BLITZING SEVEN: WHAT REALLY DIVIDES OUR NATION THIS THANKSGIVING WEEKEND
1. A House Divided For Thanksgiving: Around the Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing many families avoided talking politics…..but if you really want to see divisiveness that will tear a family apart college football's season-ending rivalries are your best ticket. The more heated rivalries can draw fault lines in mixed families on a topic where there is not, nor will there ever be common ground. If you are an Alabama fan who married into an Auburn family……good luck. Here are the best of the games this jam-packed weekend.
2. In-Conference and In-State: The Top of this list is #1 Alabama at #6 Auburn, also known as the Iron Bowl. This year it is a game for the SEC West Title with both teams in playoff contention. Of note in this rivalry is of the 81 games already played 53 were played in Birmingham and 4 in Montgomery before settling into the current on-campus pattern. The game wasn’t played at Auburn until 1989 (only 13 of them have been played there and only 11 in Tuscaloosa). Auburn is playing their best football right now and owns an 8-5 advantage in Iron Bowl games played on their campus. Expect a real challenge for the Tide who will see the best rushing attack they’ve faced so far.
3. In-Conference Border Wars: The Top of this list is #9 Ohio State at Michigan. This game is so big that when the Big 10 first split into divisions (remember the Leaders and Legends Divisions?) the first consideration was what to do with the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry. Both teams focus on this game year round and neither team’s coach will utter the other school’s name (Ohio vs The Team Up North). Both schools have year-round countdown clocks to the game. With Michigan’s disappointing 8-3 record a win Saturday would quiet the Harbaugh doubters in Ann Arbor and be a great building block for next year.
4. In-Conference and In-State Games: #17 Washington and #13 Washington State will play for the Apple Cup which is slightly less important than Wazzu's chance to play in the Pac-12 Championship game next week. The Indiana-Purdue rivalry is much stronger in basketball but these football teams battle each year for the Old Oaken Bucket. Last night Ole Miss took home the Egg Bowl with a win over Mississippi State. Oregon and Oregon State will play in the Civil War, while Virginia fans and students will always look down their noses at what they perceive to be their less refined foes at Virginia Tech.
5. The Oldest Trophy May Surprise You: For all the old Big Ten Trophy games, the oldest Trophy game prize in all of college football is The Territorial Cup which goes to the winner of the Arizona-Arizona State game. The trophy began in 1899 before Arizona was even a state (hence the name). While it isn’t as exciting a trophy as an Ax, a Pig, a bull or Paul Bunyan it has the longest history of them all. Arizona’s QB Khalil Tate and his explosive running could help Arizona retain possession of the Cup for another year.
6. Breaking a Tie After 126 years: #5 Wisconsin plays Minnesota in another in-conference border war. The Badgers can do four things in this game. They keep their playoff hopes alive with a win and they can go to 12-0 for the first time in school history. They can retain possession of Paul Bunyan’s ax with a 14th straight win in the series. Finally in the 127th meeting in a series that began in 1890, with a win Wisconsin will take a 60-59-8 series lead, the first time they have ever lead this series. Expect Wisconsin to roll.
7. In-State and Non-Conference: No one has done a better job of retaining the end of season non-conference rivalries than the SEC and the ACC. Because they only play eight conference games, these leagues have set up an exciting weekend of football. #3 Clemson plays #24 South Carolina, Florida plays Florida State, #7 Georgia plays Georgia Tech and Kentucky plays Louisville. Normally the Florida-Florida State game would be the top draw but with #7 Georgia and #3 Clemson in the playoff hunt their in-state rivals have a chance to really spoil those seasons. Maybe the Big Ten and Big Twelve will catch on, move to 8 conference games and allow some old rivalries to return the last week of the season. It would be fun to see Texas-Texas A&M, Oklahoma-Nebraska and Penn State-Pitt return as season-ending rivalries.