It’s been a relatively uneventful start to rivalry week — well, at least as I write this on the evening of Black Friday, it has. For the sake of the Tide, let’s hope that carries through the Iron Bowl, eh?
Here is today’s schedule, in God’s Right and Proper Central Standard Time Zone. Feel free to talk smack below, as we wait on the main event this afternoon.
|Florida State at Florida
|ESPN: 206 / SEC Network: 611
|Georgia at Georgia Tech
|Houston at UConn
|Maryland at Rutgers
|Navy at Temple
|Ohio State at Michigan
|FOX (cable) / 4K: 106
|Texas Tech at Baylor
|Wake Forest at Boston College
|Miami at Duke
|FIU at Southern Miss
|ESPN Extra: 791
|UMass at New Mexico State
|BSAZ+: 686-1 *1
|Alabama at Auburn
|Indiana at Purdue
|Northwestern at Illinois
|BTN: 610 / BTN+: 610-1 (overflow)
|Oregon State at Oregon
|Penn State at Michigan State
|Western Kentucky at Marshall
|Vanderbilt at Tennessee
|SEC Network: 611
|Virginia Tech at Virginia
|ACC Network: 612
|ULM at Louisiana Lafayette
|Tulsa at SMU
|Wisconsin at Minnesota
|Grambling vs. Southern
|Texas A&M at LSU
|West Virginia at Kansas
|Clemson at South Carolina
|SEC Network: 611
|Kentucky at Louisville
|Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
|Pittsburgh at Syracuse
|ACC Network: 612
|Tulane at Memphis
|Notre Dame at Stanford
|FOX (cable) / 4K: 106
|Nevada at Colorado State
|BYU at USC
|California at UCLA
Must See TV
The Game: No. 2 Ohio State -8 at No. 6 Michigan — Does this one really need explanation? The Wolverines look significantly less fraudish than usual this season, but as the game in East Lansing showed us, this still can be a flaky team, and the offense can still sputter. Badly. Meanwhile, in defense-first contests against Penn State and Nebraska, that vaunted OSU offense wasn’t the machine it’s quite been made out to be. Have the Buckeyes just been feasting on bad teams? Can UM do the (practically) unthinkable?
HATE INDEX: 10/10 — Michigan fans think Columbus is full of a bunch of chinstrap-bearded, light-beer-swilling, meathead bros with Walmart mock turtlenecks, in a dying state full of Applebee’s franchises. Buckeye fans think of Ann Arbor as a haunt of pretentious trust fund communists and crybullies living of off the vapors from their glory days, while putting on airs about the equally-troubled state they inhabit. And they both have a point.
Bonus fun? Remind a Michigan fan that the best coach in their history was from Ohio. And feel free to say “tattoos” to a Buckeyes fan and watch their head explode.
Bedlam: No. 7 OSU vs. No. 10 Oklahoma +4.5 — BEDLAM! No, really, we may actually get Bedlam this year. Analytics have no idea how OSU is this good...or how Oklahoma has been this spotty. The loser is eliminated from CFP contention, and importantly and immediately, it helps determine the B12CG — OU needs a straight up win to get in. OU can still get in with a loss if Baylor loses to Texas Tech. While Oklahoma State is in no matter what. Trends are not on the side of OSU here though: They’ve lost 6 in a row and 16 of 18 to the Dirt Burglars. Yuck.
HATE INDEX: 7.5/10 — Can a one-sided rivalry generate much heat? Freshmen in this game have known either only success or only defeat. And, truly, OU’s eyes are set in Austin, not Stillwater. This feels a lot like modern Third Saturday in October, particularly as recruiting has become more national for both teams — as a result, it probably is a lot more meaningful for residents than most of the roster, if we’re being honest.
Iron Bowl: No. 3 Alabama -20 at You Know Where — If you watched the end of the UCF-USF game yesterday, it is pretty clear that Auburn Jesus was really just Gus’s Personal Jesus. He’s the one with the Faustian pact, not the Tigers per se, as Auburn has fallen short time and time again this year, and has generally not been the recipient of SEC officiating bias (oops. sorry about that, Georgia State) or of the gentle hand of fate. It’s time to put an end to luck, to the moronic, and to the improbable. I don’t think this is particularly close at the end of the day, but it is in Auburn. Sigh.
HATE INDEX: 10/10 — There are few things as delightfully lacking in self-awareness as the shouts of “redneck” lobbed at the other fan base. The ole’ land grant / flagship schism that may have once been there has largely evaporated over the past two decades between the student bodies. So too have the towns largely become homogenized, right down to faux brick facades. The Wire Road trailer parks are still there, sure. But it’s more ironic poverty than just being the necessary dwelling of farmers’ kids stuck in a shithole cow college in the middle of nowhere.
No, Auburn-Opelika in fact is growing faster than Tuscaloosa, and both are roughly the same size now. So, all that’s left is the casual hate, Auburn’s frightening cultishness, and the VAST success chasm that formed the origin of “war eagle, anyway”. But, it is the hate that still matters, that is taken professionally, and that resides full-time in the hearts of many Alabamians that always mark this rivalry.
It is a game that has had actual murders between its fans because of the outcome, as well as movies made about the dislike between the two. That says something that words cannot. I’m not sure this was in Greg Sankey’s white paper when he started the campaign that #ItJustMeansMore
You can see why that eagle tried to dive into the press box and kill itself.
Western Kentucky +1.5 at Marshall — Remarkably under-the-radar game between two of the top four CUSA teams. Both overcame slow starts to be (mostly) dominant down the stretch. Huge stakes too: winner secures the CUSA-Eastern crown and a date with No. 14 UTSA in next week’s CUSACG. Could truly be one of the 3-4 best games on today. Keep an eye on the scoreboard and plan accordingly.
HATE INDEX: UNKNOWN — This isn’t an official rivalry, as yet. But it should be, as these directional land-grant schools live in the shadow of their in-state flagships, despite having more historical success than either. Sharing a division makes these meetings all the more meaningful. Like the $5-Bits-Of-Broken-Chair, this cries out for recognition.
Palmetto Bowl: Clemson -11 at South Carolina — The Contest Penises play great defense at home, and defense is essentially all that Clemmy has in the tank this season. Figures to be a low-scoring rock fight between two of CFB’s goofiest head coaches. The difference is, Shane Beamer is actually kind of adorable with his infectious enthusiasm. Sakerlina will play like they’re shot out of a cannon tomorrow. And why not? With their defense (and especially their pass rush) giving USCe a chance, one fluke play could spring one mother of an upset.
HATE INDEX: 10/10 — In terms of hate? Off the charts — this is the Egg Bowl with fewer teeth, more humidity, and more moonshine. This rivalry has seen sideline-clearing brawls, swinging helmets, racial epithets, cheap shots, and punches. And that’s just in the last decade. When you share a state that small, and you’ve faced one another 112 times in 113 years, you grow to hate the other, and a lot of it comes from envying success (admit it, Gamecocks fans). On the gridiron, that success has generally been Clemson’s throughout the decades (even if they’ve cheated their ass off to get there — a fact that USC fans will gleefully recount in gory detail).
Keep An Eye On...
Texas Tech at Baylor -14 — Not really a rivalry, but a very meaningful game. A Baylor win and a Sooners loss sends the Bears to the B12CG vs. Oklahoma State next week and completes a remarkable turnaround begun by Matt Rhule and continued by Dave Aranda. There’s a reason one is coaching in the NFL, and the other is a red-hot name during the silly season. But, the Red Raiders have been dangerous this year at times. If this were in Lubbock, BU might have more to worry about, though one wonders if the distractions surrounding Aranda the last few days have disrupted this team.
Florida -2.5 vs FSU — The Noles are desperately scraping for a bowl game after a rough start, and have gone 5-2 the past two months. A win over 5-6 Gata puts them in the postseason and takes a lot of pressure off Norvell — you can see demonstrable improvement, and a bowl is a must for the casuals. What is 5-6 Florida playing for, exactly? Do you think they’ll be pumped for that Birmingham Bowl bid? Pride? — does this team have any pride left anymore? And you can’t really blame Florida for just wanting to just get home to see who their new coach is and see if they need to hit the portal. Hateful game, but with seemingly one-sided stakes this year.
Perhaps it could wind up still being a good game, even if not good football? The problem is, this game is usually a one-sided beatdown. Only three times in the last 20 years has this game been within one score. Fortunely, they’re both so gimpy, we could be treated to a stupendously entertaining cripple fight.
HATE INDEX: 10/10 — You’d be hard-pressed to find two schools with more gloriously unrefined fan bases. But, one must respect FSU for really leaning into their white trash and realizing who they are. While one gets the sense that Gainesville administrators are in love with the money that athletics provide, but are both deeply embarrassed about what they have to do to get it and of the people that it attracts. One school wants to be the Alabama of the Panhandle; the other wants to be the Ann Arbor of the Beach. But no matter the SAT differential, they’re both still Florida Man at the end of the day.
Bonus: The rivalry did give us one of the most amazing comebacks in sports history, one of Spurrier’s truly humiliating moments, and a bone-headed Danny Kanell play to end the game in a tie. So, really, there’s something for everyone in here.
Commonwealth Cup: Virginia Tech +7 at UVA — This may be your best bet for full-on lunacy this week. This rivalry has a history of close finishes, wild endings, and as bad as UVA’s defense is, figures to be a shootout. But, like Florida, have the Hokies mailed it in since Feunte was fired? How much do they really want to get that 6th win and prolong this season and their future decisions?
HATE INDEX: 8.5/10 — Coal-mining, tech school hicks stuck in the sticks with their fake-ass army vs. a bunch of pampered, prissy future hedge fund managers who rode the coattails of daddy’s legacy; a bunch of dandies who just won’t STFU about Thomas Jefferson. Those are some of the more generous characterizations I’ve heard.
Like OSU/Michigan, the painful part for both fan bases is the kernel of truth beneath the insults (also similar to UM/OSU is that the fact that UVA refuses to acknowledge that Virginia Tech is, at the end of the day, actually a really good school).
Governor’s Cup: Kentucky +3 at Louisville — Scott Satterfield’s slow rebuild in Luhvl has finally begun to pay dividends. The Cards are more competitive, aren’t generally losing to teams they ought not to, but aren’t swinging many punches outside of their weight class either. The question is, are the Wildcats within striking distance? UK has decided it wants to try and add a passing game this season, just as UL has decided it wants to try and play defense. Both are football-ish substances as a result. But, man, Kentucky has not fared well against outright athleticism — that, and UL’s homefield advantage, may be the difference here between two teams and fan bases that flat-out despise one another. True tossup in most respects though. Keep an eye on how UK plays too: Is this Mark Stoops’s last game in Lexington? His name is connected to more than one opening.
HATE INDEX: BASKETBALL? 11/10. FOOTBALL? 7/10 — Why so low? Well, the schools may hate one another. And the culture shock may be real between the two cities. And let’s just say that the demographic profile of fan bases tends to be very different. But they both value one thing above all other, and it’s not tomorrow’s contest.
I dare you to search Twitter tomorrow during this game and not find some mention of Calipari cheating, Karen Sypher, Rick Pitino being a traitor, UL paying off hookers, number of championships, vacated games, Wisconsin ruining The Best Season Evah, or other basketball-related shenanigans. Basketball is just who they are, and just what’s in their DNA. And that’s cool...in March. Less so in November. As a result, the gridiron rivalry’s best moments have come when there is a spiteful win that ruins the other’s successful season.
Texas A&M -7 at LSU — Does this game in 2021 have any meaning? Absolutely none whatsoever, except how large of a postseason check the Aggies want to cash. When the LSU Tigers began sucking, they also began experiencing a spate of “injuries” that have inconveniently left practically every draft-eligible starter of note absent. When the going gets tough, the tough head to IR — they’re pro-ready for sure! You can’t see, given how much quit there is in Baton Rouge, how or why or what the Tigers would play for exactly. Their opposite, Texas A&M, has had an up and down season that has seen them get taken behind the woodshed by the Hogs but beat Alabama — with two obligatory, baffling losses thrown in the mix. In short, it’s the Jimbo Fisher experience; hell, for that matter, it’s the Texas A&M experience! So, at least for 2021, this game means something only to the extent that A&M better not lose it. Sort of like Alabama-Ole Miss!
HATE INDEX: 8.5/10 and getting warmer — It did not take very long for these two to dislike one another. Oh, the animus had always been there from previous meetings — and they had been meeting off and on for over a century. How could it not be, with both teams trying to recruit the same coastal cities and swamps? And when they became conference playmates, like Mizzou-Arkansas, the dislike was one of instant propinquity: right place, right time, so why the hell not. Competing for the same coaching staffs certainly didn’t make matters easier. Nor did the end-of-game fight in 2018 where players, assistant coaches, coaches family, and probably the mascots, decided to end a 7-OT marathon with some good ole’ fashioned redneckery. This game is getting decidedly nastier with Fisher’s arrival and LSU sensing (perhaps rightly), that their catbird seat as Alabama’s greatest challenger is being usurped.
It doesn’t help that both fan bases are just absolutely weird as hell either — and especially Aggie with their creepy Two Minutes Hate.
Others of Note:
Vanderbilt at Tennessee 9/10 Vanderbilt, 6/10 Tennessee (9/10 when they lose)— Very much a one-sided rivalry in the sense that UT holds a 2:1 advantage in the series, and that Vandy loathes and resents having to share a state with the cretins in Knoxville. Tennessee, when they’re not plotting against Alabama, or tripping over their McDonald’s bags full of cash, or getting blown out by their betters, can find some room to loathe Vanderbilt...but only if they lose. And, friends, lose they have. Over the last decade, the Commodores and Vawls have split this series with 5 wins a piece, and Vandy even had a three-game winning streak. Likely no chance of a W this year, but it would be hilarious.
BONUS: Go to a Vandy-Tennessee baseball series in Nashville if you want to what true fish-out-of-water hick looks like. It’s honest-to-god Beverly Hillbillies level of cringe.
Civil War: Oregon State at Oregon: 10/10 Oregon State, 8/10 Oregon — Oregon’s real rival is in Seattle, a city that Eugene has slavishly aped for decades. But for the Beavers? This is it. This is the game. Unfortunately another awful, flat Mario Cristobal road loss has taken the zip out of a game that could have held a lot of meaning for the national picture. One wonders how much motivation there is? But, win the Ducks must. Wazzu thumped Washington on Friday night, meaning that an Oregon loss gives the Cougars a P12 North title. If Oregon starts choking late, as is their wont, sure, flip it on over to whatever potato the Pac 12 broadcasts their games on.