Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football, where the list of winless Power 5 teams that have played more than two games is as follows: Kansas, Vanderbilt … and Penn State:
THIRD QUARTER: DOWNSIZED RIVALRY WEEK
With schedules torn up, nonconference games called off and regular seasons lingering well into December, the usual Thanksgiving week glut of rivalry games is significantly slimmed down. Chalk it up as one more loss to the pandemic.
The Dash surveys what real rivalry games we still have, the best ones we lost, and which ones have been relocated:
REAL RIVALRY GAMES
Iron Bowl (21). Auburn at Alabama. Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET. Why it matters: It always matters in the state of Alabama. And because the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide bring SEC and national championship aspirations into the game. And because Auburn is trying to detonate the entire playoff picture while winning in Bryant-Denny Stadium for the first time in a decade. Series record: Alabama leads, 46-37-1. Line: Alabama by 23 1/2. Dash pick: Alabama 38, Auburn 13. Nick Saban has the dark shark eyes of a vengeful coach going this week, after the loss on The Plains that kept the Tide out of the College Football Playoff for the first time.
Egg Bowl (22). Mississippi State at Mississippi. Saturday, 4 p.m. ET. Why it matters: The weirdest of all rivalries turns up the eccentricity to 11 this year with Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach entering the fray. They have a hard act to follow: the Elijah Moore fake-dog-pee personal foul that helped turn an Ole Miss victory into a stunning defeat and led to the firing of Rebels coach Matt Luke. (Ultimately, State coach Joe Moorhead was fired, too, leading to the Leach-Lane bromantic comedy). The teams stink, but this is always worth watching to see what off-the-rails development happens next. Series record: Ole Miss leads, 62-48-6. Line: Ole Miss by 9 1/2. Dash pick: Mississippi 41, Mississippi State 34. Moore (who leads the nation in receiving yards), makes a one-handed catch for the game-winning TD. And does not lift his leg this time.
Civil War (23). Oregon at Oregon State. Friday, 7 p.m. ET. Why it matters: The Ducks (3–0) are trying to force their way into the playoff conversation. The Beavers (1–2) are trying to beat their rival for just the second time since 2007. Series record: Oregon leads, 66-47-10. Line: Oregon by 13 1/2. Dash pick: Oregon State 38, Oregon 37. Upset special. Oregon State has ridden running back Jermar Jefferson (449 rushing yards, five touchdowns) and Oregon does not offer a great rushing defense to stop him. Disappointing that the early weather forecast does not include a day-long, bone-chilling rain.
Paul Bunyan Ax Game (24). Minnesota at Wisconsin. Saturday, 2 p.m. ET. Why it matters: Because few things do more to debunk the concept of Minnesota Nice than a mention of the Badgers’ recent domination of the Gophers. And because Wisconsin would like to hang around near the top of the Big Ten West standings just in case Northwestern loses twice. Series record: Wisconsin leads, 61-60-8. Line: Wisconsin by 21 1/2. Dash pick: Wisconsin 44, Minnesota 24. Did the Gophers turn a corner last week against Purdue? Perhaps. Are they bringing the nation’s worst run dense in terms of yards per carry (6.82) into Camp Randall? Absolutely. Prepare for hours of Badger handoffs.
The Big Game (25). Stanford at California. Friday, 4 p.m. ET. Why it matters: One of these two unfortunate teams is going to win for the first time in 2020. They’re both 0–2 against the spread, too. Series record: Stanford leads, 64-48-11. Line: Cal by 1 1/2. Dash pick: Stanford 24, California 21. This is a pretty bad offensive team (Cal) against a pretty bad defensive team (Stanford) in a game that could come down to who takes care of the ball. The Cardinal have only committed one turnover this season, so slight edge to them.
The War on I-4 (26). Central Florida at South Florida. Friday, 3:30 p.m. Why it matters: The enmity and proximity are real, and there have been a few compelling meetings in a young series. The 2017 game, a UCF 49–42 victory, remains one of the best Friday-of-Thanksgiving-Weekend games ever. Series record: USF leads, 6–5. Line: UCF by 25. Dash pick: UCF 49, USF 21. The only question is whether either team wants to be here. The Bulls are 1–7, coming off an open date and lost their last game by five touchdowns. The Knights have lost any hopes of an AAC title shot and are coming off a bruising game against Cincinnati. If UCF starts pounding away on the ground and USF doesn’t bother responding, it will get ugly.
LSU-Texas A&M (27). Saturday, 7 p.m. ET. This series doesn’t have a name or slogan. But the first meeting was in 1899, and they did have a 74–72 game in 2018 that ended with Jimbo Fisher’s nephew throwing blows with Kevin Faulk. If that doesn’t make it a real rivalry then The Dash doesn’t know what would. Why it matters: The Aggies are still very much in the playoff race. And the Tigers are still very much trying to emerge from a crippling national championship hangover. Series record: LSU leads, 34-21-3. Line: A&M by 14. Dash pick: Texas A&M 45, LSU 28. Provided the Aggies remember how to play football after their last game was on Nov. 7, they should enjoy savaging the Tigers' defense.
Almost real rivalry games (28):
Tennessee-Vanderbilt. The Volunteer State pillow fight has devolved into a must-win for Jeremy Pruitt, who is 2–5 this season and 15–17 for his tenure and has somehow failed to be the brilliant leader of men noted coach-hirer Phillip Fulmer envisioned when choosing Pruitt to end the most dysfunctional coaching search of the 21st century … and then extending him this fall as a reward for going 8–5. Just a shock to see Tennessee in this predicament. Dash pick: Tennessee 20, winless Vanderbilt 19.
Iowa-Nebraska. There is enough dislike on either side of the Missouri River here to spawn a quality rivalry over time. If you think Pruitt has been a bust thus far, feast your eyes on putative programs savior Scott Frost in Lincoln. After being punked by Illinois, his record now is 10–18. The Cornhuskers continue to be the all-hat-no-cattle cowboys of the Big Ten. Dash pick: Iowa 28, Nebraska 12.
Air Force-Colorado State. When they meet for the 59th time, the Rams will become the most-played opponent in Air Force history. This will be their second matchup on Thanksgiving Day in the past two seasons. Pray for snow. Dash pick: Air Force 28, CSU 24.
Arkansas-Missouri. They’re trying to conjure up something here, with a name (“Battle Line Rivalry”) and a trophy and such. But the best way to put some rivalry into this was the Razorbacks hiring fired Tigers coach Barry Odom as their defensive coordinator this year. Both teams have been good against the spread this season, which currently favors the Hogs by two. Dash pick: Arkansas 20, Missouri 17.
Traditional Thanksgiving Week rivalries lost (29): USC-Notre Dame; Florida-Florida State; Clemson-South Carolina; Georgia-Georgia Tech; Louisville-Kentucky; and Washington-Washington State (a scratch this week due to COVID-19 issues at Wazzu).
Traditional Thanksgiving Week rivalries relocated (30): Michigan-Ohio State (Dec 12); Purdue-Indiana (Dec 12); Northwestern-Illinois (Dec 12); North Carolina-NC State (already played in October, a blowout UNC victory); Virginia Tech-Virginia (Dec 12); Arizona-Arizona State (Dec. 11); Colorado-Utah (Dec. 11); Nevada-UNLV (already played earlier this month, an easy Nevada win to maintain ownership of the Fremont Cannon).