Originally Published: November 22, 2010

Bragging rights and then some

By Mark Schlabach
ESPN.com

There might be better college football games played this season, but few contests get the blood flowing like in-state rivalries.

From the Iron Bowl to the Egg Bowl to the Civil War, no outcome means as much inside a state's borders as the in-state series.

In-state rivalries will take center stage during the next two weeks, and here are the 10 best:

1. Alabama-Auburn

Series leader: Alabama, 40-33-1

Biggest moment: In the 1972 game known simply as Punt Bama Punt, the Tigers trailed No. 2 Alabama 16-3 with about six minutes to play. Auburn blocked two punts and returned both of them for touchdowns to stun the Crimson Tide 17-16, which knocked them out of the national championship hunt.

Why it's important this season: If the No. 2 Tigers can defeat the No. 11 Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa on Friday, they'll take a 12-0 record into next week's SEC championship game against South Carolina in Atlanta's Georgia Dome. Auburn is two victories from earning a spot in the Jan. 10 BCS National Championship Game.

2. Florida-Florida State

Series leader: Florida, 33-19-2

Biggest moment: The Gators and Seminoles played twice during the 1996 season, with FSU upsetting No. 1 Florida 24-21 during the regular season. FSU's defense intercepted Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel three times and hit him throughout the game. The teams played again in the 1997 Sugar Bowl, with the Gators running away with a 52-20 rout to win their first national championship in football.

Why it's important this season: The Seminoles will try to end a six-game losing streak to the Gators, who limp into Saturday's game at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee with a 7-4 record. Florida is 5-0 against FSU under coach Urban Meyer, defeating the Seminoles by an average of 24.8 points during the streak.

3. UCLA-USC

Series leader: USC, 44-28-7

Biggest moment: The 1967 game between the Bruins and Trojans was billed as the Game of the Century. The Bruins were 7-0-1 and ranked No. 1 in the country. The Trojans were 8-1 and ranked No. 4 in the country. With USC trailing 20-14 with about 10½ minutes to play, tailback O.J. Simpson ran for a 64-yard touchdown to give the Trojans a 21-20 victory. They later defeated Indiana 14-3 in the Rose Bowl and won a national championship.

Why it's important this season: Unless the Bruins win at Arizona State on Friday, there won't be much more than bragging rights on the line in this season's version of the Crosstown Rivalry. USC is 7-4 after losing at Oregon State 36-7 on Saturday, but the Trojans can't play in a bowl game because of NCAA probation. UCLA has lost four of its past five games and must beat the Sun Devils and Trojans to go bowling.

4. Texas-Texas A&M

Series leader: Texas, 75-36-5

Biggest moment: Eight days after 12 Texas A&M students died and 27 others were injured while constructing the school's traditional bonfire in 1999, the Aggies rallied from a 16-6 deficit in the second half to defeat the Longhorns 20-16. Quarterback Randy McCown threw a 14-yard touchdown to Matt Bumgardner with 5:02 left, setting off a sea of emotion for both sides. The Texas band played "Amazing Grace," and members took off their hats at the end. The A&M band honored the bonfire victims by marching off without playing a note.

Why it's important this season: The Aggies have won five games in a row, including a 9-6 upset of then-No. 8 Nebraska on Saturday to climb to No. 17 in the BCS standings. The Longhorns have lost six of their past eight games and must defeat the Aggies in Austin on Thanksgiving Day to finish 6-6 and qualify for a bowl game.

5. Oregon-Oregon State

Series leader: Oregon, 57-46-10

Biggest moment: The most exciting moment in the Civil War came in 1998, when the Beavers upset the Ducks 44-41 in double overtime. Oregon State fans rushed the field after the first overtime, but a pass-interference penalty gave the Ducks another chance. After officials needed more than 10 minutes to clear the field, Oregon scored to send the game into a second overtime. The Ducks kicked a field goal to make it 41-38, but Beavers running back Ken Simonton ran for a touchdown to win the game.

Why it's important this season: The Ducks are 10-0 and are No. 1 in the BCS standings. If Oregon defeats No. 21 Arizona at home on Friday and Oregon State on the road in the Civil War on Dec. 4, it will play in the Jan. 10 BCS National Championship Game. The Beavers are 5-5 after upsetting USC 36-7 on Saturday and will have to beat either No. 6 Stanford on Saturday or Oregon to go bowling.

6. Oklahoma-Oklahoma State

Series leader: Oklahoma, 80-17-7

Biggest moment: Oklahoma has dominated the Bedlam Series, but Les Miles delivered two of the rivalry's biggest upsets as Oklahoma State's coach in 2001 and 2002. The Cowboys had a 3-7 record and were 27-point underdogs going into the 2001 game at Oklahoma. But freshman quarterback Josh Fields came off the bench and fired a 14-yard touchdown to Rashaun Woods with 1:36 to go, leading the Pokes to a 16-13 upset of the No. 4 Sooners. Oklahoma State upset the No. 3 Sooners 38-28 the next season.

Why it's important this season: No. 9 Oklahoma State is 10-1 and has a one-game lead in the Big 12 South standings over the No. 13 Sooners with a 6-1 record. If the Pokes can end their seven-game losing streak against OU, they'll play in next week's Big 12 championship game. If the Sooners beat the Pokes again, and Texas A&M beats Texas, they'll probably win a tiebreaker based on highest BCS ranking.

7. BYU-Utah

Series leader: Utah, 53-34-4

Biggest moment: Utah hadn't beaten the Cougars in Provo in 21 years and had dropped four straight games against BYU heading into the 1993 Holy War. With the score tied at 31, the Utes had the ball at BYU's 37-yard line. Utah kicker Chris Yergensen, who already had missed two field goals in the game, was on the sideline being consulted by a team psychologist. He kicked a 55-yard field goal, the longest of his career, to give the Utes a 34-31 victory.

Why it's important this season: The Cougars have rebounded from a dreadful 1-4 start and have won four games in a row heading into Saturday's Holy War at No. 20 Utah. The Utes ended a two-game losing streak by defeating San Diego State 38-34 on the road Saturday night. With a victory, the Cougars can tie the Utes for second place in the Mountain West standings and finish the regular season with a winning record.

8. Georgia-Georgia Tech

Series leader: Georgia, 60-39-5

Biggest moment: The Yellow Jackets defeated the Bulldogs eight straight times from 1949 to 1956, their longest winning streak in the series. In 1957, Georgia's Theron Sapp recovered a fumble at midfield. On the Bulldogs' ensuing possession, Sapp carried the ball nine consecutive times, including a 1-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal for the only score in Georgia's 7-0 victory. Sapp earned the moniker "Drought Breaker" for his heroics.

Why it's important this season: The Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets have been disappointments this season, but Saturday night's game at Sanford Stadium in Athens will decide whether Georgia plays in a bowl game. Georgia Tech, the defending ACC champion, improved to 6-5 with a 30-20 victory over Duke on Saturday.

9. Clemson-South Carolina

Series leader: Clemson, 65-38-4

Biggest moment: After Clemson blew a 24-0 lead against South Carolina in 1977, the Tigers trailed the Gamecocks 27-24 in the final minute at Williams-Brice Stadium. Clemson quarterback Steve Fuller fired a 20-yard touchdown to Jerry Butler, who made a leaping catch before falling into the end zone with 49 seconds left in a 31-27 victory. The memorable play is still simply known as "The Catch."

Why it's important this season: Clemson has won 10 of the past 13 meetings and can finish the regular season with a winning record if it defeats the Gamecocks on Saturday. South Carolina already has won its first SEC East title and will play in next week's SEC championship game, but state bragging rights seem to matter as much as conference titles.

10. Mississippi-Mississippi State

Series leader: Ole Miss, 60-40-6

Biggest moment: With the score tied at 20 with 20 seconds to play in the 1999 Egg Bowl, Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe decided to run one more passing play instead of taking a knee and forcing overtime. Quarterback Romaro Miller's deep pass was deflected and bounced off the foot of State cornerback Robert Bean. The pass was intercepted by Eugene Clinton, who returned the ball deep into Ole Miss territory. Bulldogs kicker Scott Westerfield kicked a 44-yard field goal to give State a 23-20 victory.

Why it's important this season: The Bulldogs are 7-4 in coach Dan Mullen's second season but are coming off back-to-back losses to Alabama and Arkansas. If State can defeat the Rebels for the third time in four seasons, there's a good chance they'll play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl or Outback Bowl. Ole Miss has been eliminated from bowl consideration with a 4-7 record, but it would probably like revenge for last season's 41-27 loss to the Bulldogs.

Conference rankings

By Mark Schlabach
ESPN.com

Ranking the BCS conferences with two weeks to play in the regular season:

1. SEC
The SEC still has six teams ranked in the BCS standings: No. 2 Auburn, No. 5 LSU, No. 11 Alabama, No. 12 Arkansas, No. 18 South Carolina and No. 25 Mississippi State. If the Tigers defeat Alabama in Friday's Iron Bowl and South Carolina in next week's SEC championship game, they'll play for the BCS national title. LSU might be able to earn a BCS at-large bid by defeating Arkansas in Little Rock, Ark., on Saturday.

2. Big Ten
Barring an upset on Saturday, the Big Ten standings will probably finish in a three-team tie for first place for the first time since 2000. No. 7 Wisconsin hosts Northwestern, No. 8 Ohio State hosts Michigan and No. 10 Michigan State plays at Penn State. If Michigan State loses, Wisconsin will go to the Rose Bowl because of its victory over the Buckeyes. If Ohio State loses, the Spartans would go to Pasadena because of their victory over the Badgers. If all three teams win or lose, the highest-ranked team in the final BCS standings will go to the Rose Bowl.

3. Big 12
The Big 12 has five teams ranked in the BCS standings: No. 9 Oklahoma State, No. 13 Oklahoma, No. 14 Missouri, No. 15 Nebraska and No. 17 Texas A&M. The Pokes will win the Big 12 South title if they defeat the Sooners at home on Saturday night. If Oklahoma wins and Texas A&M beats Texas, the teams will finish in a three-way tie with the highest-ranked teams in the BCS standings going to the Big 12 championship game. Missouri and Nebraska are tied atop the Big 12 North standings, but if both teams win this week, the Cornhuskers would play in the championship game because of their victory over the Tigers.

4. Pac-10
No. 1 Oregon remains on track to play in the Jan. 10 BCS National Championship Game if it defeats No. 21 Arizona on Friday and Oregon State in next week's Civil War game. No. 6 Stanford remains in the hunt for a BCS at-large bid and will host Oregon State on Saturday. The Beavers must beat either Stanford or Oregon to go bowling, and California must defeat Washington on Saturday to finish 6-6.

5. ACC
No. 16 Virginia Tech clinched the Coastal Division title by defeating Miami 31-17 on the road on Saturday. No. 23 NC State can win the Atlantic Division by beating Maryland on the road on Saturday. If the Terrapins defeat the Wolfpack, No. 22 Florida State will play the Hokies in the ACC championship game.

6. Big East
There still isn't a Big East team ranked in the Top 25 of the BCS standings. Pittsburgh, which will play West Virginia in Friday's Backyard Brawl game, has a one-game lead over the Mountaineers and Connecticut in the Big East standings.

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