The first half of the college football season is over. Athlon Sports awarded midseason honors to those players and teams who surprised, disappointed and achieved the remarkable. But the heart of the college football season still lies ahead. Here are 25 games you won't want to miss in the second half.
1. Alabama at LSU (Nov. 3)
The top game in the preseason hasn’t lost any luster as these two SEC West powers continue their collision course. Alabama has been the No. 1 team in the nation since Week 1 and has a pair of Heisman candidates on offense to go with the nation's No. 1-rated defense. LSU has slipped up only once — at No. 2 Florida two weeks ago — but got back on track with a dominating defensive showing against South Carolina. It will be the third time these two will get together in the past 367 days. Buckle your chinstrap and get the ice packs ready for this SEC war.
2. Oregon at USC (Nov. 3)
The other Game of the Century this season is right on schedule as well. Much like LSU, USC has slipped up once already on the road against a quality opponent, but gets the No. 3-ranked Ducks at home. Unlike the SEC bout, however, these two will likely meet again in the Pac-12 title game as they are clearly the best two teams in the Pac-12. The offensive firepower on both sides is remarkable and this final score should be much like the 38-35 nail-bitter that took place in Eugene a year ago.
3. South Carolina at Florida (Oct. 20)
The Gamecocks offense looked rather average against LSU in Week 7 and will get just as tough a test in Week 8. Except this time, the SEC East championship could be on the line. Quarterback Jeff Driskel didn’t play in the five-point South Carolina win last season that featured a combined total of 203 passing yards. For Carolina, Marcus Lattimore didn’t suit up either. Both will be the focal points of their respective offenses in this SEC showdown.
4. Notre Dame at USC (Nov. 24)
Could a trip to the national championship game be on the line when these two historic rivals meet up in Los Angeles? It’s not that far-fetched if the Trojans can win the aforementioned showdown with Oregon. Southern Cal has won nine out of ten in this storied rivalry but that lone win for Notre Dame came under Brian Kelly the last time the Irish visited the Coliseum. Rich history, elite offense versus elite defense and a potential trip to the BCS title game on the line? Yes, please.
5. Notre Dame at Oklahoma (Oct. 27)
Believe it not, but these two college football powers have met a total of nine times, and only one of those games (1999) has taken place since since 1968. Notre Dame has won eight of the nine meetings, and the Fighting Irish are a perfect 4-0 in Norman, Okla. The Irish have their eyes on a national title for the first time in 25 years, but will have to clear two major hurdles to have any hopes of getting there. The first of which is this visit to play Bob Stoops on his own turf. Consider this: the OU head coach lost his first-ever home game to a ranked opponent back in Week 4.
6. Florida vs. Georgia (Oct. 27)
The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party was a back and forth affair that ended with a Richard Samuel game-winning touchdown run with just over two minutes left last year. Mark Richt used fourth down gambles and a rushing defense that held Florida to minus-19 yards on the ground to earn only his third win over the Gators. Florida is 18-4 since 1990 in this game and should the Gators defeat South Carolina, it too could be a de facto SEC East championship game.
7. Michigan at Ohio State (Nov. 24)
The top rivalry in college football is back to being nationally relevant. Brady Hoke and Urban Meyer will make this battle one of the nation’s best every year. Ohio State could be 11-0 entering this game and Michigan could need a win to clinch the Legends Division. Denard Robinson got the Wolverines off the schneid last season with Michigan’s first win over that team from Ohio since 2003. Braxton Miller got baptized into this ongoing war last fall and he nearly pulled off the road upset. Fans can again expect greatness from two of the most electric quarterbacks in the nation.
8. Florida at Florida State (Nov. 24)
Florida-Tennessee had a 1990s feel to it back in Week 3 and this rivalry could feel the same way at season’s end. These two Sunshine powers could have a combined record of 21-1 when they get together, and a bid to the national title game could be on the line too. As far as the series itself, the Noles have dominated the last two meetings, winning by a combined score of 52-14, which put an end to the Gators' six-game winning streak from 2004-09. Will Muschamp hasn’t forgotten what took place the last time these two got together.
9. Oregon at Oregon State (Nov. 24)
This could be the best edition of The Civil War in the 118-year history of the Beaver State rivalry. Both teams have major tests before the final week of the regular season, but the Ducks might need a win on the road over Mike Riley’s much-improved defense to stay in the national title hunt. The Ducks have won four straight with relative ease in the series, but the Beavers are 5-2 in the last seven in Corvallis. Should the Beavers keep winning, however, more than just bragging rights could be hanging in the balance — like a Pac-12 North Division championship.
10. Kansas State at West Virginia (Oct. 20)
The luster has been dimmed slightly after the Mountaineers lost in Lubbock in Week 7. But make no mistake, the winner of the Big 12 championship will likely emerge from this contest with a victory. These two have only met twice, splitting a home-and-home series back in 1930 and 1931 — both of which took place in Morgantown. The Big 12 Coach of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year award are likely to be decided in this game as two of the top three current Heisman Trophy finalists will be on the field together.
11. Oklahoma at West Virginia (No. 17)
Sooners' first-ever trip to Morgantown could be a de facto Big 12 title game.
12. Louisville at Rutgers (Nov. 29)
Both could enter final week of the season unbeaten with a BCS bowl hanging in the balance.
13. LSU at Texas A&M (Oct. 20)
Johnny Football will face nasty Bayou Bengal defensive front after record-setting first half.
14. Michigan at Nebraska (Oct. 27)
Classic showdown could determine who heads to Pasadena this New Year's.
15. Ohio State at Penn State (Oct. 27)
The Ineligible Bowl could feature the best two teams in the league.
16. Florida State at Virginia Tech (Nov. 8)
Likely the biggest game left in the ACC features nearly 13 feet and 500 pounds of quarterback.
17. West Virginia at Oklahoma State (Nov. 10)
Dana Holgorsen returns to his former employer with a big offense leading the way.
18. South Carolina at Clemson (Nov. 24)
Bitter rivalry has seen Gamecocks take control with three straight blowouts.
19. Florida State at Miami (Oct. 20)
This could be the best edition of this rivalry in three years.
20. Boise State at Nevada (Dec. 1)
Will likely determine the Mountain West Conference championship.
21. Ohio State at Wisconsin (Nov. 17)
A win gives Badgers' division crown much more weight. OSU is shooting for 12-0.
22. Virginia Tech at Miami (Nov. 1)
Does the winner of this game win the Coastal Division and play in the ACC title game?
23. Texas at Kansas State (Dec. 1)
The 'Cats have owned the 'Horns of late and Mack Brown could be fighting for his job.
24. Rutgers at Cincinnati (Nov. 17)
Rutgers' toughest road test in the Big East title round robin (with Louisville).
25. Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (Nov. 24)
Bedlam Series has revenge factor as game heads back to Norman.
Best of the Rest:
Oregon at Arizona State (Oct. 18)
Virginia Tech at Clemson (Oct. 20)
Cincinnati at Louisville (Oct. 26)
Mississippi State at Alabama (Oct. 27)
Arizona State at USC (Nov. 10)
Texas A&M at Alabama (Nov. 10)
Mississippi State at LSU (Nov. 10)
Oregon State at Stanford (Nov. 10)
Utah State at Louisiana Tech (Nov. 17)
Stanford at Oregon (Nov. 17)
NC State at Clemson (Nov. 17)
Ohio at Kent State (Nov. 23)
Rivalries with Extra Juice this Year:
Stanford at Cal (Oct. 20)
Alabama at Tennessee (Oct. 20)
NC State at North Carolina (Oct. 27)
USC at UCLA (Nov. 17)
Iowa at Michigan (Nov. 17)
Tennessee at Vanderbilt (Nov. 17)
Arizona State at Arizona (Nov. 23)
Mississippi State at Ole Miss (Nov. 24)
Auburn at Alabama (Nov. 24)
by Braden Gall
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