If it’s the last weekend of November, it’s Rivalry Week across college football. It’s the week that can define a season, allow at least one more week of practice, save a recruiting class or a head coach’s job, and guarantee a fan base 365 more days of bragging rights.
Eleven different teams can become bowl eligible with wins this weekend. The slate also features two de facto play-in games for next weekend’s conference championships, and another that will decide a division champion indirectly. Some seven teams are nursing College Football Playoff hopes, of varying degrees of likelihood, and three— #1 Ohio State, #2 LSU, and #3 Clemson— enter their rivalry games defending perfect regular seasons. It all begins on Thanksgiving Day and doesn’t stop until after midnight Eastern Sunday morning.
The lone game on the Thanksgiving menu is the Egg Bowl, where the Ole Miss Rebels will be looking to finish a disappointing season on a happy note, as they visit the Mississippi State Bulldogs (-2.5). The Bulldogs, meanwhile, can qualify for a bowl with a win. No doubt, last year’s game, featuring a fight and four ejections, will be on the minds of players, coaches, and fans. Interestingly, the road team has won the last four games.
Black Friday kicks off at noon Eastern, with the Commonwealth Cup, between Virginia and #24 Virginia Tech (-2.5). The Hokies and Wahoos will be playing for the ACC Coastal Division championship in Charlottesville, and— with next week’s opponent (#3 Clemson) a virtual lock for the Playoff— a chance to represent the ACC in the Orange Bowl. Tech has dominated this rivalry, winning 15 in a row, including last year’s 34-31 squeaker in overtime.
Later that day, the #19 Cincinnati Bearcats visit the #18 Memphis Tigers (-11.5), in what will likely be the first of two meetings in as many weeks. The Bearcats have already wrapped up the American Athletic Conference’s Eastern Division, and will face either Memphis or the Navy Midshipmen next week. More importantly, Memphis is currently the highest-ranked team from the “Group of Five,” which would mean an automatic berth in the Cotton Bowl.
On Saturday, #1 Ohio State (-9.0), #2 LSU (-17.0) and #3 Clemson (-27.5) are all looking to keep their unbeaten seasons alive, and are all decided favorites to do so, against Michigan, Texas A&M, and South Carolina, respectively. At least two other teams, #4 Georgia and #5 Alabama, have high hopes of claiming the final College Football Playoff spot. The Crimson Tide (-3.0) are a slight favorite, at Auburn, in the Iron Bowl, while the Bulldogs (-28.5) are a larger one at Georgia Tech, in Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.
Later in the day, the Wisconsin Badgers (-2.5) and Minnesota Golden Gophers will play for the 129th time, for Paul Bunyan’s Axe, and the Big Ten’s Western Division. The Gophers broke a 14-game losing streak to the Badgers last year, with a 37-15 win in Madison. The winner gets the Buckeyes in Indianapolis next week, and (win or lose) a shot at the Rose Bowl.
In Saturday’s nightcaps, the #6 Utah Utes (-28.0), host the Colorado Buffaloes in the Rumble in the Rockies. A win gives the Utes the PAC-12 South for the second year in a row, to face #14 Oregon for the conference title. A loss means the Buffaloes go bowling and USC goes to Santa Clara. Elsewhere, the #7 Oklahoma Sooners travel to Stillwater (-13.5) to face their arch rivals, the Oklahoma State Cowboys, in Bedlam. As the name suggests, anything can happen in this rivalry. The Sooners will face the #9 Baylor Bears, in a rematch of their classic encounter two weeks ago, for the Big 12 championship.