Football Follies 2014 – NCAA Week 14 (Rivalry Madness!)

Football Follies 2014 – NCAA Week 14 (Rivalry Madness!)
Oregon QB Marcus Mariota and his offensive line, having their usual effect on the Tennessee defense; Sep 2013. (Image: Michael Arellano via Daily Emerald)

It’s Rivalry Madness! week, and folks, do we have some juicy rivalry match-ups for you.  We note before moving forward that Ohio beat Miami (OH) 24-21 last night, in some of that MAC action we know you’re so anxious about.

Inner Circle

The University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane, which beat Notre Dame 28-27 on 30 October 2010, is now 2-9.  Clearly, Tulsa’s big rival is Tulsa.

There was a time, two years ago or more, when there was a little burgeoning rivalry between Tulsa, which often topped C-USA West, and East Carolina, which often topped C-USA East.  That time is no more.  They’re both in the undivided American now, and Tulsa will host the 7-3 Purple Pirates on Friday evening for a game that has meaning for ECU but none for the Golden Hurricane.  Although struggling lately, ECU is still in the hunt for the American title, needing victories over Tulsa this week and Central Florida next.  But Friday is Tulsa’s swan song for the season, and not a moment too soon.  Pirates give 17.

#20 Oklahoma (8-3) and Oklahoma State (5-6) will be sleeping off the turkey and mashed potatoes this weekend.  Bedlam is in Norman on 6 December.

On Friday afternoon, Navy (5-5) will be at South Alabama, which at 6-5 isn’t completely awful.  Navy’s giving about 9 in the line, and becomes bowl-eligible with a win.  The Mids will have their annual Rivalry Madness! moment in mid-December when they meet Army (4-7) in The Game.  Army has otherwise played its last, having defeated Fordham last week.

Air Force, 8-3, will host Colorado State (10-1) on Friday for the Ram-Falcon Trophy, which, we are sorry to report, is a tasteful little thing that gets toted around in a glass case.  Missed opportunity there.  At any rate, it’s an accredited rivalry, and CSU is favored by only 7 right now.

The Ram-Falcon trophy, in the usual hands. (Image via sikids.com)
The Ram-Falcon trophy, in the usual hands. (Image via sikids.com)

It’s the big weekend for Virginia Tech too, which has a ton of accredited rivalries, but none so Storied as the rivalry with Virginia for the Commonwealth Cup.  As befits the Holy Commonwealth of Virginia, the Cup itself is refined and unobtrusive.  Of neither the Hokies nor the Yahoos can that be said, however.  They both come in 5-6 and ragged after a season of downs and ups.  The oddsquad views this one as a pick-em.  Marquee slot on Friday in Blacksburg.

Nevada (6-5) comes off a painful loss to Fresno State last week, which crushed the Wolf Pack’s hopes of a Mountain West title shot.  But the annual rivalry collision with flea-ridden UNLV ought to wake them up on Saturday night.  The teams play for the Fremont Cannon, which is a darn fine rivalry knickknack, certainly an improvement over those annoying victory bells.  The lice-infested Rebels are 2-10, and eating up Nevada’s 10-point give, but they do have home field advantage.  The Pack has to play this one in Vegas.

The Fremont Cannon in Nevada blue. (Wikipedia)
The Fremont Cannon in Nevada blue. (Wikipedia)

Our Top 10 mascot, #5 TCU, will be at Texas on Thursday night, stoked and ready for a game that probably has a future as a rivalry, especially now that A&M is in the SEC.  We’re waiting for both teams to be Top 25 material at the same time.  Careful bettors have given the Frogs only a 6.5-point edge as of this writing, and we’d go with that, especially after TCU’s close call with Kansas on the 15th.  The Horns still have some growing to do, and lack a breakout level of sustained performance on both sides of the ball.  But they come off a 3-game streak and should give TCU a good game in the premier Thanksgiving Day slot.

The Inner Circle gets a two-fer on Thanksgiving Day, with LSU (7-4) squaring off in its Storied, if Intermittent, Rivalry with Texas A&M.  The rivalry goes back to 1899, but has gone for many years at a time without a meeting.  It resumed after a hiatus in 2011, and LSU has won the last three games.  The teams don’t play for any interesting bric-a-brac, but who needs bric-a-brac when your games are played in either College Station or Baton Rouge?  A&M hosts this year; LSU gives 3.  Unfortunately, the game is at the same time as the TCU-Texas game.

Kansas State, #12, hosts Poor Old Pathetic Kansas for their Storied Rivalry on Saturday afternoon.  They duel for the Governor’s Cup, a suitably demure article of which there is no particular fun to be made.  The 8-2 Wildcats give 28 right now, after the thorough drubbing administered to the Jayhawks by the Sooners last week.  POP Kansas, at 3-8, was able to give TCU a scare the week before, so there’s hope for a good game.

Wyoming (4-7) will be at New Mexico (3-8) for a Both of Us Have to Get to 12 game.  The Lobos are giving 4.5, but we think the Laramie Pokes can totally take this one.

Obligatory

Rivalry Madness! takes off like a rocket in the nosebleed section.  It’s Iron Bowl time, when #1 Alabama goes head to head with #15 Auburn.  Tide gives only 9.5, and it might oughta be less, considering that Saban’s offense usually needs a cattle prod to remember what it’s there for.  We don’t doubt that the ‘Bama D can find ways to limit Artis-Payne, however.  We trust Auburn to focus effectively (and not just blinders-on obsessively) on Amari Cooper.  Strap in for a great match-up to see who totes off the Foy-ODK Sportsmanship Trophy.

#2 Oregon meets Oregon State in the Oregon Civil War for the You Only Wish Platypus Trophy, which besides being the ultimate in trophy cool has the added benefit of not looking much like a platypus.  It’s really pretty hard to beat.  You’d have to, like lose it in the back closet, as Hawaii did the Paniolo Trophy, to be any hipper.  The game’s in Corvallis, but no one’s giving the Beavers much of a shot.  Ducks give 19.5.

One of these is a "platypus."
One of these is a representation of a “platypus.”

#3 Florida State (11-0, barely) hosts the Sunshine Showdown with Florida (6-4) on Saturday afternoon.  No culturally significant trophyage in this one, but of course big implications for the ‘Noles and their CFB hopes.  FSU’s giving 7.5, reflecting the narrowness of some of their wins up to now and the outsize effort a rivalry game always brings out in the underdog.  (No doubt it also reflects the fact that FSU has yet to face an SEC-tough D this season.)

#4 Mississippi State will be in Oxford Saturday for the long-awaited Egg Bowl with #19 Ole Miss.  The Rebels, after beating Alabama, managed to lose to LSU, Auburn, and (with extraordinary pain) Arkansas.  But no one thinks they’ll be a pushover against their long-time rivals; Bulldogs give only 2 in the line.  The Egg Bowl’s winner, of course, takes home the Golden Egg trophy, which looks suspiciously like a football.  Ole Miss could seriously pee in the Bulldogs’ Cheerios with this one, potentially knocking them out of the CFB-4.

Ohio State, still #6 after finally taking charge against Indiana last week, continues one of the most Storied of Rivalries hosting Michigan on Saturday. No goofy bric-a-brac in this one, just History and Pride – and, of course, the Buckeyes’ CFB hopes.  5-6 Michigan sucks; OSU gives about 20.

#7 Baylor will be in Lubbock to take on Texas Tech, which probably won’t require much taking on.  Not a rivalry game; Bears gives 24.5.

Our punch bowl turd, new #8 UCLA, did look pretty solid cruising over a not-all-there USC last week.  Bruins host Stanford for a not-a-rivalry match, giving 5-ish.

#9 Georgia and #16 Georgia Tech lead off Saturday’s SEC festivities, bringing in the Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate rivalry in Athens at noon Eastern.  Both teams are 9-2 overall, but Georgia is still fighting with Mizzou for the SEC East title and a shot at the conference championship, whereas Georgia Tech has the ACC Coastal locked up.  Oddsdudes have the ‘Dogs giving 13.

New #10 Michigan State will be in Happy Valley to meet Penn State for the Land Grant Trophy, which we love for its general goofiness and air of having been thought up by a committee.  Plus, it would make a great rec-room side table with a built-in lamp.  Serious garage-sale junk potential there.  Spartans give 13.

Get it? A Nittany Lion and a Spartan?  The Land Grant trophy, in a preternaturally perfect pose. (Image: ESPN,com)
Get it? A Nittany Lion and a Spartan? The Land Grant trophy, in a preternaturally perfect pose. (Image: ESPN,com)

Best of the rest

The rivalry action just doesn’t stop on this Thanksgiving weekend.  Not all of you may have known that Nebraska and Iowa will be playing for the humbly-styled Heroes Trophy on Friday, but now you do.

#11 Arizona will host #13 Arizona State on Friday in their duel for the Territorial Cup, which, dating to 1899, is certified as the oldest rivalry trophy in college football, but is otherwise unremarkable.  No line on this one yet.

We mustn’t forget the mighty mites of central Florida – South Florida in Tampa and Central Florida in Orlando, AKA the garden spots of I-4 – whose game will one day, I assure you, be known as a Storied Rivalry.  Friday; UCF gives 12; go BULLS!!

No season would be complete without the Palmetto Bowl between South Carolina (motto: The Other USC) and #21 Clemson.  This one kicks off Saturday at noon.  Nice trophy with a football on top.  Tigers give 4.5

Kentucky at #25 Louisville competes in the same time slot (as does Michigan-Ohio State, for that matter), with the Cardinals favored by 12 to take home the Governor’s Cup.

Illinois will be at Northwestern to duke it out for the Land of Lincoln Trophy, which rejoices in being a bronze tophat mounted on a wooden base.  Don’t let us near it with a can of spray paint, that’s all I’m saying.  Northwestern gives 8.5.

It needs some bows or something.  The Land of Lincoln Trophy. (Wikipedia)
It needs some bows or something. The Land of Lincoln Trophy. (Wikipedia)

Finally, meanwhile, it’s time for Purdue to visit Indiana and fight for the Old Oaken Bucket, one of our all-time favorite garage-sale junk trophies.  It’s old, it’s oaken, it’s got messy letters – I and P – dangling all over it and everything.  We love this trophy to death.  It’s even got its own poem.  (Technically, the poem was written before there was an American game of football, and the trophy was named after it.  But on the theory that time expands and contracts, we feel sure that from a higher-dimensional perspective, the poem was written because there would one day be a football trophy expressing all that’s finest about the great state of Indiana.)

The Old Oaken Bucket, currently held by Indiana.
The Old Oaken Bucket, currently held by Indiana.

Opening lines of this oeuvre, by Samuel Woodworth:

    “How dear to this heart are the scenes of my childhood,

When fond recollection presents them to view!

The orchard, the meadow, the deep-tangled wild-wood,

And every loved spot which my infancy knew!

…And e’en the rude bucket that hung in the well—

The old oaken bucket, the iron-bound bucket,

The moss-covered bucket which hung in the well.

Never let it be said that we allow a cultural opportunity to pass us by, here at your LU Football Commentary Service.  Hoosiers give 2.5.

About this time we’re begging for mercy, but still there’s Rivalry Madness! to preview.  NC State (motto: “They have a football team?”) heads to North Carolina on Saturday for a rivalry that goes back to 1894.  Tar Heels give 6.5.

Boston College hosts Syracuse for their rivalry game, giving 11.

#25 Utah will be at Colorado (motto: “We take a pounding!”) for the Storied Rumble in the Rockies.  Youths give 9, apparently because someone in the betting fraternity is asleep at the wheel.

Freshly de-ranked USC will host Notre Dame for the game we think of as That Low-Class Dance Hall Downstairs.  If there’s anything more peculiar, or lighter in the loafers, than the Jeweled Shillelagh, we don’t know what it is.  After Notre Dame’s break-neck fall from the Top 10, the Trojans give 7.

Fruit city: the Jeweled Shillelagh. (Wikipedia)
Fruit city: the Jeweled Shillelagh. (Wikipedia)

Fortunately, #18 Minnesota and #14 Wisconsin will be rounding out their season with the duel for Paul Bunyan’s Axe, which is right up there, as a noble piece of garage-sale junk.  If the original “Slab of Bacon” trophy were an actual slab of bacon, we’d be sorry about its supersession by an axe.  But since it’s a wooden artifact, and it was just nicknamed the Slab of Bacon, we’re over it.  We are proud to point out that Paul Bunyan’s Axe is a mighty-looking, freestanding tool, not mounted ignominiously, like some of those axes out there (which shall remain nameless), to a board.  Badgers give 14.

Paul Bunyan's Axe, currently in Wisconsin custody.
Paul Bunyan’s Axe, currently in Wisconsin custody.

But wait – there’s more.  Tennessee will be at Vanderbilt for their Storied Rivalry, which apparently is referred to by the cognoscenti as “Hatred in the Hills.”  Sounds to us like a Civil War novel written by Stephen King.  Meh, both teams are lousy this year, but Vols give 17.

The "Slab of Bacon," precursor to the Paul Bunyan Axe. (Wikipedia)
The “Slab of Bacon,” precursor to the Paul Bunyan Axe. (Wikipedia)

Sliding in late on Saturday, Washington will be at Washington State to grapple for the Apple Cup.  Another missed opportunity here; the trophy is a garden-variety loving cup on a wooden base, with something weird and roundish on top that could be taken for an apple.  They’re bureaucrats up there in the Evergreen State.  Huskies are giving 3.5.

Other ranks

We’re down to the wire in Div III.  One of our conference champs is already out (Franklin College of the HCAC).

But Christopher Newport, USA South champion, tees up in round 2 on Saturday.  This one will be a tough match: the Captains will be at Widener U., in Chester, PA, and Widener (10-0, Middle Atlantic) is #10 in the Div III Coaches Poll.  We wish CNU the best.  Topping out at 40 under cloudy skies for the game.

Liberty League champ Hobart has possibly an even tougher row to hoe, hosting #6 Johns Hopkins (11-0, Centennial) in Geneva, NY.  Mid-30s and overcast for the noon EST kickoff.

Pros

Thanksgiving Day will be simply replete with excellent NFL matches:  Bears at Lions (OK, near-excellent), followed by Eagles at Cowboys (NFC East bust-out! Fireworks in Arlington!), followed by Seahawks at Niners in a clash of latter-day greats – and NFC West confreres – for a playoff berth.

We do miss the ritual of a Cowboys-Redskins game on Thanksgiving.  Just saying.

There won’t be a lot of heavily freighted games for the rest of the weekend, but we’re looking forward to Saints at Steelers on Sunday afternoon, and Patriots at Packers.  Both games should actually be both interesting and informative.

On Sunday night, things will heat up considerably with the big AFC West showdown, Broncos at Chiefs.  Denver has beat KC once, and can all but seal the deal for the division with a second win on Sunday.  But they’ve looked vulnerable lately.  The Chiefs have a hill to climb after last week’s ugly outing with Oakland, in which they showed little adaptability.  Broncos give 2.5 in today’s line.

Monday night brings Dolphins at Jets, which, again, is football, and that’s a good thing.

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.


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