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Predicting The Results Of The 2016 College Football Season's Biggest Rivalry Games

Intense rivalries are what make college sports so much fun. Even in a year where a match-up may seem totally one-sided, the emotions of a rivalry can drive an underdog to a competitive game or a big upset win. Last year's Texas team, for example, went just 5-7, but handed Oklahoma its only loss before the College Football Playoff. Pretty much every week, there is at least one huge rivalry for us fans to enjoy. Many of them, like Michigan vs. Ohio State, Clemson vs. Florida State, and Alabama vs. LSU will likely have direct College Football Playoff implications.

Who will come out on top of the sport's biggest rivalry games this fall? Here are our picks, as we enter the summer.

Next: FSU vs. Clemson >>>

Florida State vs. Clemson:

This game has decided the ACC Atlantic Division the past few seasons, and the winner always seems to factor into the national title picture. Clemson took down FSU in Death Valley in 2015 en route to the College Football Playoff. 

We project both of these squads to be 7-0 on Oct. 29 when they meet at Doak Campbell Stadium. Notice how Oct. 29 keeps popping up on this list. That's going to be an unreal day of college football action. 

Clemson, led by Deshaun Watson, and FSU, paced by Dalvin Cook, will engage in another instant classic. In the end, it will be Watson who will make just enough plays to propel the Tigers to a 31-27 win

Next: Alabama vs. UT >>

Alabama vs. Tennessee:

After three years playing one week later than normal, Alabama and Tennessee returns to its rightful place on The Third Saturday in October. This rivalry has been incredibly one-sided of late, with the Crimson Tide winning the last nine meetings. 

The Tide will enter this game undefeated and ranked No. 1, while Tennessee will be 5-1 and trying to shake off the sting of a loss at Texas A&M the week before. 

They'll do more than shake off the A&M loss. They'll erase nine years of painful memories in 60 minutes. Josh Dobbs throws for two scores and rushes for another, proving once again that mobile quarterbacks can be the Tide's kryptonite. A raucous, orange-clad crowd will be on the edge of its seat when Aaron Medley lines up a 43-yard field goal on the game' s final play.

Medley buries the kick, and the Vols celebrate a 27-24 win.

Next: The Egg Bowl >>>

The Egg Bowl:

An underrated rivalry game, the Egg Bowl is set for Thanksgiving weekend as usual. The Rebels have won the past two meetings, including a 38-27 victory in Starkville last season.

This season, the 8-3 Rebels will host the 6-5 Bulldogs on Nov. 26. Both teams are bowl-bound, but in this case, we go with the more established quarterback.

Led by Chad Kelly's 360 yards of total offense and three touchdowns, Ole Miss makes it three in a row against its in-state rivals, winning 31-23. 

Next: Oregon vs. Stanford >>>

Oregon vs. Stanford:

The Ducks and Cardinal have been the most consistent programs in the Pac-12 the past five years. The two teams have repeatedly duked it out for North division and conference supremacy, and the winner of this game usually has a leg up in the Pac-12 race.

Last year, the Ducks surprised Stanford, 38-36 in Palo Alto. 

This year, the 8-1 Ducks will play the 7-2 Cardinal up at Autzen. Led by the all-around play of Heisman candidate Christian McCaffrey, Stanford jumps out to an early 17-3 lead.

But the Ducks rally behind FCS grad transfer Dakota Prukop, and a back-and-forth game is decided with 50 seconds remaining. It is then that Prukop finds a fully-recovered Pharaoh Brown in the end zone for the game-winning score. Oregon wins 44-41.

Next: Palmetto Bowl >>>

Palmetto Bowl:

It wasn't long ago that South Carolina had complete control of this rivalry, with five straight wins over the rival Tigers from 2009-2014. The Head Ball Coach is gone now, though, and Clemson has taken the program to another level, coming a few plays shy of its first national championship since 1981 in January. Even so, Clemson struggled to put away a very weak South Carolina side last November, edging the Gamecocks 37-32 in Columbia.

Will Muschamp has done a nice job re-energizing the Gamecocks thus far as the program's new head coach, but spurring a massive upset in year one is too much to ask, especially with Deshaun Watson still under center for Dabo Swinney's club. This one may still be a bit closer than people think, but with the rivalry moving back to Death Valley, Clemson won't have much trouble putting South Carolina away, 27-10.

Next: UGA vs. UF >>>

Georgia vs. Florida:

This rivalry is no longer The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, but it still plays a big role in determining the SEC East champion.Florida has won the last two meetings in blowout fashion, 38-20 in 2014 and 27-3 last year. 

When these two teams meet in Jacksonville on Oct. 29, both will be 5-2 and in the thick of the Eastern division race. Kirby Smart will be looking for his first marquee victory as Georgia's head coach after his Bulldogs fell just short against Tennessee two weeks earlier.

Led by freshman quarterback Jacob Eason and the running duo of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, Georgia snaps its skid against the Gators, winning 27-21. 

Next: LSU vs. Alabama >>>

LSU vs. Alabama:

The Tigers haven't beaten Alabama in five years. In that time frame, the Tide has won three national championships, with one those title game victories coming against LSU. So yes, fans on the Bayou are getting a bit restless. 

If there was ever a time for LSU to beat the Tide, it is probably this year. The Tigers return 10 of their top 11 tacklers and Heisman candidate Leonard Fournette on offense. They will also be at home on Nov. 5, and Death Valley will be an inhospitable environment for 'Bama.

The Tigers will be 8-0 and ranked first in the country when the Tide rolls in. Alabama will have suffered its only loss of the season two weeks earlier at Tennessee. The scene will be set for a changing of the guard in the SEC West. 

But then Nick Saban's bunch will say, "Not so fast." The Tide bottles up Fournette again, and picks off a pair of Brandon Harris passes. On offense, Bo Scarbrough bullies his way to 110 yards and a pair of scores. Alabama prevails in a slug fest, 20-13

Next: Michigan vs. MSU >>>

Michigan vs. Michigan State:

This rivalry was revived last fall, producing one of the most memorable moments of the season. The Spartan's miracle victory dramatically altered the Big Ten East race and set the tone for a College Football Playoff berth. 

Michigan fans and players are still stewing over how things ended in the Big House in 2015. They'll have a chance for revenge in East Lansing on Oct. 29. Both teams will enter the game at 6-1 after the Wolverines dropped a tight home game to Wisconsin four weeks earlier and the Spartans fell in week two at Notre Dame. 

This year's game will come down to the wire again. However, this time it will be the Wolverines who come up with the big special teams play. Mr. Everything Jabrill Peppers takes a punt 70 yards to pay dirt, and Jourdan Lewis intercepts Tyler O'Connor on the game's final drive to clinch the victory. Michigan wins, 24-20.

Next: Red River Showdown >>>

Red River Showdown:

Oklahoma finished the 2015 regular season on an absolute tear, which makes its mid-season loss to a mediocre Texas team even more puzzling. The Longhorns got on Oklahoma from the jump, and finished the afternoon with a 24-17 win that wasn't as close as the score would indicate. It looked like a breakout moment for head coach Charlie Strong.

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Instead, Texas finished 3-3 down the stretch, and 5-7 overall. Oklahoma did not lose another game until it faced Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal. Texas is very talented, so we hate to call the win a fluke, but everything that we learned about the two teams from October 11 on would indicate that it was something along those lines. 

Texas should improve on its poor 2015 record, but Oklahoma will be a favorite to win the Big 12 again, with Baker Mayfield back at quarterback, and the duo of Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon in the backfield. Expect a course correction in this one, with OU bringing home a 37-21 win.

Next: ND vs. USC >>>

Notre Dame vs. USC:

For the second straight season, Notre Dame has some uncertainty at the quarterback position. Malik Zaire began 2015 as the starter and performed well, but missed most of the season due to injury. DeShone Kizer stepped in and was magnificent down the stretch for the Fighting Irish, including a 227 yard, two touchdown performance in a 41-31 win over rival USC.

USC filled its high-profile opening at head coach with offensive coordinator Clay Helton. He wasn't the flashy, big-name hire that many Trojan fans wanted, especially given the stature of the program, but he should provide some stability to a talent-rich program that has needed it since Pete Carroll left for the NFL.

We're not sure that will be enough to close the gap with Notre Dame, though. While the Irish have failed to break through as a true national championship contender in the last few years, Brian Kelly has the program rolling along. His offense will have a very capable signal caller, whether it is Zaire or Kizer, as well as a stable of very dynamic running backs, including late-season breakout star Josh Adams. Meanwhile, USC has to fill in for highly effective quarterback Cody Kessler.

USC has plenty of talent and should be competitive, but we like Notre Dame to head out West and steal this one, 37-34.

Next: UF vs. FSU >>>

Florida vs. Florida State:

Considering where Florida was in 2013 and 2014, Jim McElwain's first year in Gainesville was an unquestioned success. The new head coach, who came over from Colorado State prior to last season, elevated a team that went 7-5 the year before, and lost to an FCS squad in 2013, to 10 wins and an SEC East title. 

Florida's limitations were revealed against the top teams that it faced, however. LSU, led by Heisman contender Leonard Fournette, handed UF its first loss on October 17, and the Gators lost their final three games to Alabama, Florida State, and Michigan. The 27-2 loss to the Seminoles stands out in particular. The Gators only managed one score—a safety—and 262 total yards of offense. A good Florida defense did not allow a ton of yardage either—the 'Noles only managed 304—but star running back Dalvin Cook was absolutely dominant, with 183 yards and two touchdowns.

Cook will be back, and gunning for a Heisman Trophy after flying under the radar during a fantastic sophomore season. Meanwhile, Florida will have a new quarterback, with Treon Harris' status being up in the air (and moving to wide receiver a few months ago), and Will Grier leaving the program. Florida State is the more established program, and has the edge once again in 2016. Cook will flash his elite speed again, compiling over 200 yards of total offense en route to a 24-14 win for the Seminoles.

Next: The Iron Bowl >>>

The Iron Bowl:

Alabama has won two straight in this rivalry, and handled the Tigers pretty easily in 2015, winning 29-13. Of course, if we've learned anything over the last few years, it is that anything can happen in a college football rivalry game—ESPECIALLY the Iron Bowl. Neither set of fans is going to forget the Kick Six anytime soon, and no matter what has transpired for the Tide and Tigers leading into the game, the Iron Bowl can get crazy.