 and Big Ten schedules.
Maryland vs. West Virginia
Date and site: Sept. 13 at Maryland
This clash of border rivals has been held 50 times. It's on the slate for a few more years but might become a victim of the realignment craziness that sent West Virginia into the Big 12 and moved Maryland into the Big Ten, both far away from most league foes.
Maryland won last year's game 37-0 and looked like world-beaters before falling apart because of injuries. West Virginia was just a mess all year long.
Both programs are at a crossroads, with West Virginia yet to make headway in its new league, so this game takes on extra importance for each squad in terms of gaining confidence for the long road ahead.
Michigan vs. Minnesota
Date and site: Sept. 27 at Michigan
The battle for the Little Brown Jug kicks off the Big Ten's bevy of weird trophies and trinkets associated with its many rivalry games. Because of the league's growth, the game is not played every year. This will be the fourth straight year, but in 2016 Michigan and Minnesota won't meet each other.
The Wolverines have won 22 of 23 in the series, including last year's 42-13 romp at home. It will be the second straight game played in Ann Arbor, which will provide Michigan with its main advantage over the Golden Gophers.
Oklahoma vs. Texas
Date and site: Oct. 11 in Dallas (neutral site)
Held each year during the Texas State Fair, the Red River Shootout is among the most hyped rivalry games and always finds its way into the national spotlight regardless of how the participants are faring. Texas and Oklahoma are usually in the rankings when this one comes around, but even if they aren't, it still creates a stir.
Just-retired Texas coach Mack Brown's struggles in this game of late (his Longhorns lost from 2011 to 2013 by an average of 29.3 points) contributed to his hot seat, while the convincing win over the Sooners in last year's game also provided a respite from that scrutiny.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is 9-6 in the game but now has a new foe to match wits with in the form of Charlie Strong. Just what this game needs—another storyline.
Colorado State vs. Wyoming
Date and site: Oct. 25 at Colorado State
The chance to hoist the Bronze Boot is one of many motivators behind this fiercely contested border war featuring Rocky Mountain schools that simply do not like each other. This will be the 106th meeting in the series, with Colorado State holding a 56-44-5 advantage.
Wyoming had won four straight in the series before the Rams rolled to a 52-22 victory in Laramie, the start of a season-killing four-game losing streak for the Cowboys. And while Wyoming will have a new coach this season in Craig Bohl, don't think his returning players won't be out for revenge in Fort Collins.
Winner: Colorado State
Michigan vs. Michigan State
Date and site: Oct. 25 at Michigan State
Last season's 29-6 win by Michigan State had several key storylines, as it gave most of the country its first glimpse of how stout the Spartans defense was. And Michigan's minus-48 rushing yards showed just how inconsistent the Wolverines (who had scored 63 points in their previous game) could be.
It also gave us one of the greatest impromptu on-field celebrations we've seen in college sports in some time, compliments of MSU center Travis Jackson.
Michigan State gets to host for the second straight year, and the result could be more of the same. And with Jackson back at center, maybe we'll get another little dance.
Winner: Michigan State
Florida vs. Georgia
Date and site: Nov. 1 in Jacksonville (neutral site)
The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, as Florida vs. Georgia has been known, has as much of a party atmosphere as any game around. Played in late October or early November since its inception in 1915, the contest is normally at a neutral site, thus allowing for both teams' fans to have equal claim to their territory.
Georgia holds a 49-40-2 edge all time and has won the last three games, but Bulldogs coach Mark Richt is just 5-8 against the Gators.
The fact that this game often plays a large role in who wins the SEC East title just adds to the fierceness of this rivalry, though last year both squads were out of the running when they met. That won't be the same this year, so expect yet another great one.
Alabama vs. LSU
Date and site: Nov. 8 at LSU
Unlike most rivalries on this list, this one is borne simply from competition rather than a territorial origin. Simply put, the Alabama vs. LSU games have become some of the most hotly contested in college football over the years, and thus this series has ascended to full-fledged rivalry status.
Consider this: In the 22 years since the SEC went to divisional format, Alabama or LSU has either won or shared the title 16 times. Another stat: The schools combined for six BCS title game appearances, including one against each other in 2012.
They're two of the best—not just within their league but nationally—and the outcome of this game each year has a huge impact on the conference and national title picture. Add in that the coach of Alabama, Nick Saban, previously was the coach at LSU, and it's no surprise this is one of the biggest rivalries around.
Iowa vs. Minnesota
Date and site: Nov. 8 at Minnesota
There's more than just a win and bragging rights at stake when Iowa and Minnesota battle it out each year. There's also a bronze pig to lay claim to.
Floyd of Rosedale is the extra prize up for grabs in this game that's been played since the 1890s and has been an annual occurrence since the early 1930s. Iowa has taken the last two meetings and 10 of 13 overall, but the resurgence of Minnesota's program should return this to a more balanced rivalry.
Arkansas vs. LSU
Date and site: Nov. 15 at Arkansas
The Golden Boot is awarded to the winner of this SEC West battle, which has been played since the early 1900s but disappeared from the schedule for a quarter-century before Arkansas joined the SEC in 1992. Since then the game has been an annual affair, normally played right after Thanksgiving, but not this year.
LSU won 10 games in 2013, while Arkansas went 3-9 and finished on a nine-game losing streak, but you couldn't tell the records when these teams met in Baton Rouge last year. Arkansas led for much of the game before the Tigers rallied late behind backup quarterback Anthony Jennings.
Hosting Alabama the week before, LSU could be susceptible to overlooking the Razorbacks this time out. But that's unlikely, considering how last year's game went.
Auburn vs. Georgia
Date and site: Nov. 15 at Georgia
Deep South's Oldest Rivalry already had plenty of history going for it, and then came last season's wild finish to cement this matchup as one of the most storied around.
Auburn's unbeaten season was hanging in the balance, down 38-37 with less than a minute remaining. Faced with a 4th-and-long from the Tigers' 27-yard line, Nick Marshall was forced to heave the ball deep and hope his receiver would come down with it. Ricardo Louis did just that, but not until after the underthrown ball bounced off a Georgia defender and into his hands for the amazing 73-yard touchdown catch.
It was only Auburn's second win in the last nine years of the series, which dates back to 1893 and has been played every year since. We can only hope for a game half as crazy this time out, one that host Georgia should take home as part of its bounce-back year.
Florida State vs. Miami (Fla.)
Date and site: Nov. 15 at Miami
Another one of the longstanding rivalries that eventually became a league game, Florida State vs. Miami has always seemed to have an added layer of intrigue to each meeting because of how past battles have gone. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, when both programs were at their height, it was fair to say they helped introduce the concept of swagger to college football.
There has also tended to be a lot on the line, because in many seasons one or both teams have entered the contest in the national championship hunt. This was the case last year for both, as a pair of unbeaten teams met in Tallahassee. But it wasn't much of a contest after the first quarter, as FSU rolled to a 41-14 win and eventually took home the title.
Having the game in Miami this year will provide the Hurricanes with some added advantage, but FSU has won down there before and will again.
Winner: Florida State
Duke vs. North Carolina
Date and site: Nov. 20 at Duke
This rivalry extends to all sports, but basketball tends to get most of the notoriety. That is, until Duke suddenly became relevant in football and used last year's victory at North Carolina to clinch its first-ever division title and a spot in the ACC Championship Game.
With the Tar Heels expected to be one of the more improved teams this year and Duke still strong, this could be the start of another great football rivalry series.
California vs. Stanford
Date and site: Nov. 22 at California
The Big Game has been contested since the 1890s and was well-known even before the infamous band play from 1982, when Stanford's marching band got onto the field while a last-second kickoff return was still happening. It's one of the more even series in college football, with Stanford holding a 54-44-10 advantage, though the Cardinal have won four straight.
Usually played around Thanksgiving, it's been moved around over the years due to Stanford's every-other-year hosting of Notre Dame in late November. This year, though, the Pac-12 schedule-makers decided a Stanford vs. UCLA regular-season finale would be more intriguing.
California has been down the last few years, while Stanford has ascended to the top of the national rankings. Nothing indicates this year's game will change that.
UCLA vs. USC
Date and site: Nov. 22 at UCLA
When both UCLA and USC are at the top of their respective games, few rivalries are more electric and awe-inspiring. Maybe that has something to do with the proximity to Hollywood and the increased chance of celebrities both in the stands and on the sidelines, but this battle for LA bragging rights is often a great one.
But lately it's been the exception, rather than the rule, that the Bruins and Trojans are both riding high. Last year's game featured a pair of teams with winning records, but both weren't in contention for anything more than a mid-tier bowl game. Nonetheless, UCLA did make headlines by not only winning at USC but pulling off back-to-back wins over the Trojans for the first time since winning eight in a row from 1991 to 1998.
Jim Mora has gotten UCLA back into the spotlight, and the USC folks are hoping Steve Sarkisian will do the same. For now, the old dog in this fight will have the advantage, but for how long?
Arizona vs. Arizona State
Date and site: Nov. 28 at Arizona
The Territorial Cup is one of the oldest trophies given to the winner of a college football rivalry game; however, for close to 70 years, there was no actual trophy until it was found in the 1980s in a church basement near Arizona State's campus.
A relatively even series, it's often won by the team with the worse record. Last year's 58-21 throttling by ASU was an exception, but in many years the school that needed a win to become bowl-eligible or earn a better invitation has come up short.
Both programs are on the upswing right now, with Arizona coming off back-to-back eight-win seasons and ASU playing for the Pac-12 title last December. Location usually doesn't matter, but this time it will give Arizona the slight edge.
Virginia vs. Virginia Tech
Date and site: Nov. 28 at Virginia Tech
The Commonwealth Cup qualifies as a rivalry game because it involves in-state teams who traditionally end the regular season against each other. What don't qualify it are the recent results.
Virginia Tech has won the last 10 meetings and 14 of 15 against the Cavaliers, who haven't managed two straight wins in the series since the late 1990s. Tech has been the state's dominant program for some time, but there's always that hope that Virginia will catch up.
A solid recruiting class for the 2014 season has led to hope but not for this year's meeting.
Winner: Virginia Tech
Alabama vs. Auburn
Date and site: Nov. 29 at Alabama
The Iron Bowl was already at legendary status before last year's game, which gave us the phrase "kick-six" to toss around after Chris Davis' missed-field-goal return for a touchdown with no time on the clock to send Auburn into the SEC title game.
It was just the latest of a long line of fantastic games between these bitter rivals. The series has been in place since 1893 and somehow keeps getting more intense.
Auburn's win last season helped it get into the BCS title game, same as it did in 2010, while the Crimson Tide claimed victory (and went on to win national titles) in 2011 and 2012. With that kind of evidence, it's not incorrect to say this game helps shape the national championship picture.
Clemson vs. South Carolina
Date and site: Nov. 29 at Clemson
The annual clash between the Palmetto State's top two programs has been waged every year since 1909, and for the last few decades, it's usually been the season finale for both—an out-of-conference battle that's no less intense than a league contest.
With Dabo Swinney at Clemson and Steve Spurrier at South Carolina, this game has moved up a few notches in national importance with both teams routinely high in the rankings, as was the case last season when the 10th-ranked Gamecocks knocked off No. 6 Clemson in Columbia.
But Spurrier thinks the game would get even more attention if it had a fancy nickname, especially when it's regularly held at the same time as the Egg Bowl, Iron Bowl and various other named rivalry games. While he waits for that to happen, though, he can just work together another win in the series.
Winner: South Carolina
Georgia vs. Georgia Tech
Date and site: Nov. 29 at Georgia
Of all the longstanding rivalry games, none has a better or simpler moniker than this one: Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate. Rather than beat around the bush and try to paint things as pleasant yet competitive, these schools that are only 70 miles apart and vastly different in how they operate just come right out and declare their dislike for each other.
Hatred aside, the games are usually pretty good, even if Georgia has won five straight, 12 of 13 and 19 of 23. That includes last year's overtime victory at Tech, a game the Bulldogs won despite not having all-time SEC passing leader Aaron Murray available after his career-ending knee injury.
Tech's option attack against Georgia's pro-style offense makes for a great contrast to watch, but it means the Bulldogs usually win. The same should be the case this November.
Kansas vs. Kansas State
Date and site: Nov. 29 at Kansas State
The Sunflower Showdown, as this game and Kansas vs. Kansas State contests in other sports have come to be known as, doesn't get much attention outside of the state—other than for the fact it's been one of the more lopsided rivalries of the past 20 years.
Save for a brief stretch last decade when Mark Mangino had made Kansas relevant, this series has been owned by K-State. The Wildcats are on a five-game win streak, with the last four coming by an average of nearly 38 points.
With Kansas and Missouri no longer holding their Border War game anymore, this is the Jayhawks' most important contest on the schedule each year. If only that were enough to spark a great performance from them.
Winner: Kansas State
Kentucky vs. Louisville
Date and site: Nov. 29 at Louisville
These longtime rivals on the basketball court have only been regularly playing on the football field for the past 20 years, but the interest in the series has grown over that time. And with Louisville's move to the ACC this season, the teams have made their game an end-of-the-season tussle for the next three years like other ACC/SEC rivals.
The series has been one of streaks since resuming in 1994, with Louisville currently on a three-game upswing. The Wildcats won the four previous games, with Louisville taking four in a row prior to that.
Expect the Cardinals' winning ways to continue for now.
Illinois vs. Northwestern
Date and site: Nov. 29 at Northwestern
The Land of Lincoln battle pits Illinois' largest public school against its top private institution, which is a nice way of explaining the contrast between these programs that have both been up and down over the years. Northwestern has won the last two, with Illinois taking two straight before that.
The Wildcats' 37-34 win at Illinois last November put an end to a long losing streak to keep a disastrous season from being any worse. Illinois' year was just plain bad, though it did end a long Big Ten skid.
If one of these teams manages to turn things around in 2014, the result of this game might be a great springboard into the postseason.
Indiana vs. Purdue
Date and site: Nov. 29 at Indiana
The winner of this in-state clash gets the Old Oaken Bucket, one of the many weird trinkets passed around among Big Ten rivals, though the real prize is bragging rights. That was added incentive for Indiana last season; despite finishing below .500, it did manage to score its most points (56) ever against the Boilermakers.
Purdue had won of its worst seasons ever in 2013 but had it beaten the Hoosiers, the victory would have made its season. So it goes with these games, where going 1-11 isn't a disaster if that triumph came against the rival.
Minnesota vs. Wisconsin
Date and site: Nov. 29 at Wisconsin
The biggest schools from states separated by a pair of rivers have met every year since 1907, but the battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe has never had a fixed place on the schedule. Unlike Michigan vs. Ohio State or many other conference rivalries, this one goes whenever it fits best.
Wisconsin won in Minneapolis last year in the second-to-last game of the regular season, and in past years the game has been held as early as Oct. 3. The date of the game hasn't had much bearing on the results, though, as the Badgers have won 10 straight over the Golden Gophers.
Minnesota is on a program upswing under Jerry Kill, but Wisconsin remains as good as ever and is home for this regular-season finale.
Mississippi vs. Mississippi State
Date and site: Nov. 29 at Mississippi
Throw the records out the door when the Egg Bowl is played, because they have no bearing. What seems to have more of an impact on this series is whether the coaches are feeling heat under their seat.
Mississippi State's Dan Mullen badly needed a victory last year and not just to get the Bulldogs bowl-eligible. Some late heroics led to an overtime win and what ultimately was looked at as a successful season following a Liberty Bowl triumph against Rice. Ole Miss won its bowl as well, but losing this one put some rust on the overall season's outlook.
It seems unfair, but that's how rivalry games are looked at internally. And if a similar situation is in play this year, look for more of the same reaction when Ole Miss claims victory.
Notre Dame vs. USC
Date and site: Nov. 29 at USC
One of Notre Dame's many scheduling traditions that haven't (yet) been affected by its deal with the ACC has been its annual game played on the West Coast around Thanksgiving. Since the late 1990s the Fighting Irish have either faced Stanford or USC in California at this time of year, though the USC series dates back to the 1920s.
Meant to help spread Notre Dame's brand across the country, the West Coast trips have also developed into healthy battles with two of the Pac-12's most noted programs. This especially rings true for the games with USC, though prior to wins in three of the last four meetings, Notre Dame had gone eight seasons (2002 to 2009) without a victory.
As the Irish's regular-season finale, this game could have a major impact on whether Notre Dame will get consideration for the inaugural College Football Playoff. It would need to win for that to be an issue, though.
Ohio State vs. Michigan
Date and site: Nov. 29 at Ohio State
Maybe the biggest rivalry game outside of the Deep South, when Ohio State and Michigan meet at the end of each regular season, it's always appointment viewing. The fact that one or both teams tend to be fighting for the Big Ten title or in the mix for a national title just adds another layer to this long-running series.
The intensity and devotion to this rivalry exceed far beyond the game, with Michigan people refusing to reference OSU as anything other than "Ohio" and even seeing Ohio governor John Kasich declare the letter M to be a "scarlet letter."
Each coach's performance against the other team is a huge factor in his performance review, too. Brady Hoke is 1-2 against Ohio State, which means a third straight loss could be problematic.
Winner: Ohio State
Oregon vs. Oregon State
Date and site: Nov. 29 at Oregon State
The Civil War is a misleading name for this rivalry, at least partially. It is one that divides this state—you either bleed green or orange, there's no mixing colors—but it's also not very civil.
Oregon has dominated the series of late, winning six straight, but it's never been easy. Last year's back-and-forth, last-second victory for the Ducks was a very common result and the kind that helps make this an exciting game no matter how the teams are faring.
If Oregon is as good as it is supposed to be this year, the late November trip to Corvallis might have a Pac-12 division title and a potential spot in the College Football Playoff on the line.
Tennessee vs. Vanderbilt
Date and site: Nov. 29 at Vanderbilt
This game, often referred to as Hatred in the Hills, gets to rightly end both teams' regular seasons this year after getting played a week earlier many times because of Vanderbilt's series with Wake Forest. That series was canceled for 2014 and 2015, so now this in-state rivalry gets a bigger spotlight.
Vanderbilt won in the final seconds last season to eliminate Tennessee from bowl contention, which is something that should always happen between rivals. If that situation presents itself again this year, don't think either team won't relish the chance to ruin the other's season.
Washington vs. Washington State
Date and site: Nov. 29 at Washington State
The Apple Cup helps bring together a state that's split in half by a mountain range, but there are alumni from both schools on either side. It's why the game tends to be very well-attended by both factions, whether it's held in Seattle or Pullman.
Washington has held a considerable edge in the series from the outset and leads 68-32 with six ties. The Huskies have taken four of the last five, though the Cougars did manage to win at home in overtime two years ago to tarnish what had been a relatively good year for Washington.
The Cougars reached their first bowl game in a decade last year and look poised to be pushing toward continued success. Winning this one will help.
Winner: Washington State
Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State
Date and site: Dec. 6 at Oklahoma
Oklahoma has won 84 of the 108 all-time meetings (including seven ties) with Oklahoma State, so on paper this doesn't look like much of a rivalry. Which means you've never experienced Bedlam.
That's an apt name for this series, as the games between the Cowboys and Sooners are rarely dull and often are so full of memorable plays and endings you can't believe the margin between the teams isn't closer. Just look at the last four years, where Oklahoma has won three times but needed to make a play in the final moments to claim or secure victory.
The Sooners won a wild one last season in Stillwater, keeping Oklahoma State from a Big 12 title and propelling themselves into the Sugar Bowl. Could beating the Cowboys this year boost Oklahoma into the College Football Playoff?
Army vs. Navy
Date and site: Dec. 13 in Baltimore (neutral site)
All three service academies play one another every season, but the Army vs. Navy game stands above the others, as well as many in-state rivalries. The score or records don't matter because more than any other rivalry game, this one is as much about competition as camaraderie.
That's how it goes when a good number of the players involved each year will be on the field for the final time and soon will be starting military careers.
But looking at the results, it's been all Navy for a long time. The Midshipmen have won the last 12 meetings, and only the 2011 and 2012 games were decided by fewer than 10 points.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.
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