Rivalry Week. In my opinion, it’s the best of what college football has to offer. I’d prefer it over all of the 135 (incidentally, the same number as Clemson’s strength of schedule) bowl games after the regular season any day of the week; at least any that doesn’t end with Georgia losing the National Championship on the last play of the game because it doesn’t get much better than that. You may already know that I’m a Florida Gator and as bowl season approaches, I’m not looking forward to another match up with the second, third or fourth-best team in the Big 10; our game with Florida State is our true bowl game.
1. The (Rotten) Egg Bowl, Mississippi at Mississippi State. With less than two minutes remaining and Ole Miss trailing by seven points, the Rebels were moving backwards towards their own end zone, culminating in a 4th-and-24 that had the Mississippi State players strutting and prancing along their bench as if they were moments away from winning the Super Bowl. The cowbells, naturally, were out in full force. Inexplicably the Bulldogs allowed an Ole Miss receiver to catch a ball near midfield for a first down. Several plays later an Ole Miss player caught a short pass and fell across the goal line for a touchdown. Even more inexplicably the player then crawled through the end zone on all fours and proceeded to hike one leg as if to emulate a dog giving its regards to a fire hydrant. The player was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, and a 15-yard penalty for the infraction turned a chip shot extra point into a 35-yard attempt that the kicker subsequently missed just outside the right upright. Serves them right. Mississippi State 21, Mississippi 20.
2. When Texas Tech kicked off against Texas, they led the nation in losses by three points or less, having done it four times. Their game against the Longhorns wasn’t one of them. Texas 49, Texas Tech 24.
3. Wake Forest traveled to New York to prove they’re the worst 8-3 team on the planet. Mission accomplished: Syracuse 39, Wake Forest 30 in what may have been the first overtime game decided by more than one score. (My research assistant was on vacation and wasn’t available to validate that information.)
4. Virginia Tech had beaten Virginia each of the past 15 seasons. Not this year. Virginia 39, Virginia Tech 30. The victors will be in Charlotte to take on Clemson in the ACC Championship. Enjoy it while you can, Cavaliers.
5. Speaking of Clemson, they beat South Carolina, easily one of the top 14 teams in the SEC, 38-3. In case you missed it, Clemson was the first team to win six games in a row by 35 points or more since the Iambic Pentameters did it a couple of centuries ago when Bill ‘the Bard’ Shakespeare played linebacker.
6. Missouri finished the season with a 24-14 win over Arkansas and a bowl-eligible record of 6-6. To celebrate, they fired head coach Barry Odom. In other news Memphis beat Cincinnati 34-24, mentioned here because both teams are in the Top 20 (surprise!) and because—not so coincidentally, SEC officials placed Missouri on double-secret probation. (Long overdue, if you ask me.) Don’t be surprised when the Tigers (the ones from Memphis) replace the Tigers (the ones from Missouri) in the SEC for the 2021 season.
6-a. Kansas coach Les Miles, fresh off a 61-6 loss to Baylor and a debut season of three wins and nine losses, might want to throw his (mad) hat in the ring for the Missouri job. The SEC misses his creative play calling, silly golf clap and ability to win the big game despite his absolutely horrendous talent for clock management.
7. Iowa’s kicker blew kisses to the Nebraska sideline after hitting a game-winning field goal with only one second left on the clock. At least he didn’t run over to the Cornhusker bench and hike his leg. Iowa 27, Nebraska 24. My heart goes out to Nebraska coach Scott Frost, who left a budding dynasty at Central Florida to seek his fame and fortune with a team that hasn’t been a contender since eight-track tapes were around.
8. Michigan took the opening kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown against Ohio State and promptly missed the extra point. That was the moment it hit me: Big Blue didn’t stand a chance. Ohio State 56, Michigan 27. Question: If one of the teams in a rivalry wins 15 of the last 16 games, including the last eight in a row, is it still considered a rivalry? Also, two of the Buckeyes put the Heisman committee on notice with impressive performances in the Big House: quarterback Justin Fields and running back J.K. Dobbins…
…although LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is still the frontrunner after leading his team to a 50-7 win over Texas A&M. Question: How much patience does $75 million buy? The brain trust at A&M is counting on it lasting for at least 10 years, because that’s the length of coach Jimbo Fisher’s contract.
9. Georgia beat Georgia Tech 52-7. In other words, the Bulldogs had an extra week to get ready for their SEC championship game with LSU. There is speculation Georgia State (the best football team in Atlanta) may be replacing Georgia Tech for the final spot in Georgia’s regular season schedule with the following rationale in mind: Georgia State beat Tennessee; Tennessee beat South Carolina; South Carolina beat Georgia. Ergo, Georgia State is capable of giving the Bulldogs more competition than Tech. A lot more. Case in point: for the last three years—all Bulldog victories—Georgia has outscored the Yellow Jackets by 100 points.
10. There were a lot of in-state rivalry games that had as much relevance as snow chains in this part of the country so I won’t waste any space reporting them. (If you’re being honest with yourself you’ll know I’m right.) Besides, what you really want to read about is coming up next:
DOINK!!! That was the sound of the football hitting the upright on a failed field goal attempt with two minutes left in the Iron Bowl. Auburn 48, Alabama 45. I’ve been saying for several weeks the Crimson Tide wouldn’t be in the four-team playoff at the end of the year. Now do you believe me? Alabama fans can now look forward to a bowl game against the second, third or fourth best team in the Big 10. At least I hope so.
That reminds me: Florida 40, FSU 17. Maybe that will earn the Gators a worthy opponent, but for the love of God don’t let it be Notre Dame (still not ready for prime time, despite their conference-affiliation free record of 10-2).
The final four for the playoffs now look like this:
- Clemson (that will win the ACC by beating Virginia).
- Ohio State (that will win the Big 10 by beating Wisconsin. Again).
- LSU (that will win the SEC. Hands down. Worth noting: Georgia wide receiver George Pickens won’t be playing in the first half; he was suspended after the Tech game for grabbing one of the Yellow Jacket players and throwing him into the end zone padding in the same manner Ric Flair grabbed other wrestlers and threw them through the ropes).
- *Oklahoma (that will win the Big 12 by beating Baylor. Again.)
*Utah was the frontrunner for the last spot, but now the best they can do is win the Pac 12 by beating a two-loss Oregon team. Meanwhile, Oklahoma can win the Big 12 by beating a one-loss Baylor team—that one loss being to Oklahoma. Whatever those computers do to calculate ‘the top four’ will spit out ‘Sooners’ just before it spits out ‘Utes.’
Finally, the score of the week was from basketball: Stephen F. Austin 85, Duke 83. A twenty-seven-and-a-half point underdog beat the top-ranked team in the nation in overtime on their home court in front of the Cameron Crazies. Outside of watching Kentucky’s Calipari taking it on the chin, seeing the same for Coach K—who has adopted the former’s one-and-done mentality of using college basketball as a stepping stone to the NBA—is the next best thing.
Scott Ludwig lives, runs and writes in Senoia. His latest book, “Southern Charm” is a collection of his first 101 columns for The Newnan Times-Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .