Whew! What a weekend. Several of the scenarios I expended mental energy on regarding 1-loss teams with shots at the national title game simply vanished by the end of Saturday evening: Texas, Auburn, Cal… Florida was close to dropping out of the hunt too, but held on against South Carolina. This is why the outcomes are decided on the field instead of with the voters… oh, wait… Anyway, there are huge gems every weekend from now to bowling season, with perhaps the grandest of all this Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.
#1 Ohio State hosts #2 Michigan with all the prizes on the line: a rivalry game win, a Big Ten title outright, a guaranteed spot in the national championship game. Other rivalry games this weekend too, which I’ll mention at the end of the blog, but this one has everything you could possibly have riding on it, riding on it.
In this edition of the GMW NCAA Mid-Week: the Week 12 G-Poll, Great Rivalries, and Games I’m Watching This Saturday.
Week 12 G-Poll Top 10
1. Ohio State (11-0)
2. Michigan (11-0)
3. Florida (9-1)
4. Arkansas (9-1)
5. USC (8-1)
6. Notre Dame (9-1)
7. Rutgers (9-0)
8. LSU (8-2)
9. West Virginia (8-1)
10. Texas (9-2)
In Spitting Distance: Wisconsin, Boise State, Wake Forest, Louisville
Previous weeks: four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven
When I was a sophomore at Texas A&M, I attended my first Texas A&M-Texas rivalry football game at Kyle Field in College Station (I had transferred in after freshman year at a JC). We won that game, as we did the following year in Austin, which I also attended with plenty of friends. For my senior year, the game returned to College Station with a little bit extra on it. The old Southwest Conference was giving way to a new league, the Big 12 Conference, that we (along with Texas) were joining the next season. So this was the final A&M-Texas game in the old storied conference and a freshman tailback named Ricky Williams ran all over us on the way to a Longhorn victory. The bitter taste returns to my mouth every time I recall the events. That is the stuff of rivalry.
For the game my sophomore year, a man and his junior high age son from somewhere back East, joined us (my campus ministry friends at the Wesley Foundation) for the game. They had decided to pick a traditional college football rivalry to visit each year. They had been to Harvard-Yale the year before, had chosen this one for their second outing, and were already working their connections for Army-Navy tickets the next year. I remember thinking what a great (and kind of expensive) annual tradition that would be to share as father and son.
The more I watch college football, the more I enjoy and appreciate the rivalries. Everybody’s got at least one good rival, whether it’s a border war or a civil war. Many times there’s a conference title on the line every other year. Other times, a team can salvage a season and a coach can save his job (for another year) with a win in the rivalry game.
One great thing about the Big Ten is that every other weekend they’re fighting over an axe or a shoe or a horse or something related to an old rivalry. The rivalries with nicknames are great, like The Backyard Brawl (West Virginia vs. University of Pittsburg), The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (Georgia vs. Florida–at least that’s what it was called before this year), The Red River Shootout (OU-Texas), and The Civil War (Oregon vs. Oregon State), to name only a few.
The oldest (most played) rivalry in NCAA D-IA football is Minnesota-Wisconsin (for Paul Bunyon’s Axe), played every year since 1907. My own Texas A&M-Texas rivalry game would be a candidate for that honor except that it got so intense in the early part of the 20th century that they had to discontinue it for a few years to let folks cool off. That fact in itself speaks volumes about rivalry games.
So, if you could follow in the footsteps of that father and son who were our guests for my first A&M-Texas game, what is your home rivalry game and what would be your top 5 rivalry games to see, excluding the one that is your own (since you’ll have been to that one anyway)?
For me… Home rivalry game: Texas A&M vs. Texas
Top 5 others:
1. Ohio State vs. Michigan
2. Army vs. Navy
3. Auburn vs. Alabama
4. Notre Dame vs. USC
5. OU vs. Texas
But I’d love to go to more that just 5!
Games I’m Watching
Michigan at Ohio State – Of course…everything on the line, storied rivalry–hard to beat.
Auburn at Alabama – A vicious rivalry game in the state of Alabama this Saturday. Tigers look to rebound after the surprise against Georgia last week. Tide hopes to redeem its season with a win.
Cal at USC – Until last weekend’s action, I would have favored the Bears in this one. Now I’m not sure who to go with. In any event, we’ll learn much from the outcome of this one. That, and the winner is in the Pac-10 driver’s seat. USC can cement its place as a national contender with a win Saturday.
To receive the weekly GMW NCAA Mid-Week blog column via email, send an email to gmw (dot) ncaa (at) gmail (dot) com with “ncaa mid-week” in the subject line.