Rivalry Madness is upon us, and as I type, Fresno State (-7) is already up 7-3 on Storied Rival San Jose State in their duel for the Valley Cup. (The Bulldogs won 40-9.)
The action gets hot and heavy on Friday, including our own TCU and Air Force (which we’ll cover below). A slew of games spread out across the holiday weekend, giving practically everyone in FBS a chance at national coverage.
Stay with us for the previews, the lore, and the Brilliant Insights. Bring popcorn. Bring your Corn Pop stories, if you must.
The University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane, which beat Notre Dame 28-27 on 30 October 2010, has what we call a Lurking Rivalry with Southern Methodist: a rivalry well-known to the two schools, but not officially (or officiously; either one) registered with the keepers of the Storied Rivalry books. No thrift-mart loot changes hands either.
Tulsa will be at SMU Saturday afternoon for the final game of the season, which is also 5-6 TU’s last shot at bowl eligibility. Both teams are 4-3 conference, but SMU is 8-3 overall and favored by 6.5. The Mustangs haven’t had nearly the offensive problems TU has had this season with ball-dropping and general ball discipline. Roar, Hurricane, roar! One more time!
New #10 Oklahoma meets new #7 Oklahoma State in Stillwater in the marquee slot Saturday evening, for what should be an absolute whale of a Storied Rivalry game. Ohio State-Michigan obviously has even greater portent for the Final Four, and should be an entertaining game in its own right, but the oddsquad has the distinction in clear view: OK State is giving 4, whereas Ohio State is giving 8. We can see the Buckeyes winning by more like 11, if they’re banging on all cylinders. The Wolverines just don’t have the offense.
OU-OSU should be close. The 51 exit off I-35 will be a parking lot. Gas stations on 177 will get revenue-healthy for the entire year. Fireworks, stick-thumping, pot-clanging, ponies neighing, gunshots cracking, oil derricks spouting skyward, mass vermin stampedes, lots of screaming, oh, the humanity – it’ll be…BEDLAMMMM!!!!!!! There’s a victory bell involved. Whatever. Ever’body and him dog got a bell.
Navy heads to Temple on Saturday sporting a 2-8 record and a give of 12.5, because the 3-8 Owls really are that bad. Go Mids! Countdown underway to The Game on 11 December.
Army is 7-3 and heading to Liberty (7-4) on Saturday for the last game before Navy. The Flames are giving 3.5, and they’re definitely not half bad this year. The Black Knights have their work cut out for them.
Air Force is 8-3, headed for bowl glory, hosting scabies-ridden UNLV on Friday afternoon (calendars, people), and donating 18 to the cause.
Virginia Tech is 5-6 after the annoying loss to Miami (Da U), and of course heads down the scenic byways for its Storied Rivalry clash with 6-5 Virginia on Saturday. The Yahoos haven’t been a total joke this fall, but they do tend to seize up in the clutch, so we’re hopeful that the Hokies can just stare the 7-point deficit down and get to the Magic 6 already. The two Virginia teams fight this one for the Commonwealth Cup, which is fine as it’s just a garden-variety, unpretentious trophy cup. Not everyone can have a Storied Rivalry trophy that got lost in a closet for years, or one featuring a sculpture of a Hawaiian cowboy. (And if you don’t have a 500-plus-pound Real Cannon, you should probably just go the conventional route anyway.)
Nevada is 7-4 and nicely positioned to entertain bowl bids, but we’d admire to see the Wolf Pack finish it off at Colorado State with a win on Saturday night. The Rams are 3-8 and Nevada’s giving 4 in Fort Collins, so we’re hopeful, even if QB Carson Strong was looking a little shaky on his pins last week. A rare non-rivalry match this weekend, but one Nevada can win. Go Pack!
LSU, 5-6, will be hosting 8-3 #15 Texas A&M for their semi-Storied Rivalry on Saturday, and trying to surge to 6-6 and the bowl cutoff. It’s been a tough year absolutely stuffed with Learning Opportunities, including the always-enlivening challenge of continuing to play under a head coach who’s been given his papers. Speaking of which, Aranda’s name is naturally being widely bruited for the Orgeron replacement hunt, although we hear Baylor will throw a big wad of cash at him to keep him around. But the sportsbabblers are also saying “Lane Kiffin” over and over again, which we think is a crock, but also causes us to go “BWAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!”
Aggies give 6.5 (but they’re not giving Jimbo Fisher, so there). Geaux Tigers!
TCU is at Iowa State on Friday (flag on calendars), seeking to end the season 6-6 after edging out Kansas (motto: “What difference, at this point, does it make?”) 31-28 last week. ISU is already 6-5 and may not be quite as motivated as the Frogs, or at least as motivated as necessary to cover its 15-point give. But it’s tough beating the Cyclones in Ames. Go Frogs!
Toledo heads for the finish line 6-5 and hosting 2-9 Akron bright and early Saturday. The Rocket give is 28.5, and we should certainly hope so, although that’s a heck of a cover even when facing the Zips. We have every hope Toledo will wind up 7-5 and besieged with bowl bids. Go Rockets!
Wyoming is bowl eligible and Rifle-rich at 6-5, off the Storied Rivalry win over Utah State last week (which was downright fun. We love it when Wyoming or Nevada is playing in the evening, Mountain/Pacific time, and there’s no viewing competition for their games). The final whistle stop is Laramie Central, hosting 5-7 Hawaii for their Storied Rivalry showdown featuring the world-renowned Paniolo Trophy.
This was one of those sad situations in which the original trophy was lost, as in never found again (we blame Hawaii, although for no particular reason), and a new one with a spiffy sculpture had to be commissioned when both teams ended up in the Mountain West in 2012. For some reason, no one ever loses those dozens of tedious bells infesting the Storied Rivalry trophy cases.
Wyoming is donating 10.5 at home. Go Pokes!
#1 Georgia gives 35 at Georgia Tech for their Storied Rivalry, and is likely to cover with a good 10 minutes to go in the first half.
New #2 Ohio State hits the turf at new #5 Michigan in their many-Storied Rivalry going back hundreds and hundreds of years (OK, 124 years as of Saturday, with 116 meetings prior to this one). This game is all about the football and the lore and the glory. No garage sales were scoured to come up with cutesy trophies.
If you weren’t around for Woody Hayes’ and Bo Schembechler’s concurrent decade, you ain’t. You just ain’t; that’s all. You’d probably have to look up when it was. (You might be the little pischers who vandalized the Schembechler statue on campus this week.)
This is Big X as Big X is supposed to be. The Buckeyes, as mentioned earlier, give 8.
#3 Alabama will be at Auburn (6-5) for their Storied Rivalry, the fabled Iron Bowl. This one has a trophy much geekier than you’d suspect on the face of it, commemorating Dean James E. Foy V (yes, “the fifth”) and Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK), the National Leadership Honor Society.
So, you know, good on ’em. It’s not a victory bell or an artfully distressed piece of random furniture. The odds are obviously lopsided, with the Tide favored by 19.5. We don’t see this one upsetting the Final Four apple cart – although we didn’t see Ole Miss coming either.
New #4 Cincinnati rounds its so-far perfect 11-0 season off at East Carolina, giving 14 to the purple Pirates.
New #6 Notre Dame meets 3-8 Stanford in the latter’s Left Coast lair for a Saturday night chapter in their Storied Rivalry. The Legends Trophy (yeah, we know) is wrought in crystal for that lace-curtain Irish effect, which at one time probably suited the Candy Pink as well.
Alert correspondents of the TOC Football Commentary Service will recognize that the Arsh are uncharacteristically playing both the Heathered Cerise and USC this year. It’s because of COVID and the travesty of 2020. Notre Dame is giving the popular 19.5 point donation.
New #8 Baylor entertains Texas Tech in Waco Saturday morning for another iteration of their low-key Storied Rivalry, which seems to have no drums, no trumpets, and no trophy.
Their game does have the excellent distinction of having been briefly called the Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Shootout when it was played at neutral sites – AT&T Stadium and the Cotton Bowl – at various times between 2009 and 2017. Just imagining a shootout involving a farm bureau insurance organization is keeping our brain-energy output pegged on max capacity. For the sake of Big 12 comity and, let’s face it, Oklahoma, we’d love to see the Red Raiders somehow pull this one out. But Baylor’s give of 14 is probably on target.
Ole Miss clocks in at #9 and heads to Mississippi State Thursday evening for their Storied Rivalry, the Egg Bowl (named not for the poultry product but for the trophy topped by a brass football. They’re nothing if not laconic jokesters in Mississippi). The trophy exists because Rebel fans were trying to tear the goalposts down after a win in 1926, and Mississippi State fans fought back until – reportedly – there were broken chairs all over the field. Hence, a brass football trophy. That sounds about right.
As befits a CFB&P in full Algorithm Capture, the unranked Bulldogs are giving 2.5 to the #9 Rebels. (Mississippi State is up 6-3 at the end of the 1Q. Oops; update: Rebels finally got a TD to make it 10-6 just before the half.)
Best of the rest
It’s rivalry week, so, you know. More games than usual are Best Of.
But first: you would totally think Boise State at #21 San Diego State would be a Storied Rivalry by now, but it’s not. It is, however, the last game of the season, and happens to be between the division leaders of the Mountain West. The teams have had their vulnerabilities this year, but it should be a pretty good game to kick off Friday with. Boys Estate is giving 3.
Elsewhere on Friday, #16 Iowa will be at Nebraska to play for the Heroes Trophy, which honors community heroes from the home states of both schools. Curiously enough, the oddsquad has the Huskers giving 1. LOL.
Missouri is at #25 Arkansas for the war of the Battle Line, in which the Hawgs are giving 14.5. We don’t like dumping on people’s trophies, which at a minimum are fine by us, but we do have to say that the Battle Line Trophy, an outline of Missouri perched above Arkansas, with no topographic features depicted, is no Golden Boot.
Friday also brings us the Rumble in the Rockies, featuring Colorado (motto: “We take a pounding!”) at #19 Utah (-23.5).
North Carolina will grapple with #20 N.C. State (motto: “They have a football team?”) in their Storied Rivalry going back to 1894, with the Wolfpack giving 6. (We’re not skipping trophies of interest here; there just aren’t any.)
And Washington State heads to Washington, both teams in a rankless, low-coaching condition, for the Storied Apple Cup Rivalry, which fittingly is practically a pick ’em. The Cougars are giving 1.
We would not, of course, neglect the Storied Rivalries of Eastern Michigan at Central Michigan (-8.5) and the War on I-4, between Central Florida and South Florida. The War on I-4 comes with a nifty trophy topper in the shape of an interstate highway sign, with the logos of each school on the opposite sides.
As you may imagine, UCF is giving 18.5. But go Bulls!
Saturday’s action doesn’t quit either. In the noon (Eastern) kickoff slot, fans will have to pick from among the Georgias, Ohio State-Michigan, Texas Tech-Baylor, and Florida State-Florida (the latter of which, granted, is mainly of interest to diehard alumni this year; Gators give 2).
Things turn drastic when Georgia Southern heads to Appalachian State for “Deeper than Hate,” which reminds us that it may be time for Georgia teams to seek some therapy. We’re just saying. The Mountaineers give 24.5 in that one.
That off-hour match starts at 2:30 PM Eastern, but never fear: clocking in at 3:30 PM Eastern is a trio of truly choice rivalries. The Iron Bowl’s been covered, but here again, fans will have to choose, because Oregon State will be at #11 Oregon, and Penn State at #12 Michigan State, both games being fought for some of our all-time favorite rivalry trophies.
We love the Platypus to death, but of course as connoisseurs of home décor, we think the Land Grant Trophy is even more to die from. We want one we can add a magazine bin to for the guest bathroom.
Oregon is favored by 7, and Penn State (go figure) by 1.5. Which goes to show you other folks have noticed that MSU should never have been in the top 10.
We wait all year for the next two, also hitting the 3:30 Eastern slot.
Northwestern is at Illinois (-6.5) playing for the Land of Lincoln Trophy, football’s tribute to fine haberdashery.
And the one we can’t live without: Indiana at Purdue (-16) for the Old Oaken Bucket!
Yes, we’re going to make you listen once again to Bing Crosby crooning “The Old Oaken Bucket”; handy lyrics included:
How dear to this heart are the scenes of my childhood,
When fond recollection recalls them to view;
The orchard, the meadow, the deep tangled wild wood,
And every lovd spot which my infancy knew
The wide spreading pond and the mill which stood by it.
The bridge and the rock where the cataract fell;
The cot of my father, the dary house nigh it,
The old oaken bucket the iron bound bucket,
The moss covered bucket, the moss covered bucket, the moss covered bucket that hung in the well.
That moss-covered vessel I hail as a treasure,
For often at noon, when returned from the field,
I found it the source of an exquisite pleasure,
The purest and sweetest that nature can yield,
How ardent I seized it, with hands that were glowing,
And quick to the white pebbled bottom it fell,
Then soon with the emblem of truth o’erflowing,
And dripping with coolness it rose from the well,
The old oaken bucket, the iron-bound bucket,
The moss-covered bucket arose from the well.
(Woodworth, Samuel, “The Old Oaken Bucket” (1834). Historic Sheet Music Collection. 1149.
A mere 15 minutes later you’ll have the Virginia Commonwealth game, featuring our own Virginia Tech, competing with Vanderbilt at Tennessee (-31.5), which understandably looks a bit lopsided.
But don’t despair. If none of these is your tipple, one of the all-time great Storied Rivalries – #14 Wisconsin at Minnesota – leads off the 4 PM Eastern/3 PM Central hour, as the Badgers and Golden Gophers bite and snarl for Paul Bunyan’s legendary Axe.
Wisconsin gives 7. And this axe, we always hasten to point out, is a real axe, not one of those tacky axe-heads safety-mounted on a board so as not to alarm the faculty lounge.
Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana (Lafayette; U-LA-LA) check in at the same time for their Storied Rivalry, the Battle of the Bayou, which is contested for the Wooden Boot (far less gaudy than the Golden Boot, but the food’s just as good). The Ragin’ Cajuns are donating 21.5. (We had a photo of the Wooden Boot at one time, but it seems to have disappeared into the ether-maw.)
And darned if Arizona at Arizona State don’t show up at the same hour to duke it out for the Territorial Cup, one of those unaccountably classy trophies no one can explain.
Their respective records (Arizona 1-10; ASU 7-4) do explain handily why the Sun Devils are giving 20.5.
Just when you think the overload is going to send you to the ER, #23 Clemson shows up at South Carolina (motto: The Other USC) for the evening match, in the guise of their Storied Rivalry the Palmetto Bowl. Sadly, after an uninterrupted run of meetings from 1909 to 2019, in a rivalry going back to 1896, the teams had to forgo their 2020 match due to COVID-19. The Tigers are favored by 11.5
That game is in head-to-head competition with Bedlam, but we wish them well. Meantime, there’s more: we can’t forget Kentucky at Louisville (-3) for the Governor’s Cup, #17 Pittsburgh (-13) at Syracuse, or Cal at UCLA (-6) finishing the night in grand style.
If you just want to watch some football that probably won’t be very good, but will have sentimental value, you might head to Las Cruces to catch UMass at New Mexico State for a battle of the 1-and-10s. The Aggies give 6.5, but we think the Minutemen can take them.
In FCS, McNeese State finished 4-7 with a final-week loss to Northwestern State. We congratulate the Cowboys on persevering through another weird Southland season, and wish them all the best as they prepare to be the big fish in the Southland pond in 2022.
In Div II, Slippery Rock has bowed out with grace in round 1 of the tournament, finishing with a respectable 33-25 loss to Notre Dame (OH). Well done on a 9-win season, Rock!
Central Oklahoma, as mentioned last week, ended the season 4-7, with one of those Ws snagging the President’s Cup over Northeastern State in Tahlequah. Nicely done, Bronchos.
In Div III, Rose-Hulman, playing DePauw in round 1 of the tournament, couldn’t quite overcome an early deficit last week and went down 26-21. A very fine season for the Fightin’ Engineers, however, finishing as HCAC champions and getting a tourney entry slot.
Meanwhile, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy walloped Western New England in the New England Bowl last Saturday, 63-35. We love to see USMMA get post-season action. Bravo Zulu for an excellent 9-1 season, Mariners.