It's Rivalry Week! Or whatever we're calling it! After a Thursday night appetizer, college football will dominate the sports atmosphere with two straight days of important, exciting match-ups, one after another after another.
With so much going on and so many different types of stakes, I thought it might be a good idea to set up a user guide. What's playing out and when? What should we watch for?
|American||Navy 43%, Temple 34%, Houston 15%, USF 8%|
|ACC||Clemson 81%, UNC 19%|
|Big Ten||Iowa 38%, Michigan State 37%, Michigan 15%, Ohio State 10%|
|Big 12||Oklahoma 63%, Baylor 20%, Oklahoma State 17%|
|Conference USA||WKU 49%, Louisiana Tech 26%, Marshall 13%, Southern Miss 12%|
|MAC||Bowling Green 54%, Toledo 37%, NIU 9%|
|MWC||Air Force 52%, San Diego State 48%|
|Pac-12||Stanford 54%, USC 24%, UCLA 22%|
|SEC||Alabama 64%, Florida 31%, Ole Miss 5%|
|Sun Belt||Arkansas State 88%, Appalachian State 3%, Georgia Southern 1%, Ark. State/GASO tie 8%|
Combine that with games with obvious College Football Playoff implications, bowl eligibility implications (5-6 teams can clinch spots with a win, but some still might get in at 5-7 at this point), and good old-fashioned hate, and you've got yourself a weekend.
Here's a key:
National title implications
Conference title implications
Bowl eligibility implications
Features a team on fire you should probably watch
Hey, it's football. You'll be wishing you had a chance to watch this soon.
South Florida at UCF (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Spread: No Line
S&P+ Projection: USF 39.2, UCF 13.2
I almost added a "Winless Watch!" frowny-face icon, but that seemed mean. This is UCF's last chance to avoid an 0-12 finish, and it comes against a South Florida team among the hottest in the country. The Bulls went from "might make a bowl" to "might win the AAC." With a win and a Temple loss to UConn, USF would represent the AAC East against the Navy-Houston winner.
Texas Tech at Texas (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1)
Spread: Texas -1.5
S&P+ Projection: Texas Tech 37.5, Texas 32.0
Texas can still reach six wins with victories over Texas Tech (possible) and Baylor (less so). Tech's involvement means we should see points, even from the Longhorns' sometimes-awful offense.
Early Black Friday
No. 15 Navy at Houston (Noon ET, ABC)
Spread: Houston -1
S&P+ Projection: Navy 33.4, Houston 26.8
Game 2 of the AAC's deciding trio is the biggest. The winner becomes the likely home team and favorite in next week's conference title game, the game most likely to determine the Group of 5's major bowl participant. Navy is hot and completely deserving of its top-15 (or higher) spot in the Playoff rankings. But Houston's loss to UConn was due in part to QB injuries, which might be slightly rectified. This is going to be fantastic.
Marshall at WKU (Noon ET, FS1)
Spread: WKU -10.5
S&P+ Projection: WKU 35.7, Marshall 24.5
Winner takes the C-USA East. And need I remind you, this game went for 133 points last Black Friday.
Yeah, you'll want to keep tabs on this one.
WMU at No. 24 Toledo (Noon ET, CBSSN)
Spread: Toledo -8
S&P+ Projection: Toledo 35.2, WMU 24.2
If Toledo wins, Matt Campbell's Rockets will face Bowling Green in the MAC title. If P.J. Fleck's Broncos win, NIU takes the division crown for approximately the 19th straight year.
Kent State at Akron (Noon ET, ESPN3)
Spread: Akron -10.5
S&P+ Projection: Akron 27.5, Kent State 12.2
Akron's bowl eligible! Kent State has a good defense!
That was the best I could do. Kudos to Terry Bowden for getting the Zips bowl eligible for the first time in a decade.
Miami at Pitt (Noon E.T., ESPN2)
Spread: Pitt -6
S&P+ Projection: Pitt 33.2, Miami 26.9
Pittsburgh's got a shot at only its second 10-win season since Dan Marino was QB, and Miami's aiming to complete the most bipolar finish to a season in recent history. The stakes aren't immense, but this should be entertaining.
EMU at CMU (1:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
Spread: CMU -24
S&P+ Projection: CMU 41.7, EMU 19.0
Troy at Georgia State (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
Spread: GSU -1
S&P+ Projection: GSU 30.0, Troy 29.2
Why yes, Georgia State still has a shot at bowl eligibility! The 4-6 Panthers need to beat Troy (could happen!) and ... uh ... Georgia Southern. That probably won't happen. But let's see how long the dream can stay alive. Hell of a job by Trent Miles in making GSU semi-competitive.
Missouri at Arkansas (2:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
Spread: Arkansas -14
S&P+ Projection: Arkansas 35.9, Missouri 19.0
Gary Pinkel's final regular-season game will be for both bowl eligibility and the Battle Line Trophy. One of these will be proved untrue:
- There are two good offenses in every Arkansas game: Arkansas' and whoever gets to face the Arkansas defense.
- There are two good defenses in every Missouri game: Missouri's and whoever gets to face the Missouri offense.
No. 20 Washington State at Washington (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox)
Spread: No Line
S&P+ Projection: Washington 33.7, Wazzu 22.5
S&P+ loves Washington because of the upside the Huskies hinted at in wins over Oregon State, USC, and Arizona. But Wazzu's the team with the winning record.
No. 4 Iowa at Nebraska (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
Spread: Iowa -1.5
S&P+ Projection: Iowa 29.0, Nebraska 28.3
Nebraska's pretty good for a 5-6 team. Iowa's pretty shaky for an 11-0 team. Vegas clearly wouldn't consider a Huskers win significant, but it could drastically shake up the national title hunt.
Boise State at San Jose State (3:30 p.m. ET, CBSSN)
Spread: Boise State -7.5
S&P+ Projection: Boise State 31.4, SJSU 25.4
It might be good for Boise State to play somewhere other than Boise, as the Broncos are riding their first two-game home losing streak in decades. But if this game comes down to motivation, SJSU might have more. A win would get the Spartans to 6-6. Win or lose, the narrative of Boise State's season (massively disappointing) is set.
Oregon State at No. 17 Oregon (4 p.m. ET, FS1)
Spread: Oregon -34.5
S&P+ Projection: Oregon 45.9, Oregon State 18.6
Oregon has hit fifth gear of late. Oregon State ... has not. But no rivalry game features a prettier combination of uniform colors!
UMass at Buffalo (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
Spread: Buffalo -6.5
S&P+ Projection: Buffalo 31.7, UMass 24.9
In his first year as Buffalo's head coach, Lance Leipold has lost as many games (six) as he did in eight seasons at Wisconsin-Whitewater. But another win would get the Bulls to bowl eligibility.
No. 7 Baylor at No. 19 TCU (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Spread: Baylor -1.5
S&P+ Projection: Baylor 38.2, TCU 34.8
No, this doesn't have the stakes we thought it might. Yes, it will still be fun as hell. If Baylor wins, the Bears could score a third straight Big 12 title with an OSU win over Oklahoma.
Tulsa at Tulane (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
Spread: Tulsa -6
S&P+ Projection: Tulsa 33.1, Tulane 25.2
While Art Briles fights for another conference title, his former offensive coordinator, Philip Montgomery, will be fighting to get his Tulsa squad a bowl bid in his first year.
No. 8 Ohio State at No. 10 Michigan (Noon ET, ABC)
Spread: PICK 'EM
S&P+ Projection: Michigan 26.6, Ohio State 22.2
Ohio State-Michigan. Buckeyes getting smashed on Bo's grave. Potential Big Ten and Playoff consequences (if Michigan State loses to Penn State, at least). Ohio State's loss tamped the stakes down a little bit in this one ... but only so much.
Southern Miss at Louisiana Tech (Noon ET, FSN)
Spread: Louisiana Tech -6
S&P+ Projection: Louisiana Tech 34.2, Southern Miss 27.5
In 2012-13, Southern Miss went 1-23. But in Todd Monken's third season, he has his Golden Eagles close to a Conference USA title bid. They have won five in a row by an average of 46-15, and an upset in Ruston would close the deal on a spectacular turnaround. Tech is the favorite, but the Bulldogs' sketchy performance last week at UTEP gives USM hope.
No. 1 Clemson at South Carolina (Noon ET, ESPN)
Spread: Clemson -17
S&P+ Projection: Clemson 41.8, South Carolina 15.4
If retired Steve Spurrier were running out the string as South Carolina's head coach, we could talk ourselves into one hell of an upset. It would have been fitting if, in Spurrier's final game, his Gamecocks threw a scare into a Clemson team that has its best shot at a title in 34 years.
Alas, Spurrier's teeing off on a South Carolina golf course right now, and his former team lost to The Citadel last week.
SMU at Memphis (Noon ET, ESPN News)
Spread: Memphis -21.5
S&P+ Projection: Memphis 44.7, SMU 24.3
There will be points! And for all we know, this might be Justin Fuente's final shot at a win as Memphis' head coach before he gets snatched up by one of the 10 or so power-conference teams rumored to be looking at him.
Virginia Tech at Virginia (Noon ET, ESPNU)
Spread: VT -3.5
S&P+ Projection: VT 29.8, UVA 26.4
Frank Beamer has won 11 in a row against Virginia. If he wins a 12th straight in his final regular season game, he'll have his Hokies bowl eligible for the 23rd consecutive season. Those are some stakes!
Indiana at Purdue (Noon ET, BTN)
Spread: Indiana -7
S&P+ Projection: Indiana 33.1, Purdue 29.9
After a series of near-upsets against good teams, Indiana rolled past Maryland to get to 5-6, one win from bowl eligibility. Darrell Hazell's Boilermakers have shown hints of improvement but will still fall to 2-10 (and 6-30 in the Hazell era) if they don't pull an upset.
Louisville at Kentucky (Noon ET, SEC)
Spread: Louisville -4
S&P+ Projection: Louisville 31.3, Kentucky 21.3
Kentucky has been sneaky-bad for most of the last two months but can still get to 6-6 with a home win over an in-state rival. Bobby Petrino's team is 6-5 and headed for the postseason, but the Cardinals aren't exactly unbeatable.
Georgia at Georgia Tech (Noon ET, ESPN2)
Spread: Georgia -5
S&P+ Projection: Georgia 29.5, Georgia Tech 23.2
We're going to assume both Mark Richt and Paul Johnson will still be in their positions when 2016 kicks off in about nine months. But the loser of this game will have to deal with grumbling. Okay, the winner will, too.
Cincinnati at East Carolina (Noon ET, CBSSN)
Spread: ECU -1
S&P+ Projection: ECU 33.0, Cincinnati 29.9
ECU looked pretty shaky, losing three games in a row before thumping UCF to get to 5-6 last week. Cincinnati fell to 6-5 with an absolutely dreadful performance at USF last week. This game is projected close, but either team has proven it can win or lose a blowout. The early minutes could be quite telling.
FAU at Old Dominion (Noon ET, ASN)
Spread: FAU -4
S&P+ Projection: FAU 29.7, ODU 25.2
FAU nearly beat Florida last week, but ODU is the team with the stakes. A home win would give the Monarchs a 4-4 conference record and, thanks to non-conference wins over EMU and Norfolk State, a 6-6 record.
Iowa State at West Virginia (Noon ET, FS1)
Spread: WVU -14
S&P+ Projection: WVU 36.1, ISU 21.6
S&P+ likes both of these teams more than you do, but unless ISU's got a "Win it for (fired) Coach!" vibe going on, West Virginia should control this.
Maryland at Rutgers (Noon ET, BTN)
Spread: Maryland -1
S&P+ Projection: Maryland 31.3, Rutgers 24.1
Because both teams have to play 12 games.
Boston College at Syracuse (12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
Spread: BC -3
S&P+ Projection: BC 22.2, Syracuse 21.7
An old-school Northeastern rivalry got renewed when Syracuse joined the ACC. That's enough to tune in, right?
Duke at Wake Forest (12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
Spread: Duke -4
S&P+ Projection: Duke 27.9, Wake Forest 21.2
Duke started 8-1 last season before losing three of four. The Blue Devils started 6-1 this year but have lost four in a row. David Cutcliffe's teams evidently don't like cold weather very much. But hey, the forecast says it's going to be 67 degrees in Winston-Salem. Surely Duke doesn't lose a fifth straight, right?
UL-Lafayette at Appalachian State (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
Spread: ASU -23.5
S&P+ Projection: ASU 40.3, UL-Lafayette 19.6
A surprising home loss to Arkansas State knocked control of the Sun Belt out of Appalachian State's hands. But the Mountaineers still have a chance to finish 10-2 with wins over UL-Lafayette and South Alabama. That would be a remarkable feat for a team that was 4-8 in FCS two years ago.
UNLV at Wyoming (2:00 p.m. ET, RSRM)
Spread: No Line
S&P+ Projection: UNLV 30.5, Wyoming 29.8
Tony Sanchez could wrap up a successful 4-8 campaign in his first year as UNLV's head coach, but Craig Bohl's 1-10 Cowboys have been a little bit more competitive of late. That bar's low, though.
South Alabama at Georgia Southern (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
Spread: Georgia Southern -20.5
S&P+ Projection: Georgia Southern 39.7, South Alabama 18.3
Georgia Southern could engineer a tie for the Sun Belt title with two wins and an Arkansas State loss to either NMSU or Texas State. That's not likely, but two wins and a bowl victory would still get the Eagles to 10-3.
Colorado at No. 23 Utah (2:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12)
Spread: Utah -16.5
S&P+ Projection: Utah 37.7, Colorado 16.9
This game is often closer than you think it will be. So there's that.
Middle Tennessee at UTSA (2:30 p.m. ET, FCS)
Spread: MTSU -12
S&P+ Projection: MTSU 31.8, UTSA 25.7
Middle Tennessee already knows it will be going to the Bahamas in bowl season. UTSA already knows it isn't going anywhere. But it's football!
No. 2 Alabama at Auburn (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
Spread: Alabama -14
S&P+ Projection: Alabama 34.0, Auburn 16.6
Surely Gus Malzahn's offense doesn't rough up the Crimson Tide again, right? It takes a leap of faith to think this might be a game for more than a couple of quarters, but what a leap it would be.
Penn State at No. 5 Michigan State (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Spread: MSU -11
S&P+ Projection: Michigan State 29.0, Penn State 22.4
Which Michigan State shows up: the one that's beaten two top-10 teams on the road, or the one that sleep-walked through about half of each other game? If it's the latter, Penn State is more than good enough to hand the East back to the Ohio State-Michigan winner.
No. 14 North Carolina at NC State (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)
Spread: UNC -6
S&P+ Projection: NC State 32.2, UNC 28.5
S&P+ really likes NC State and isn't yet sold on North Carolina. The Heels have made those numbers look a little foolish in recent weeks (last week's trip to Blacksburg aside). Can they do it again?
No. 22 UCLA at USC (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)
Spread: USC -3
S&P+ Projection: USC 33.2, UCLA 30.6
The winner takes the Pac-12 South. Points and stakes: what more could you ask for?
No. 16 Northwestern vs. Illinois (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
Spread: Northwestern -3.5
S&P+ Projection: Northwestern 21.0, Illinois 19.3
An Illinois win would earn bowl eligibility for interim coach Bill Cubit's Fighting Illini. But if this season has taught us anything, it's that Northwestern's going to figure out a way to MacGyver an unlikely win in a close game.
Wisconsin at Minnesota (3:30 p.m. ET, BTN)
Spread: Wisconsin -2.5
S&P+ Projection: Minnesota 23.7, Wisconsin 22.4
Wisconsin's had an up-and-down-and-up-and-down-and-up-and-down year. Minnesota has quietly improved and is a win from 6-6. I don't have a conclusion to that. I have no read on this game whatsoever.
BYU at Utah State (3:30 p.m. ET, CBSSN)
Spread: BYU -3
S&P+ Projection: Utah State 27.0, BYU 26.9
Utah State has made Wisconsin's season look stable.
Charlotte at Rice (3:30 p.m. ET, ASN)
Spread: Rice -11
S&P+ Projection: Rice 31.1, Charlotte 24.8
Attendance might reach four digits!
UTEP at North Texas (3:30 p.m. ET, FSN)
Spread: North Texas -2.5
S&P+ Projection: North Texas 30.4, UTEP 29.0
These teams rank 125th and 127th in S&P+. There are only 128 teams in FBS. But even matchups are fun, right?
Arkansas State at New Mexico State (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
Spread: ASU -17
S&P+ Projection: ASU 36.3, NMSU 25.3
NMSU has shown hints of improvement, but Arkansas State has been hot in Sun Belt play, averaging 47 points per game in six wins. One more would clinch at least a share of the conference title. NMSU probably has to score at least 40 to win. That probably won't happen.
Kansas State at Kansas (4:00 p.m. ET, FS1)
Spread: K-State -20
S&P+ Projection: K-State 37.5, Kansas 21.2
Winless watch for Kansas! Bowl eligibility watch for KSU! Stakes!
Vanderbilt at Tennessee (4:00 p.m. ET, SEC)
Spread: Tennessee -17.5
S&P+ Projection: Tennessee 30.8, Vandy 12.8
Vanderbilt's defense makes you look bad. But Vanderbilt's offense usually looks worse.
Texas State at Idaho (5:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
Spread: Idaho -2.5
S&P+ Projection: Idaho 35.3, TXST 33.4
Connecticut at No. 25 Temple (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
Spread: Temple -12
S&P+ Projection: Temple 30.3, UConn 16.4
UConn just pulled an immense upset in knocking Houston from the ranks of the undefeated. Temple just rocked Memphis to get to within one win of the AAC East title (unless USF somehow loses to UCF, in which case the Owls will be celebrating a division title before this game even kicks off). UConn is intense, but one assumes Temple's got too much.
No. 18 Ole Miss at No. 21 Mississippi State (7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Spread: Ole Miss -1
S&P+ Projection: Ole Miss 31.4, MSU 29.5
If, somehow, Auburn pulls an Iron Bowl upset, Ole Miss could score a stunning division win by beating a hot MSU team. The odds of the latter aren't high, but if the former happens, odds mean nothing in this universe.
No. 6 Notre Dame at No. 9 Stanford (7:30 p.m. ET, Fox)
Spread: Stanford -3.5
S&P+ Projection: Stanford 32.4, Notre Dame 32.4
Notre Dame's iffy performance against Boston College knocked the Irish from the top four in the Playoff rankings, but at the very least, a win over Stanford would make them the first alternate in case the Big Ten goes nuts. The bad news: Stanford is quite good and is still playing for its own chaos-theory Playoff bid.
No. 13 Florida State at No. 12 Florida (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Spread: FSU -2
S&P+ Projection: Florida 26.4, FSU 25.0
The projection reminds you Florida hasn't been as iffy all year as it has been in its last three games, narrower-than-it-should-be wins over Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and FAU. But FSU's defense is awfully good, and UF quarterback Treon Harris has been shaky.
Texas A&M at LSU (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC)
Spread: LSU -5.5
S&P+ Projection: LSU 35.2, A&M 24.6
This game doesn't have the stakes we thought it might a month or two ago. But the John Chavis Bowl still gives us a reason to remember this:
That's enough for me.
No. 3 Oklahoma at No. 11 Oklahoma State (8:00 p.m. ET, ABC)
Spread: OU -7
S&P+ Projection: OU 34.0, OSU 28.5
OSU's loss to Baylor took a little bit of shine off, but only a little. OSU can wreck Oklahoma's hopes and maybe re-enter the title picture itself. Boone Pickens Stadium will be rocking.
Colorado State at Fresno State (9:00 p.m. ET, CBSSN)
Spread: CSU -9.5
S&P+ Projection: CSU 33.4, Fresno State 23.3
Football after dark!
Arizona State at California (10:00 p.m. ET, FS1)
Spread: Cal -4
S&P+ Projection: Cal 35.7, ASU 29.2
Football after dark!
Air Force at New Mexico (10:15 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
Spread: Air Force -9.5
S&P+ Projection: Air Force 36.3, UNM 21.7
Air Force is en fuego, having won five games in a row and clinching the MWC Mountain division. New Mexico is bowl eligible for the first time in the Bob Davie era, and a rule of life is that things get weird at night in Albuquerque.
Nevada at San Diego State (10:45 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Spread: SDSU -17
S&P+ Projection: SDSU 36.2, Nevada 17.0
SDSU is even hotter than Air Force. The Aztecs flipped a switch after falling to 1-3 and have won seven in a row, the last five by an average of 42-11. Nevada is bowl eligible in Year 1 after Cody Fajardo and has gotten good at cracking 30 points.
UL-Monroe at Hawaii (11:00 p.m. ET, MWC Video)
Spread: No Line
S&P+ Projection: Hawaii 27.7, ULM 22.2