We’ve rolled around to it once again. It’s Rivalry Madness! week in the FBS, and the stakes are … well, sort of fixed inside boundaries, instead of being high or low. It still kind of matters who wins in some conferences and divisions, if you care who ends up winning the conference title. The CFP field doesn’t have a volatile, iffy look right now, although of course that can always change.
But call us happy partisans of conference titles. It all matters to the Booger Bowl slate, which is the progressive feast we wait for all year.
So it’s off to the races for bells, whistles, buckets, rusty cans, farm implements, artillery pieces, and who knows what else, as FBS ball runs smack into Thanksgiving weekend and bounces around like crazy. Fasten your seatbelts.
The University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane, which beat Notre Dame 28-27 on 30 October 2010, is 3-8 and now one of the most learned teams in football, what with all the quality learning opportunities of a tough-slogging season. Tulsa’s final hurrah for 2019 is at East Carolina (4-7) on Saturday, with the roaring Hurricane giving 5.5.
Fresh-caught #7 Oklahoma (I know; hmm) heads to Stillwater this year for BEDLAM!!!!!!! with #21 Oklahoma State (8-3), which pulled it out over West Virginia last Saturday shortly before the Sooners hung on to prevail over TCU. There’s only one game left, so nothing funny can happen this weekend; the Big 12 championship game on 7 December will be an OU-Baylor rematch. With Baylor playing Kansas (motto: “What difference, at this point, does it make?”) this Saturday, the Bears’ odd of winning are better than the Sooners’. But at 10-1 each, 7-1 conference, both teams are too far ahead of anyone else to be knocked out of the title game. The question now is who will get which bowl, assuming the CFP top 5 do as nature intended and remain the top 5.
OU gives 13.5 in T. Boone. There’s a Victory Bell at stake, which is an admirable stealth maneuver as far as we’re concerned. Oklahoma’s already got a Sooner Schooner (Indian name: Lawsuit Waiting to Happen) and a mascot rejoicing in the name Pistol Pete; what does such a blessed state need from cutesy rivalry-game trophies?
Navy, now 8-2 off the win over SMU, will be at Houston (4-7) Saturday for the last AAC game – and a big one it could be. Navy and #18 Memphis are tied in conference play (6-1) atop the AAC-West, but although Memphis has already defeated Navy in the regular season match, and is 10-1 to Navy’s 8-2, there’s a path for Navy to the conference playoff. If Navy beats Houston, and Memphis loses to Cincinnati this week, Navy would play Cincinnati for the conference title.
Navy would have to fit that in the weekend before The Game with Army. Tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it. #19 Cincinnati has already locked in the AAC-East nod, and is totally legit this season, so the Memphis game will be a biggie. Navy’s giving 9 to the Cougars.
Army, 5-6, heads for Hawaii Saturday night, a 2.5-point dog to the 8-4 Rainbow Warriors. Hawaii will be playing the Mountain West title match with #20 Boise State, incidentally. The narrow point spread with Army is … noteworthy.
Air Force is 9-2 and will be hosting our Inner Circle fave Wyoming on Saturday, now 7-4 after the exhilarating win over Colorado State. The Falcons give 11, but we know Wyoming will want to plug for the best possible bowl shot (whereas Air Force can get one just for showing up on the eligible service school list). So we’re hopeful for some hardscrabble pigskin in this final hootenanny.
After a nutty season, it all comes down to this for new #24 Virginia Tech (8-3) at Virginia (8-3) in their Storied Rivalry match for the Commonwealth Cup. The odds are close and hedgy, Hokies giving 2.5 to the ‘Hoos. Sure, we’d rather be in Blacksburg, but it’s not like you have to mess with a lot of traffic lights getting to Charlottesville, if you take the right route. Winner will wear the ACC Coastal crown and face Clemson for the conference championship.
It’s week 14 and Nevada finally has a reason to live. We’re proud as heck of the Pack for knocking off Fresno State last week to surge to 7-4, but on Saturday it’s back out on their home turf in Mackay to meet pus-encrusted UNLV with a lupine growl and sharp teeth.
We’re still disgusted to have to mention that the Fremont Cannon, widely known as the best Storied Rivalry trophy in college ball, turned red after last year’s game. It’s not a minute too soon for that unsatisfactory situation to be adjusted. Fortunately, bedbug-scratching UNLV is 3-8 and Nevada’s play is on the upswing, so we expect to see the Cannon, all 545 pounds of it, decked out in proper blue again in short order. The Wolf Pack is favored by 7, and the massive winter storm sweeping through the central Sierra over Thanksgiving should be well east of Reno by game time. But temps will be in the teens.
New #2 (meh) LSU sails into week 14 11-0, the Boot safely retained in an undisclosed location, and ready to take on Storied Rival Texas A&M (7-4) in a freak rivalry that long predates A&M’s move to the SEC, and since 1899 has almost never been based on being in the same conference. Personally, we think A&M has a thing for Baton Rouge.
At any rate, the LSU give is 17 at home. LSU may want to put in overtime this week to regain the CFP pole position. But saving that effort for the preordained SEC title match with #4 Georgia is the better bet. Ohio State will probably get a workout from Michigan, but will play either #8 Minnesota or #12 Wisconsin for the Big 10 title, and thus won’t have the same opportunity LSU does to show top chops with the conference victory. Plus, Coach O’s priority has to be risk-balancing: keeping Burrow, his O-line, and a tide-watching D healthy.
Kansas State (7-4) will be doing it right on Saturday, hosting #23 Iowa State (7-4) instead of getting suckered into being hosted, for the Farmageddon Storied Rivalry between the two land-grant universities. Played annually since 1917, this one will be in its 103rd meeting, although it wasn’t particularly celebrated (or christened Farmageddon) until about a decade ago. Let’s face it, Kansas sucks as a football rival, and both teams needed a kick-in-the-pants rivalry to liven up the Big 12’s northern contingent. The good news: it’s a good fit.
The Cyclones are snuggled up just under OK-State for the better-quality bowl bids, both being 5-3 conference, and will be looking to keep their perch. But Kansas State, 4-4 conference, could make a nice bowl-wise move with a rousing win. ISU gives 4.5.
TCU is 5-6 after the hard-fought loss to Oklahoma, and still in the hunt for bowl eligibility as West Virginia (4-7), pride of the Big 12, heads into town on Friday. The oddsquad duly takes note, and has the Frogs favored by 12.5 in the Fort.
Toledo’s role on Friday is as potential spoiler for Central Michigan (7-4), which hosts the 6-5 Rockets and is still in the running for the MAC-West title. Western Michigan lost to Northern Illinois Tuesday night, and the Chippewas can thus seal the MAC-West deal by beating Toledo on Friday.
On the other hand, a CMU loss to Toledo would hand the MAC-West title to WMU, even with the WMU loss to NIU.
Whoever nails the MAC-West will play Miami (OH) for the MAC crown.
The bettors have stopped hiding in the bathroom, and have CMU favored by 10.
The rivalries abound at every level, of course.
#1 (meh, part deux) Ohio State will be giving 8.5 to #13 Michigan, and that may even tighten if there are any sightings of Harbaugh being chased around Ann Arbor with an electric cattle prod. Beats us why the Blue Patrons don’t just buy a meat-eating offensive coaching staff and gently advise Harbaugh he needs to let them do their job. It’s not like they aren’t swimming in lard up there in the Great Northern Football Program. They brought in Gattis at OC this year, but I’m not really seeing much of a difference.
At any rate, the Big Game is always eye-worthy, and always, always a reminder of the great stories and showdowns of yesteryear.
#3 Clemson has the week off. No, wait, that was last week. Technically, #3 Clemson will be at South Carolina (motto: The Other USC) for their Storied Rivalry meet, AKA the Palmetto Bowl. No one’s expecting a whole heck of a lot from the 4-7 Gamecocks, currently accounted a 25-point dog by the oddsdudes. But a rivalry weekend is a rivalry weekend.
#4 Georgia will be at Georgia Tech (3-8) on Saturday for “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate” and the Governor’s Cup. Georgia Tech has been something of a head-scratcher this year, managing wins over Miami (Da U), NC State (motto: “They have a football team?), and South Florida, but also managing to lose to the Citadel in overtime. Not surprisingly, the Bulldogs are giving 28 in this one. They may be a bit distracted with LSU coming up in the SEC championship match the following week, but GT hasn’t been able to start any fires this season.
#5 Alabama goes visiting for the Iron Bowl with #15 Auburn this year. The Tide will be facing the Auburn D without Tua, although the 12.5 spread in ‘Bama’s favor doesn’t seem to reflect that as much of a factor. The oddsbubbas may be eyeing the supposition that Saban’s squad needs to make the best case it can for hopping Georgia after an LSU victory in the SEC title match (we’ll just leave the alternate possibility of an LSU loss lying there, because all it does is it chase itself in circles for an hour and then collapse panting and sweating. We’ll cross that bridge if we come to it).
#6 Utah hosts Colorado (motto: “We take a pounding!”) for their Storied Rivalry, the Rumble in the Rockies, in the marquee slot on ABC Saturday evening. A Utah win puts the Youths in the PAC-12 championship game with Oregon. A loss, and new #22 USC plays Oregon. The PAC-12 title game will, of course, be in the Tiny Stadium (Levi’s) in Santa Clara, so Trojan fans may need to take their anxiety pills now, just in case.
#8 Minnesota hosts #12 Wisconsin in the Storied Rivalry for that admirable trophy, Paul Bunyan’s Axe. Around here we think of it as Axe Actual, because that thing is really, you know, an axe, as opposed to an undersized axe fragment safety mounted and chanted over with Greek choruses and whatnot.
This one should actually be a whale of a game too, which not all of the rivalry games promise to be. The visiting Badgers have the odds nod by 2.5; the weather is expected to be football-perfect in Minneapolis, with a winter mix of snow and sleet and temps around freezing.
New #9 Baylor almost looks like they were moved up 5 FREAKING SLOTS so that Oklahoma would get more CFP cred for beating them next week, and no, I didn’t just say that. But seriously, the 24-10 win over de-ranked Texas last week wasn’t that impressive. Whassa-frazza? Well; as mentioned above, they’re playing Kansas, in Lawrence, on Saturday, and giving 14. Which ought to be more if the Bears are really #9. C’mon man.
#10 Penn State bucks every trend and just hosts Rutgers on Saturday, giving 40.5.
Best of the rest
The rest are expected to keep us well entertained this week, starting on Thursday evening with Ole Miss (4-7) at Mississippi State (5-6) in their Storied Rivalry clash, the Egg Bowl. It’s the 116th meeting of this ancient and noble rivalry, and with neither ranked and both playing at a pretty similar level, the oddsquad has the Bulldogs favored by only 2.5.
Texas Tech (4-7) will be at Texas (6-5) Friday morning to scrap over the Chancellor’s Spurs, and although we can hardly think of anything the Red Raiders need more than a pair of quality spurs, we’re with the oddsdudes on this one. They have the ‘Horns giving 10. Maybe we wouldn’t quite take the points. Both teams are inconsistent on offense, as Big 12 clubs go.
#17 Iowa will be at Nebraska on Friday to fight for the humbly-named Heroes Trophy. These days it’s kind of embarrassing how many Storied Rivalries Nebraska has – don’t tell me I have to explain that point – but we’re sure better days are ahead for the 5-6 Huskers’ program. Hawkeyes (8-3) are donating 5.5.
With only 10 meets since 1906, Mizzou (5-6) at Arkansas (2-9) on Friday for the Battle Line Trophy isn’t what you’d call a Many-Storied Rivalry. But hey. At least the trophy, dating to 2014, looks like a franchise auto-shop logo. (We love that, in the good way. It’s a feature not a bug.)
— Mizzou Football (@MizzouFootball) November 28, 2014
The Tigers are favored by 12.
Washington State and Washington are both 6-5, meeting in the Huskies’ house on Friday for the Apple Cup. They’re getting a lot of precip at the moment, but it should be cleared out by game time. You might hope the Apple Cup may be full of apples, as with the totally awesome Idaho Potato Bowl trophy and its starchy tuberous root crop – but no. Content you with a stylized brass something-or-other soaring from the top of a garden-variety trophy base. Another tip missed. Huskies give 7.
South Florida at Central Florida for the War on I-4 rounds us off on Friday night, with the 8-3 UCF Golden Knights giving 23.5 to the 4-7 Bulls. So this Storied Rivalry only goes back to 2005; you got a problem with that? From a former Tampa-dweller and Bull-booster: Go Bulls!!
And now we’re talking: it’s Saturday, and finally, finally, Indiana will be at Purdue for that Rivalry of Story and Song, the battle for the Old Oaken Bucket.
Sing out, sports fans:
Enjoy a more complete version, recorded much more recently:
Or get a load of a Terry Toon from 1941:
— The Old Oaken Bucket (@TheOakenBucket) November 27, 2019
The 7-4 Hoosiers are favored by 6.5 over the 4-7 Boilermakers. We just love our annual version of a Bucket List. Rivalry Madness rocks.
Next up, Louisville (7-4) visits Kentucky (6-5) to battle for the Governor’s Cup, Wildcats giving 2.5.
Northwestern (2-9) will be at Illinois (6-5) to duke it out for the Land of Lincoln Trophy, one of our all-time favorites. It still needs more bows; we’re hard over on that. But it gets two enthusiastic thumbs up for the Trophy Hall of Fame. The Fighting Illini are donating 8.5.
We’d never cheat you and forget Middle Tennessee (4-7) at Western Kentucky (7-4) for their 100 Miles of Hate match. It goes back to 1914, which we’re just saying is the year the Great War started. The WKU Hilltoppers are giving 8.5 to the Blue Raiders.
Scrolling into the later afternoon, 3-8 Vanderbilt will be at 6-5 Tennessee, the Vols giving 21 in a Storied Rivalry that goes back to 1892.
The #16 Arsh have an uncharacteristic flyer with Fox for their Storied Rivalry meet with 4-7 Stanford. Neither is in the running for anything much this year, but we are relieved to remind you that there are no garish shillelaghs and no axe parts involved in this one. Just a tasteful cut-crystal cup on a wooden base, dubbed the Legends Trophy. Which is entirely their problem, not ours. Might be a good excuse to take a nap while pretending to watch football; the line has Notre Dame giving 16.5.
That said, there’s always new #14 Oregon (Situation corrected; motto in storage) hosting Storied Rival Oregon State (5-6) in the duke-out for the plaque-mounted platypus. Why the platypus had to take precedence over something more like a beaver has never been clear, but the difficulty of finding a handy McDonald’s in Eugene seems to explain a lot. You should be able to just get off the Interstate and have a McDonald’s right there at least a couple of times in a city the size of Eugene – this being America, after all. But no. Weirdos.
Anyway, here’s the platypus. The newly abashed Ducks are donating 19.
Saturday evening North Carolina (5-6) heads to NC State (4-7; motto: “They have a football team?”) for their 125-year-old Storied Rivalry. The Tar Heels are favored by 9.
Florida State comes 6-5 to the Sunshine Showdown with #11 Florida (9-2), unfolding in Gainesville Saturday night for the Florida Cup. This rivalry’s got more stories than a water buffalo has flies, but 2019 probably isn’t the year we’ll see another really big one added. At any rate, the Gators are donating 17.5 to the cause.
Arizona (4-7) will play Arizona State (6-5) Saturday night as well, slugging it out for the Territorial Cup in a match they now call the Duel in the Desert. What we love about the Territorial Cup is that, after it was won by the (then) Normal School – later ASU – in 1899, it went missing for 81 years, until it was found in the basement of a nearby church in 1980. That’s so cool we can’t stand it, so we forgive Arizona for coming up with that silly “Duel in the Desert” business. I mean, “For a Few Dollars More,” maybe, or something classy like that.
Tempe, Arizona. Home of the Territorial Cup. 1095 days and counting. GO DEVILS!!! pic.twitter.com/lnuKu0dBfZ
— Tom Swaninger (@swan2az) November 26, 2019
Sun Devils are favored by 14.
You know we wouldn’t neglect Fresno State and San Jose State, both 4-7, meeting head to head to decide the Valley Cup, with the Bulldogs giving 7.
Nor, pointless as it is, would we deprive you of Cal (6-5) at UCLA (4-7), hauling up the rear in the Rose Bowl Saturday night, where the rain should have blown itself out by then, and the Bruins will be giving 1.5.
We have one LU fave team in post-season action this year, Div II’s Slippery Rock, which ran the table on the season and bears off the PSAC crown. Slippery Rock plays Shepherd (of Shepherdstown, WV) on Saturday at 1 PM Eastern in Round 2 of the Div II tournament. The Rock hosts in Slippery Rock, PA; thick, front-rolling-in cloud cover and 30s for the kickoff.