August 27, 2005

It's payback time

Coaches and players will often say a loss is a loss and that they all hurt the same. Don't believe them.

Lopsided losses at home, narrow setbacks in rivalry games and any defeat decided on a questionable call in the final minutes can alter an entire season. It happened last season, and anyone involved has been eagerly anticipating the rematches from the fans to the backups who stood on the sidelines.

There are several games that fall into that group this fall but the best of the best were selected for Rivals.com's top 10 revenge games.

1. Auburn at LSU - Oct. 22

Forget the loss in the Capital One Bowl and the 45 points Georgia piled up on LSU last season. For the Tigers, nothing hurt like their road trip to Jordan-Hare Stadium in mid-September last season.

LSU marched 80 yards and scored a touchdown on the game's opening drive, quickly quieting the largest crowd ever in the state of Alabama (87,451). Ryan Gaudet missed the extra point, but Nick Saban's old team held a lead until 1:16 left when Courtney Taylor made his first career touchdown catch to tie the game at 9-9.

John Vaughn also missed his extra point attempt, but in a strange twist of events, LSU's Ronnie Prude was called for a personal foul for landing on linemen in an effort to block the kick. Vaughn nailed the re-kick and LSU was left to watch Auburn roll to the SEC title and cap an undefeated season in their backyard at the Sugar Bowl.

Twenty starters from that LSU team return while Auburn lost four first-round draft picks to the NFL. And the rematch will be in Tiger Stadium - one of the biggest and most intimidating venues in college football. If the Tigers need anymore motivation, the winner will be in the driver's seat to win the SEC West.

2004 score: Auburn won 10-9.

2. Texas vs. Oklahoma - Oct. 8

This rivalry could have landed on this list in any one of the last five years, but if Texas doesn't win the next edition of the Red River Shootout Longhorns fans will start believing it may never happen again. At least as long as Mack Brown and Bob Stoops coach the two high-profile programs.

After five consecutive losses in the series, there isn't a single player or coach on the Texas roster who has beaten Oklahoma. But, the No. 2-ranked Longhorns have the deepest and most talented defense since Brown arrived in Austin eight years ago. Plus, quarterback Vince Young, a Heisman Trophy candidate, is back.

Oklahoma lost quarterback Jason White, the 2003 Heisman Trophy winner, and replacement Paul Thompson will be working with a young receiving corps and a revamped offensive line. The defense also has some big questions with the loss of seven starters.

Basically, the Longhorns may not have this favorable of a setup again for several years. Still, they must find an answer for Adrian Peterson, who ran for 225 yards against them last season. Stop Peterson, and the 'Horns pave the path to their first Big 12 title since 1996 and get a chance to finally prove they belong among the elite programs in college football.

2004 score: Oklahoma won 12-0.

3. Oregon State at Oregon - Nov. 19

Remember how the Civil War game played out last year? Oregon players and fans will never forget.

With a bowl game on the line for both teams, Oregon State's offense looked unstoppable, scoring on 10 of its 13 drives and piling up 50 points on route to a blowout win that gave the Ducks their first losing season since 1993.

There are plenty of reasons for Oregon to believe they will get payback. Derek Anderson, who threw for 351 yards and four touchdowns for the Beavers in last year's matchup, is gone. Plus, the rematch will be in Autzen Stadium - ranked the No. 6 toughest place to play by Rivals.com - and the home team has won the last eight meetings in the West Coast's longest running rivalry.

2004 score: Oregon State won 50-21.

4. Tennessee at Florida - Sept. 17

Think Florida's shocking loss at Mississippi State cost Ron Zook his job? That's not how the Gators players feel. A last-minute loss at Tennessee in 2004 continues to haunt many of them.

Flashback to Florida's SEC opener in Knoxville. The Gators led nearly the entire game and were up 28-27 when they were stopped short on a third down with 55 seconds left. Tennessee was out of timeouts but the clock stopped when Florida receiver Dallas Baker and Tennessee cornerback Jonathan Wade hit each other in the face at the end of the play. Baker was called for a personal foul, but after the 15-yard penalty was assessed the clock was never restarted (SEC officials admitted the mistake the next day).

Without the extra yards and time, the Vols would have needed a miracle to set up James Wilhoit for his game-winning 50-yard field goal with 6 seconds left.

The rematch will be Urban Meyer's first SEC game. But, many of the Gators will be playing with the coach they wanted to stay in the back of their mind.

2004 score: Tennessee won 30-28.

5. Notre Dame at Michigan - Sept 10

Michigan's loss in South Bend was supposed to ruin all their goals last season. Well, the Wolverines ripped off nine consecutive wins, captured a share of the Big Ten title and made it to the Rose Bowl.

But, the upset remains bothersome. The Wolverines entered as a 12-point favorite and were forced to settle for three first-half field goals. Up 9-0, the defense surrendered 28 points in the second half. Watching the Irish struggle in the following weeks only made the loss more puzzling.

The Wolverines will get their chance at atonement in the big house and this time they will rely on Michael Hart. A true freshman last season, he was named the starter after the Notre Dame loss and ended up with nearly 1,500 yards on the ground.

2004 score: Notre Dame won 28-20.

6. Texas Tech at Nebraska: - Oct. 8

The worst embarrassment in the 115-year history of Nebraska's storied football program came last season in Lubbock.

The Red Raider offense exploded for 70 points - the most Nebraska has ever surrendered. The Cornhuskers never quite recovered, losing four of their next six, and finished with their first losing record since 1961.

2004 score: Texas Tech won 70-10.

7. Florida State at Virginia

Virginia looked like one of the nation's top teams when it rolled into Tallahassee last October as a 3-point underdog. The Cavaliers had won each of the first five games by 20 points or more and climbed to No. 6 AP poll.

But, Al Groh and his team went home humiliated. Florida State dominated the nationally televised matchup, keeping the Cavaliers, who were averaging 493 yards a game, out of the end zone the entire night. Florida State's offense looked like a well-balanced machine, with Wyatt Sexton completing 20 of 26 passes for 278 yards and Lorenzo Booker and Leon Washington combining for 189 rushing yards.

Most of the ACC knows that UVa is better than that and they will get a chance to prove it in the rematch in Charlottesville.

2004 score: Florida State won 36-3.

8. Northwestern at Ohio State - Nov. 12

Losing to Northwestern is a big disappointment for most Big Ten teams. When you're Ohio State it's simply unacceptable.

The Wildcats' 33-27 upset in overtime last October ended Ohio State's 24-game winning streak in the series and was their first loss in Evanston, Ill., since 1958. It was also the start of a three-game losing streak for the Buckeyes.

Retribution could come swift in the Horseshoe. The Buckeyes return an experienced team that is expected to contend for a national title while the Wildcats lost most of their top players.

2004 score: Northwestern won 33-27 in overtime.

9. North Carolina at Miami - Oct. 29

Don't expect Miami to let up if it jumps out to a large lead in this rematch. Just winning won't be enough for the Hurricanes, whose national title hopes were crushed in one of the biggest upsets of the season the day before Halloween in Chapel Hill.

The 'Canes entered the game ranked No. 4 and as a 22-point favorite, but the Tar Heels exposed their weak run defense, piling up 279 yards on the ground. The 'Heels also managed to not kick the ball once to dangerous return man Devin Hester - something no other Hurricane opponent did in 2004.

Miami never seemed to recover, losing in overtime to Clemson in the Orange Bowl the following week and finishing with three losses for the first time in Larry Coker's tenure.

2004 score: UNC won 31-28.

10. Syracuse at Pittsburgh - Oct. 22

At first glance, it would be easy to imagine Pittsburgh looking past this Big East matchup. The Panthers take a road trip to league favorite Louisville the following week.

But none of Pitt's four losses was more dramatic or painful than the double-overtime defeat in the Carrier Dome. After Syracuse had scored a touchdown in the second overtime, the Panthers were stopped just inches short of a first down on a fourth-and-one.

Count on Pitt's fiery quarterback Tyler Palko and his teammates being focused on getting payback on the Orangemen.

2004 score: Syracuse won 38-31.



 

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