Being thankful for a busted BCS, Backyard Brawls and Buckets
It’s that time of year. The time when family, food and football are all any true American wants to think about, though not necessarily in that order. It’s also the time when columnists come out with their “What I’m/They should be Thankful For” columns. It is a tired article template that, frankly, I am just plain sick of. They range from the serious(Michigan should be thankful Denard Robinson’s speed compliments his physical offensive line so well), to the down right sarcastic(LSU should be thankful that Jordan Jefferson hasn’t been arrested for assault in a few weeks, and has delivered the Tigers from the shackles of slightly below-average quarterback play to the promised land of average quarterback play).
These articles have been done, and I’m sick of hearing what everyone else is thankful for. But, one of these articles has never been written by me. So, for your reading pleasure, here is what I’m thankful for on rivalry weekend 2011.
With Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Oregon are falling last weekend, the BCS is once again in a state of utter confusion. Three SEC teams, LSU, Alabama and Arkansas, respectively, top the BCS standings. Further complicating the matter is the fact that Arkansas is playing at LSU this weekend. If the Hogs beat the Tigers and Alabama beats Auburn, all bets are off. This comes thanks to Alabama beating Arkansas earlier this season. Add to the fact that this would create a three-way tie at the top of the SEC West, with the tie-breaker being, you guessed it, the BCS standings, and no one can really know what would happen if such an event were to occur.
This leaves several teams waiting in the wings, hoping the system explodes. I’ll get to them in these rivalry game previews.
No. 25 Texas at Texas A&M- “The Lone Star State Pissing Match”(Not the official name)
The stakes: Just bragging rights. Really, that’s it. Texas A&M isn’t even ranked after opening the year in the top-10, and Texas is under .500 in the conference and is ranked on name alone. I guess this game could mean the difference between going to the Insight Bowl(Yes, Insight still has a bowl even though it was purchased by Time Warner) and dropping all the way to the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas(Not to be confused with the original Meineke Car Care Bowl, played in Charlotte, and now called the Belk Bowl).
Be thankful for: If you’re Texas A&M, that you finally get to go out on your own, and your big brother can’t pick on you anymore. If you’re Texas, that you’re annoying little brother isn’t constantly trying to show you up.
Pittsburgh at West Virginia- “The Backyard Brawl”
The stakes: Whoever wins this game will have a vague shot at winning the Big East, but five out of eight teams have two conference losses, so I’m pretty sure a Ouija board will determine who will get smashed in a BCS bowl. But, the fans of the winning school will get to set fire to couches in unbelievable joy, while the fans of the losing school will set fire to couches in utter despair.
Be thankful for: Not being on either campus. If you’re a couch, that is.
No. 13 Georgia at No. 23 Georgia Tech- “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate”(Actually is the official name)
The stakes: Other than the obvious bragging rights, both Georgia schools are playing for credibility. Georgia began the year losing to Boise State and South Carolina, but has since rebounded with nine consecutive victories. Still, only one of those wins was against a ranked opponent, Auburn, and they were unable to claim the SEC East because South Carolina continued to win after losing ever offensive starter to injury or dismissal(Kidding. Sorta). GT has some nice wins(Clemson, North Carolina) and some confounding losses(Miami, Virginia). A win here would do a great deal to legitimize the Yellow Jackets and, perhaps the ACC as a whole.
Be thankful for: The triple-option against SEC speed. We’ve seen it the past couple years, but it’s still fun to watch.
Ohio State at No. 15 Michigan- “The game that used to really matter”(Should be the official name)
The stakes: The Wolverines are hoping to end a streak of seven straight Buckeye victories in the series, and a win may earn Michigan an at-large berth in the BCS. Ohio State can make this otherwise forgettable season worth remembering if they can upset Michigan and send them to the Outback Bowl(Try the Bloomin’ Onion!).
Be thankful for: Running quarterbacks, and if you aren’t, don’t watch this game. We know about Denard Robinson’s explosiveness, but Ohio State has an athletic signal-caller as well in freshman Braxton Miller. One problem: Miller can’t throw at all. The Buckeyes are ranked 118 out of 120 teams in passing yardage, with two option teams coming in behind them. Expect a heavy dosage of Braxton and Denard on the ground.
No. 2 Alabama at No. 24 Auburn- “The Iron Bowl”
The stakes: Alabama needs a win to have a shot at a national title, while Auburn will look to be the spoiler the Tide couldn’t be last year. Also, the losing team has to poison some trees, or something like that.
Be thankful for: Hard hitting defenses and somewhat vanilla offenses. If you hate strategy, but love fast people, this is the game for you.
No. 5 Virginia Tech at Virginia- “The Commonwealth Cup”
The stakes: Other than the cup itself, which would not look out-of-place in the final scene of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the winner of this game will head to the ACC championship game. For Virginia Tech, there could be a national title game shot on the line, but the Hokies would need a LOT of help.
Be thankful for: Virginia usually being terrible. The Cavaliers are known for their co-eds dressing up in cocktail dresses and looking like southern belles. If the team actually becomes decent, these girls might become fans and want to watch a football game, not get drunk at a fancy social event.
Purdue at Indiana- “The Battle for the Old Oaken Bucket”
The stakes: Why, a Civil War-era oaken bucket, of course. Other than that, Purdue needs one more win qualify for a bowl for the first time since 2007, while Indiana needs a win to avoid dropping to 1-11. The Hoosiers have yet to defeat a Division 1A(FBS) opponent this season but, even as bad as this year has been, it will be a success by IU standards if they beat the Boilermakers and deny them the post season.
Be thankful for: Having Indiana as your football rival. While IU has done its fair share of things on the hardwood, let’s just say their reputation on the gridiron is less than flattering. Sure, it makes the rare losses to the Hoosiers way more humiliating. But, most years, it gives Purdue an easy win at the end of the season to feel better about itself.
Duke at North Carolina- “Is it basketball season yet?”
The stakes: Absolutely nothing.
Be thankful for: The arrival of basketball season.
Florida State at Florida- “The Battle for the Governor’s Cup”
The stakes: The chance to turn a disappointing season into “that year where we really sucked, but at least we beat UF/FSU!”
Be thankful for: A bowl game, because neither of these teams earned it. Florida State has defeated one team that is heading to a bowl, NC State, while Florida trailed Furman by 15 points last week. The Gators also have zero wins over teams with winning records. Well, except for Furman, who sits at 6-5 in the Southern Conference of 1AA.
No. 17 Clemson at No. 12 South Carolina- “Battle of the Palmetto State”
The stakes: Each of these teams is heading to its conference’s respective championship game, so bragging rights and a chance to end the season in the top-10 will be on the line.
Be thankful for: The fact that the ACC could go 4-0 against the SEC this weekend if Clemson, Florida State and Georgia Tech win, and Wake Forest picks up a victory over Vanderbilt. That would shut those SEC fans up for like five minutes!
No. 22 Notre Dame at No. 6 Stanford- “The school that used to win with academic standards against the school that currently wins with academic standards”
The stakes: The Cardinal still has an outside shot at the national title, but would need some serious help to get in. Really, Stanford needs this win to lock up an at-large berth in the BCS, while Notre Dame coach Chip Kelly needs a marquee road win to get the Golden Domers off his back.
Be thankful for: Oregon, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma all wetting the bed last week and making this game nationally relevant.