Originally Published: November 25, 2013

Rivalry games come in all shapes, sizes

By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

Former Alabama and Georgia State coach Bill Curry once wrote that college football rivalries pop out like measles every fall.

"Great college football rivalries engage the healthy, activate the disturbed, fascinate the thoughtful, amaze the detached, mystify the rational, horrify the scholarly, encourage the immature, enrich the greedy, and terrify the faint of heart," Curry wrote for ESPN.com in 2005. "Most of all, they take over every waking hour of the cultures they invade."

Welcome to rivalry week.

If college football rivalries are indeed like the measles, then the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention might want to go ahead and declare an epidemic in Alabama. Or at least put Paul Finebaum on the airwaves for 24 hours a day to mediate the sides in the country's most football-mad state.

It's hard to imagine the Iron Bowl becoming even more important in a state where the rivalry seems to mean everything 365 days a year, but Saturday's game between No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Auburn will decide which team wins the SEC West and plays in the Dec. 7 SEC championship game in Atlanta.

Boy, I bet Harvey Updyke wishes he could go.

Here's a look at some of the most heated rivalries in college football and some that have, well, gone to the back burner:

Rivalry that matters the most (every year and especially this week)

No. 1 Alabama (11-0, 7-0 SEC) at No. 4 Auburn (10-1, 6-1 SEC)

When; where: 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday; Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Ala.

Skinny: The Crimson Tide can move a step closer to winning an unprecedented third consecutive BCS national title. The Tigers still have an outside chance at playing for a BCS national championship -- or at worst playing for an SEC title and perhaps playing in a BCS bowl game -- if they can beat the Crimson Tide for the second time in the past six seasons.

Prediction: Alabama 38, Auburn 28

Biggest mismatch

No. 2 Florida State (11-0, 8-0 ACC) at Florida (4-7, 3-5 SEC)

When; where: 12 p.m. ET Saturday; Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Fla. (ESPN)

Skinny: The undefeated Seminoles are two victories away from trying to play for a chance to win their first national championship since 1999. After playing the Gators, FSU will meet the ACC's Coastal Division winner in next week's ACC championship game. The reeling Gators have lost six games in a row, including an inexplicable 26-20 home defeat against FCS foe Georgia Southern on Saturday. Florida will finish with its first losing season since going winless in 1979 and its 22-year streak of playing in a bowl game, the longest among FBS teams, will come to an end. Can we just send Florida A&M to Gainesville?

Prediction: FSU 51, Florida 13

Rivalry that looked a lot better in September

No. 3 Ohio State (11-0, 7-0 Big Ten)
at Michigan (7-4, 3-4 Big Ten)

When; where: 12 p.m. ET Saturday; Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich. (ABC)

Skinny: If the Buckeyes defeat Michigan and then Michigan State in next week's Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis, they'll finish undefeated for the second regular season in a row -- and might still be left out of the BCS National Championship. The Wolverines have slogged through a mediocre season, including a 24-21 loss at Iowa on Saturday, in which they blew a 14-point lead and were shut out in the second half. But Michigan can salvage its season by ruining Ohio State's dreams in "The Game." Michigan has won only once in its previous nine meetings against OSU.

Prediction: Ohio State 34, Michigan 17

Replacement game (for now)

No. 21 Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3 SEC)
at No. 5 Missouri (10-1, 6-1 SEC)

When; where: 7:45 p.m. ET Saturday; Faurot Field, Columbia, Mo. (ESPN)

Skinny: The SEC eased its two newest members in by having them play on the final Saturday of the regular season for their first two seasons in the league. While we'd prefer to see the Aggies playing Texas and the Tigers playing Kansas, this game will determine whether Missouri or South Carolina will win the SEC East and play in the SEC championship game. It's probably reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel's last regular-season game, too.

Prediction: Missouri 31, Texas A&M 27

Coaches who won't be sharing a golf cart any time soon

No. 6 Clemson (10-1, 7-1 ACC)
at No. 10 South Carolina (9-2, 6-2 SEC)

When; where: 7 p.m. ET Saturday; Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, S.C. (ESPN2)

Skinny: Clemson's Dabo Swinney and South Carolina's Steve Spurrier don't seem to agree on much of anything, as they've traded verbal jabs time and time again over the past few seasons. If Clemson can defeat the Gamecocks on the road, they'll be in great position to play in a BCS bowl game, especially if FSU earns a trip to the BCS National Championship. USC can still earn a trip to the SEC championship if Missouri loses to Texas A&M on Saturday, and the Gamecocks might be in play for a BCS bowl even if they don't make it to Atlanta. South Carolina has won four games in a row over the Tigers, who haven't won in Columbia since a 23-21 victory in 2007. If USC beats Clemson again, Spurrier might even say, "If we played Clemson 10 times, I think we'd beat them 10 times."

Prediction: South Carolina 31, Clemson 23

Be careful what you wish for

Oregon State (6-5, 4-4 Pac-12)
at No. 13 Oregon (9-2, 6-2 Pac-12)

When; where: 7 p.m. ET Friday; Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Ore.

Skinny: So a couple of Oregon's players are tired of playing in the Rose Bowl, huh? Well, enjoy the Alamo Bowl then. The Ducks once had what seemed like a clear path to a Pac-12 title and a spot in the BCS National Championship. But now Oregon has lost two of its past three games, including a 42-16 loss at Arizona on Saturday night in which it turned the ball over three times and allowed 304 rushing yards. Oregon State is falling even faster heading into Saturday's Civil War, dropping four games in a row after Saturday night's 69-27 loss to Washington.

Prediction: Oregon 56, Oregon State 41

Rivalry on the rebound

No. 22 UCLA (8-3, 5-3 Pac-12) at No. 23 USC (9-3, 6-2 Pac-12)

When; where: 8 p.m. ET Saturday, Coliseum, Los Angeles (ABC)

Skinny: There was a slim chance the crosstown rivalry was going to decide the Pac-12 South title, but the Bruins lost 38-33 to Arizona State on Saturday, giving the Sun Devils the division championship. Now, Saturday's game at the Coliseum will only decide which team wins L.A. bragging rights and potentially which team goes to Las Vegas or El Paso, Texas, during bowl season. USC interim coach Ed Orgeron can make another claim to the full-time job if the Trojans beat the Bruins for the 13th time in the past 15 meetings.

Prediction: USC 24, UCLA 23

No, really, this isn't basketball

No. 24 Duke (9-3, 5-2 ACC) at North Carolina (6-5, 4-3 ACC)

When; where: 12 p.m. ET Saturday; Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, N.C. (ESPN2)

Skinny: College basketball's most famous rivalry will actually go a long way in deciding which team wins the ACC's Coastal Division and plays FSU for an ACC title. Duke kept its seven-game winning streak alive by coming from 14 points behind to beat Wake Forest 28-21 on Saturday. The Blue Devils can win the Coastal Division if they beat Tobacco Road foe UNC, which has won five games in a row after starting the season with a 1-5 mark. The Tar Heels finally seem to be figuring out coach Larry Fedora's spread offense, averaging 44 points during the win streak. UNC had 721 yards of offense in an 80-20 win over Old Dominion on Saturday.

Prediction: North Carolina 41, Duke 38

Best spoiler alert

Arizona (7-4, 4-4 Pac-12) at No. 12 Arizona State
(9-2, 7-1 Pac-12)

When; where: 9:30 p.m. ET Saturday; Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.

Skinny: The Sun Devils won the Pac-12 South for the first time in school history and will play Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game Dec. 6 for a chance to play in their first Rose Bowl in 17 years. If Arizona State beats rival Arizona, it will host the Cardinal in the Pac-12 title game. If the Sun Devils lose, the game will be played at Stanford. Last season, ASU scored 24 points in the fourth quarter to rally from a 10-point deficit in a 41-34 victory over Arizona. The Wildcats will certainly have revenge on their minds.

Prediction: Arizona State 35, Arizona 31

Coach who needs a victory the most

Texas Tech (7-4, 4-4 Big 12) at Texas (7-3, 6-1 Big 12)

When; where: 7:30 p.m. ET; Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas.

Skinny: The Longhorns' ugly 38-13 loss to Oklahoma State at home two weeks ago might have been the nail in coach Mack Brown's coffin. If it wasn't the final straw, Brown surely can't afford a loss to the Red Raiders. At least the Longhorns won't have to play Texas A&M on Thanksgiving Day.

Prediction: Texas 34, Texas Tech 27

Rivalry that only matters within the state's borders

Georgia (7-4, 5-3 SEC) at Georgia Tech (7-4, 5-3 ACC)

When; where: 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday; Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta (ABC).

Skinny: Myriad injuries and bad defense derailed UGA's once-promising season, and now the Bulldogs will have to play the Yellow Jackets without star quarterback Aaron Murray, who suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in Saturday's 59-17 rout of Kentucky. UGA fans will get another sneak peek of junior Hutson Mason, who is expected to take over at quarterback next season. UGA has won 11 of its past 12 meetings against Georgia Tech and hasn't lost to the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta since 1999.

Prediction: Georgia 51, Georgia Tech 38

Dumpster fire

Northwestern (4-7, 0-7 Big Ten) at Illinois (4-7, 1-6 Big Ten)

When; where: 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday; Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Ill.

Skinny: The Wildcats have lost seven games in a row and will try to avoid their first winless campaign in Big Ten play since 1998. The Illini finally beat a Big Ten foe with a 20-16 win at Purdue on Saturday. Maybe the in-state rivals should play Saturday's game at Wrigley Field, which would be an appropriate venue for their collective futility.

Prediction: Northwestern 27, Illinois 21

How quickly things change

Ole Miss (7-4, 3-5 SEC) at Mississippi State (5-6, 2-5 SEC)

When; where: 7:30 p.m. ET Thursday, Davis Wade Stadium, Starkville, Miss.

Skinny: Mississippi State refers to Mississippi as "Our State" and calls the Rebels the "school up north." Well, Ole Miss seems to have all the momentum now, at least in recruiting, and beat the Bulldogs 41-24 last season, ending a three-game losing streak in the Egg Bowl. MSU must beat the Rebels on Thanksgiving Day night to qualify for a bowl game after winning 24-17 in overtime at Arkansas on Saturday.

Prediction: Mississippi State 28, Ole Miss 27

Pad the record

Virginia Tech (7-4, 4-3 ACC) at Virginia (2-9, 0-7 ACC)

When; where: 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday; Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, Va.

Skinny: The Hokies have been as inconsistent as any team in the country this season, but their campaign will look a lot better than it actually was with another victory over the reeling Cavaliers. Virginia Tech has won nine straight games in the series and hasn't lost to the Cavaliers since a 35-21 defeat in 2003.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 21, Virginia 17

Thank goodness basketball season is here

Purdue (1-10, 0-7 Big Ten) at Indiana (4-7, 2-5 Big Ten)

When; where: 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday; Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Ind.

The Hoosiers are really good on offense and woefully bad on defense. The Boilermakers stink on both sides of the ball.

Prediction: Indiana 31, Purdue 10


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