Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football, where game-stopping environmental protests are generally confined to the Ivy League—which is too bad. We could use an Egg Bowl sit-in this Thanksgiving:
RIVALRY WEEK, CONTINUED
In the Second Quarter, The Dash ran down the most relevant rivalries of 2019. But that was far from a complete list of the animosity-stoking games this weekend. Here are (most of) the rest.
Mississippi-Mississippi State (20). When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET. Where: Starkville. Hate level, on a scale of 1-5: Five. Oh yeah, it’s toxic. If you remember the brawl and postgame altercations from a year ago, you know that. What’s at stake: The 5-6 Bulldogs are playing for a bowl bid. The 4-7 Rebels are playing for the spiteful joy of keeping State from going bowling. The line: Mississippi State by 2 1/2.
Dash pick: Mississippi 35, Mississippi State 34. John Rhys Plumlee, the quintessential three-name SEC quarterback and Ole Miss fans’ latest QB crush, continues to scamper his way into Rebel hearts by leading an upset win.
(Side note: Ole Miss fans narrowly edge out Miami fans as the national leaders in head-over-heels rapture with The Next Quarterback. From Bo Wallace to Chad Kelly to Shea Patterson to Matt Corral to Plumlee, the next guy is always the one who will save the program. Until he’s discarded like a Popeyes chicken sandwich wrapper.)
Oregon State-Oregon (21). When: 4 p.m. Saturday. Where: Eugene. Hate level, on a scale of 1-5: Three. These are chill people with too much good beer to drink to get overly hateful over college football. What’s at stake: The first bowl bid in six years for the 5-6 Beavers; some solace after blowing the season last week, and a chance to send local boy Justin Herbert out on a good note. The line: Oregon by 17 1/2.
Dash pick: Oregon State 41, Oregon 38. Beavers quarterback Jake Luton has had a great season, and the team with more spring in its step pulls the upset in Autzen. Ducks limp into the Pac-12 title game on a two-game losing streak.
North Carolina-North Carolina State (22). When: 7 p.m. Saturday. Where: Raleigh. Hate level, on a scale of 1-5: four, if this were basketball. In football? Two, maybe three. What’s at stake: The Tar Heels are 5-6 and seeking their first bowl bid since 2016. The Wolfpack would like to prevent that. The line: North Carolina by eight.
Dash pick: North Carolina 31, NC State 21. The Wolfpack show every sign of having quit on the season, whereas the Tar Heels have something to play for. However, UNC has done almost nothing the easy way this year—nine games decided by a touchdown or less. A late Heels score pushes this one past the spread.
Washington State-Washington (23). When: 4 p.m. Saturday. Where: Seattle. Hate level, on a scale of 1-5: Three. A distinct city vs. country schism here. What’s at stake: Both teams have reached bowl eligibility, so this is just about bragging rights and Chris Petersen’s ownership of Mike Leach. The line: Washington by 6 1/2.
Dash pick: Washington 37, Washington State 33. These have been two of the most haphazard teams in the country, with good and bad performances just randomly happening from week to week and month to month. In other words, you’re a fool if you bet this game. But it could be entertaining to watch.
Florida State-Florida (24). When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Where: Gainesville. Hate level, on a scale of 1-5: Four. The pickup logo decal wars become more real and more intense as you journey north in the Sunshine State. What’s at stake: FSU interim coach and old-time Seminole Odell Haggins can win a sweet one that buttresses his candidacy for the full-time job, or Dan Mullen can kick his rival again while it’s down. The line: Florida by 17.
Dash pick: Florida 28, Florida State 9. Third down will decide whether the Seminoles can hang with the Gators: FSU is converting 45% of its third downs in wins and just 29% in losses; Florida’s defense is allowing 33% third-down conversions in wins and a whopping 59% in losses. It says here that the Gators win third down, and win the game easily.
Arizona State-Arizona (25). When: 10 p.m. Saturday. Where: Tempe. Hate level, on a scale of 1-5: Three for prickliness. (Insert cactus joke here.) What’s at stake: Offseason momentum and year-long bragging rights. The line: Arizona State by 12 1/2.
Dash pick: Arizona State 42, Arizona 24. Sun Devils freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels has come back from injury to play perhaps his two best games, going a combined 46 of 68 for 742 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Wildcats, meanwhile, have slogged through six straight losses, all of them by double-digits. The deconstruction of quarterback Khalil Tate hasn’t helped Kevin Sumlin’s standing with Arizona fans.
Indiana-Purdue (26). When: Noon Saturday. Where: West Lafayette. Hate level, on a scale of 1-5: Two. If this were basketball it would be at least a four. What’s at stake: Indiana can stake legitimate claim to its best season in a quarter century with a win. Purdue can finish laying groundwork for a major bounce-back season in 2020. (Freshmen have scored 23 of the Boilermakers’ 34 touchdowns this season.) The line: Indiana by 6 1/2.
Dash pick: Purdue 28, Indiana 27. Jeff Brohm is 2-0 in Old Oaken Bucket games; Tom Allen is 0-2. The Hoosiers are coming off successive rugged games against Penn State and Michigan and are probably a bit beaten up.
Louisville-Kentucky (27). When: Noon Saturday. Where: Lexington. Hate level, on a scale of 1-5: The irrational hatred is reserved for hoops, but it’s not far behind in football. Call it a soft four. What’s at stake: The 6-5 Wildcats don’t really have a win this season that gets the blood pumping—this would do it. The 7-4 Cardinals are looking to finish off a season of massive overachievement with their seventh win in the last nine meetings. The line: Kentucky by three.
Dash pick: Kentucky 41, Louisville 37. The Wildcats’ running game has exploded out of necessity, because they cannot throw worth a damn. The Cardinals’ run defense is susceptible to being gouged. Lynn Bowden, who is having one of the great all-around seasons that nobody is talking about, will be the difference maker.
Northwestern-Illinois (28). When: Noon Saturday. Where: Champaign. Hate level, on a scale of 1-5: Two. Probably a three in Chicago, where the alums are coexisting, and a one in the rest of the state. What’s at stake: Illinois is trying to reach seven wins for the first time since 2011, with a shot at eight for the first time since 2007. Northwestern is just trying to limp out of this season with something to feel good about. The line: Illinois by 10 1/2.
Dash pick: Illinois 20, Northwestern 14. No team in America is more dependent upon turnovers than the Illini—they’re 5-1 when they have a turnover margin of plus-two or more, and 1-4 when the margin is less than plus-two. Fortunately for them, the Wildcats have turned it over 23 times, tied with Rutgers for most in the Big Ten. But it says here Northwestern holds onto the ball well enough to at least cover the spread.
Vanderbilt-Tennessee (29). When: 4 p.m. Saturday. Where: Knoxville. Hate level, on a scale of 1-5: Two. See Northwestern-Illinois above. What’s at stake: Volunteers seeking to extend their late-season winning streak against bad teams. Vandy is trying to extend its winning streak over the Vols to an improbable four years, something the Commodores last achieved in the 1920s. Which speaks volumes about the state of Tennessee football in recent times. The line: Tennessee by 21.
Dash pick: Tennessee 38, Vanderbilt 14. Vols secure their place as the third-best team in the SEC East, which is a lot like winning a Conference USA divisional title.
UNLV-Nevada (30). When: 3 p.m. Saturday. Where: Reno. Hate level, on a scale of 1-5: Three. They play for the Fremont Cannon, and anytime the trophy is a piece of artillery capable of starting a war on the other side, that ups the ante. What’s at stake: UNLV coach Tony Sanchez was fired Monday but will coach the Rebels one last time in this game, trying to earn UNLV its second consecutive win in the series for the first time since 2003-04. Nevada (7-4) would like to post a second straight eight-win season for the first time since 2009-10. The line: Nevada by 7 1/2.
Dash pick: Nevada 30, UNLV 21. Maybe the 3-8 Rebels can send Sanchez out in a blaze (or flicker) of glory, but more likely the team on a three-game winning streak takes care of business at home.
Missed the Dash rivalry cut: Nebraska-Iowa (faux rivalry); Missouri-Arkansas (faux rivalry); South Florida-Central Florida (nouveau rivalry); Memphis-Cincinnati (nouveau rivalry); Louisiana-Monroe vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (De'pouille rivalry); Notre Dame-Stanford (academic rivalry); UCLA-California (apathetic rivalry).