It’s my favorite week of the year, RIVALRY WEEK. Where records don’t matter and everyone hates each other. Where houses are torn apart and lives are put on the line. Where teams battle for bragging rights and honor. As a college football fan, you’ve been waiting for this week all year, because even if your team sucks, beating your rival could make it all worth it. It’s a time of absolute chaos, and I’m a huge fan of it. So what are the biggest match-ups?
The Iron Bowl: #1 Alabama vs. #6 Auburn
These in-state rivals hate each other’s guts. Hell, there’s even a 30-for-30 about it! Unfortunately, it hasn’t been the most competitive recently. Auburn hasn’t won since Nick Marshall and Sammie Coates were there to tear up the Tide’s defense in 2013. But, with the game at Auburn this year, is there a chance for Toomers’ Trees to get TPed?
Their defense is greatly improved from previous years and they’re currently on a hot streak having beaten Georgia soundly two weeks ago. They only gave up a total of 46 rushing yards to one of the best rushing offenses in the league! Add to this the fact that with a win the Tigers would be on to the SEC title game for a rematch with that same Georgia team they already clobbered, this team has a lot to play for. So can they pull it off?
Well, after the Tide ruined FSU’s whole season way back in week 1, I said to myself and everyone around me that no one was gonna beat them this year. Not even the reigning national champs, Clemson. I have to stick with that prediction. I think this ends up being one of the best games of the year (maybe even the best game since last year’s national championship). Auburn will lead going into the fourth, but a late tuddy is gonna put Saban’s boys ahead and ultimately lead to a front door cover (-4.5).
Prediction: 27-21 Alabama
Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate: #7 Georgia vs. Georgia Tech
Just one state over, we’ve got another rivalry game. The Georgia Bulldogs will be on the road facing the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Overall, I don’t think this game is super important, because in the end Georgia is just way better (6th in overall defense even after giving up 488 yards to Auburn & top 20 in scoring offense), but I’m looking ahead a week to the SEC championship. This will be a great confidence builder for the Bulldogs against a fun, fast-paced Tech. Unless you’re a fan of either team or it’s close late, feel free to skip this game in favor of the better noon games. I didn’t Wikipedia the name of this rivalry, you did.
Prediction: 49-21 Georgia (-11)
The Apple Cup: #17 Washington vs. #13 Washington State
This one is gonna be a great game to watch beginning to end. Neither team really has a shot to make the playoff, but a New Year’s Six is definitely on the table for the winner if they can also win the Pac-12 championship game. At 9-2, both have had decent seasons filled with some puzzling losses. Wazzu lost big to Cal on the road, and UW only put up seven points on a mediocre Arizona State squad in a losing effort. Even so, Washington is a huge favorite (-10) going in, and at first glance this seems about right.
The Huskies are 5th in points allowed and 21st in scoring offense, both of which are better than State. They also have a much more balanced scoring attack with both the pass and run being very adept. *in the best Stephen A voice you’ve ever heard* HOWEVA!
The Cougs are coming in hot after having beat Stanford (who beat the Huskies!!!) and Utah consecutively. They also had a well-timed bye last week which means they’re rested up and chomping at the bit to get across state to Seattle and take down their rival. So, about that prediction… Not only are the Cougs and Mike Leach covering on Saturday night, but they’re winning outright. Gimme that upset!
Prediction: 35-31 Washington State
The Game: #9 Ohio State vs. Michigan
I’ll be honest, it openly pains me to type out the name of “That Team Up North” given that I go to OSU and it’s hate week, but since I’m already being honest, I kinda feel bad for the Wolverines this season. They lost a lot of talent to the draft last year, and they’ve struggled with the injury bug badly. No position has been hit harder by it than QB. For Saturday’s matchup, they’ll be relying on John O’Korn who has been really bad under center. On the year, he’s completed only 53.1% of his passes, while averaging a meager 6.1 yards per attempt, and a 1-5 TD-INT ratio. Not. Good. If you couple that with a good Buckeye pass rush and the fact OSU is known as “DB U,” you can see how this one might play out for Big Blue’s offense.
On the other side of the ball, they’ll have their hands full with a reinvigorated OSU offense who has put up 100 points over the past two games. After an early Michigan field goal, since they have so much trouble scoring touchdowns, Ohio State will walk away with this one to an easy 3-TD win, covering the 12-point spread.
Prediction: 38-17 Ohio State
4th Down: Go for It or Punt?
South Carolina will upset Clemson in Columbia: PUNT
I’m punting on this one. Even though Clemson lost to Syracuse on the road earlier, and the Gamecocks have put together a decent season, I’m just not convinced they’ll have enough to pull off the upset.
UCF vs. USF: GO FOR IT
This one may seem to not make sense if you haven’t been paying attention, but UCF is undefeated and has been having a GREAT season thanks to Coach Scott Frost (who is rumored to be in the running for the open Nebraska gig). This one will be played in Orlando and will be on at the same time as the Iron Bowl, but pull out your laptop and stream this one, because it could go the distance. USF is surprisingly also having a great season with only one loss. The winner of this one will face one-loss, ranked Memphis in the AAC championship game December 2nd, and the winner of that one could wind up playing in a coveted New Year’s Six Bowl.
Baker Mayfield is your 2017 Heisman winner: GO FOR IT
I absolutely can’t stand Penn State, but I really wanted Saquon Barkley to win the award this year. Too bad for him, he trailed off in the second half of the season along with his team’s playoff hopes. Mayfield was everyone’s favorite to win the Heisman coming into the season after his crazy game against Auburn in last year’s Sugar Bowl, and he still is today. Too bad for all of us, because there’s no money to be made off knowing it. You’d have to bet $2,000 just to win $100… Better spend your betting money elsewhere.
The playoff standings will remain the same heading into championship week: GO FOR IT
Besides Alabama, I’m very confident that everyone in the top-four wins this weekend. Miami will handle Pitt with ease, and the same goes for Baker Mayfield and the Sooners who have WVU at home. Look to the conference championship games to cause some chaos in the top 4. The part of the rankings to watch will be the 5-10 slots as I could see these shaking up quite a bit this week.
Mike Leach dropped THE BEST advice about weddings and marriage ever. You can thank him later, and then me after all the money you win betting on his Cougars this weekend.
— Nick Poplos