Well it is finally here. The final week of the regular season is here and that means it is Hate Week aka Rivalry Week.
While some of these games don’t look as good on paper, you can never take a rivalry game for granted. You have to toss the records out all together because these games are so much different and more meaningful than any of the others on the schedule.
For example, just look at what happened with Oklahoma against Texas earlier in the year. Texas isn’t even going bowling this year and Oklahoma has found themselves in the thick of the playoff hunt. So how did Oklahoma lose to Texas? Rivalry games bro. That’s the kind of stuff that happens.
I love rivalry games because there is so much pride, fire, and passion and they always get the competitive juices flowing. Here are some of the games I will be keeping my eye on this week.
#22 UCLA vs. USC
The Battle for LA will be for the Pac-12 South crown this year. At the beginning of the year I thought USC would come out of the Pac-12 South and win the conference, and even though they haven’t had the year I expected, they still have a shot at the Pac-12 title. The Trojans are due for a win against the Bruins in this rivalry and even better they get them in the Coliseum. I am taking the Trojans to win the game and move on to the title game.
#21 Mississippi State vs. #18 Ole Miss
The Egg Bowl features the two best quarterbacks in the SEC. Even though neither team is competing for a playoff spot this year, this game has the making of a dandy. Both teams are coming off big wins from the previous week so they both have some momentum, but unfortunately for Ole Miss they will have to deal with those cow bells down in Starkville. This game is a virtual coin flip and could go either way in my book. I see this one as potentially being high scoring given the talent at the quarterback position. I am going to lean towards MSU in this one by the slimmest of margins.
Prediction: Mississippi State
#20 Washington State vs. Washington
This is an interesting matchup to me, because the ranked opponent is coming into the matchup as the underdog. Washington State is having one of the best seasons they’ve had in sometime, and they will head to Seattle to play their in-state rival Washington as an eight point dog. Washington hasn’t really impressed me much at all this year, but like I said previously, you never know in these rivalry games. I am taking Washington State in this one.
Prediction: Washington State
#19 TCU vs. #7 Baylor
This is the battle of the banged up teams. I thought this would be the matchup that would decide the Big 12 title game, and the season has played out in a completely different way. Baylor is down to their third string quarterback after losing Jarrett Stidham to an ankle injury, but TCU won’t have star receiver Josh Doctson either. Trevone Boykin may be back for the Frogs and that would make a pretty big difference as far as this matchup goes. Baylor is on the outside looking in for the playoff picture, but getting this win gets them a share of the Big 12 title. I’ve been going back and forth with this one because I liked the way Chris Johnson looked against Oklahoma State. I am taking the Bears by a slim margin.
#15 Navy vs. Houston
This game doesn’t fall under the rivalry category, but it should be a fun one to watch. Unfortunately Houston shot themselves in the foot and lost their undefeated season against UConn on the road last week, but they can still make it to the conference title game with a win over Navy. Greg Ward will be back in action and if he is able to make it through the whole game healthy I am taking the Cougars at home over the Midshipmen.
#14 North Carolina vs. NC State
The Tar Heels have been a bit of a surprise this year after opening the year with a close loss to South Carolina out in Charlotte. The Tar Heels haven’t lost since and are now on the cusp of a berth in the conference title game against Clemson. I don’t expect NC State to be a push over in this matchup, but I don’t think they will be able to score enough to take this one. Larry Fedora has done a heck of a job this year with this team.
Prediction: North Carolina
#13 Florida State vs. #12 Florida
This is another tough game to pick here. With this game being in Gainesville I want to pick Florida to win, but after the way they looked against FAU last week I am very skittish about doing that. The Gators flat out looked awful and should have lost the game last week against the Owls, so it is not surprising at all to see the Noles favored in this game. Florida’s quarterback situation is also far from ideal, and on top of that you have to stop Dalvin Cook. I think I just talked myself into taking Florida State.
Prediction: Florida State
#11 Oklahoma State vs. #3 Oklahoma
This. Is. Bedlam. This one of the most anticipated games of the weekend for me because this matchup has produced some classics and this game has a lot riding on it in regards to the Sooners and the playoff. If the Sooners win, they are in. It’s really that simple. You know the Cowboys are going to come out pissed off and would love to spoil their in-state rival’s dreams of contending for a national title. On top of that the Sooners have to go into Stillwater to get this win and that just adds to the layers of this game. Baker Mayfield should be back out there for the Sooners, but man I feel like Oklahoma State is going to spoil it for OU.
Prediction: Oklahoma State
#10 Michigan vs. #8 Ohio State
Now this is THE game I will watching. Harbaugh vs. Meyer. Buckeyes vs. Wolverines. The hate in this rivalry is so real and this is arguably the best rivalry in all of college football. I’ve been waiting for these programs to collide ever since Harbaugh signed his contract to come back to Ann Arbor and now we finally get to see it play out on the field. The Buckeyes are coming off of a very disappointing loss to Michigan State last week, in which they did a horrid job of getting the ball in the hands of Zeke Elliott. I don’t think they will make that mistake again, but they will have a stiff test in Michigan’s defense. Will Ohio State lose to both Michigan schools in the same year? I have a hard time seeing that happen.
Prediction: Ohio State
#9 Stanford vs. #6 Notre Dame
Another matchup with some playoff implications. A win for Stanford could move them up the rankings before they make a run at the Pac-12 title, while a win for the Irish could put them in the conversation for the final spot in the playoff. Notre Dame has had a ton of adversity throughout the year and has fought through it week in and out. They are going to have their hands full with Christian McCaffrey down on The Farm in Palo Alto, but it is going to be a heck of a football game between two great programs. I am taking Notre Dame on the road by a field goal to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Prediction: Notre Dame
#2 Alabama vs. Auburn
Remember what happened the last time the Iron Bowl took place down on the plains? I don’t think I will ever be able to forget that night. If we are being honest with ourselves, it is going to take something crazy again this year for Auburn to win this matchup, as they have had a terrible year on the field. Alabama is head and shoulders better at just about every position in the matchup and that doesn’t bode well for the Tigers.