It’s finally here. The last week of the 2011 college football season. Unless you count games played next week. And the week after.
So, in a sport where teams at the highest level play 12 regular season games, we’re at week 13, with more ahead of us.
There are two kinds of people in this world: those that love college football, those that would rather go shopping, and those that understand why the Big Ten has 12 teams while the Big 12 has ten teams.
If you’re not one of those, you may want to skip ahead to something else. Frank will get up soon, see another post about football, then write something about a book he’s hawking, so you have that to look forward to.
Let’s look at the games this weekend. We won’t cover them all, but we will cover games between ranked teams, as well as the major teams from my home state (Georgia), Frank and Sarah’s state (
Iowa Idaho), and Harvey’s state (Wisconsin).
Alabama (2) vs Auburn (24)
They call it the Iron Bowl. Not because of the tough, hard-fought nature of the game, but because of where they don’t play it. Birmingham is an iron and steel town, and they used to play the game there, but haven’t since 1998. They play on campus now, but they name of the game stuck.
How big a game is this? The 1993 game sold out two stadiums. Not a lot of games can say that.
For the third year in a row, one team has the national championship in sight, and the other standing in the way. This year, like 2009, it’s Alabama going for the gold. Last year, it was Auburn looking for a title.
Since they stopped playing in Birmingham, Auburn has won 8 of 12, so Auburn has the edge. The visting team has won 8 of 12 in the same time-frame, so Alabama has the edge.
Gene Chizik’s Kittens have had a tough season, with all four losses coming to teams that are currently ranked. Meanwhile, Nick Saban’s Herd of Pachyderms have manhandles everyone they played all season long — even in their loss to LSU. That game took 4 missed field goals and overtime to lose. But lose they did, so they’re not invincible.
This one could be a classic. Or, it could be like Alabama’s other ten wins: a runaway.
If Alabama wins, they’re in the BCS championship game. If Auburn wins, Toomer’s Corner will be packed with partiers for a week.
Who’s gonna lose? Auburn.
Clemson (17) vs South Carolina (12)
The “Palmetto Bowl” doesn’t sound nearly as tough as the “Iron Bowl” — and it’s participants have 1 national championship to the Iron Bowl’s 22 titles — but it means a lot to folks in the state of South Carolina.
Steve Spurrier isn’t as cocky as he used to be, but the Gamecocks still have some swagger. They’ll need every bit of it if they expect to beat the Tigers from Death Valley.
Dabo Swinney has his Big Cats in the ACC title game against one of the teams from Virginia. But they best not be looking ahead unless they want to limp into that game.
South Carolina won’t be taking home any national or conference titles this season, but the Hardee’s Trophy would look nice on the mantel.
Who’s gonna lose? Clemson.
Notre Dame (22) vs Stanford (6)
After having their butts handed to them by Oregon, Stanford rebounded with a sloppy win over a mediocre Cal team, and now finds themselves in position to move into the Top Five if they can get past Notre Dame.
The Fighting Irish, meanwhile, need a win to keep an outside shot at a BCS bowl alive (though which BCS bowl would want them, I don’t know). Stanford will know by game time if they are in the Pac-12 championship game next week, and that little distraction may be all the Drunken Stereotypes need to pull the upset.
Luck will determine the outcome of this game: either Stanford’s Andrew Luck, or the Luck of the Irish.
Who’s gonna lose? Stanford.
Wyoming vs Boise State (7)
A few weeks ago, Boise State’s loss to TCU looked like the nail in the coffin for a BCS game. While the title game is out of reach, a series of other events means that the Giant Smurfs from the 57th State have a BCS bowl game opening.
Arkansas loss to LSU on Friday means that there’s almost no chance the SEC will take up three of the ten BCS slots (don’t believe the “only two slots” hype; there is a 3-slot scenario). Houston gets a slot if they win the Conference-USA championship game next weekend. That leaves two at-large slots, and with the 2-slot limit (except that one 3-slot scenario that this year only the SEC could pull off). With their ranking, the Broncos should get a BCS bowl bid, despite not winning their conference.
The only things standing between Boise State and a big-time bowl game are Wyoming and New Mexico. That shouldn’t be a problem, but the last few weeks have proved that the only certainty is uncertainty.
Who’s gonna lose? Wyoming.
Penn State (19) vs Wisconsin (16)
Next week is the Big Ten championship game. Michigan State already has the Legends — wait for it — Division wrapped up. The winner of this game represents the Leaders Division.
It’s been a rough year for Penn State — off the field. On the field, they have a loss to Number Three Alabama and a 3-point loss to Nebraska. A win today, and the Lions from Mount Nittany are in the B-1-G title game.
A pack of Ferocious Rodents in Madison might prove too much for the Big Cats, however. Bret Bielema’s Big Bad Badgers have two last-minute losses spoiling what could otherwise be a matchup for the Crystal Football in January. A spot in the Tournament of Roses is always nice, and the way to get to Pasadena is to take care of business.
Wisconsin’s potent offense will find a tough obstacle in the Nittany Lions stubborn defense. The Badgers’ defense, though, is certainly no slouch, and will be more than enough to stop the anemic offense from Tom Bradley’s team.
Who’s gonna lose? Penn State.
Georgia (13) vs Georgia Tech (23)
The game is called “Clean Old-Fashioned Hate.” It’s the biggest game of the year for both the Bulldogs and the Yellow Jackets. Except for Bulldog fans in West Georgia, who care more about the Auburn game. And Bulldog fans in south Georgia, who care more about the Florida game.
But for the rest of the state, this is a big game.
After opening the season with two losses, Georgia has figured out that they need to score points and not make mistakes. Georgia Tech, meanwhile, is wishing Jaybo Shaw had never transferred to that school down in Statesboro. Take Tech’s high-powered running offense, add a quarterback who can actually complete a pass, and the Jackets are looking at playing in a New Year’s Bowl.
As it is, all the Bulldogs defense needs to do is stop the run. How hard can that be? Ask Alabama. They had a tougher time than they expected last week against Georgia Southern. And Georgia Tech runs the same offense.
If the Bumbles can eliminate the mistakes, they could spoil the season for the Red Clay Hounds from Athens. But don’t bet the farm on that.
Who’s gonna lose? Georgia Tech.
There are several other big rivalries this weekend.
Ohio State vs Michigan (15). Virginia Tech (5) vs Virginia. Oregon State vs Oregon (10). Vanderbilt vs Wake Forest…
There are lots of games — including lots of rivalries — this weekend. You won’t find a bad game. Unless your team loses.
Here’s a secret: cheer loudly and yell at the TV. It works. Honest.