Rivalry Week: How Big is BIG?

By Ron Johnson

Without a doubt, it is one of the biggest weeks in college football. Besides Championship Week, everyone talks and knows about Rivalry Week. With the College Football Playoff Race at a five-alarm fire stage right now, the only cure for this…is not more cowbell (even though, that is always awesome). The only cure is for what is coming for next season: Expanding the Playoff.

But until then, expect massive fireworks this weekend. Here’s the rundown.

13 Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State (The Egg Bowl)

The Annual Egg Bowl returns, and while a few weeks ago, this had some massive implications, this year is a little more intense. Both teams have been punching bags for the top two teams in the SEC, but they save their best punches and comebacks for each other. The winner of this gets the bragging rights of the entire state, but for Lane Kiffin, it is about more than that. After being in the conversation for a potential CFP Semifinal berth, the Rebels were decimated by Georgia along with any aspirations they had of the Final Four. To say the least, they’re still vying for a slot in the New Years Six Series, and a win over the in-state rival Bulldogs could do the trick for them.

Texas Tech vs. 7 Texas (The Battle for The Chancellor’s Spurs)

The Annual Battle for The Chancellor’s Spurs gets back to basics in every sense of the word. For the Longhorns, it’s simple: Win, and you’re in…the Big 12 Title Game that is. A win for Texas will put them in their final Big 12 Championship Game and against either Oklahoma State, Oklahoma or Kansas State. While any of them would be good for the conference, facing Oklahoma allows them to avenge their lone loss of the season. If Texas wants any chance to jump Washington, Oregon or even Florida State or Ohio State, they will need to win and get some help going down the stretch. There are too many scenarios abound in the event Texas loses this game, plus it gets way more confusing. But the biggest thing for Texas is this: If they lose, and somehow Alabama wins the SEC over Georgia, the Tide could leapfrog them for a shot at a spot. 

11 Oregon State vs. 6 Oregon (The Civil War)

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The one thing I absolutely love about living in the PacNorth is the thrill of watching Oregon face Oregon State. The Annual Civil War is upon us once again, but the stakes couldn’t be any higher for this matchup. Heisman Candidate Bo Nix will look to add some more flavor to his resume after his six-touchdown performance last week against Arizona State. But he will also be looking to raise Oregon’s chances of possibly playing in the College Football Playoff Semifinals as their chances will look better depending on the outcomes of Ohio State-Michigan, Florida State-Florida and Washington State-Washington. As for the Beavers, they held their own against Washington and proved that they can thrive in any environment when given the chance. But can even the Beavers survive the madness of Autzen Stadium on a cool Friday night? 

2 Ohio State vs. 3 Michigan (The Game) 

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It is safe to say that the winner of this game will be heading to the Big Ten Championship and most likely the CFP Semifinals. Iowa, the Committee, the Big Ten and the nation are waiting for this one and the result of it. A win for the Buckeyes would solidify them as the top dog in the Conference again. But a win for Michigan shuts all of them (committee, conference, haters, naysayers) up. Over this season, it has been Michigan vs. Everybody, and going into this game, it still could be just that. While the Big Ten would rather it be Ohio State going into the Final Four, Michigan has done everything in its power to brush the animosity off its shoulders. This weekend, they look to brush one more critic off their shoulder, and that happens to be the very conference it represents. Without Jim Harbaugh on the sideline, can Michigan survive one more match and head into the conference championship to face Iowa? Let’s be honest. Ohio State has been the luckiest jagoffs in football. It’s time for the luck to get plucked from them this weekend. Either way, it’ll still be Michigan vs. Everybody.

Kentucky vs. 10 Louisville (Battle for the Governor’s Cup)

In the most quiet way possible, Louisville has positioned themselves in the CFP conversation. A win over the Wildcats will not only give them The Governor’s Cup in the annual rivalry game, but it could also put them a little closer to realizing their dream of playing in the Final Four. But the Wildcats are not slouches by any means. At 6-5, Kentucky has improved its program’s standing and even made itself bowl eligible for the postseason. Louisville needs to keep the momentum and the motivation going considering that they will in all likelihood face an undefeated Florida State Seminoles team that is coming into their game without their star quarterback.

8 Alabama vs. Auburn (Iron Bowl)

This series has had its share of shockers, controversy and paybacks going too far. What else can you expect from two Alabama schools that have tasted glory and always come back for more? For Nick Saban, it is indeed go time as he tries to get his Tide back to familiar territory. A win in this game means more than just bragging rights for Alabama as they are hoping for a little lady luck to propel them to more than just an SEC Championship Rematch with Georgia. For Alabama, a win in the Iron Bowl plus an upset of the Bulldogs in Atlanta means they could easily be the SEC representative in the Final Four depending on the finishes of Ohio State-Michigan, Washington-Washington State, Texas Tech-Texas, Florida State-Florida and even Oregon State-Oregon. Their loss to Texas would be crucial to their chances, but if Texas wins the Big 12 and Alabama wins the SEC, imagine how much Alabama would have a bad taste in their mouths for their new neighbors? 

17 Arizona vs. Arizona State (Duel in the Desert)

While one school has found success in almost every facet of sports, another is still trying to regain its past glory. If the Sun Devils we all saw last weekend show up for this game, they might as well hand the Cup over to Arizona now. The Wildcats have shown that it is not just about their basketball program this time around as they have managed to take down some tough rivals, including Utah most recently. A win for the Wildcats (coupled with an Oregon loss to the Beavers) could shot put them all the way to the Pac-12 Championship. Arizona, Oregon and Washington all will be keeping eyes on each other’s games this weekend due in large part to the fact that at least two of them could be facing each other for the Pac-12 Championship, and up till now, two of them could be looking for invitations to the CFP Semifinals.

Washington State vs. 5 Washington (The Apple Cup)

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Washington has played way too close to the cuff these last few weeks, and while they cannot afford a loss against the Cougars, they cannot afford a nailbiter in this one either. The Apple Cup is more meaningful this year for Washington as it tries to make their resume look so blinding that no one can deny the fortitude of the school. But it is about what happens outside as much as it does inside Husky Stadium. Outside of Husky, a win for the Beavers could propel the Arizona Wildcats into the Pac-12 title game, but it could also put the pressure on Washington to win out in order to have ANY Pac-12 representative in the Semifinals. This would also mean that Washington NEEDS to matchup with Oregon in order to have any shot at a spot in the Final Four. While a loss to Washington State does not look to be in the cards, on any given day, any person, any program, any team can be made famous. 

4 Florida State vs. Florida (Battle for The Governor’s Cup)

The Gators have nothing much to play for. Their only chance of cementing a bowl berth pretty much went up in smoke in a nailbiter with Mizzou last week. So what are the Gators playing for this time around? How about that same eligibility they were vying for the last few weeks? A win for Florida would mean more than just bowl eligibility…it would be a turning point not just for them but all of college football. The Seminoles are coming into this game without Jordan Travis who has made it clear that he’s done for the year. And while Travis won’t be the go-to guy for them, Tate Rodemaker will be looking to keep the Seminoles in the conversation for the CFP Semifinals heading into the ACC Championship Game against potentially Louisville. But if the Noles struggle against Florida, it may drop them out of the race altogether, even with a win.

1 Georgia vs. Georgia Tech (Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate)

As the nickname of this game depicts, these two teams have tendencies not to like each other in any sense of the word. A loss to the Yellow Jackets would sting (no/all pun intended) for Georgia’s quest for perfection heading into their Showdown in Atlanta against the Tide. But the loss would be more severe because it would all but assure that the SEC would not have a representative (let alone two) in the CFP Semifinals. But here’s the reality: if everything goes according to plan for Georgia, they will remain the top team in the nation, go into the SEC Championship against Alabama undefeated and on top of that, make the biggest case for the top spot. This isn’t even going into anything that Ohio State or Michigan does in their annual showdown. But Georgia needs this for themselves after a tumultuous and tragic offseason could have derailed them permanently.

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