With Thanksgiving Weekend upon us all, that can mean only one thing as it relates to the College Football world. Week 14 of the 2014 NCAA season is all about the rivalry games. After some snoozers against Division II or simply weaker opponents last weekend, Week 14 brings us a plethora of huge games, especially as they relate to the CFB Playoff rankings. Starting on Friday afternoon, as most Americans are still dealing with their Thanksgiving food comas, all the while trying to figure out which leftovers to partake in first, Week 14 features many in-state matchups that will have huge conference championship implications. While some matchups are set for next weekend’s championship games, others are on the line this weekend. While some fans may disagree on the order, here is a look at the Top 10 college football rivalry games that will take place in Week 14 of the 2014 College Football season. Keep in mind, this list is mainly for the games that will most directly impact the bowl season. Therefore, the Apple Cup – despite being a huge game – will not make the list this season.
My sincerest apologies to fans and alumni of the Washington Huskies and Washington State Cougars.
10. South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Clemson Tigers – Battle for the Palmetto State: Earlier, I would have thought that this game would have had higher stakes. The Gamecocks have had a disappointing season, and Deshaun Watson has not been able to stay healthy for the Tigers. Clemson is going to a better bowl game than South Carolina, but ending a five-game losing streak would mean more than anything for Dabo Swinney and his Tigers right now.
9. Notre Dame Fighting Irish at USC Trojans: This game could have been higher, and probably still is on many people’s lists. To me, it is a game of two overrated teams who will go to a decent bowl game based more on name than talent. I realize that will not be a popular sentiment to many, but it is the truth.
8. Minnesota Golden Gophers at Wisconsin Badgers – The Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe: This one will determine which team will take on the Ohio State Buckeyes the following weekend for the Big 10 Championship. While Paul Bunyan’s Axe may not be on the sidelines for this one, not after the fiasco from last season, the stakes could not be higher for the winner.
7. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Georgia Bulldogs – Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate: This one could be even higher, although it will depend on the result of the Missouri Tigers’ game against the Arkansas Razorbacks on Friday afternoon. A Mizzou loss will give Georgia the opportunity to play in the SEC Championship game with a win over Georgia Tech. A Tigers’ win gives the Bulldogs no shot at the conference crown, making it nearly impossible for the ‘Dawgs to qualify for the CFB Playoff. Still, it is a big game.
6. Arizona State Sun Devils at Arizona Wildcats – The Territorial Cup: The 2014 Dual in the Desert is equally as important for both teams, which is not something uttered too many seasons. Much like in the Georgia Tech vs. Georgia contest, this game could have higher stakes if the UCLA Bruins lose to the Stanford Cardinal on Friday. A loss by UCLA opens up a spot in the Pac-12 Championship contest against the Oregon Ducks. The winner could have a chance to finish to finish quite well in the final rankings at the end of the bowl season, depending on a few results.
5. Oregon Ducks at Oregon State Beavers – The Civil War: The Ducks are already the champs of the Pac-12 North, simply awaiting their opponents for next weekend’s conference title contest. A win over the Beavers as well as a Pac-12 title will all but assure Oregon a spot in the inaugural CFB Playoffs. Oregon State should not be able to hang with Oregon, at least not on paper. But, when the stakes are high, every rivalry game can be a challenge.
4. Michigan Wolverines at Ohio State Buckeyes – The Game: I actually feel bad for not having this one higher. To me, it is without a shadow of a doubt the biggest and best rivalry in all of college football, rivaling only North Carolina vs. Duke in college basketball for the top rivalry in all of college sports. The Buckeyes are going to the Big 10 title game next weekend, but winning out could get them into the CFB Playoff. Then again, with a weaker schedule than some other top teams, they may still be left without an invitation. Michigan needs a win just to become bowl eligible.
3. Florida Gators at Florida State Seminoles: The Florida Cup may be the least important thing on the line in this one, at least for the ‘Noles. A win here and an ACC Championship win over Georgia Tech will get FSU into the CFB Playoff. A win for Florida would simply be for pride as Will Muschamp exits at game’s end. Florida State has survived in so many games this weekend, and it will look to do so once again at home against its biggest rival on the schedule.
2. Mississippi State Bulldogs at Ole Miss Rebels – The Battle for the Golden Egg: At one point, the Egg Bowl may have been for a near-automatic berth in the CFB Playoffs. Now, only the Bulldogs still have a shot at the SEC Championship game and the CFB Playoffs. MSU would need a win here and a loss by the Alabama Crimson Tide Saturday night in the Iron Bowl. Still, even if the Bulldogs emerge victorious with the Golden Egg and do not reach the SEC title game next weekend, they could still make it to the CFB Playoffs.
1. Auburn Tigers at Alabama Crimson Tide – The Iron Bowl: Was there any doubt which game was going to rank as No. 1 this weekend? After last season’s miraculous finish, this one may be equally as important. A win by the Tide will allow them to roll into the SEC title game next Saturday night and make their case for the No. 1 overall ranking. A loss would severely hurt their chances, especially if the Bulldogs defeat the Rebels and play for the conference championship. Auburn cannot advance to the SEC Championship game, but can still ruin a possible national championship season for its in-state rival.