Rivalry Week tends to give us some compelling matchups each year. Typically, you truly can throw out the records and look for some tight games. This year, however, it seems like these games were taken to a whole different level with last minute victories, overtime struggles, and more than a couple dust-ups. It was one of the truly great weekends of college football of my lifetime and it re-emphasizes why we love college football.
The Iron Bowl – This was one of the truly great games of the past 50 years. When you have a 1 vs. 4 you expect a barn-burner. When you have a 1v4 that is a rivalry game, you have even higher hopes. And when it exceeds even those hopes, you blow up Twitter and the whole state of Alabama. I absolutely blame Nick Saban for the loss (though give Auburn loads of credit as well). The one time he should have trusted his kicker (up 28-21 inside the 15 yard line) he went for it instead of kicking. Then he continually gave his kicker much harder kicks. You can check my tweets… I hated the decision at the time and it ended up biting him. Great job by Auburn and thanks for giving us strong hopes for a non-SEC National Champion. Gus Malzahn shouldn’t be buying dinner in Auburn any time soon.
Clean Old Fashioned Hate – Not many people saw this double-overtime thriller because it was head to head with The Iron Bowl, but Tech vs. Georgia was a classic down the stretch. It was another gut-wrenching performance by the Yellow Jackets after jumping out to a 20-0 lead in the first half. And shame on Paul Johnson for abandoning their bread and butter when up in the 4th and needing to chew up clock and yards. Vad Lee never should have been throwing when he threw that pick. Brutal. But if you missed it, you missed another entertaining show that came down to 4th & 5 in double-OT. That’s Rivalry Week Football.
The Civil War – This game was far more back-and-forth than I think a lot of people thought it would be. Oregon State played one of their best games of the season in this one. And Oregon’s last two scores were on 4th and 11 and then the final touchdown came with only 29 seconds left in the game. Absolutely incredible action. You could feel the highs and lows throughout the contest and it was exhilarating. It was also one of the most colorful uniform battles you could have.
The Game – Michigan seemed to be in control for over half of this game, and then Ohio State started to run away with it. Then, somehow, Michigan was able to claw their way back and with just over 30 seconds to play, the Maize and Blue scored a Touchdown and were within one of tying the game up. In a move that I think was the right one, even knowing the outcome, Michigan went for 2 to try to win instead of going for the tie and OT. Based on how the teams were playing, it was probably Michigan’s best chance for victory, and it made for amazingly compelling drama. And now, only a date with Michigan State stands in the Buckeyes way from reaching the BCS Championship.
The Defectors Game – Ok, so it’s not a real rivalry game, but A&M and Missouri will forever be linked by their defection from the Big XII the same year. And Missouri’s first SEC division championship had to go through the Aggies and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. And while it didn’t come down to the last play, a tie ball game with under 4 minutes remaining for a division title and a 57 yard TD run to get the victory also makes for some pretty compelling football. Congrats to Mizzou… I think it was only last year where everyone said you’d never amount to anything in the SEC.
Battle for the Golden Boot – While not a marquee matchup this year, mainly because Arkansas had no SEC wins during the season, this one had as much drama as you could handle. The Razorbacks played well and hung around all game before taking the lead on the 4th lead change of the day and hanging onto it under the two minute mark left in the game. They also knocked out LSU’s starting QB and downed the ball on the 1 yard line. But LSU backup QB Anthony Jennings took the Tigers 99 yards in under 2 minutes for the victory. Again simply some stunning football.
Fight for Tobacco Road – Wait, Duke was 9-2 coming into their showdown with North Carolina and had a chance to win their division and go to the ACC Championship?! In Football?! Yeah, and this game also went down to the wire with Duke preserving a 2 point victory on an interception with under 40 seconds left to play and sealing the 10 win, division championship season. Maybe there’s a reason Peyton Manning trusts David Cutcliffe that much?!
The Egg Bowl – While Ole Miss’ season hadn’t quite lived up to the hopes people had at the beginning of the season, they had been impressive multiple times this year and were expected to keep that up against in-state rival Mississippi State. The teams slugged back and forth to a 10-10 tie with less than 3 minutes left in regulation. Then in overtime, Mississippi State went for it on 4th and 1 instead of taking the easy field goal and were rewarded with a Touchdown. Then Ole Miss drove down to tie it up, but coughed it up into the end zone where MSU recovered the ball for the win.
Now THAT is a great weekend of college football!! (And I didn’t even bring up Penn State’s upset over possible BCS Bowl team Wisconsin, or San Jose State ruining Fresno State’s perfect season and possible BCS Bowl appearance, or TCU’s near upset of Baylor!)