The week we’ve all been waiting for is finally here, rivalry week! The biggest week of the season is finally upon us. This is the week that will make or break a ton of teams hopes of securing a spot in the playoffs. Better yet, this is the week that will determine bragging rights amongst heated rivals for the next year. UCF and USF will face off in the battle for the crown of Central Florida. Oklahoma and West Virginia will matchup in a game that decides the winner of the Big 12 conference. Michigan will travel to Ohio State to try and beat the Buckeyes for the first time in 5 years, and secure a spot in the college football playoffs. The list goes on. What makes rivalry week so enticing is the simple fact that teams show up with a chip on their shoulder in these matchups. Year after year teams that are struggling will often play their best football of the season on this particular week. Everyone gets everyone’s best shot, and the effort is there from all aspects of the game. Tune in this weekend; you won’t want to miss seeing a top tier program go down! Below you’ll find information on the weekends best slate of games, and our take in five key rivalry week matchups. Enjoy…
Auburn at #1 Alabama – 3:30pm ET
Line: Alabama -24
Before the season started, this was one of those games everyone had circled on their calendars. Both teams were ranked in the top 10, and expected to be playing this game for the crown as kings of the SEC West. Alabama had Tua coming into his first year as a starter, and Auburn had Jarrett Stidham returning to what was supposed to be a Heisman candidate season. Here we are 13 weeks later, and there isn’t nearly as much to look forward too. The Tigers have underperformed from what was expected of them. Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide have beaten the brakes off of every single opponent whose lined up against them. For Auburn to have any shot, they must be better on converting third downs, especially on the road in a hostile environment. On the season the Tigers are ranked 104th nationally for third-down conversions at 34%. However, this is the Iron Bowl and the final game of the season, expect Auburn to open the shop on and try anything and everything to help them be competitive. Auburn’s last nine SEC matchups have gone under the over/under betting line. They’ll be physical up front, and do all they can defensively to keep their offense in the game. This will be Tua Tagovailoa’s first Iron Bowl, and if he takes a little bit to get rolling in this heated rivalry, the Tigers will have a great chance at covering the 24-point spread given. However, Alabama is just too talented. Auburn has no shot at winning this game, let’s be real. But, covering a spread and winning a ballgame is two completely different things. Giving up 24 points to anyone is a boatload, but give up 24 to an SEC West rival who is loaded with talented players on their roster, and we’ll take the latter. Auburn will have a terrific shot at losing by less than 24. Even on the road. Don’t be surprised if they cover.
Prediction: Auburn 16-38 Alabama
#6 Oklahoma vs #9 West Virginia – 8:00pm ET
Line: Oklahoma -2
This matchup has been circled on the calendar since the start of the season. You won’t find a better quarterback matchup all season long then this duel between Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and West Virginia’s Will Grier, as two of the Heisman trophy front runners go toe-to-toe. Murray is commanding the nation’s top scoring offense, and top producing offense, averaging a blistering 576 yards per contest. However, the Sooners don’t play a lick of defense and have had trouble stopping just about everyone they’ve faced. The Sooners lack of defense is precisely what makes this matchup so intriguing. You’re going to see two dynamic offensive units lighting up the scoreboard Saturday night. West Virginia is coming off a 45-41 loss to the likes of Oklahoma State. A devastating loss, one that eliminates West Virginia from any shot at a playoff berth. The Mountaineers will be playing with house money, having zero pressure on their shoulders. They’ll show up with their best effort in hopes of spoiling the Sooners hopes of a playoff berth. The two point spread is essentially a wash, as you very rarely see a game decided by 2 or less. We’re going to roll with the Sooners on this one, solely because we expect a heightened sense of urgency from them, as they look to remain in the thick of the playoff hunt. While David Sills for the Mountaineers is a handful, Ceedee Lamb and Hollywood Brown for the Sooners are two handfuls in their own right. Put your money on Oklahoma.
Prediction: Sooners 56-52 Mountaineers
#18 Washington at #8 Washington State – 8:30pm ET
Line: Washington State -2.5
The battle of Washington is upon us! Since Chris Peterson left Boise State to take over the Huskies football program, he’s a perfect 4-0 in the Apple Cup. Peterson and the Huskies have even covered the spread in all four meetings. However, this year seems to be Washington State’s to lose. The Huskies came in with all of the hype to start the year, but have struggled more than expected. The Wazzu, on the other hand, has taken the college football world by storm and lit up the scoreboard on every opponent they’ve faced. Wazzu quarterback Gardner Minshew is on an incredible tear and has firmly cemented himself as a Heisman Trophy finalist. He’s fresh off of a week where he threw five touchdowns in the first half alone against the Arizona Wildcats. For the season Minshew has thrown for over 4,500 yards and 36 touchdowns to only seven interceptions. The Washington Huskies have the nation’s 30th ranked pass defense this year, and it will need to be on full display to slow down Minshew and this Wazzu offense. On the other side of the ball, this Wazzu defense is better than they are given credit for, ranking 46th against the pass and 26th against the rush nationally. The Huskies offense has seemed to go as running back Myles Gaskin does. When he runs the ball effectively and efficiently, then Browning and the aerial attack seems to follow suit. If Gaskins can’t get the ground attack going early and the weight of the offense falls solely on the passing game, expect Browning to struggle to keep his team in this ball game. In a battle between two senior quarterbacks looking to end their careers with the crown as champions of the state of Washington, we expect Gardner Minshew and this Wazzu offense to be far too much for the Huskies to handle. This game will be close in the first half, but Minshew will blow the top off of Martin Stadium in the second half of his final collegiate home game.
Prediction: Washington 27-42 Washington State
#4 Michigan at #10 Ohio State – 12:00pm ET
Line: Michigan -4
The best rivalry in college football is back and with as much on the line as ever! The Wolverines are 10-1 and riding a 10-game win streak since opening the season with a loss to still undefeated Notre Dame. The Wolverines have more to lose than the Buckeyes in this year’s matchup as a win would likely confirm their place in the playoffs. The Buckeyes have had a rocky season, but come into the game 10-1 as well. After a blowout loss to Purdue, the Buckeyes have struggled against Maryland and Nebraska in the following weeks. With as many blue-chip players as any defense in the country, this Ohio State unit has been atrocious. On the season they’re allowing 5.97 yards per play, good for a ranking of 92nd nationally. Michigan’s offense is one of the most balanced in the country. Ole Miss transfer, quarterback Shea Patterson has been a huge difference maker in the Wolverines aerial attack, and Karan Higdon and Chris Evans have had their way rushing the ball. Ohio State is led by a true freshman quarterback in Dwayne Haskins, who already has the OSU program record for passing yards in a season with 3,729 yards, and also touchdown passes with 36. While Haskins has been a one-man offensive juggernaut, this Michigan defense is better than any he’s seen to date. The Wolverines are arguably the best defense in the entire country. They’re one of two teams (Clemson) allowing less than 4 yards per play. They also keep their opponents out of the end zone, allowing only 13.5 points per game. Michigan is clearly better than Ohio State this year, but given the intensity of the rivalry along with OSU having home field advantage, the 4-point spread feels about right. Both teams are looking to extend their 10-1 records and keep the playoffs in their sights, and anything can happen during rivalry week. However, we don’t trust this OSU defense enough, or their true freshman signal caller enough for them to pull off this upset. This is the year of the Maize and Blue in the Big 10 conference.
Prediction: Michigan 27-20 Ohio State
#3 Notre Dame at USC – 8:00pm ET
Line: Notre Dame -10.5
The Fighting Irish have owned the edge recently in this heated rivalry, winning 5 of the last eight matchups. USC has had a terrible season for Trojan standards, but a win against currently playoff bound Notre Dame could add a sweet ending to their campaign, and also send them to a bowl game. However, a win seems to be a tall task as Notre Dame has lined up against eleven opponents thus far this season and all have failed to take down the Fighting Irish. USC will need a career day from their freshman quarterback JT Daniels if they want any shot. The Fighting Irish offense has been rolling on all cylinders since head coach Brian Kelly made the switch to quarterback Ian Book over Brandon Wimbush. Notre Dame has outgained seven of its last eight opponents by at least 100 yards on offense, and look to keep that streak rolling. The Fighting Irish should be able to handle the Trojans fairly easily, but you never know what will happen when two intense rivals square off against one another. Plus, USC having home field advantage and playing with absolutely nothing to lose could benefit them. The question will be just how much. Notre Dame is looking to make their second college football playoff push, and the Trojans don’t seem to have what it takes to stop that. However, they may have what it takes to keep the game closer than 11 points. We’re not going to bet on it though.
Prediction: Notre Dame 38-17 USC