Bragging rights and then some
There might be better college football games played this season, but few contests get the blood flowing like in-state rivalries.
From the Iron Bowl to the Egg Bowl to the Civil War, no outcome means as much inside a state's borders as the in-state series.
In-state rivalries will take center stage during the next two weeks, and here are the 10 best:
Series leader: Alabama, 40-33-1
Biggest moment: In the 1972 game known simply as Punt Bama Punt, the Tigers trailed No. 2 Alabama 16-3 with about six minutes to play. Auburn blocked two punts and returned both of them for touchdowns to stun the Crimson Tide 17-16, which knocked them out of the national championship hunt.
Why it's important this season: If the No. 2 Tigers can defeat the No. 11 Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa on Friday, they'll take a 12-0 record into next week's SEC championship game against South Carolina in Atlanta's Georgia Dome. Auburn is two victories from earning a spot in the Jan. 10 BCS National Championship Game.
2. Florida-Florida State
Series leader: Florida, 33-19-2
Biggest moment: The Gators and Seminoles played twice during the 1996 season, with FSU upsetting No. 1 Florida 24-21 during the regular season. FSU's defense intercepted Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel three times and hit him throughout the game. The teams played again in the 1997 Sugar Bowl, with the Gators running away with a 52-20 rout to win their first national championship in football.
Why it's important this season: The Seminoles will try to end a six-game losing streak to the Gators, who limp into Saturday's game at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee with a 7-4 record. Florida is 5-0 against FSU under coach Urban Meyer, defeating the Seminoles by an average of 24.8 points during the streak.
Series leader: USC, 44-28-7
Biggest moment: The 1967 game between the Bruins and Trojans was billed as the Game of the Century. The Bruins were 7-0-1 and ranked No. 1 in the country. The Trojans were 8-1 and ranked No. 4 in the country. With USC trailing 20-14 with about 10½ minutes to play, tailback O.J. Simpson ran for a 64-yard touchdown to give the Trojans a 21-20 victory. They later defeated Indiana 14-3 in the Rose Bowl and won a national championship.
Why it's important this season: Unless the Bruins win at Arizona State on Friday, there won't be much more than bragging rights on the line in this season's version of the Crosstown Rivalry. USC is 7-4 after losing at Oregon State 36-7 on Saturday, but the Trojans can't play in a bowl game because of NCAA probation. UCLA has lost four of its past five games and must beat the Sun Devils and Trojans to go bowling.
4. Texas-Texas A&M
Series leader: Texas, 75-36-5
Biggest moment: Eight days after 12 Texas A&M students died and 27 others were injured while constructing the school's traditional bonfire in 1999, the Aggies rallied from a 16-6 deficit in the second half to defeat the Longhorns 20-16. Quarterback Randy McCown threw a 14-yard touchdown to Matt Bumgardner with 5:02 left, setting off a sea of emotion for both sides. The Texas band played "Amazing Grace," and members took off their hats at the end. The A&M band honored the bonfire victims by marching off without playing a note.
Why it's important this season: The Aggies have won five games in a row, including a 9-6 upset of then-No. 8 Nebraska on Saturday to climb to No. 17 in the BCS standings. The Longhorns have lost six of their past eight games and must defeat the Aggies in Austin on Thanksgiving Day to finish 6-6 and qualify for a bowl game.
5. Oregon-Oregon State
Series leader: Oregon, 57-46-10
Biggest moment: The most exciting moment in the Civil War came in 1998, when the Beavers upset the Ducks 44-41 in double overtime. Oregon State fans rushed the field after the first overtime, but a pass-interference penalty gave the Ducks another chance. After officials needed more than 10 minutes to clear the field, Oregon scored to send the game into a second overtime. The Ducks kicked a field goal to make it 41-38, but Beavers running back Ken Simonton ran for a touchdown to win the game.
Why it's important this season: The Ducks are 10-0 and are No. 1 in the BCS standings. If Oregon defeats No. 21 Arizona at home on Friday and Oregon State on the road in the Civil War on Dec. 4, it will play in the Jan. 10 BCS National Championship Game. The Beavers are 5-5 after upsetting USC 36-7 on Saturday and will have to beat either No. 6 Stanford on Saturday or Oregon to go bowling.
6. Oklahoma-Oklahoma State
Series leader: Oklahoma, 80-17-7
Biggest moment: Oklahoma has dominated the Bedlam Series, but Les Miles delivered two of the rivalry's biggest upsets as Oklahoma State's coach in 2001 and 2002. The Cowboys had a 3-7 record and were 27-point underdogs going into the 2001 game at Oklahoma. But freshman quarterback Josh Fields came off the bench and fired a 14-yard touchdown to Rashaun Woods with 1:36 to go, leading the Pokes to a 16-13 upset of the No. 4 Sooners. Oklahoma State upset the No. 3 Sooners 38-28 the next season.
Why it's important this season: No. 9 Oklahoma State is 10-1 and has a one-game lead in the Big 12 South standings over the No. 13 Sooners with a 6-1 record. If the Pokes can end their seven-game losing streak against OU, they'll play in next week's Big 12 championship game. If the Sooners beat the Pokes again, and Texas A&M beats Texas, they'll probably win a tiebreaker based on highest BCS ranking.
Series leader: Utah, 53-34-4
Biggest moment: Utah hadn't beaten the Cougars in Provo in 21 years and had dropped four straight games against BYU heading into the 1993 Holy War. With the score tied at 31, the Utes had the ball at BYU's 37-yard line. Utah kicker Chris Yergensen, who already had missed two field goals in the game, was on the sideline being consulted by a team psychologist. He kicked a 55-yard field goal, the longest of his career, to give the Utes a 34-31 victory.
Why it's important this season: The Cougars have rebounded from a dreadful 1-4 start and have won four games in a row heading into Saturday's Holy War at No. 20 Utah. The Utes ended a two-game losing streak by defeating San Diego State 38-34 on the road Saturday night. With a victory, the Cougars can tie the Utes for second place in the Mountain West standings and finish the regular season with a winning record.
8. Georgia-Georgia Tech
Series leader: Georgia, 60-39-5
Biggest moment: The Yellow Jackets defeated the Bulldogs eight straight times from 1949 to 1956, their longest winning streak in the series. In 1957, Georgia's Theron Sapp recovered a fumble at midfield. On the Bulldogs' ensuing possession, Sapp carried the ball nine consecutive times, including a 1-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal for the only score in Georgia's 7-0 victory. Sapp earned the moniker "Drought Breaker" for his heroics.
Why it's important this season: The Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets have been disappointments this season, but Saturday night's game at Sanford Stadium in Athens will decide whether Georgia plays in a bowl game. Georgia Tech, the defending ACC champion, improved to 6-5 with a 30-20 victory over Duke on Saturday.
9. Clemson-South Carolina
Series leader: Clemson, 65-38-4
Biggest moment: After Clemson blew a 24-0 lead against South Carolina in 1977, the Tigers trailed the Gamecocks 27-24 in the final minute at Williams-Brice Stadium. Clemson quarterback Steve Fuller fired a 20-yard touchdown to Jerry Butler, who made a leaping catch before falling into the end zone with 49 seconds left in a 31-27 victory. The memorable play is still simply known as "The Catch."
Why it's important this season: Clemson has won 10 of the past 13 meetings and can finish the regular season with a winning record if it defeats the Gamecocks on Saturday. South Carolina already has won its first SEC East title and will play in next week's SEC championship game, but state bragging rights seem to matter as much as conference titles.
10. Mississippi-Mississippi State
Series leader: Ole Miss, 60-40-6
Biggest moment: With the score tied at 20 with 20 seconds to play in the 1999 Egg Bowl, Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe decided to run one more passing play instead of taking a knee and forcing overtime. Quarterback Romaro Miller's deep pass was deflected and bounced off the foot of State cornerback Robert Bean. The pass was intercepted by Eugene Clinton, who returned the ball deep into Ole Miss territory. Bulldogs kicker Scott Westerfield kicked a 44-yard field goal to give State a 23-20 victory.
Why it's important this season: The Bulldogs are 7-4 in coach Dan Mullen's second season but are coming off back-to-back losses to Alabama and Arkansas. If State can defeat the Rebels for the third time in four seasons, there's a good chance they'll play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl or Outback Bowl. Ole Miss has been eliminated from bowl consideration with a 4-7 record, but it would probably like revenge for last season's 41-27 loss to the Bulldogs.
Ranking the BCS conferences with two weeks to play in the regular season:
The SEC still has six teams ranked in the BCS standings: No. 2 Auburn, No. 5 LSU, No. 11 Alabama, No. 12 Arkansas, No. 18 South Carolina and No. 25 Mississippi State. If the Tigers defeat Alabama in Friday's Iron Bowl and South Carolina in next week's SEC championship game, they'll play for the BCS national title. LSU might be able to earn a BCS at-large bid by defeating Arkansas in Little Rock, Ark., on Saturday.
ESPN Stats & Info: Conference Rankings
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Barring an upset on Saturday, the Big Ten standings will probably finish in a three-team tie for first place for the first time since 2000. No. 7 Wisconsin hosts Northwestern, No. 8 Ohio State hosts Michigan and No. 10 Michigan State plays at Penn State. If Michigan State loses, Wisconsin will go to the Rose Bowl because of its victory over the Buckeyes. If Ohio State loses, the Spartans would go to Pasadena because of their victory over the Badgers. If all three teams win or lose, the highest-ranked team in the final BCS standings will go to the Rose Bowl.
3. Big 12
The Big 12 has five teams ranked in the BCS standings: No. 9 Oklahoma State, No. 13 Oklahoma, No. 14 Missouri, No. 15 Nebraska and No. 17 Texas A&M. The Pokes will win the Big 12 South title if they defeat the Sooners at home on Saturday night. If Oklahoma wins and Texas A&M beats Texas, the teams will finish in a three-way tie with the highest-ranked teams in the BCS standings going to the Big 12 championship game. Missouri and Nebraska are tied atop the Big 12 North standings, but if both teams win this week, the Cornhuskers would play in the championship game because of their victory over the Tigers.
No. 1 Oregon remains on track to play in the Jan. 10 BCS National Championship Game if it defeats No. 21 Arizona on Friday and Oregon State in next week's Civil War game. No. 6 Stanford remains in the hunt for a BCS at-large bid and will host Oregon State on Saturday. The Beavers must beat either Stanford or Oregon to go bowling, and California must defeat Washington on Saturday to finish 6-6.
No. 16 Virginia Tech clinched the Coastal Division title by defeating Miami 31-17 on the road on Saturday. No. 23 NC State can win the Atlantic Division by beating Maryland on the road on Saturday. If the Terrapins defeat the Wolfpack, No. 22 Florida State will play the Hokies in the ACC championship game.
6. Big East
There still isn't a Big East team ranked in the Top 25 of the BCS standings. Pittsburgh, which will play West Virginia in Friday's Backyard Brawl game, has a one-game lead over the Mountaineers and Connecticut in the Big East standings.
On the mark: Precision passers
1. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State
The former minor league baseball player threw for 389 yards with three touchdowns on 31-for-43 passing in a 48-14 victory at Kansas, setting the OSU record with 3,708 yards of total offense this season.
Collaros completed 23 of 39 passes for 366 yards with four touchdowns in a 69-38 win over Rutgers, the highest-scoring game in Big East history.
3. Jordan Wynn, Utah
Wynn helped the Utes end a two-game losing streak, completing 21 of 33 passes for 362 yards with two touchdowns in a 38-34 victory at San Diego State.
4. Jordan Jefferson, LSU
Jefferson had the best passing performance of his career in the Tigers' 43-36 win over Ole Miss, completing 13 of 17 passes for 254 yards with one touchdown pass and one scoring run.
5. Ricky Dobbs, Navy
Dobbs was 8-for -9 for 164 yards with one touchdown and ran 31 times for 154 yards with three touchdowns, setting an NCAA record for quarterbacks with 40 rushing touchdowns in two seasons.
Off the mark: Bowl-busting losses
The Boilermakers blew an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter of a 35-31 loss at Michigan State, dropping their record to 4-7 overall.
2. Ole Miss
The Rebels' only season with quarterback Jeremiah Masoli will end without a bowl game, after they fell to 4-7 with a 43-36 loss at LSU.
The Cyclones lost 14-0 to Missouri, ending their season with a three-game losing streak and 5-7 record.
The Bruins lost at Washington 24-7 on Thursday night, dropping their record to 4-6. They'll close the season at Arizona State and home against USC.
The Bears lost their second straight game, 48-14 to Stanford, and will have to beat Washington on Saturday to finish 6-6.
On the mark: Ground-gaining RBs
1. Mikel Leshoure, Illinois
Leshoure ran for a school-record 330 yards with two touchdowns on 33 carries, leading the Illini to a 48-27 victory over Northwestern at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
2. James White, Wisconsin
White and teammate Montee Ball combined to run for 354 yards with six touchdowns in the Badgers' 48-28 win at Michigan. White had 181 yards with two touchdowns; Ball had 173 yards with four scores.
Stewart ran 34 times for 195 yards with two touchdowns and threw a 23-yard touchdown to Toney Clemons in the Buffaloes' 44-36 win over Kansas State, moving their record to 2-0 under interim coach Brian Cabral.
4. Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech
Williams ran for 142 yards with two touchdowns on 14 carries, including an 84-yard touchdown that helped the Hokies win 31-17 at Miami and clinch the ACC's Coastal Division title.
5. Knile Davis, Arkansas
Davis has become the perfect complement to quarterback Ryan Mallett, running 30 times for 187 yards with two touchdowns in the Hogs' 38-31 win over Mississippi State in two overtimes.
Off the mark: Offensive offenses
The Bruins had 163 yards of offense, including only 55 passing, and threw three interceptions in their loss at Washington.
2. Fresno State
The Bulldogs went 1-for-12 on third down and had three turnovers in their 51-0 loss at Boise State, which was the first time they were shut out since 1998.
3. Colorado State
The Rams went 2-for-15 on third down and had 162 yards in a 44-0 loss at Wyoming, the seventh time they've scored 10 points or fewer.
The Hurricanes had six turnovers, including three interceptions in the fourth quarter of their loss to Virginia Tech.
After turning the ball over only eight times in their first 10 games, the Terrapins had four turnovers in a 30-16 loss to Florida State.
On the mark: Big-play WRs
1. Titus Young, Boise State
Young had eight catches for 164 yards with two touchdowns in the Broncos' 51-0 rout of Fresno State on Friday night. Teammate Austin Pettis added 10 catches for 93 yards with two scores.
2. Bert Reed, Florida State
Reed caught six passes for 93 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown late in the third quarter that put the Seminoles ahead for good in a 30-16 win at Maryland.
3. Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
Broyles had 12 catches for 113 yards with one touchdown in the Sooners' 53-24 rout at Baylor, helping him become the first player in OU history to catch 100 passes in a season.
4. Kealoha Pilares, Hawaii
Warriors quarterback Bryant Moniz threw for a school-record 560 passing yards in a 41-7 win over San Jose State, and Pilares caught nine passes for 154 yards with one touchdown.
5. Luther Ambrose, Louisiana-Monroe
The junior caught seven passes for 140 yards with two touchdowns in a 49-37 victory over North Texas, which helped the Warhawks keep their bowl hopes alive.
Off the mark: Defenseless defenses
The Wolverines allowed six rushing touchdowns and 558 yards of offense in their 20-point loss to Wisconsin.
2. East Carolina
The Pirates gave up 639 yards of offense, including 410 rushing, in their 62-38 loss to Rice.
The Green Wave allowed 31 points in the first quarter of a 61-14 loss to Central Florida.
The Scarlet Knights surrendered 661 yards of offense, including 295 rushing, and six rushing touchdowns against Cincinnati.
The Cougars allowed 642 yards of offense, including 349 rushing, and six rushing touchdowns in a 59-41 loss at Southern Miss.
Off the mark: Hot-seat coaches
1. Mike Locksley, New Mexico
The Lobos lost 40-7 at BYU, dropping their record to 1-10 this season and 2-21 in Locksley's two seasons as coach.
2. Bill Lynch, Indiana
The Hoosiers dropped to 0-7 in Big Ten games after losing 41-24 to Penn State. They've allowed 124 points in their past two games.
The Green Wave didn't show much fight in a 61-14 loss to Central Florida, which dropped Toledo's record to 13-34 in four seasons.
4. Mike Price, UTEP
Will a 6-6 record be enough to save Price's job? The Miners finished .500 after losing 31-28 at Tulsa on Saturday.
5. Rich Rodriguez, Michigan
Unless the Wolverines upset Ohio State, they'll finish the season with a 7-5 record, losing five of their last seven games.