Predicting the 21 Winners of College Football’s Season-Ending Rivalries
Predicting Each of the 21 Season-Ending Rivalries
Welcome to college football rivalry week. Nothing rouses millions of overstuffed Americans out of a tryptophan-induced nap faster than the impending madness of the season finales that we devour more rabidly than a Thanksgiving turkey.
There’s no time to rest for players, coaches or fans. This is it. Do or die. Make or break. Sink or Swim. Okay, enough with the “this or that” already.
Still, have I mentioned it’s rivalry week? These are the games in which legends are born and legacies are solidified. Rivalries are also a great time for dreams to die and for struggling coaches to be pink-slipped.
For fans, this is the weekend of the year in which your choice of wardrobe colors matters more than a South L.A. gangbanger’s. Why? Because braggin’ rights are on the line, of course.
Family ties are severed, friends cut off contact with each other, and budding romantic relationships meet an abrupt end when allegiances don’t align. If you’re prescribed to blood pressure or any other heart-related medication, better stock up now. You’re going to need it this week.
Things are especially tense in Alabama. It's hard to imagine the Iron Bowl becoming even more important in a state where it means everything 365 days a year, but Saturday's game between No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Auburn will decide which team wins the SEC West and plays in the Dec. 7 SEC championship game.
But the Iron Bowl isn’t the only huge game this week. Here are predictions for 21 of the most heated rivalries in college football and some that have, shall we say, chilled considerably of late:
21. Arkansas (3-8) at No. 17 LSU (8-3)
Getting the Boot Next Year
The winner of this game gets the Golden Boot, but this game gets the boot next season, as LSU will take on Texas A&M the week of Thanksgiving. As for this year’s matchup, don’t expect one of the seemingly predictable, wild triple-overtime thrillers this series has produced in recent years. The Tigers should be firmly in control by the start of the second quarter.
Prediction: LSU 38, Arkansas 16
20. Virginia Tech (7-4) at Virginia (2-9)
Hokie Pokie With Your Friends Instead
Sure, the Hokies can still make it into the ACC title game with a win, which is all but guaranteed, but neither of these teams are all that good. Therefore, this game isn’t all that much worth watching. Instructional dancing with friends appears to be a better option.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 23, Virginia 9
19. No. 19 Texas A&M (8-3) at No. 5 Missouri (10-1)
The Times Trump Tradition
While we'd prefer to see the Aggies playing Texas and the Tigers playing Kansas -- the move to the SEC ended those rivalries (indefinitely). But there is still reason to watch a game will determine whether Missouri or South Carolina will win the SEC East and play in the SEC championship game. And it could be Johnny Manziel's last regular-season college game.
Prediction: Missouri 45, Texas A&M 31
18. Kansas State (6-5) at Kansas (3-8)
Interest Flatter than Sunflower State’s Topography
K-State has won the last four and 16 of the last 20 in this lopsided series. Historically, this rivalry is about as uneven as the state of Kansas is flat. Flat is also an apt description for interest in this year’s contest.
Prediction: Kansas State 35, Kansas 21
17. Washington State (6-5) at Washington (7-4)
Apple Cup Half Full or Empty?
Is Washington State having a better season than expected or is Washington having a worse season than expected? Will we be able to tell by the result of the Apple Cup? Find the answers to these and other philosophical conundrums here.
Prediction: Washington 41, Washington State 35
16. Tennessee (4-7) at Kentucky (2-9)
Rocky Flop Blues on Grass
Tennessee has played a tougher schedule than any team in college football, and it’s been a tough year for the Vols. But not quite as bad as Kentucky’s season. The tune in Lexington these days resembles blues more than bluegrass. But a win over rival Tennessee could help ease the pain. Too bad, it ain’t happenin’.
Prediction: Tennessee 31, Kentucky 23
15. Texas Tech (7-4) at Texas (7-3)
Lonestar State, Lone Star Game
For two teams with winning records from the same state, this game sure doesn’t seem to have much pizzazz. I’d give this Lonestar State showdown just that, a single star rating.
Prediction: Texas Tech 27, Texas 26
14. Georgia (7-4) at Georgia Tech (7-4)
Clean Old Fashioned
With QB Aaron Murray and seemingly the rest of Georgia’s starters watching from the sideline, Georgia Tech actually has a chance to win this one. But don’t bet on it, as the Bulldogs have won 11 of the past 12 meetings in the series. It’s hard to hate a rival that isn’t a threat.
Prediction: Georgia 24, Georgia Tech 20
13. Baylor (9-1) at TCU (4-7)
They’re Both in Texas So That’s Something, Right?
Interest in anything Baylor has dropped faster than the Bears’ championship dreams did last week in Stillwater. Couple that with underachieving TCU, and you’ve got yourself a bowl of tasteless Texas chili.
Prediction: Baylor 56, TCU 20
12. Northwestern (4-7) at Illinois (4-7)
Big Ten Cellar Fight Club
If only this season wasn’t real. Unfortunately for the Wildcats and Illini, unlike the main character in the movie “Fight Club,” this is reality. But like the characters in the movie, Northwestern and Illinois are set to fight it out in the cellar, only the movie fights drew much more interest.
Prediction: Illinois 31, Northwestern 28
11. Ole Miss (7-4) at Mississippi State (5-6)
Don’t Get Egg on Your Face
The last time Ole Miss entered the Egg Bowl with a better record than Mississippi State was 2009. The Rebels lost that game handily, 41-27 in Starkville. They enter this year’s edition as an assumed favorite, as there isn’t currently a line on the game. In any case, the Rebels should be wary of overlooking the Bulldogs, lest they end up with egg on their faces once more.
Prediction: Ole Miss 34, Mississippi State 20
10. Arizona (7-4) at No. 13 Arizona State (9-2)
Territorial Cupful of Hostility
There are no conference title hopes on the line here, as the Sun Devils have already wrapped up the Pac 12 South. But this game certainly won’t be lacking for intensity, as plenty of hatred abounds on both sides of this controversy-ridden rivalry.
Prediction: Arizona State 42, Arizona 38
9. Notre Dame (8-3) at Stanford (9-2)
Cardinal Sins Absolved
Stanford is going to the Pac 12 championship, despite a couple of disappointing losses, thanks to Oregon’s meltdown at Arizona last week. So it has a clear path to a BCS bowl. Notre Dame, on the other hand, will not make two-straight BCS bowls. But the Irish can take down the potential Pac 12 champs for the second consecutive season. You can bet the Cardinal are still fuming about the game-winning touchdown that wasn’t last year.
Prediction: Stanford 21, Notre Dame 13
8. Oregon State (6-5) at No. 12 Oregon (9-2)
Civil War and Nothing Else
Last week, a couple of Oregon's players said they are tired of playing in the Rose Bowl. Well, they can now rejoice and take on their in-state rival without the troubling prospects of a Rose Bowl berth weighing on their minds. The Ducks have lost two of their past three games, including a 42-16 loss at Arizona. Oregon State is falling even faster heading into the Civil War, dropping four games in a row after a 69-27 loss to Washington.
Prediction: Oregon 52, Oregon State 35
7. No. 24 Duke (9-2) at North Carolina (6-5)
For Once, Basketball Season Can Wait
College basketball's most famous rivalry will have to wait this year, as this game actually means something this time around. I will go a long way in determining which team wins the ACC Coastal Division and plays FSU for an ACC title. The Blue Devils have won seven-straight and can win the Coastal Division if they beat UNC, which has won five games in a row after starting the season 1-5.
Prediction: Duke 37, UNC 35
6. Purdue (1-10) at Indiana (4-7)
Thank Goodness Basketball Season is Here
No one in the Hoosier State will be watching football this week, at least not this game. Unless there are some who don enjoy three and a half hours of pure agony and frustration. Basketball season has never been a more welcomed sight, even in Indiana.
Prediction: Indiana 42, Purdue 24
5. No. 22 UCLA (8-3) at No. 23 USC (9-3)
Rivalry Getting a Face Lift
There was a slim chance the crosstown rivalry was going to decide the Pac-12 South title, but the Bruins lost 38-33 to Arizona State on Saturday, giving the Sun Devils the division championship. Now, only L.A. bragging rights and bowl designations are on the line. But these seem to be two teams on the rise, adding more excitement than expected to this game this year. Also, USC interim coach Ed Orgeron can make one final claim to the full-time job if the Trojans beat the Bruins for the 13th time in 15 meetings.
Prediction: UCLA 27, USC 24
4. No. 2 Florida State (11-0) at Florida (4-7)
The undefeated Seminoles are two victories away from the BCS title game. The Gators have lost six games in a row, including an embarrassing 26-20 home defeat against FCS foe Georgia Southern on Saturday. One team is way up, the other way down this year. Nothing much more to say here.
Prediction: Florida State 55, Florida 10
3. No. 3 Ohio State (11-0) at Michigan (7-4)
Looked Better in September
If the Buckeyes defeat Michigan and then Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game, they'll finish undefeated for the second regular season in a row. But OSU might still be left out of the BCS title game. The Wolverines have at best had a mediocre season, but they can salvage it by ruining Ohio State's dreams in "The Game." But Michigan has won only once in its previous nine meetings against OSU.
Prediction: Ohio State 37, Michigan 16
2. No. 7 Clemson (10-1) at No. 11 South Carolina (9-2)
This Game Matters a Lot
If the Tigers can defeat the Gamecocks on the road they'll be in great position to play in a BCS bowl game, especially if FSU earns a trip to the BCS title game. South Carolina can still make it into the SEC championship if Missouri loses to Texas A&M Saturday, and the Gamecocks might be in line for a BCS bowl berth even if they don't make it to Atlanta.
Prediction: South Carolina 28, Clemson 24
1. No. 1 Alabama (11-0) at No. 4 Auburn (10-1)
This Game Matters the Most
It’s the biggest Iron Bowl in history, and the first time these two have met with each ranked in the top four. The Crimson Tide can move a step closer to winning an unprecedented third consecutive BCS national title. The Tigers still have an outside chance at playing for a BCS national championship. Either way, the winner goes to the SEC title game and a shot at playing for it all.
Prediction: Alabama 38, Auburn 31