It’s rivalry week in our Swampland Footprint. Some teams are looking towards league titles (Auburn, Oklahoma/Oklahoma State, NC State, etc.) while some usual stalwarts are just trying to become bowl eligible (Texas, Georgia, Tennessee). The last weekend of the season is the time to ‘save face’ with your fan base and head to the postseason on a positive note. We’ll now take a look around the region at the many rivalry games that make up the fabric of Southern football.
Auburn at Alabama (Friday)
The Iron Bowl will have an even more electric atmosphere than normal this year. Alabama, the defending national champions, will try to ruin the BCS Title aspirations of bitter rival Auburn. Two main questions in this one: 1) Can Tigers’ quarterback Cam Newton be stopped, or at least slowed down, by Nick Saban’s defense?, and 2) Can Tide weapons Mark Ingram and Julio Jones score enough against an inconsistent Auburn defense? Look for more points than usual in what is ‘must-see TV’ Friday in Tuscaloosa.
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
The Bedlam Game will decide the Big 12 South--maybe. If the Cowboys win, they will go to the league title tilt for the first time. OSU already has its first 10-win regular season in school history, and a win over the Sooners would cap it perfectly. Oklahoma has struggled on the road recently, but they own a three-game winning streak in Stillwater. An OU win would either mean a controversial three-way tie (if Texas A&M wins) in the South, or the Sooners advancing once again (if Texas wins). OU pulling for Texas?!
Texas A&M at Texas (Thursday)
The Aggies need a win to stay alive in Big 12 South title race. A Texas A&M win and an Oklahoma victory would cause the aforementioned three way-tie (tiebreaker rules). Mike Sherman has his team playing well, and they enter this one on a five-game winning streak. A Texas loss would cause a panic in Austin, as it would be the first time since 1997 the Longhorns would not be bowl eligible.
LSU at Arkansas
The Tigers still have a good shot for an at-large bid to a BCS bowl, while the Razorbacks have been playing well with quarterback Ryan Mallett leading the way. This contest always seems to be a back-and-forth thriller. The last five games in this series have been settled by five points or less, and the Hogs have won two of the last three. Expect another wild affair in Little Rock on Saturday.
NC State at Maryland
Other than beating rival North Carolina, Tom O'Brien did not seem to have the confidence of the Wolfpack fan base during his first three seasons (16-21 record) in Raleigh. That is changing this year as State, led by Quarterback Russell Wilson, can advance to their first ACC Championship Game with a win over the Terps. A Wolfpack win would set up a NC State/Virginia Tech rematch, a wild 41-30 decision for the Hokies.
South Carolina at Clemson
Will the Gamecocksget caught looking ahead to next week’s showdown in Atlanta against Auburn? All Steve Spurrier’s club has to remember is this game last season, when his Gamecocks throttled the Tigers 34-17 before Clemson headed to the ACC title game. Dabo Swinney’s club will play spoiler this year, as they try to slow down the S.C. dynamic duo of Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery.
Florida at Florida State
This bitter rivalry doesn’t have the national significance of year’s past, but it means a ton to both teams and their respective fan bases. The Seminoles are looking to snap their six-game losing streak to the hated Gators. UF is not playing for a title this season, but they want to show that they are still the ‘big dog’ in the Sunshine State. This game could have huge recruiting implications, as Jimbo Fisher tries to take FSU back to national prominence.
Georgia Tech at Georgia
It’s been a disappointing year so far for Mark Richt‘s bunch, but a win against rival Georgia Tech would give the Bulldogs a bowl bid for the 14th consecutive season. Dawg fans are ready to see if their 3-4 defensive scheme can stop Paul Johnson’s running attack. This game has been a high-scoring affair the last two seasons, with the visitor winning.
Kentucky at Tennessee
Both teams will enter this battle highly-motivated. The Wildcats are looking to break the nation’s longest losing streak to one opponent: a 25-game skid to the Vols that dates back to 1984. Tennessee needs a win to become bowl eligible, and that would be an encouraging accomplishment by first-year head coach Derek Dooley after a 2-6 start.
Mississippi State at Ole Miss
Dan Mullen had the Bulldogs ready to go in last year’s Egg Bowl, shocking the Rebels to the tune of 41-27. Houston Nutt’s bunch cannot make a bowl this season, so a revenge win against Mississippi State would be the best ending to a frustrating season. The Bulldogs will be looking for their first win in Oxford since 1998. With a victory and an 8-4 finish, Mullen would make a statement for MSU being the lead program in the Magnolia State.
Enjoy a great weekend of rivalry football and Happy Thanksgiving!