Reveling in Rivalry’s Reverie

I don’t get it.

As school ceases operations for Thanksgiving, my teachers seem to have forgotten the word “break” follows “Thanksgiving” in the term. Now I have papers, projects, and tests to be ready for as soon as “break” is over.

This is severely ruining my rivalry week plans. Don’t those teachers know this is the week where local legends are made? When “the band is on the field!?” When backup quarterback becomes Stephen McGee, the guy who beat those dadgumm Longhorns? When five foot-nothing quarterback becomes Doug Flutie, Heisman Trophy winner?

Awesome. Now I have to do all this work in three days, so I can enjoy my turkey and football in peace. Thanks a lot, teach.

Here’s a look at the best rivalries reuniting this weekend. These might not be the best games of the week, just the most tradition-rich games on the slate. Professors be damned, I’ll be watching every minute of them.

Auburn-Alabama, Friday 2:30 (CBS)

The Iron Bowl is a game every kid in the state of Alabama grows up playing in his backyard. I guarantee you an eight-year-old Julio Jones stood in the street snagging passes from Andrew Zow. He also doubled as touchdown machine Shaun Alexander, bruising through the Tiger defense.

Jones is one of the lucky few that gets to live out his dream on Friday in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Every single resident of the state feels this game’s impact; ask anyone and they’ll tell you this rivalry lasts 365 days a year. No matter the stakes, bragging rights is always tops on the perks of winning this game.

Beyond that, this year’s game has the intrigue of Bama’s undefeated season being on the line. Auburn has revitalized its offense this season under coordinator Gus Malzahn, and will surely have a few tricks up its sleeve for this game. The Tigers would love nothing more than to end the Tide’s national title dreams before they even get to Atlanta for the conference championship game.

Oklahoma State-Oklahoma, Saturday 12:30

The Cowboys have not felt victory in this game since 2002, when they knocked off the eighth-ranked Sooners for perhaps the biggest victory in the Les Miles era. This game dates back nearly a century, and lately has featured some of the best offensive players to play college football.

This year is a chance for payback for the Cowboys. The Sooners are crumbling down the stretch with losses to Nebraska and Texas Tech in the last three weeks. Oklahoma State has surrendered over 35 points to the Sooners five times in the last seven years. This year, Oklahoma’s has practically been playing with its backups due to injuries across the board. That means it is State’s chance to turn the tide on its hated rivals and dish out the punishment.

Arkansas-LSU, Saturday, 7:00 (ESPN)

This is usually the Friday afternoon delight, but now has moved to Saturday night. The theme of this game in recent years has been upsets. Just last season, a struggling LSU’s still had dreams of a New Year’s Day bowl game, only to lose 31-30 to sub-.500 Arkansas.

In 2007, Darren McFadden dominated the Tigers as the Razorbacks had seemingly ended LSU’s hopes of a national championship (oh that’s right, the BcS still managed to fit the Tigers into the title game).

In 2006, 9-2 LSU went into Fayetteville and ruined 10-1 Arkansas’ outside shot at a national championship. Casey Dick went 3-for-17 passing that game, and Hog Nation still has out a search party for his capture (Arkansas would go on to lose to Florida the following week anyway. Dick’s stat line? 10-for-22 and two interceptions).

So, if history is any indication, the Razorbacks have a great shot at handing the Tigers two losses in as many weeks in Baton Rouge. Les Miles is already starting to hear the grumblings of the alumni after forgetting the concept of time, trying to spike the ball with one second left on the clock in a 25-23 loss to Ole Miss. If the Tigers do indeed fall again, it may be all she wrote for Miles.

Georgia-Georgia Tech, Saturday, 8:00 (ABC)

Clean, old-fashioned hate. What a moniker for a game, right? Well, the only thing the Yellow Jackets have hated this decade is being owned in this series by the Bulldogs. Paul Johnson put an end to the program’s misery, toppling Georgia last season 45-42.

That win in 2008 was a surprise. In one short season, the tables have turned in regards to who owns this state. Johnson has the Jackets standing at 10-1 and ranked seventh in the country. Mark Richt is just trying to make it through the season with a 6-5 record at the moment and calls from the donors for his termination.

After giving up 28 second-half points to Kentucky last week, Georgia has little hope of stopping the force that is the Jackets’ triple option attack. Johnson should just about be able to name the score in this one, theoretically. But don’t underestimate the power of Georgia’s players to rally around their coach one last time in the program’s most important annual game.   


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