Friday, October 14, 2016

The Rivalry Season Is Under Way

The college football season always goes by too quickly for me.

We're already about halfway through it. You can tell because the truly traditional clashes are starting to be played, like last weekend's Oklahoma–Texas game. In this part of the country, there may be no bigger rivalry than that one.

And the South is filled with rivalries.

Over the next month or so there will be many more rivalries renewed. Topping the list of rivalries in the Top 25 this weekend is the Alabama–Tennessee game, but rivalries exist outside the Top 25. Rivalries are among the things that make college sports so special. They are why people will still watch a rivalry even if the teams are mediocre. After all, bragging rights are still at stake.

Of course, when rivalries involve one or two ranked teams, the stakes are even higher. For example, this year's Michigan–Ohio State game looks as if it may have a college football playoff berth riding on the outcome.

That rivalry, like many, is to be played around Thanksgiving.

But as I say there will be many rivalry games played in the weeks ahead. Keep watching.

Idle: #4 Michigan, #5 Washington, #6 Texas A&M, #23 Auburn, #25 Navy

  • Duke at #7 Louisville, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: These teams have only met once before, on Sept. 7, 2002 at Duke. Louisville won 40–3.

    I don't know if the score will be that lopsided this time, but I'm sure Louisville will be the winner again.
  • #1 Alabama at #9 Tennessee, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on CBS: Alabama has won nine in a row against Tennessee. It is important to understand that because it has been pretty lopsided lately for a rivalry. It hasn't always been that way. In 97 previous meetings, Alabama has won 53, Tennessee has won 37, and there have been seven ties.

    ost of Tennessee's teams in the last decade haven't been too good, and Alabama has crushed the Vols frequently. But last year, when Tennessee had a fairly good team, Alabama had to struggle to win by five points at home.

    Alabama has won four straight in Knoxville. Twice before, the Crimson Tide won five in a row in Knoxville — between 1986 and 1994 and between 1972 and 1980. Can they match that record against a Tennessee team that never gives up?

    Should be worth watching. My money is on Alabama.
  • #2 Ohio State at #8 Wisconsin, 7 p.m. (Central) on ABC: If you want to discuss lopsided series in more detail, here is Exhibit A. Ohio State has dominated the series with Wisconsin, winning nearly three–quarters of the time.

    Ohio State has won the last four (including the 2014 Big Ten championship game in a 59–0 blowout) and seven of the last eight against Wisconsin.

    The Badgers may put up a good fight for awhile. They do that sometimes. But I pick Ohio State to prevail.
  • North Carolina State at #3 Clemson, 11 a.m. (Central) on ABC: Clemson has won 11 of the last 12 encounters with North Carolina State.

    Historically Clemson has won two out of every three with N.C. State and hasn't lost to the Wolfpack at home since 2002.

    This ought to be a slam dunk (to mix sports metaphors) and yet ...

    N.C. State tends to beat Clemson when Clemson is struggling. Clearly, Clemson hasn't been struggling too much of late.

    But there, as Shakespeare would say, is the rub. N.C. State is nearly always competitive with Clemson, and sometimes N.C. State upsets a Clemson team that is headed for a 10–win (or better) season.

    Nevertheless, aware as I am of the history of the series, that's too much of an upset for me. I pick Clemson.
  • #10 Nebraska at Indiana, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC or ESPN2: Indiana leads the series, but it piled up all its wins before John F. Kennedy became president.

    Indiana hasn't beaten Nebraska since 1959. The Hoosiers haven't beaten the Cornhuskers in Indiana since 1945.

    If this was basketball, my pick would be different. But this is football, and I pick Nebraska.
  • Kansas at #11 Baylor, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on FS1: Baylor has won all seven of its home games against Kansas over the years.

    The Jayhawks have been competitive at home — but not in Waco.

    I don't expect the Jayhawks to be competitive this time, either. I pick Baylor.
  • #12 Ole Miss at #22 Arkansas, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: The recent history of this series has been that a team wins two in a row, then the other team wins two in a row.

    The Razorbacks are 10–2 against Ole Miss when the game is played in Arkansas, but both of those losses have come in recent years.

    Still I take Arkansas as an upset special. I think the Hogs can get back on track in this game.
  • Tulsa at #13 Houston, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN2: Houston has won seven of the last 10 against Tulsa to seize the lead in the all–time series.

    This will be their 41st meeting — and 23rd at Houston. Tulsa has won twice at Houston since the series was renewed in 2005 after a 12–year absence — but those wins came against teams that lost more than they won. This year's edition of the Cougars is considerably better.

    And I pick Houston to win.
  • Wake Forest at #14 Florida State, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Florida State has beaten Wake Forest four straight times.

    What's more, Florida State has won the last three encounters at home by a combined score of 126–3.

    Florida State will win.
  • Colorado State at #15 Boise State, 9:15 p.m. (Central) on ESPN2: Boise State has never lost to Colorado State. I expect it to stay that way.

    Boise State should win.
  • North Carolina at #16 Miami (Fla.), 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC or ESPN2: North Carolina's triumph last year gave the Tar Heels a one–win edge in the all–time series.

    I expect Miami to knot the series again.
  • #17 Virginia Tech at Syracuse, 2:45 p.m. (Central) on ESPNU: This will be the teams' first meeting in more than a decade, and the all–time series is close. Syracuse leads 9–8.

    Syracuse had a pretty good football program when these teams last met, but times have changed. I think Virginia Tech will prevail.
  • Kansas State at #18 Oklahoma, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPN: Oklahoma has won seven of its last nine against K–State and wins about 78% of the time. In Norman, it has been even more decisive — but Kansas State has won the last two times OU has hosted the game.

    Their last two meetings in Norman were close, but I think the margin may be wider this time. I pick Oklahoma.
  • Missouri at #19 Florida, 3 p.m. (Central) on SEC Network: Missouri hammered Florida when the Tigers visited the Gators two years ago.

    Both teams have had a couple of weeks off — but for different reasons. Missouri had an off week scheduled. Florida was supposed to play LSU, but Hurricane Matthew postponed it. Ironically, Missouri was the last team LSU has played, and LSU cruised to a 42–7 win.

    I expect a different outcome this time than the last time Missouri played at Florida. Florida should prevail.
  • #20 West Virginia at Texas Tech, 11 a.m. (Central) on FS1: West Virginia has been a member of the Big 12 for four years, and both teams have won twice in that time.

    Lately the advantage has been with West Virginia, but Texas Tech has been within a single score of taking the lead when the final gun sounded.

    This should be another good one, and I'm going to take Texas Tech at home in an upset special.
  • #21 Utah at Oregon State, 3 p.m. (Central) on Pac–12 Network: Historically, this has been a pretty even series. Utah has won the last two encounters and should be the favorite, but Oregon State usually puts up a pretty good fight.

    I'm going to pick Utah, but it wouldn't surprise me if Oregon State won. It's that kind of series.
  • #24 Western Michigan at Akron, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on CBSSN: Akron won the first meeting back in 1975, but Western Michigan is 12–2 against Akron since then.

    The last time they met in Akron, Western Michigan won 56–10. A similar outcome isn't out of the question. History simply isn't on Akron's side. I pick Western Michigan.
Last week: 9–5

Overall: 88–28

Postponed: 1

Last week's upset specials: 2–1

Overall upset specials: 5–8

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