According to the mouth-breathers that I am surrounded by in the Deep South, which is the heart of SEC Country and by extension the heart of the college football world, rivalry games are what set apart college football from all other sports.
There are obviously a lot of factors to consider when undertaking some college football betting. But calculating the impact of rivalry games and the emotions that they breed is a crucial aspect for college football handicappers to consider. There are some professionals I know that won’t even bother to jump in the middle of a rivalry situation if they can help it because those games can be so unpredictable.
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But several other handicappers – and a lot of public bettors – live for and love the high-stakes, emotionally charged gambling situations that college football rivalry games present.
Below is a look at the Top 10 College Football Rivalry Games for the 2012 season, with the college football odds for certain games provided by 5Dimes Sportsbook:
10. Michigan State (+6) at Michigan (Saturday, Oct. 20)
I think that this is one of the more underrated rivalries in college football right now. If you look back over the last decade this game has given us some wild ones. Michigan State has actually won four straight in this series, though, and they dominated in a 28-14 beat down in Lansing last year. What makes this game even more important this year is that these could be the top two teams in the Legends Division and the winner will have the inside track at a slot in the Big Ten Championship Game. That makes this one of the top rivalry games of the year as well as potentially one of the most important conference games of the season.
9. Florida State (-11) at Miami (Saturday, Oct. 20)
Florida State’s schedule is loaded this year and they have to face Florida in one of my top nonconference games of the year. (They also have a tricky game against South Florida, an in-state foe and perhaps the top team in the Big East.) But the game that could really trip up what a lot of people (not me) are predicting as potential national title season for the Seminoles is this tilt with the Hurricanes. Miami is in for a long season. But this game could essentially be their Super Bowl. And if history is any indicator, the underdog is always feisty in this rivalry. Since 2000, eight of the last 13 meetings have been decided by four points or less.
8. Oregon (-16) at Oregon State (Saturday, Nov. 24)
The Civil War has lost a bit of its luster in recent years while Oregon State has gone through a bit of a retooling period. Also, Oregon has dominated the last four meetings, winning by 27, 4, 17 and 28 points. However, this game is in Corvallis, where Oregon State has a history of jumping up and biting highly-ranked opponents. And I am predicting a bit of a bounce back from the Beavers this year so I expect a more competitive game. Also, this game caps an uber-emotional November for Oregon. They play at USC, at Cal, they then host Stanford in their final home game, and then they have to hit the road to face Oregon State. We could see an upset here.
7. Florida (-3.5) at Tennessee (Saturday, Sept. 15)
Remember when this game had serious national implications? It really wasn’t that long ago. But after seven straight wins by the Gators this rivalry has been forgotten in the SEC. But as the spread suggests, this should be another scintillating September showdown between two SEC sleepers. Tennessee is going to be one of my surprise teams this fall and they have a chance to make a big statement in this contest. Florida is trying to get back to national prominence and they have their most experienced defense since the 2009 Sugar Bowl team.
6. BYU at Utah (Saturday, Sept. 15)
This will be the 94th game between these wacky Mormon rivals in a series that dates back to 1896. It was announced this summer that the Holy War is going to be put on hold in 2014 and 2015, so that raises the stakes a bit for these two schools. Utah absolutely demolished BYU last year, 54-10, in Provo and they will be looking for a repeat performance. But 12 of the last 16 meetings (and 14 of the last 20) have been determined by a touchdown or less so I would be surprised to see another blowout. This game used to determine conference championships. Now it is simply for bragging rights. Sometimes that is enough.
5. Army (+3.5) vs. Navy (Saturday, Dec. 8)
This game will be played in Philadelphia and both teams will have three weeks to prepare. These teams have met every year since 1930 and this rivalry dates back 112 years. No rivalry in the country is more American. Navy has dominated this series over the last decade, winning 10 straight meetings and 12 of the last 13. But the margin of victory has been shrinking over the last few years from 35 to 34 to 14 to 14 to just a six-point difference last year. The Cadets have a decade’s worth of revenge and maybe their best team in 15 years. But can Navy continue its outstanding streak in this one?
4. Auburn (+18) at Alabama (Saturday, Nov. 24)
In my opinion this series has gotten way overrated. (Seriously, besides the one time in 2010 when they both came into the game ranked, does anyone outside of this hillbilly state care that these two teams hate each other?) But the Iron Bowl is still one of the most venerable rivalries in the South and therefore it will be one of the most anticipated games of the season for each team. Alabama has won three of the last four meetings after a six-game winning streak by the Tigers.
3. Oklahoma State (+9.5) at Oklahoma (Saturday, Nov. 24)
This game also could qualify as one of the biggest revenge games of the college football season. The Bedlam Series is one of the best in-state rivalry games in the country and could have the added significance of deciding the Big 12 Championship this year. Last season Oklahoma State dealt OU one of the worst losses of the Bob Stoops era, winning 44-10 in Stillwater. That snapped a streak of eight straight wins by the Sooners and clinched a league title for the Cowboys. At least one of these teams has been ranked inside the Top 12 in 12 of the last 13 meetings and in seven of the last 13 meetings one of them has been inside the Top 5. This one should have both regional and national significance this year.
2. Michigan (+2) at Ohio State (Saturday, Nov. 24)
The game, played annually between these two Big Ten juggernauts, is one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports. And this year’s game should be another tough, hard-fought game in this series. Michigan won last season in Ann Arbor, 40-34, to snap a streak of seven straight losses at the hands of the Buckeyes. But things could be a lot different in Columbus this November. Adding to the drama in this one is that Ohio State is banned from postseason participation this year. That means no Big Ten Title Game and no bowl game for the Buckeyes (if they were to qualify for either). That also means that this season-ending tussle against the Wolverines will be the end-all, be-all for Ohio State, even though it comes one week after a trip to Madison for a game that could decide the Leaders Division. This is also Urban Meyer’s first foray into this rivalry series and he could send an already rabid OSU fan base into a frenzy with a win in this marquee spot.
1. Oklahoma (-7.5) vs. Texas (Saturday, Oct. 13)
I understand that Michigan-Ohio State is the benchmark rivalry game in college football. However, this season nothing matches the Red River Shootout. (Yes, I know that it has been “re-branded” the Red River Rivalry, but I don’t care what the corporate sponsors call it, it was the Shootout for 100 years before the PC police and corporate marketers copulated to give us the RRR. Sorry for the tangent.)
These two heated rivals are the top two contenders for the Big 12 Championship, which makes this one of my top conference games of the year. And the winner will not only have the inside track for the league title, but will also stay on the short list of teams competing for the National Championship. Oklahoma demolished Texas last year, 55-17, and the Longhorns will certainly be looking for revenge. But OU is loaded on both sides of the ball and, as the college football odds suggest, will be a healthy favorite coming into this game.
This year will be the 13th straight season that at least one of these teams is ranked in the Top 10 when they square off. And this should also be the seventh straight season (and 12th in the last 13) that both teams are ranked when they meet. This game is one of the most important of the 2012 college football season and is the top college football rivalry game of the year.
Honorable Mention: Florida vs. Georgia (Saturday, Oct. 27), Stanford vs. Cal, Georgia at Auburn (Saturday, Nov. 10), LSU at Arkansas (Saturday, Nov. 23), South Carolina at Clemson (Saturday, Nov. 24), Washington at Oregon (Saturday, Oct. 6), N.C. State at North Carolina (Saturday, Oct. 27)
Robert Ferringo is a professional football handicapper and has posted back-to-back profitable seasons (college and pro). Robert has turned a profit in three of four football seasons and over the last 12 months his clients have more than tripled their bankrolls with his predictions in all sports. He is looking forward to building on his stellar football handicapping resume again this fall and you can check him out here.