THIS IS...(used to be) Rivalry Week!
Happy Thanksgiving to all! I hope you and your family are having a wonderful weekend. Normally Thanksgiving weekend in college football features a whole host of rivalries – in fact a large percentage of the rivalries featured in my column from this summer about those that are the lifeblood of the sport.
This year due to COVID 19 restrictions and the re-scheduling that followed, this is not the final full weekend of college football (and I feel both sad and happy about that). Some rivalry games were played earlier, some will unfortunately not be played because they are non-conference games (like Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Georgia Tech and others). However there are four great rivalry games on tap this weekend that made my list. I’ll list in order of my opinion of how bitter they are:
1. Alabama-Auburn: The Iron Bowl, featuring the #1 team in the country, the Crimson Tide and #22 Auburn, this game’s line is in the 20’s so Alabama is heavily favored to win but any Tide fan who would tell you they feel supremely confident – especially with Nick Saban sidelined due to COVID 19 – would be lying. Gus Malzahn always has a lot of trickery arranged and the game has featured a series of strange/bizarre plays and breaks that have universally favored Auburn in the last decade. I expect Alabama to win but I think Auburn will beat the spread. You honestly have to watch this game if you want to understand the sport.
2. Ole Miss- Mississippi State: The “Egg Bowl” has fast become the craziest “low national but giant state” stakes rivalry in the entire country. It dominates the state’s sports news year-round and it was likely instrumental in the firing of not one but both coaches after last year’s game. Great background story here. Lane Kiffin vs. Mike Leach this year – too bad it’s basically at the same time as the Iron Bowl but definitely peak in on it.
3. Stanford-California: Known as the “Big Game”, neither of these teams are perennial powers – though Stanford’s history in the 21st Century is very good with Rose Bowl and other big bowl appearances. However, Cal has improved in recent years, particularly on defense, while. Stanford seems to have stagnated. This rivalry featured arguably the weirdest and/or greatest finish to a game ever. Check out “…and the band is out on the field!” – if you’ve never seen it.
4. #15 Oregon-Oregon State: Used to be a close, good game every year (and called the “Civil War”) but Oregon has dominated Oregon State over the past 15 years. The PAC-12 has a lot more parity this year as all the teams struggle through protocols. It will be interesting to see if the Beavers can make a game of it at home in Corvalis against the visiting, top-20 Ducks.