The Iron Bowl. The Apple Cup. The Game! Clean, Ol’ Fashioned Hate! Whatever you call your game, it’s here! Can you smell it in the air? No, not what the Rock is cooking! It’s RIVALRY WEEK!!! The week of all weeks where you get to spend more time than normal on social media roasting your school’s rival and continuing that if you win…or lose let’s face it. I’ll still be boom roasting even if my team loses. Whatever! That team in west Alabama sucks regardless. ANYWAYS, we made it! Who’s excited??!
You know, I shouldn’t be so rude. After all, today is Thanksgiving, which means that I should be thankful that my team has a chance to ruin their rival’s season. And thankful that my team is NOT Tennessee. And thankful that my team is not about to hire Chip Kelley. Ok, I have to stop. Getting carried away. THANKSGIVING. Have to be nice today…wait, who moved my bourbon?
Ok, I found it. As you were…Bottom line is this is a huge week of college football. The sport gave us a chance to catch our breath last week, which is good because starting tonight we really hit the ground running. Lots on the line from conference championship berths to trophies to playoff spots to breaking your rival’s 36 year bowl streak (spoiler alert). So, whether you are an avid college football fan or just looking for an excuse to avoid your family, this is for you! Let’s get started, shall we?
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! If the NFL isn’t your speed, then why not check out the lone college football game of the day…THE EGG BOWL!
Ole Miss (5-6, 2-5 SEC) @ #14 Mississippi State (8-3, 4-3 SEC)-7:30 pm on ESPN
Hey, now that’s a good rivalry trophy! Well done, schools! Tonight, the Egg Bowl only has the Redskins-Giants game to compete with, and I’d rather watch this Mississippi rivalry than that train wreck. These teams, like so many this weekend, just plain don’t like each other. And as if facing your hated in-state rival wasn’t enough, we get the added layer of the Leo Lewis controversy this season. I don’t have time to get into all of it, but you can find a summary here. Bottom line: there’s tension and there will be shade thrown. The ADs of both schools are so nervous about fan hostility that they had to release a joint statement asking the fans to behave. Lordy! Ole Miss is lucky to be 5-6 all things considered (cough cough that hooker thing with Hugh Freeze cough cough), and they’ll have their hands full with a very tough MSU squad whose only losses have come to teams currently ranked #7 or higher. Watch for standout MSU QB Nick Fitzgerald (1,770 yards, 15 TDs, 10 INT) who should have his way with a weak Ole Miss defense.
Prediction: Mississippi State 38 Ole Miss 21
As you piece together delicious leftover sandwiches today, why don’t you pull up a seat right on the couch or alternate comfortable seating situation? You’re going to need it because we get a fat slate of college games today including one with huge New Year’s Six ramifications. It’s so fat, in fact, that today gets its own category breakdown usually reserved for Saturdays. This is a long article, so I’ll shut up now.
South Florida (9-1, 6-1 American) @ #15 UCF (10-0, 7-0 American)-3:30 pm on ABC
Here we go, folks. The War on I-4 has finally arrived. The winner of this battle not only obtains central Florida bragging rights for a year but also advances to the American Athletic Conference title game to face Memphis. And if that wasn’t enough, the winner will find themselves in great position for the Group of 5 New Year’s Six bowl bid. These are two of the best offenses in the FBS, but I’m focusing in on the superb QB battle between USF’s Quinton Flowers (2,097 yards, 17 TDs, 5 INT) and UCF’s Mackenzie Milton (2,928 yards, 26 TDs, 5 INT). They’re two of the best in the conference, they will absolutely challenge the opposing defense, and it’s gonna be lit, fam. Could this be the last home game for UCF’s head coach Scott Frost? Time will tell.
Prediction: UCF 48 USF 45
MAYBE WATCH aka HOW TO JUSTIFY IGNORING YOUR FAMILY
#3 Miami (10-0, 7-0 ACC) @ Pittsburgh (4-7, 2-5 ACC)-Noon on ABC
I said in last week’s article that it will be interesting to see how Miami responds to being the top dog in the conference, and even though they were challenged, they got past a pesky Virginia squad. They stumbled out of the gate, but in the end, they pulled it together to remain undefeated. Crisis averted! On Friday, Miami gets a struggling Pitt team they cannot overlook before facing Clemson in the ACC title game next week. The Canes have a playoff bid on the line as well as a 15 game winning streak to protect, so I’d say they won’t sleep walk through this one. They’re favored by 14, but I don’t think it will be nearly that close.
Side note…did you guys see Oregon’s sorry attempt at copying the turnover chain? No? Well, here it is. Everybody laugh at Oregon.
Prediction: Miami 45 Pittsburgh 14
Navy (6-4, 4-3 American) @ Houston (6-4, 4-3 American)-Noon on ESPN
Although this game has virtually no postseason ramifications, I list this game here because I just really like watching these two teams. They’re scrappy, they’re hungry, and I like where they’re going in the near future. Navy features the #2 rushing attack (in terms of yards/game) in the country that will force Houston’s defense to play their best game of the year. Houston hasn’t thrown the ball nearly as well as years past, but they are still dangerous through the air and can hang in a shootout if necessary. It’s been a tale of two seasons for Navy as they started 5-0 only to lose 4 of their last 5 in a brutal stretch that included Notre Dame, UCF, and Memphis. Neither defense has played particularly well this season, but I loved what I saw from Navy hanging tough with a good Notre Dame team last weekend. I’ll take the Middies in a close one.
Prediction: Navy 27 Houston 24
#25 Virginia Teach (8-3, 4-3 ACC) @ Virginia (6-5, 3-4 ACC)-8 pm on ESPN
This is the 99th meeting for the Commonwealth Cup as the Hokies head to Charlottesville looking for their 14TH STRAIGHT WIN OVER THE CAVALIERS! Not much of a rivalry lately, but Bronco Mendenhall has the Wahoos headed in the right direction in his second year at the helm. After a 2-10 season last year, the Cavs look like they may actually make this one competitive before their impending bowl game next month. Virginia Tech plays traditionally good defense, and this season is no exception as Coach Justin Fuente’s unit allows the 6th fewest points per game in the FBS. Even though I’ll call for the Hokie road win here, I think this will be the closest game of the series in a minute.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 24 Virginia 17
NERD LEVEL aka THE MAC WEST PLAYOFFS!
Western Michigan (6-5, 4-3 MAC) @ Toledo (9-2, 6-1 MAC)-11:30 am on ESPNU
The MACtion gets going uncharacteristically early today (11:30 EST!!!) as the Broncos face the Rockets in a pivotal game for the MAC West race. A win for Toledo would clinch a spot in the MAC title game next week against Akron, and a loss would mean all eyes are on the NIU-Central Michigan game later. Who knew the MAC race would be so tense?! I’m a big fan of Toledo QB Logan Woodside who has compiled a phenomenal season (3,151 yards, 22 TD, 2 INT). Also watch for Toledo’s star WR Dionte Johnson whose 1,078 yards is 6th most in the FBS. Toledo has a dynamic offense (7th best total yards/game in the FBS), and I don’t see them struggling in a big game with everything on the line. This ain’t PJ Fleck’s Broncos anymore, folks.
Prediction: Toledo 42 Western Michigan 24
Northern Illinois (8-3, 6-1 MAC) @ Central Michigan (7-4, 5-2 MAC)-Noon on CBS SN
Another big-time game on Friday that will help determine the MAC West! As mentioned before, a loss by Toledo would put the Huskies in a position to clinch the division with a win. If the Rockets win, however, NIU is simply playing for pride and bowl positioning. It won’t be an easy task either way as the Chippewas match up pretty evenly offensively with the Huskies and neither seems to have the edge statistically. I anticipate a close, physical game here with the Huskies edging out the Chippewas on the road. Oh, and a healthy dose of scoreboard watching, of course.
Prediction: Northern Illinois 24 Central Michigan 21
Before we move on, congrats to the MAC East champion Akron Zips who clinched the division this past Tuesday. Here’s their silly looking mascot, Zippy:
Deep breath. Ok, here we go.
#9 Ohio State (9-2, 7-1 Big Ten) @ Michigan (8-3, 5-3 Big Ten)-Noon on FOX
The Buckeyes have already clinched a spot in the Big 10 title game next week against the Wisconsin Badgers, but the Wolverines would love nothing more than to send them off to Indianapolis with a loss. Ohio State has won 5 straight in this series, and the Michigan faithful will continue to grow weary of the Harbaugh circus if Urban Meyer can make it 6 this season. The Buckeyes have a big statistical advantage offensively especially with Michigan’s injury woes at the quarterback position, but the Wolverines sport one of the best defenses in the nation. Michigan currently is 3rd in the FBS in total defense per game, but OSU QB JT Barrett (2,698 yards, 32 TD, 7 INT) and RB JK Dobbins (149 car, 1,089 yards, 6 TD) present unique challenges for the unit. The Buckeyes could still back their way into the playoffs with chaos, but I think they’ll have to “settle” for a NY6 bowl. I’ll take the Buckeyes on the road by 10.
Prediction: Ohio State 31 Michigan 21
#1 Alabama (11-0, 7-0) @ #6 Auburn (9-2, 6-1 SEC)-3:30 pm on CBS
Well, well, well. It’s time for the Iron Bowl. This year’s edition will decide the SEC West champion, and just to pour salt into the wound, I’ll remind you that Kick 6 happened the last time that was the case. Anyways, the winner of the Iron Bowl has played for a national title 7 of the last 8 years, and even in that one year off, Alabama still made it to the playoff. Georgia awaits the winner in a virtual home game next week in the SEC title game, but trust me, that’s a long way away in the minds of these two teams.
Besides the hate these two fan bases share for each other, there are an overwhelming amount of layers to this game on the field. First, Alabama is dealing with injuries to almost their entire starting linebacker core, and last week, their star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick was out with a hamstring injury. He’s questionable for this game, but something tells me he’ll find a way to be out there for this one. Injuries aside, these are two of the best offenses in the SEC. Both squads feature top 20 rushing attacks in the FBS behind SEC rushing leader Kerryon Johnson (220 car, 1,172 yards, 16 TD) for Auburn and Damien Harris (104 car, 855 yards, 11 TD) for the Crimson Tide. On defense, Bama takes the cake with a superb 87 yards rushing per game allowed and a measly 10 points against per game average. Auburn has tons of momentum coming into this game after a huge upset of the Georgia Bulldogs two weeks ago, but Alabama has the defense to slow the Gus Bus and make them look ordinary. I still say Auburn finds some magic in their bag of tricks regardless. This should be an instant classic that comes down to the end. As it should be.
Prediction: Auburn 17 Alabama 14
#3 Clemson (10-1) @ #24 South Carolina (8-3)-7:30 pm on ESPN
Clemson will face the Miami Hurricanes in the ACC title game next weekend, but they first must face their hated interstate rivals this week. I mean it when I say “hate.” Remember the time they brawled?
Nasty stuff. Anyways, South Carolina comes in red hot to this one as they’ve taken 5 of their last 6 with the lone exception being a 24-10 loss to then top-ranked Georgia. However, Clemson has an almost 100 yard/game average advantage over QB Jake Bentley and the Gamecock offense with a nasty rush defense to boot. Clemson has everything to play for still as running the table would put them in their 3rd consecutive playoff. This, like most rivalry games, will be a super physical, hotly contested matchup. I expect Clemson to take it on the road.
Prediction: Clemson 24 South Carolina 10
#8 Notre Dame (9-2) @ #21 Stanford (8-3)-8 pm on ABC
Notre Dame saw their playoff hopes pretty much vanish with a loss to Miami two weeks ago. And, with no conference title game on deck, that means this is the last impression the Irish will make on the committee. Regardless, they can virtually clinch a New Year’s Six spot with a win over the Cardinal here. Although they would love to beat their cross-country rivals, Stanford’s attention will inevitably be on the Apple Cup in Washington as their fate for the Pac 12 title game will come down to the result of that game. If Washington State wins, the Cougars advance. If Washington wins, it’s Stanford squaring off in a rematch with USC. Now, back to this game. The Irish are coming off two very tough weeks in which they were blown out by Miami and won a close game with Navy. Now, they must attempt to slow down Heisman candidate RB Bryce Love who is currently 2nd in the FBS with 1,723 rushing yards. The Irish have their own weapon at running back though with Josh Adams who has 1,337 yards. Needless to say, but I’m saying it anyway, I expect some impressive rushing stats in this one.
Prediction: Notre Dame 31 Stanford 27
#13 Washington State (9-2, 6-2 Pac 12) @ #17 Washington (9-2, 6-2 Pac 12)-8 pm on FOX
The Apple Cup! Here’s the trophy:
Wait…why did they blow a perfect opportunity to NOT BRONZE AN APPLE AND PUT IT ON THE TROPHY?! SHEESH. Anyways, this is a game that usually not many people outside of Washington care about but it has suddenly become a showdown that will decide the Pac 12 North crown. For the first time ever, the Cougars could appear in the title game with a win. For Washington, they are simply playing for Stanford’s right to move on. And defeat their arch rivals of course. This game features two of the best statistical defenses in the Pac 12 as these two lead the conference in total defense, rush defense, AND pass defense. On the offensive side of things, few teams can compare to the aerial assault that Washington State’s QB Luke Faulk provides. He’s led the Cougs to the 3rd best passing attack in the FBS on a yards per game basis, and he can definitely sling it with the best of them. It should be fun to see these impressive defenses step up in a conference that usually features shootouts.
Prediction: Washington State 27 Washington 24
#7 Georgia (10-1) @ Georgia Tech (5-5)-Noon on ABC
This will be the 112th meeting of the game they call “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate,” which means it’s gonna be “lit.” Georgia has a rock solid defense that only gives up 14 points per game and an average of 105 rushing yards per game, but they will now have to slow an option attack that averages 319 rushing yards per game. Want more random stats? Too bad. That’s all I got. Anyways, I’ll be watching for the great rushing matchup in this one as Georgia RB Nick Chubb (1,045 yards, 12 TD) goes up against Tech’s option QB TaQuon Marshall (1,074 yards, 26 total TDs). I don’t usually mention defensive players, but UGA LB Roquan Smith is currently a finalist for both the Nagurski and Bednarik Awards. He should have a big day against a team that almost exclusively runs. I’ll take the Bulldogs on the road.
Prediction: Georgia 31 Georgia Tech 17
Louisville (7-4) @ Kentucky (7-4)-Noon on SEC Network
While you weren’t paying attention to Louisville this season, QB Lamar Jackson was busy having another Heisman caliber season with 3,273 yards passing, 1,287 yards rushing, and 40 total touchdowns. Whew! With that being said, Louisville has an almost 200 yard/game average offensively, and I fear the Wildcat defense could be in for a track meet they cannot win. However, this has been a big season for the Wildcats who have taken advantage of a weak SEC East on their way to 7 wins. In fact, Kentucky is a mismanaged goal line play away against Florida from being 8-3 right now. Although I respect what Mark Stoops has accomplished in the Bluegrass State, I still think Jackson is too much for the Wildcats as he’s looking to avenge last year’s upset loss to Kentucky.
Prediction: Louisville 42 Kentucky 21
West Virginia (7-4, 5-3 Big 12) @ #4 Oklahoma (10-1, 7-1 Big 12)-3:45 pm on ESPN
Last week, the Sooners clinched a spot in the “first but not really because they used to play it when there were actually 12 teams” Big 12 title game. Beyond that, they will attempt to keep their playoff hopes alive this week against the Mountaineers. The only catch is they will be without star QB and Heisman favorite Baker Mayfield. Well…not TOTALLY without. Head Coach Lincoln Riley announced Mayfield would not start or be the captain of the Sooners this weekend after his on field antics against Kansas a week ago. Here’s the video in case you live under a rock and missed it….
I could write a whole blurb about the QB matchup between two of the nation’s best QBs in Will Grier and Baker Mayfield, but Grier is out until at least the bowl (thumb) and we already talked about Mayfield (crotch grabbing). WVU looked lost without Grier last weekend, and even with him in, Oklahoma still has an advantage is almost every area. I like the Sooners by a lot.
Prediction: Oklahoma 49 West Virginia 17
Texas A&M (7-4, 4-3 SEC) @ #20 LSU (8-3, 5-2 SEC)-7:30 pm on ESPN
It was reported a few days ago that Kevin Sumlin will be fired as the head coach of the Aggies regardless of the outcome this Saturday. That’s tough news for Sumlin, but the Aggies would have their 4th straight 5-loss season with a loss to the Tigers here. That’s just not good enough in College Station. LSU will be a tall task for the Aggies as they are one of the hottest teams in the SEC winning 5 of their last 6 since being upset by Troy in late September. That includes an upset over #6 Auburn. I’ll be watching for the way A&M slows down the talented LSU RB Derrius Guice who has put together a superb 1,026 yard season with 10 TDs. LSU could land as high as the Citrus Bowl with a win here.
Prediction: LSU 28 Texas A&M 7
Appalachian State (6-4, 5-1 Sun Belt) @ Georgia State (6-3, 5-1 Sun Belt)-2 pm on ESPN 3
Most of the FUN Belt plays their 12th game next week, but this is a pivotal game in the race for the conference crown regardless. It’s currently a 4-way tie for first in the division, and this game will eliminate 1 of those teams. Georgia State has won 3 straight and 6 of their last 7 after starting 0-2 while the Mountaineers have lost 2 of their last 3. Georgia State has the momentum coming into this one, but I don’t like picking against the Boys from Boone.
Prediction: Appalachian State 34 Georgia State 27
#23 Boise State (9-2, 7-0 MWC) @ Fresno State (8-3, 6-1 MWC)-3:30 pm on CBS SN
This week we get game 1 of the 2 game series between these two as they will rematch next weekend in the Mountain West title game. It’s silly, but that’s the way the schedule shook down this year. The quirk is that the higher ranked team in the upcoming CFP rankings will determine home field advantage for the game. Advantage: the currently ranked #23 Broncos. Heck, there’s a good chance they’ll lose and still host the game. We’ll go ahead and call this a home and home in that case. While I think Boise is the better team, I have to acknowledge the job that Fresno State HC Jeff Tedford has done with the Bulldogs. After 3 straight losing seasons, they are heading to a bowl and have a very real shot at winning the conference title. Well done. Still picking a talented Boise State team.
Prediction: Boise State 24 Fresno State 14
East Carolina (3-8, 2-5 American) @ #20 Memphis (9-1, 6-1 American)-Noon on ESPN U: I have been banging the drum for Memphis since I started this article around week 8, and they just keep winning. Everyone will be watching the War on I-4, but the Tigers are just waiting in the wings to knock off the winner of that game next week in the AAC title game. If they win there, it’s most likely the underrated Tigers who will head to the New Year’s Six instead of the more hyped Knights or Bulls.
Florida State (4-6) @ Florida (4-6)-Noon on ESPN: This is the worst these two teams have been in the same season in a very long time. A loss here for the Noles would end their 36 year bowl streak, but they’d have to win again next week against Louisiana Monroe to keep it alive. Think that’s an easy win for them? Don’t assume anything for the ‘Noles this season….
Arkansas State (6-3, 5-1 Sun Belt) @ Louisiana Monroe (4-6, 4-3 Sun Belt)-3 pm on ESPN 3: I told you it was the Fun Belt! Arkansas State is another team in the 4-way tie atop the conference, and so this one carries tons of weight before the finales next week. Arkansas State will play Troy next week in what could effectively be the Sun Belt title game. LIT.
#5 Wisconsin (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten) @ Minnesota (5-6, 2-6 Big Ten)-3:30 pm on ABC: The Badgers are so close to a perfect season they can almost taste it. It probably tastes like cheese. Anyways, this is the warmup before the pivotal matchup next week with Ohio State in Indy. Overlook the Gophers, and it may not matter what happens in that one. For what it’s worth, PJ Fleck was extended at Minnesota this week, so they’ll keep on rowing I guess.
There you have it! Take a big ol’ deep breath because that was a monster to get through, I know. You should not be bored this weekend with all the action going down across the country. After this week, we should have a pretty clear picture of who to watch next week. And on a personal note, I hope you all have a wonderful, safe, and very happy Thanksgiving. I am thankful for this wonderful sport and thankful for the opportunity to talk about it every week. Enjoy Rivalry Week, folks! Follow me on Twitter @jakebridges03!