There is no such thing as an unimportant game when it comes to college football’s most outstanding rivalries. This season, “Rivalry Week” will add the final chapter to the 2012 season and has rendered the entirety of the 2012 season irrelevant. It no longer matters that Notre Dame throttled Oklahoma in Norman in week 8. Alabama’s loss to Texas A&M is a non-factor. Ohio State can ignore the 11-0 start to the Urban Meyer era. Georgia, Florida, Oregon, and Florida State can forget about their one defeats. There is only one game which matters for each of these teams and it is against their rivals.
#19 Michigan at Ohio State…”The Game”
What does this game matter to the nation at large? Very little. No National Title implications and not even a BCS Bowl to be affected. “The Game”, however, still has extreme value for the Michigan and Ohio State faithful…not to mention a large chunk of the nation which are inflicted with excitement for what has been voted as North America’s best sports rivalry. No matter what the records of the teams or the consequences of the result, Ohio State and Michigan garners national attention. Perhaps the most interesting storyline is the possibility of Ohio State being the nation’s only undefeated team in 2012. While a #1 ranking in the AP poll is nearly impossible, the Bucks could cause a raucous when the culminates should a 12-0 mark be accomplished. Also, it would cap a terrific start to the Urban Meyer era as the coach would take his position as the alpha male of the Big Ten before his compatriots could blink. Nonetheless, just as badly as Ohio State wants to have all these ends be met, Michigan wants nothing more than to make it 2 in a row against the Buckeyes who dominated the early 2000’s. Michigan had the last laugh with a BCS victory last year in the Sugar Bowl, but this year the Wolverines won’t be sniffing BCS competition. Beating its hated rival is the only motivation for the “Team Up North”, but as we saw with the staggering Buckeyes last year, that can be enough motivation to make the game awfully close.
#5 Oregon at #15 Oregon State…”The Civil War”
The beavers have flown under the radar better than many teams in recent history. The beavers have only lost to two opponents, but those two Pac-12 losses cost them any hope of a berth in the Pac-12 Championship and thus have left the beavers completely disregarded by the media. Oregon State defeated Wisconsin and Arizona in Corvallis and traveled to So. Cal and was victorious against Pac-12 South champ UCLA. Now, the beavers have the opportunity to perhaps squeeze a surprise BCS bid out of the season and/or spoil the season for their most hated rival. One of college footballs least respected in-state clashes, the “Civil War”was first played in 1894 and is the nation’s seventh oldest rivalry. Oregon has won the last 4 meetings, but Oregon State is undefeated this season at home. It’s no gimme for the Ducks, and a loss costs them a BCS opportunity. Oregon needs uber help to sneak into the BCS National Title game, but have to first take care of its own business. Oregon’s 10-1 record is null and void. Its season comes down to playing its oldest rival and a team with more than enough motivation to not only bolster its own BCS hopes (as slim as they may be), but also ruin what just a week ago appeared to be a Championship year for Oregon.
#4 Florida at #10 Florida State…
You’re probably wondering, but no this game has no nickname which is a shame. Only being played since 1958, the rivalry picked up steam with the rise of the Florida State program in the early Bobby Bowden years and became a college football fixture with the match ups between the coaching legends Bowden and Steve Spurrier. Since the ever memorable “Swindle in the Swamp” during the 2003 season, the games have lost the jazz which fueled the rivalry in the 1990’s. Florida dominated from 2004-2009 and two bad Florida teams in 2010 and 2011 allowed the Seminoles to exact revenge. This season, National Title hopes are on the line for both schools. While Florida State is ranked behind quite a number of teams, a win should catapult the one loss club ahead of two loss teams Texas A&M, Stanford, and LSU. Jumping Kansas State, a loser to sub-.500 Baylor, is no stretch. Florida would drop below the Seminoles after a FSU win. Eventually, Georgia or Alabama would have to lose. All Florida State would need, if they win, is an upset of either Georgia or Bama this week and the other winning the SEC title game, or a USC upset of Notre Dame….too far-fetched? Not in the least. The Gators, on the other hand, have a fantastic chance of slipping, undeservingly, into the title game. After the SEC title game, Florida would be BCS #3 at the lowest. A loss by two of the three teams ranked ahead of them (Georgia, Bama, Notre Dame) launches Florida into the title game…of course they need to take care of business in Tallahassee. Awesome to see the higher ranked teams having to prove themselves on the road in hostile environments.
Georgia Tech at #3 Georgia…”Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate”
I love the name of this rivalry, it nearly brings a tear to my eye to see something so masterfully crafted as a great rivalry name. This year, “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate” will mean a little more than it’s recent nonchalant battles. Georgia has won 10 of the 11 games since current head coach Mark Richt first donned his headset. While Ga-Tech is not exactly a considered one of the nation’s finest teams this year, expect the Bulldogs to have quite a nasty time with the Yellow Jackets. Ga-Tech has the 16th best scoring offense and whenever the triple-option is involved there is no questioning that the outcome of the game is…well…questionable. Since taking over, Paul Johnson’s option attack has kept the Yellow Jackets as one of the top notch rushing teams in college football. Johnson is 40-23 since arriving to coach the Ramblin’ Wreck. He has been to a BCS contest and already won the ACC Coastal 3 times (2008, 2009, 2012). Don’t expect Georgia to roll (but of course don’t be surprised if they do). The triple option can be a gigantic asset or a huge detriment to an effort. Big plays are realistic on every snap….but so is a turnover. Georgia Tech has nothing to lost (the only chance of making a BCS game rests in the ACC Championship game against Florida State) and should play with reckless abandon versus its hated rival.
Auburn at #2 Alabama…”The Iron Bowl”
It’s been an embarrassing year for Gene Chizik and Auburn. The Tigers are an abysmal 3-8 and have not won a single SEC game. Just to state a fact, Auburn has never gone 0-8 in SEC play, but it will take a win against what people have called the best team in the country since Bama’s rampage against Michigan week 1. Even the Tide’s loss to Johnny Football hasn’t slowed people’s talk of how much better Bama is than the competition featured in this year’s college football. It’s hard to imagine Auburn was the Nation’s best team just two seasons ago. What’s left for a team that needed overtime to beat UL Monroe and has only defeated New Mexico State and Alabama A&M? How about terminating Alabama’s National Title chances and knocking the Tide from a BCS bowl altogether? All the Tigers would need (assuming a win) is a Florida victory against Florida State and Bama would be on the outside looking in. Bama would concede the SEC Championship bid to LSU or Texas A&M if those two pigskin competitors won. It’s the only way for Auburn to have anything to hang its hat on. The Tigers have been the laughing stock of the SEC. They took that title away from Arkansas when they were defeated 24-7 by the Hogs who had started the year 1-4. Alabama may have the least likely chance of losing of every team on this list (based on Auburn’s track record this season and the skill on the field), but never sleep on a rival.
#1 Notre Dame at Southern California…
It’s doubtful anyone expected USC to be unranked when they met Notre Dame this season. The only bigger surprise is Notre Dame’s #1 standing in the BCS. Usually the Irish can find only critics when it comes to strength of schedule, but this season the Golden Domers went balls to the walls and formulated one of the nation’s toughest slates. Certainly the sweep of the rivals Michigan and Michigan State looks less impressive than preseason expectations, but wins in Norman Oklahoma and at home against Stanford are the true crowning achievements for the Irish. Notre Dame mauled the Sooners in what looked to be one of the most over-hyped games this season. Ironically, the Sooners were favored in the game by more than a single touchdown. If there is one worry Notre must have when they face USC, its the Irish’s 80th ranked offense. To think of a Brian Kelly coached team having to rely on defense seems a bit ridiculous, but with the #1 scoring defense in the country the Irish rest heavily on the defensive unit. Should-be Heisman front-runner Manti Te’o is the unquestioned emotional, physical, and mental leader of this top unit. It looked to be a bout made in heaven with likely top overall pick Matt Barkley facing Notre Dame’s defense, but Barkley has been ruled out and redshirt freshman Max Wittek will get the start. Wittek guaranteed a win earlier in the week. Honestly, it was a no lose prediction by the freshman. Some may say it will motivate the Notre Dame defense to get more aggressive toward the QB, but if Notre Dame thinks too much about silencing Wittek, it may forget about Silas Redd, Marquise Lee, and the rest of USC dominant play makers. While USC is a disappointing 7-4, Notre Dame would be foolish to assume itself the better team when the players take the field Saturday. USC was ranked preseason #1 for a reason: because the Trojans are wickedly talented and have the ability to beat anyone.