One of the greatest things about college football is the rivalry games, and the weekend after Thanksgiving is typically full of the most bitter of rivalries. This year a shocking number of those rivalries have major implications on the National Championship and the rest of the BCS bowl picture. Here’s a look at seven rivalry games this week that can determine more than just bragging rights between hated rivals:
Georgia (-13) vs. Georgia Tech
Despite their 10-1 record, I don’t have much respect for the Bulldogs. They have only played two real opponents, and lost to one of them — South Carolina — by four touchdowns. Despite that, they are one of just three teams that control their own destiny when it comes to making the BCS Championship Game. If they win here and then beat Alabama in the SEC Championship Game next week then they would play in the big game. Georgia has won nine of 10 in this rivalry, and Georgia Tech has all sorts of issues this year. Therefore, if the Bulldogs take care of their business then they’ll be set for perhaps the biggest game they have ever played as a school — or at least since the 1980 Sugar Bowl — against Notre Dame, ironically — that won them their last national title.
Michigan (+4) at Ohio State
Michigan finally ended their losing streak in this series at six games last year. Now a lot is on the line for both teams. Ohio State can’t make the postseason, but they can claim an undefeated season with a win here. Michigan would love nothing more than to stop that from happening. If Iowa can somehow upset Nebraska on Friday then Michigan would also be playing for a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game — win and they are in.
Florida (+6) at Florida State
This game can potentially decide a whole lot more than which team is tops in the state of Florida this year. If Florida wins and Notre Dame loses to USC, then the Gators would be well positioned to play in the BCS Championship Game against the winner of the SEC Championship. They would be at risk of being passed by the Ducks — especially if Stanford loses to UCLA this week so Oregon makes and then wins the Pac-12 Championship Game — but they are ahead in the computer polls right now and would have a good shot of hanging on.
Oregon (-10) at Oregon State
This game doesn’t mean nearly as much as it would have if Oregon hadn’t lost to Stanford in an instant classic on Saturday. There are still serious implications in this one that go well beyond bragging rights in the Civil War. The national aspirations of the Ducks took a major hit last week, but they are still alive. The first thing they need to do is win this one — and the better they look doing so the more it will help. That’s not going to be easy, of course, because Oregon State is talented and at home. If they win then they need some help. First, they definitely need USC to beat Notre Dame. If the Irish win then the best Oregon can hope for is the Rose Bowl. If USC wins then Oregon’s best chance is if UCLA beats Stanford. In that case Oregon would win their division and would play UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship Game. If they win that then it would be up to the computers to decide if Oregon or Florida is deserving of the chance to play the SEC Champion for the national title. If Stanford beats UCLA then the Ducks could still surpass Florida and claim the second spot in the Championship Game, but it would be tougher for them.
Alabama (-31) vs. Auburn
The Iron Bowl is one of the great rivalries, but thanks to the absolute mess of a season that the Tigers are in the midst of there is very little drama in the outcome here. The only reason this game really matters is that Alabama has a straight path to the BCS Championship Game right now, but a loss would be very costly. If they lost here and then won the SEC Championship Game then they would be a two-loss SEC champion, and it would be easier for another team — Oregon, Florida, and even Kansas State — to get into the big game ahead of them. Alabama absolutely can’t afford to trip up here.
Notre Dame (-6) at USC
This one is simple — if Notre Dame beats their hated rivals then they will play in the BCS Championship as the only undefeated squad in the country. If they lose then they stand virtually no chance of playing in the BCS Championship Game. The game is in L.A., but Notre Dame still has all of the advantages — USC is reeling, the coaching situation is a distraction, and Matt Barkley is hurt and a raw redshirt freshman will be taking his place. As things stand now, then, if the Irish win they will very likely be playing the SEC champion for the national title. If they lose then there are many more possibilities.