Not all College Football rivalries are equal. Not in historical context and importance, and not in the quality of product they put on the field, with the latter varying yearly. Ohio State and Michigan might usually be voted as the number one rivalry in all of sports, but this year, there doesn’t seem to be a single game more important than the Iron Bowl, with Auburn and Alabama playing for state pride, division, conference and national titles.
One of the surprising names to find on this list is that of Duke and North Carolina. The most famous rivals on the basketball court, rarely does it happen when the two contest each other in a meaningful football game. However, things seems to be different this year in Durham, with the Coastal division title on the line.
6 – Duke vs UNC (Victory Bell)
At 9-2, including 5-2 in the conference, all Duke need to do is beat North Carolina and find themselves in the conference champions game for the very first time, even if it does mean playing against Florida State in what seems like an unfair battle. Duke haven’t won consecutive games against the Tar Heels since the late 1980’s, and are hoping that their close win last year in Durham (33-30) isn’t a rare occasion like in the past, with North Carolina winning 19 of the last 23 games, vacating two of their wins. The Tar Heels don’t have a shot to win the division despite their 4-3 ACC record, but beating Duke will surely mean that either Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech or Miami will take their place in the ACC championship game, and that’s reason enough to feel motivated.
5 – UCLA vs USC (Victory Bell)
A game that will define the season for both Bruins and the Trojans, who can’t go to the Pac-12 title game. UCLA lost too much, USC lost to Arizona State and lose in the double header if there’s need for one. But the Trojans, under Ed Orgeron, have won six of their last seven games, with their only loss coming at Notre Dame by 4 points. Cody Kessler is turning into a fine quarterback, and his season might be all about happy endings if they return things to normal in this rivalry. UCLA won last year, their first win since 2006, and they’re hoping that the wind and momentum hasn’t been knocked out of Brett Hundley after the home loss to the Sun Devils, gunning for consecutive wins against USC for the first time since 1998.
4 – Arizona vs Arizona State (Duel in the Desert)
After the Wildcats knocked off Oregon last week, this game got a lot more interesting. Why? Arizona State are going to play in the Pac-12 title game no matter what against Stanford, but it’s probably a huge difference if this game is played in Palo Alto or in Tempe. Arizona State are 7-1 in the conference this year and have won two of the last three games between the teams. The Wildcats haven’t lost in Tempe since 2007, when the two teams came under familiar conditions – Arizona State were ranked #13 in the nation (#12 time time), winning 20-17 eventually.
3 – Clemson vs South Carolina (The Battle of the Palmetto State)
Clemson can’t reach the conference championship game but they are ranked #6 in the nation, which means a good shot at going to a BCS Bowl if they end their losing streak against South Carolina (#10 in the nation). The Gamecocks have won the last four in this series, all of their wins coming by at least 10 points. They don’t just have that BCS hope riding on this, but the division title – If Missouri lose to Texas A&M, a South Carolina win will put them in the SEC championship game thanks to their head-to-head advantage over the other Tigers.
2 – Ohio State vs Michigan (The Game)
The only thing Michigan can do is mess things up for Ohio State, and that’s a good enough reason to try and rise from this awful slump they’re in, which began in a 43-40 loss to Penn State, culminating into four loss over the last six games. Ohio State? They’re waiting for someone to slip up – Alabama or Florida State at this point, but they need to stay undefeated. Recent years show that Michigan, especially in this kind of form, shouldn’t pose a problem, winning a better Wolverines team by 5 points last year in Columbus and dominating this rivalry since 2004, losing only one game. Their conference championship game vs Michigan State, already set for November 30, should be a much more difficult affair.
1 – Alabama vs Auburn (The Iron Bowl)
Every year there is a great buzz around this game, but it’s probably the biggest Iron Bowl since 2010, when Cam Newton led the undefeated Tigers back from a 24 point deficit, beating the #11 ranked Crimson Tide. Auburn are coming into this game as the #4 team in the nation, winning eight straight since losing to LSU back in September, beating Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Georgia to help their resume. However, this might be the greatest Alabama dynasty ever, winning four of the last five in this series and winning only one game this year by less than 13 points.