Rivalry Week: It's a Beautiful Thing

November 21, 2023 by CollegeFootballPoll.com Staff

Rivalry Week is a beautiful thing, until you realize that it also signifies the end of the regular season -- well, except for the biggest rivalry of all which comes on December 10 when Army and Navy collide in Foxborough.

Here are just a few of the traditional clashes that stand out this week.

Iron Bowl - Alabama at Auburn - The 88th Iron Bowl. Alabama leads the series 49-37-1. Auburn pulled off upsets in 2017 and 2019, and only lost by 2 in OT in 2021. Cadillac Williams was the interim head coach a year ago when the Tigers lost 49-27. Now, Hugh Freeze gets his turn at a signature win. Alabama looks to continue a strong recovery since the early-season loss to Texas, and is hopeful of a return to the Final Four after missing out a year ago.

Clean Old-Fashioned Hate - Georgia at Georgia Tech  - We have to include this one because it features the team that is attempting to 3-peat as national champions. You may be surprised to learn that Georgia Tech has won 2 of the last 7, but the last came in 2016 which was Kirby Smart's first season as head coach of the Bulldogs. Over-all, Georgia leads the series 70-41-5 which makes this the 117th edition. Georgia Tech has 3 national titles to its name, ranging from 1917's John Heisman squad to the 1990 Bobby Ross team, with Bill Alexander's 1928 squad in the middle. Georgia also now has three titles with Mr. Smart providing the last two after Vince Dooley gave us Herschel Walker in 1980 and football gave us the season-long running back duel between Walker, George Rogers of South Carolina, and Marcus Allen of USC.

Michigan at Ohio State - We could refer to it as "The Game", but simply saying 'Ohio State-Michigan', or vice-versa, makes a louder statement. This will be the 119th meeting of a rivalry series that Michigan leads 60-52-6. The Wolverines are looking for a three-peat after bagging consecutive wins for the first time since 1999-2000. They will have to do it with Sherrone Moore as acting head coach as Jim Harbaugh serves the final game of a 3-game suspension in the wake of the sign-stealing controversy. Last week, Michigan became the first program to record 1,000 wins, but the 31-24 victory at Maryland was closer than expected. Ohio State is 24 wins behind the Wolverines to rank 3rd, and 16 behind Alabama. As always seems to be the case, the eastern division title is on the line. And just like last year, both teams are undefeated and in-line to make the Final Four playoffs. Both schools advanced last year after Michigan's 45-23 win, and both bowed-out with narrow losses in the first round as the Buckeyes fell 42-41 to Georgia, and the Wolverines dropped a 51-45 contest to TCU. Players to watch in this game include Heisman candidates Marvin Harrison, Jr. for Ohio State and J.J. McCarthy for Michigan, though everyone except Oregon QB Bo Nix seems to have a taken a distant backseat to LSU's Jayden Daniels.

Virginia at Virginia Tech - The names "Commonwealth Cup" and "Commonwealth Clash" have never really taken off, but the game has endured for 103 meetings going back to 1895.  This game wasn't played last year for the first time since 1969 as these two hated rivals came together once again in the wake of violence. In 2007, UVA supported Virginia Tech after the massacre that killed 32 and wounded 19 on April 16. Last year, the shoe was on the other foot as UVA had endured the killing of 3 football players and the wounding of another on November 13 as the season entered its final two weeks. A female student was also injured. Virginia canceled its last two games. That means this year's meeting in Charlottesville will be the first for head coaches Brent Pry (VT) and Tony Elliott (UVa). The Hokies lead the series by a healthy 60-38-5 margin, thanks to taking 17 of the last 18, and 21 of the last 23. Virginia Tech (5-6) needs a win to become bowl eligible. Virginia (3-8) would love to keep that from happening.

Apple Cup and Civil War - Washington at Washington State, and Oregon at Oregon State. Despite Oregon and Washington joining in the PAC-12's mass exodus of teams, and leaving Oregon State and Washington State behind,  these games will be played again next year. Washington and Washington State announced a 5-year deal today made it official today that the next year’s game will be played on September 14 at the home of the Seattle Seahawks and then return to home campuses with Washington State hosting in 2025 and 2027, and Washington hosting at Husky Stadium in 2026 and 2028. As for the Civil War, Oregon released its schedule earlier this month and Oregon State was not on it, but some believe the game might get played next year on the same date as the Apple Cup (Sept. 14). As for this year's game, it's about Playoff implications and the final PAC-12 title game as we know it. Washington is still just one of five unbeaten teams in the autonomy conferences and has already punched its ticket to Las Vegas. Oregon clinches the other spot with a win over Oregon State, OR an Arizona loss to Arizona State. Surprising Arizona (8-3, 6-2) can sneak in with a win at Arizona State on Saturday, IF Oregon loses to Oregon State on Friday.

Washington leads the Apple Cup series 75-33-6 after taking 8 of the last 9 meetings, but the away team has taken the last two. Oregon leads the Civil War series 67-49-10, but the Beavers have taken 2 of the last 3 games.

Palmetto Bowl - Clemson at South Carolina. Clemson has the big 72-43-4 edge, but its 7-game series streak was snapped last year, along with its 40-game home winning streak and any shot it might have had at the Final Four playoffs. Shane Beamer and South Carolina need to repeat that feat at home to become bowl eligible while Clemson looks to elevate its bowl status by improving to 8-4.

Territorial Cup - Arizona at Arizona State. With a win in this game, and a loss by Oregon at home to Oregon State, the Wildcats can punch their ticket to the PAC-12 Championship game against Washington. This will be the 97th edition of a rivalry that began in 1899 which Arizona leads 50-45-1 and is a double-digit favorite to win again this year, even though the game will be played at "Mountain America Stadium, Home of the ASU Sun Devils". The name change from 'Sun Devils Stadium' took place in early August after a 15-year naming rights deal was struck with Mountain America Credit Union. ASU had won 5 straight before 'Zona stopped the streak with a 38-35 win last year. Jedd Fisch, in his 3rd season at Arizona, has guided a turnaround from a 1-11 record in 2021, to 5-7 a year ago, to 8-3 heading into this contest. The 'Cats enter this game on a 5-game winning streak.