College football is unpredictable enough on a week to week basis, but when it comes to Rivalry Week all bets are off. Rankings and records go out the window as anything can happen when two bitter rivals take the field. As always, this weekend promises to be one of the most exciting of the year so cancel any other plans and be sure to soak in the last full week of the college regular season. Here are your 8 things to know about Rivalry Week:
- Texas A&M looks to finally beat LSU
The Aggies have accomplished plenty since joining the SEC, but one thing they have still not managed to pull off is a win over the LSU Tigers. As is the new tradition, the two teams will face off Thanksgiving night in primetime, and with A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin’s seat beginning to warm, he’ll be eager to earn some goodwill and scratch this one off his to do list. The A&M defense appeared to finally be SEC-ready earlier this season but has taken some steps back in recent weeks with missed tackles continuing to be a problem (141 total missed this season). That doesn’t bode well against the powerful LSU rushing attack. Though it appears Leonard Fournette (72.2) will miss the game with injury, backup Derrius Guice (75.8) is more than capable of carrying the load and ranks third in the nation with 58.7 percent of his rushing yards coming on runs of 15 yards or longer. With QB Danny Etling (64.9) not providing much of a spark in the passing game and one of the best offensive lines in the country, look for LSU to continue to ride their ground game this weekend. The A&M defense has to return to their early-season form and shore up their tackling woes if they’re to finally knock off the Tigers.
- Expect classic B1G football in “The Game”
While the Michigan and Ohio State matchup is must-see television every season, this year’s game holds even more weight. Both team’s seasons boil down to this weekend as a win for either should essentially lock them into a playoff spot while a loss may leave them just on the outside looking in. As any B1G football fan would hope, this game promises to feature plenty of the ground game and some stout defense as each team has experienced inconsistency out of their passing games lately and both boast top-ranked defensive units. Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett (80.1) is one of the best running QBs in the nation but has struggled at times with his arm, while Michigan’s John O’Korn (60.0) is coming off a 54.4 passing grade in last week’s start. Defensively, each team boasts one of the top four cornerbacks in the nation in opposing passer rating allowed as Buckeyes Gareon Conley (11.8 passer rating allowed) and Marshon Lattimore (25.5) and Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis (12.7) and Channing Stribling (21.2) have been among the nation’s best cover corners.
- Washington must take care of business
The Huskies rebounded with a sound victory over Arizona State last weekend, but their loss to USC two weeks ago is anything but a distant memory. As decision day draws near for the committee, Washington will need to remind the voters why they were considered among the top four teams just a few weeks ago. They have a great opportunity to do just that with a matchup against high-powered Washington State this Friday. The Cougars are coming off a loss of their own but remain one of the most potent offenses in the nation and Washington’s main priority will be slowing down quarterback Luke Falk (81.1) who ranks fourth in the nation with his 78.4 adjusted completion percentage. Luckily for the Huskies they boast one of the country’s best corners in Sidney Jones (85.9) and a top pass-rushing unit led by linemen Elijah Qualls (85.7) and Vita Vea (85.3) that should help disrupt the Cougar passing attack. Coming in at #5 in the Committee’s most recent rankings, they’ll likely need a team ahead of them to falter but Washington has to help themselves first by knocking off a talented Washington State team this weekend.
- Colorado has an outside chance at playoff with victory over Utah
With a win over Utah Saturday and a victory in the Pac-12 Championship, Colorado has an outside chance of finding their way into the playoff this season. And while Utah did just lose to a disappointing Oregon team, that doesn’t mean Colorado can take them lightly this weekend. The Utes remain one of the Pac-12’s most talented teams and have the opportunity to put a halt to Colorado’s hot streak and their playoff hopes Saturday night. Utah owns our eighth highest-graded run blocking unit in the nation led by lineman Garett Bolles who ranks third among tackles with his 85.0 run blocking grade. Bolles will be paving the way for running back Joe Williams (66.3) who has earned an impressive 49.6 percent of his rushing yards on runs of 15 yards or longer. The Colorado defense will have to clamp down on Utah’s powerful rushing attack if they want to extend their season.
- Toledo at Western Michigan will be MACtion at its finest
This weekend we’ll be treated to the best MACtion of the season as the two best teams in the conference square off on Friday. Western Michigan and Toledo will be battling for the MAC West crown, and it looks to be one of the best games of the day as both teams are loaded with talent. On display for Western Michigan will be quarterback Zach Terrell (76.7) who leads the nation in adjusted completion percentage at 79.8 and wide receiver Corey Davis (82.9) who ranks second among all wideouts with his 150.3 wide receiver rating. Toledo has a powerful offense of its own though as quarterback Logan Woodside (81.0) is our 13th highest graded passer and running back Kareem Hunt leads all running backs with his 89.3 overall grade. With a lot on the line and plenty of offensive firepower, this one shouldn’t disappoint.
- The future of SEC quarterbacking on display in The Egg Bowl
Neither Mississippi State nor Ole Miss have had quite the seasons they were hoping for. And while it’s been a largely disappointing year for both fan bases, they have something that many SEC teams are currently without: hope at the quarterback position. Both Nick Fitzgerald (77.6) and Shea Patterson (71.8) appear headed for stardom as each have added a level of excitement to their offenses that will make both players fun to watch in the coming years. Fitzgerald certainly has room to grow as a passer, but he’s been one of the most dynamic runners in the nation this season and ranks third among quarterbacks with his 93.4 run grade. Patterson is just two starts into his young career but has shown great upside so far, earning a 71.8 overall grade through two contests. There isn’t anything on the line other than pride in this year’s Egg Bowl, but if you tune in you’ll catch a glimpse of what the future of SEC quarterbacking may look like.
- Pressure from Lawson will be key for Auburn’s chances in Iron Bowl
When people begin to discuss how a college team would stack up against the NFL’s bottom feeders (sorry Cleveland), you know they’ve had a special season. And while Alabama’s dominating performance this year has earned that sort of dialogue, all of that can easily go out the window in a rivalry game like the Iron Bowl. Auburn was one of the hottest teams in the country before their loss to Georgia two weeks ago, and they still might have the right ingredients to challenge Tuscaloosa’s semi-pro team this weekend. In addition to their dominant rushing attack, Auburn’s key to victory may lie in Carl Lawson’s (87.9) ability to pressure Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts (77.5). As impressive as he’s been this year, Hurts has struggled when facing a pass-rush and ranks 129th out of 130 qualifying QBs with a 20.8 rating under pressure. Lawson ranks first at his position with 56 total pressures on the year, and if he’s able to add to that number this weekend and force Hurts into some untimely mistakes, it could be just what Auburn needs to pull off the upset.
- Florida defense needs another strong outing against Dalvin Cook
Florida has had one of the better defenses in the country this season and they showed up in full force last weekend, largely containing the powerful LSU rushing attack and helping secure the victory with a goal line stand late in the game. They’ll need every ounce of that again Saturday night playing on the road against Florida State and running back Dalvin Cook who is quietly having an impressive year. Cook currently ranks eighth among the nation’s backs with his 83.7 overall grade and leads all runners with 71 missed tackles on the year. One of the best homerun threats in the nation, Cook has earned 42.9 percent of his rushing yards on runs of 15 yards or longer. Containing Cook will be top priority for the Gators, and with the 13th highest-graded run defense this year they have the ability to pull it off.