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4 Down Territory: Rivalry Week Hates/Heats Up, Big Playoff Games & Much More....

The SEC vs The Alliance: After an 8-week hiatus the SEC returns to non-conference games versus teams from “The Alliance.” For those who’ve already forgotten about “The Alliance” that was the working agreement between the Pac-12, ACC and the Big Ten to form an alliance as a counterbalance to the SEC after that league added Texas and Oklahoma. Through the first 4 weeks the SEC and “The Alliance” split ten match-ups 5 games each. This week four in-state rivalry games are on tap between the SEC and “The Alliance”: Clemson at South Carolina, Kentucky at Louisville, Georgia at Georgia Tech and Florida State at Florida. Sure wish the Big Ten would allow Iowa to play Iowa State and Penn State to play Pitt on the last week of the season……

First Down: Rivalry Week Hates Up: THURSDAY #9 Ole Miss at Mississippi State: This is one game where the players could walk off the field and people would still tune in to listen to two of college football’s most entertaining coaches. While Ole Miss QB Matt Corral is well known nationally, Mississippi State QB Will Rogers never met a pass he didn’t like, throwing 572 passes for over 4,100 yards. The MSU Air Raid will need to put points up to keep up with Ole Miss and win the Egg Bowl…..#1 Georgia at Georgia Tech: Notre Dame blew the doors off the Ramblin’ Wreck last week and this Georgia defense is not likely to yield many (if any) points. The Bulldogs will be making the first of two consecutive short drives over to Atlanta where they hope to paint the town Red (and Black) twice to clinch the #1 seed in the College Football playoff. The Georgia defense is a vision of terrifying efficiency, the kind of defense that makes opposing offenses say “ouch.”…….#3 Alabama at Auburn: Auburn QB Bo Nix is out for the year so the burden has fallen on T.J. Finley who was solid but against South Carolina. Solid will not get it done versus Alabama. As for the Tide, they took everything Arkansas could throw at them last week and emerged with the win. Auburn will rely on the run and if Alabama con control that they will be in good shape. The key here will be to avoid costly mistakes that keep Auburn in the game and open the door for another crazy Iron Bowl finish.

Second Down: Black Friday Specials (All Games In This Section are Friday Specials): #16 Iowa at Nebraska: The Huskers have had a whole lot of close calls against really good teams. If they can keep playing solid defense and avoid the turnovers that Iowa craves they may get over the hump and steal this one—but they’ll have to do it without their starting QB Adrian Martinez…..#4 Cincinnati at East Carolina: While no one will confuse ECU with a solid SEC team, the Pirates have won four in a row and have a solid offense that racks up yardage but not as many points……Colorado at #19 Utah: Utah ended the Pac-12’s playoff hopes last week with a smothering defense against Oregon. Given the offensive troubles that CU has had, don’t expect that to change this week…..UNC at #20 NC State: UNC QB Sam Howell was out for the home finale against Wofford. If he returns and plays to the level he showed versus Wake Forest, the Tarheels could pull the upset….Washington State at Washington: Both teams are unranked and have interim head coaches for this Apple Cup game. BUT WSU still has an outside shot at the Pac 12 North Division title and a spot in the Pac 12 Title game…..Kansas State at Texas: The Horns are in freefall in a bizarre season that has seen them go from a 38-20 halftime lead against Oklahoma into a 6-game losing streak and an off-field storyline involving a monkey. A win here would start the rebuilding process at UT, but Kansas State comes into this one as the clearly better team across the board…..Boise State at #21 San Diego State: This is a dangerous game for SDSU. Boise took Oklahoma State to the wire and has a win over BYU. SDSU needs a win to ensure they make the Mountain West title game because Fresno State beat them head to head and would get in with a win over San Jose State and a stumble by the Aztecs.

Third Down: Tying Up Loose Ends: Oregon State at #11 Oregon: If Oregon wins they are in. If they lose then the Apple Cup game factors into a potential three-way division title. Oregon is 6-0 at home and Coach Mario Cristobal will certainly want to see physical play up front on both sides of the ball to win “The Civil War”……..#14 Wisconsin at Minnesota: Paul Bunyan’s Ax is up for grabs in this rivalry game, and for Wisconsin so is the Big Ten West title. With Iowa playing on Friday the Badgers will know exactly what they will need to do to avoid a three-way tie atop the Division. The Badgers have found their running back and regained their punishing ground game. Minnesota’s promising start to the season hit some roadblocks with injuries at running back. Gopher QB Tanner Morgan will need to play a great game against an excellent Badger defense….. #18 Wake Forest at Boston College: Wake Forest suddenly finds itself in a must-win game to get to the ACC title game. If they lose then Clemson goes. BC started the season 4-0 before hitting conference play where they’ve lost 5 of 7 games. They’ve played solid defense in those games but Wake presents the best offense the Eagles will face all year……#17 Pitt at Syracuse: Syracuse likes to run the ball and Pat Narduzzi’s defense is set up to make teams throw the ball. If that happens then Pitt should walk out of the dome with their first 10-win season since 2009…..

Fourth Down: Three More Season-Enders: Penn State at #12 Michigan State: The Land Grant Trophy is up for grabs when these two teams meet. While the trophy may be ugly, some of the games have been classics. The question is if Penn State can protect their QB well enough against an active MSU pass rush to get the ball downfield to exploit the Spartans’ permissive pass defense. When the Spartans are on offense they have a veteran o-line (25 combined years and 124 starts) that should be able to move Penn State’s defensive line. The pressure will be on the PSU linebackers to contend with RB Kenneth Walker while also having to help in coverage versus one of the best WR/Tight Ends combos in the Big Ten…….#10 Oklahoma at #7 Oklahoma State: For those espousing an 8 or 12-team playoff these late season games serve as play-in games for the time being. Both of these teams are in the playoff hunt but one of the two must sweep this game and a potential rematch a week later in the Big 12 title game. OSU’s defense is quietly playing at a very high level right now yielding just 23 points during their current 4-game win streak. But OU QB Caleb Williams and the Sooners’ offense are a far bigger challenge that what they’ve faced those four weeks. As for OSU’s offense they have a very balanced pass to run attack that could keep the Sooners’ defense off balance………#2 Ohio State at #6 Michigan: Michigan’s 2021 approach to defense sets up better against the Buckeyes than it has in several years. And these are the two best pass rushers OSU has faced all year (note: Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux did not play vs OSU). If they can pressure CJ Stroud without blitzing that gives this defense a chance. On offense Michigan has put together a legitimate passing attack to go with their power running game. Hassan Haskins has emerged as the type of back that can punish defenses. If the Michigan front can open holes to run, that puts the OSU LBs in a bind when the Wolverines call the play-action pass game. After the MSU loss Michigan upped their focus on getting touchdowns instead of field goals in the Red Zone and it has paid off. OSU has struggled to defend the red zone this year. This one could come down to which defense can handle the other team's balanced attacks and perhaps grab a turnover or two.

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