Rivalry Week marks the end of another successful regular season of college football—but before we can move ahead to Championship Weekend, there is still much to be sorted.
This week is a chance for teams to make a statement, to show the committee that they belong, whether that be in the playoff or a quality bowl. These matchups have a colorful history, filled with hate towards one another—so throw out all the lines, previous stats, and hardcore analysis.
This is Rivalry Week.
Wisconsin-Minnesota: The Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe
While Wisconsin has their eyes set on the Big Ten Championship a week from now, the chance to take the lead in the all-time series is something that both teams will not look past. Wisconsin has won the last 13 matchups, and for the Badgers, this one has never meant more. Should the Badgers win, it would complete their first undefeated season since 1912 (back when the Badgers were in the Western Conference and the Chicago Maroons were in their division). They can’t look past a depleted Gopher team, but Wisconsin should enter the Big Ten title game unscathed.
Prediction: Wisconsin 31, Minnesota 10
Ohio State-Michigan: The Game
If you thought Ohio State was out of the playoff race, think again. Despite convincing losses to Oklahoma and Iowa, the Buckeyes are still technically in the hunt, but they need help—their best scenario includes Alabama, Miami, and Oklahoma winning out. This would leave a pool of two loss teams, including Ohio State, and a one loss Wisconsin. If Ohio State beats Wisconsin, they will surely be considered for the playoff. And a win over the Wolverines seems more likely without Michigan’s freshman quarterback Brandon Peters.
Prediction: Ohio State 27, Michigan 17
Alabama-Auburn: The Iron Bowl
Can this year’s Iron Bowl top the Kick Six of five years ago? Unlikely, but the stakes are just as high—the winner of this game will advance to the SEC Championship with a chance to reach the playoff, but depending on the loser, the committee has some decision making to do. Should Alabama win, we’ve surely seen the end of Auburn in the title conversation this year. But if Auburn wins and goes on to win the SEC Championship, would the committee still consider a one-loss Alabama team? The Crimson Tide have a sub-par schedule this season, but it’s Alabama—name alone could will the Tide into the playoff with only one loss. This is not only the game of the week, but the game of the year.
Prediction: Alabama 30, Auburn 23
Clemson-South Carolina: The Palmetto Bowl
The Tigers were passed up by Miami in the College Football playoff rankings this week, and they will take it to heart this week as they travel to South Carolina. Clemson cannot afford another loss, even if they are already a lock for the ACC Championship—the loss to Syracuse is already looming, despite four top-25 wins. Look for a Tiger defense that is 3rd in points allowed per game to stifle a now-ranked Gamecocks team coming off a convincing win against Wofford.
Prediction: Clemson 28, South Carolina 13
Notre Dame-Stanford: Battle for the Legends Trophy
Notre Dame and Stanford have met 31 times since 1925, and have met every year since 1988. Although Notre Dame leads the all-time series 19-12, Stanford has taken 6 of the last 8 games, and the last five times these teams have met, the game has been decided by a touchdown or less. Even though these teams are out of the playoff race, don’t think they have nothing to play for—the Cardinal can still reach the PAC 12 Championship with a win and a Washington State loss, and Notre Dame is still fighting for a New Year’s Six bowl. Bryce Love continues to make a case for the Heisman as Stanford leaves their fate in the hands of the Washington Huskies.
Prediction: Stanford 31, Notre Dame 28
Washington State-Washington: The Apple Cup
The PAC 12 has not gotten the respect of the committee this season, largely due to the fact that there are no undefeated or one loss teams left standing. But you’d better believe the Apple Cup will have a playoff game atmosphere on Saturday night. The Cougars have the better quarterback in Luke Falk, but junior Jake Browning knows what it’s like to play under the lights on a big stage—and with one of the nation’s top defenses on his side, at home, at night, the Huskies pull out a close one and knock the Cougars out of contention for the PAC 12 Championship.
Prediction: Washington 27, Washington State 23