Week 13 of the 2021 college football schedule is a lot like my first marriage…there’s a lot going on all at once.
Not only is it the final salvo of the regular season – meaning CFP bracket and conference championship scenarios are plentiful – it’s rivalry weekend, Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, and the kickoff of the bowl selection season. Oh my!
For college football enthusiasts it means a revised mental checklist:
(1). The Egg Bowl – (9) Ole Miss at Mississippi State – is Thursday night (aka Thanksgiving evening) at 7:30pm EST on ESPN.
(2). There are 16 games on Friday, the first kickoff is at Noon EST and the final at 8pm EST.
(3). Saturday’s 45 contests include two Top Ten matchups (one is between Top Five squads) that are also rivalry games with conference championship/CFP implications, four additional pairings with a trip to a league title game on the line and the No. 1 and No. 3 teams in the nation playing a rival where an upset isn’t probable but totally possible.
(4). Of the 65 matchups, 23 (or 35%) have a rivalry trophy waiting in the wings. Though that makes for a lot of reading in our “Hardware up for Grabs” segment below (which is best digested in small bites) it also rewards us with a cornucopia stuffed with must-see-TV.
A sincere and heartfelt Happy Thanksgiving to each of you.
WHAT TO WATCH
Thursday, Nov. 25
3:30pm EST – FS1 – Fresno State at San Jose State
7:30pm EST – ESPN – (9) Ole Miss at Mississippi State
Though at first glance this one has “lots of passing yards” written all over it, did you know that Ole Miss is the No. 7 rushing team in the country while Mississippi State’s D is No. 7 – again in the FBS – vs. the run? Save your leftovers for this one. Holy Egg Bowl!
Friday, Nov. 26
Noon EST – FOX – Kansas State at Texas
Noon EST – CBS – Boise State at (21) San Diego State
If the Aztecs score a victory over the Broncos, they’ll win the West division and host the MWC championship game next Saturday. Beyond that, the scenarios for who’s in and out in the MWC is complex.
Noon EST – ESPNU – Eastern Michigan at Central Michigan
To capture its first Michigan MAC trophy in nine years, Eastern Michigan’s D (currently ranked No. 109 in the nation vs. the run) will have to find a way to shut down the No. 1 back in America in Central Michigan freshman RB Lew Nichols III (#7), who’s rushed for 434 yards and seven scores in his last two outings.
Noon EST – CBSSN – Ohio at Bowling Green
1:30pm EST – Big Ten Network – (16) Iowa at Nebraska
3:30pm EST – ABC – (4) Cincinnati at East Carolina
Last week Cincinnati’s defense (ranked No. 2 in the nation vs. the pass) gave up a mere 66 air yards to an SMU offense that has averaged 305 (No. 16 in the FBS). This week, the Cats get East Carolina, a 7-4 unit that is ranked No. 22 nationally in pass offense, averaging 275. It’s the second section of a two-part test that gets Cincy one step closer to bracket-time.
3:30pm EST – CBS – Missouri at (25) Arkansas
4pm EST – FOX – Colorado at (19) Utah
4:30pm EST – FS1 – TCU at Iowa State
TCU’s defense has consistently struggled vs. the run this year, giving up, on average, 217 yards per game. It earns them the No. 121 mark nationally and the No. 9 slot among the ten-member Big 12. This week it’s Iowa State, home of the No. 8 back in the land in junior RB Breece Hall (#28).
7pm EST – ESPN – North Carolina at (20) NC State
8pm EST – FS1 – Washington State at Washington
Saturday, Nov. 27
Noon EST – FOX – (2) Ohio State at (5) Michigan
This heavyweight matchup is more than just eye candy. Where Ohio State’s passing attack is ranked No. 6 in the nation, Michigan’s defense is No. 8 nationally vs. the pass. And where the Bucks are fresh off hanging up 449 air yards and six passing TDs on Michigan State, the Wolverines most recently held a Maryland offense averaging 307 air yards per game to a paltry 178. And…wait, this game means something beyond bragging rights – the winner earns a spot in the Big Ten title game. Can you say instant classic?
Noon EST – ABC – (1) Georgia at Georgia Tech
Noon EST – ESPN – Florida State at Florida
With Dan Mullen out at Florida, the Gators will be led on the sidelines by Greg Knox. After coaching wide receivers at Ole Miss (1995-98) and Auburn (1999-2008), Knox joined Mullen’s staff coaching running backs at Mississippi State in 2009. After Mullen’s departure to take the Florida job, Knox served as the interim head coach when MSU beat Louisville in the 2017 TaxSlayer Bowl. From there he followed Mullen to Florida where he’s coached running backs and special teams since 2018.
Noon EST – ESPN2 – (18) Wake Forest at Boston College
A Wake Forest win in this one would earn the Deacons an ACC Atlantic title and a place in the conference championship game against (17) Pitt next Saturday. The key matchup is Wake Forest’s passing attack (No. 10 in the FBS) vs. a Boston College D quietly ranked No. 5 – in the entire nation – against the pass.
Noon EST – FS1 – Texas Tech at (8) Baylor
Noon EST – Big Ten Network – Maryland at Rutgers
Noon EST – ESPNU – Navy at Temple
Navy may be 2-8 but it’s still the No. 8 rushing team in the country, averaging 230 yards per game. Cue up Temple, ranked No. 123 nationally and dead last in the AAC in rushing D and this game could be an important confidence builder for the Midshipmen, who still have their annual date with Army booked for Dec. 11.
Noon EST – ESPN+ – Miami OH at Kent State
The winner of this one will capture the MAC-East title and advance to face Northern Illinois in next weekend’s conference championship game. Keep an eye on Miami senior WR Jack Sorenson (#13) – the No. 9 receiver in college football – as he takes on a Kent State D ranked No. 123 overall and dead last in the MAC vs. the pass.
2pm EST – ESPN+ – (22) UTSA at North Texas
At 11-0 and ranked in the CFP Top 25, the 2021 UTSA Roadrunners are already the highest achieving team in program history. They’ll wrap up their epic regular season at North Texas, quietly ranked No. 4 – in America – in rushing offense. It sets up for a battle of strengths vs. a Roadrunner team ranked No. 10 nationally in rush D. Where the Mean Green are averaging 238 ground yards per game, UTSA is allowing 102.
3:30pm EST – CBS – (3) Alabama at Auburn
3:30pm EST – ABC – Penn State at (12) Michigan State
3:30pm EST – ESPN – Oregon State at (11) Oregon
Oregon State might look like the perfect dance partner for a much-needed rebound win for Oregon, but did you know that the Beavers have won seven games for the first time since 2013 and that they’re only seven-point underdogs to the mighty Ducks?
3:30pm EST – CBSSN – Western Kentucky at Marshall
While this one might not have a lot of obvious curb appeal, it features two elite passing attacks taking on defenses that have enjoyed different levels of success. And…the winner captures the C-USA East title and punches its ticket to the league championship to take on (22) UTSA next weekend. In one corner it’s a Western Kentucky offense ranked No. 1 in the FBS taking on a Marshall D ranked No. 16 nationally vs. the pass. On the flip side, it’s the Thundering Herd air attack – currently No. 11 in America – against a Hilltopper D ranked a lowly No. 114 vs. the pass. The gunslingers to watch are WKU senior Bailey Zappe (#4) and Marshall freshman Grant Wells (#8), ranked No. 1 and No. 10 respectively in the FBS in passing yards per game. Prepare to be entertained!
3:30pm EST – Big Ten Network – Northwestern at Illinois
3:45pm EST – ACC Network – Virginia Tech at Virginia
4pm EST – FOX – (14) Wisconsin at Minnesota
In what should be a midwestern slugfest, tune in to this one to see the No. 9 ranked rushing attack in the FBS – Wisconsin – try and get ‘er done vs. the No. 12 rushing D in the land – Minnesota. Check out Badger freshman RB Braelon Allen (#0) – the No. 13 back in the FBS, fresh off a 228-yard, three score performance last week vs. Nebraska. But wait! There’s more: a Wisconsin win equals a West division title and a spot in the Big Ten title game.
4pm EST – ESPN2 – Tulsa at SMU
7pm EST – ESPN – (15) Texas A&M at LSU
7:30pm EST – ABC – (10) Oklahoma at (7) Oklahoma State
If the Sooners upend the Cowboys, they’ll earn a trip to Arlington next Saturday to face – guess who: Oklahoma State – in what would be an epic Big 12 championship rematch rivalry game next weekend. If OU falls, they’ll need Texas Tech to have upset (8) Baylor earlier on Saturday (Noon EST, FS1) to move ahead.
7:30pm EST – ACC Network – (17) Pitt at Syracuse
While the obvious question here might be if Syracuse’s defense can handle the truth that is Pitt’s passing attack – currently ranked No. 5 in the nation, don’t sleep on the Orange ground game – ranked No. 6 in the FBS – taking on a Panther defense ranked a lofty No. 8 – again, in America – vs. the run. This is a quality situation.
7:30pm EST – SEC Network – (23) Clemson at South Carolina
7:30pm EST – ESPN2 – Kentucky at Louisville
8pm EST – FOX – (6) Notre Dame at Stanford
9pm EST – CBSSN – Nevada at Colorado State
This late-night love affair features two of the hottest QBs in the game – Nevada junior Carson Strong (#12) – No. 4 in the FBS in passing yards per game – and Colorado State senior Todd Centeio (#7) – fresh off hanging up 527 yards and five scores at Hawaii last week.
10:30pm EST – ESPN – (13) BYU at USC
USC’s defense has given up 542 rushing yards and eight rushing TDs in its last two outings, both losses. This week the Trojans will square off with the No. 5 back in the nation in BYU sophomore RB Tyler Allgeier (#25) – he’s posted 200-plus yard performances four times this season.
10:30pm EST – FS1 – Cal at UCLA
FIRST-EVER MEETINGS (1)
7: Washington has won 7-straight over Washington State (last loss in 2012)
7: West Virginia has won 7-straight over Kansas (last loss in 2013)
7: Memphis has won 7-straight home games over Tulane (last loss there in 1998)
8: (2) Ohio State has won 8-straight over (5) Michigan (last loss in 2011)
8: (14) Wisconsin has won 8-straight AT Minnesota (last loss there in 2003)
10: (1) Georgia has won 10-straight AT Georgia Tech (last loss there in 1999)
HARDWARE UP FOR GRABS
THE APPLE CUP – Washington State at Washington – Friday, 8pm EST, FS1 – series started in 1900 – Washington leads 74-32-6 and has won ten of the last 11.
The Apple Cup (which was expanded in 2018 to include all sports from each school) officially debuted in 1962 “in honor of Washington State’s delicious and iconic apples.” Originally, the Huskies and Cougars clashed on the gridiron for their version of a Governor’s Trophy. If you measure the rivalry in Apples only, Washington has won 42 vs. Washington State’s 16.
THE BATTLE LINE TROPHY – Missouri at (25) Arkansas – Friday, 3:30pm, CBS – series started in 1906 – Missouri leads 9-3 and has won five-straight.
Introduced in 2015, the Battle Line Trophy outlines the states of Arkansas and Missouri as they would appear on a map. Crafted primarily of silver, it weighs in at a hefty 180 pounds and is nearly seven feet tall. It’s also the natural continuation, geographically, of the Golden Boot, the traveling prize for the Arkansas-LSU series. Both trophies were designed by Arkansas student-athlete David Bazzel. The Razorbacks took possession of the first-ever Battle Line but the Tigers have won each game since.
THE BEDLAM BELL – (10) Oklahoma at (7) Oklahoma State – Saturday, 7:30pm EST, ABC – series started in 1904 – Oklahoma leads 90-18-7 and has won six-straight.
The original traveling prize for Bedlam was the clapper from the bell that hung in Old Central on the Oklahoma State campus. The first time the Cowboys (originally the Oklahoma A&M Aggies) ever beat the Sooners, in 1917, the bell was rung all night. The clapper was absconded by OU fans after another OSU victory in 1932 and then it changed hands until 1966, when the two schools agreed to use it as a trophy. It has since been replaced by a crystal bell that sits atop a base. In 2014, the Bedlam series began awarding a trophy that features 80 pounds of Oklahoma granite, a prize which many enthusiasts hope to phase out.
THE COMMONWEALTH CUP – Virginia Tech at Virginia – Saturday, 3:45pm EST, ACC Network – series started in 1895 – Virginia Tech leads 59-38-5 and has won 16 of the last 17.
Established in 1996, the sizeable Commonwealth Cup is four feet high and weighs in at 100 pounds. It’s big enough for the scores of every previous game between the two programs to be listed on its base. Virginia Tech has won 21 Cups vs. Virginia’s four. The game is also a part of a 22-sport competition between the two schools called the Commonwealth Clash.
THE GOLDEN EGG TROPHY – (9) Ole Miss at Mississippi State – Thursday, 7:30pm EST, ESPN – series started in 1901 – Ole Miss leads 63-46-6 but the two have split the last ten.
Awarded to the winner of the Egg Bowl, the Golden Egg debuted in 1926 when underdog Ole Miss scored an unexpected 7-6 win in Starkville over then Mississippi A&M. Zealous Rebel fans stormed the field after the game, rushing towards the goal posts only to be beat back with cane chairs by State fans. The incident was so ugly that the student bodies decided to present a trophy after the next game “in a dignified ceremony designed to calm fans.” Ole Miss has collected 57 Eggs vs. Mississippi State’s 31. The 1929, 1953, 1957, 1963 and 1968 games all ended in ties.
THE GOVERNOR’S CUP – (1) Georgia at Georgia Tech – Saturday, Noon EST, ABC – series started in 1893 – Georgia leads 68-41-5 and has won three-straight.
One of three Governor’s Cups played for at the FBS level, Georgia’s version is awarded to the annual winner of the game referred to lovingly as “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.” Not only do both schools mention one another in their fight songs, each makes a personal, color-coded sacrifice the week of the rivalry contest – for Georgia Tech it’s giving up the use of red pens while for Georgia it’s refraining from the consumption of mustard.
THE GOVERNOR’S CUP – Kentucky at Louisville – Saturday, 7:30pm EST, ESPN2 – series started in 1912 – Kentucky leads 17-15 and has won three of the last four.
Kentucky’s version of the Governor’s Cup – a whopper physically speaking – dates to 1994, when the two schools renewed their rivalry after a 70-year break. The earlier games were all played between 1912 and 1924, all Kentucky wins by a combined score of 210-0. Since reuniting on the gridiron, Louisville has earned a 15-11 advantage.
THE HEROES TROPHY – (16) Iowa at Nebraska – Friday, 1:30pm EST, Big Ten Network – series started in 1891 – Nebraska leads 29-19-3, but Iowa has won six-straight.
The Heroes Trophy was introduced in 2011, Nebraska’s first season in the Big Ten. The name was chosen with the intent of honoring one citizen apiece from Iowa and Nebraska for “extraordinary acts”. Thus far, the Hawkeye’s have won the prize on seven occasions vs. the Cornhuskers’ three.
THE JAMES E. FOY, V-ODK SPORTSMANSHIP TROPHY – (3) Alabama at Auburn – Saturday, 3:30pm EST, CBS – series started in 1893 – Alabama leads 47-37-1 but the two have split the last four, the home team winning on each occasion.
Dating to 1948, the award presented to the winner of the Iron Bowl was the brainchild of the Alabama and Auburn chapters of Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership honor society. In January 1978, it was dedicated to Dean James E. Foy V as he retired as the Dean of Student Affairs at Auburn. Prior to taking on that role in 1950, Foy had served as the Assistant Dean of Students at Alabama. The Crimson Tide have won 43 ODK’s vs. the Tigers’ 30.
THE LAND GRANT TROPHY – Penn State at (12) Michigan State – Saturday, 3:30pm EST, ABC – series started in 1914 – tied at 17-17-1 but Penn State has won two-straight.
The Land Grant dates to 1993, when Penn State joined the Big Ten and renewed its series with Michigan State, who it hadn’t played since 1966. The name honors the fact that both schools (founded just 10 days apart in 1855) were “pioneer land-grant schools in the nation.” The trophy features landmarks from each campus as well as the team’s mascots. Penn State has won 16 Land Grants vs. Michigan State’s nine.
THE LAND OF LINCOLN TROPHY – Northwestern at Illinois – Saturday, 3:30pm EST, Big Ten Network – series started in 1892 – Illinois leads 55-54-5, but Northwestern has won six-straight.
First introduced in 2009, the Land of Lincoln, which depicts Abraham Lincoln’s iconic hat, was the result of an online contest conducted with both schools’ fanbases. The two teams played for the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk from 1945 to 2008, retired “out of respect for Native American Nations.” Northwestern has won nine of the new awards vs. Illinois’ three.
THE LEGENDS TROPHY – (6) Notre Dame at Stanford – Saturday, 8pm EST, FOX – series started in 1925 – Notre Dame leads 20-13 and has won back-to-back games for the first time since 2007-08.
The Legends Trophy honors the first-ever game between the Cardinal and Irish – the 1925 Rose Bowl, a 27-10 win for Notre Dame that earned it its second national title. Counted among the legendary that day were Knute Rockne, the Four Horsemen, Pop Warner, and Ernie Nevers.
THE MAKALA TROPHY – Florida State at Florida – Saturday, Noon EST, ESPN – series started in 1958 – Florida leads 36-26-2 and has won two-straight.
One of the least known rivalry trophies – especially given its association with a powerhouse matchup – the Makala Trophy is the prize awarded the winner of the Sunshine Showdown. Dating to 1958, legend has it that “the wooden trophy was carved in the Big Cypress Swamp somewhere…by an unnamed Native American leader…in the 1700s. [It was] designed to showcase a Native American leader with superhuman strength about to square off with a hungry alligator in a fight to the death, perhaps as a glimpse into the daily lives of the indigenous people who dwelled in the Swamps of Florida.”
Rather than being awarded on the field after the actual contest, the Makala is presented to the winning team at “a bipartisan banquet in St. Pete on the weekend of the winning school’s spring football game.” And that’s likely why no one has ever heard of it.
THE MICHIGAN MAC TROPHY – Eastern Michigan at Central Michigan – Friday, Noon EST, ESPNU –series started in 1902 – Central Michigan leads 62-30-6 and has won two-straight.
The final leg of the 2021 edition of the three-pronged battle between Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, and Western Michigan, the Michigan MAC (established in 2005 by the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame) is awarded to both a football and basketball recipient. WMU – the current trophy holder and the winner of three straight – leads the football competition with seven MACs followed by CMU with five and EMU with four.
Given that WMU fell 42-30 vs. CMU in Week 10 and then lost 22-21 at EMU in Week 12, the winner of this Friday’s battle between the Eagles and Chippewas will decide this season’s Michigan MAC. CMU hasn’t captured the title since 2017 and EMU hasn’t won since 2012.
THE OLD OAKEN BUCKET – Indiana at Purdue – Saturday, 3:30pm EST, FS1 – series started in 1891 – Purdue leads 74-42-6 but the two have split the last four.
Dating all the way back to 1925, the Old Oaken Bucket was initiated by an alumnus of each school charged with finding a traveling trophy. The duo struck gold at an Indiana farm, where an old bucket, now the Old Oaken Bucket, hung from a well. The first game played for the prize ended in a 0-0 tie, which explains the bronze “IP” attached to the Bucket’s handle. This led to a bronze “I” or “P” being linked to the trophy for each win ever since. So far, 60 “P’s” have been affixed vs. 32 “I’s.”
THE PALMETTO BOWL TROPHY – (23) Clemson at South Carolina – Saturday, 7:30pm, SEC Network – series started in 1896 – Clemson leads 71-42-4 and has won six-straight.
The Palmetto Bowl Trophy replaced the Hardee’s Trophy in 2015, a transition that also marked the first time that the state of South Carolina’s Power 5 football rivalry game had an official name. Clemson has won all five games where the Palmetto was on the line with South Carolina as a double-digit underdog on each occasion. This year the Tigers are favored by 11.5.
THE PANIOLO TROPHY – Hawaii at Wyoming – Saturday, 3pm EST, Spectrum PPV – series started in 1978 – Wyoming leads 15-10 but the two have split the last four, the home team winning on each occasion.
“Paniolo” is the Hawaiian word for cowboy, The Paniolo Trophy originated in 1979 when both schools were WAC members. It was awarded consecutively until 1997 when Wyoming left for the Mountain West. After that, the original trophy went missing and was replaced in 2013 when the schools reunited in the MWC. The current version of the Paniolo features Hawaiian cowboy Ikua Purdy roping a bull. Purdy, who won the steer-roping competition at the Frontier Days Rodeo in 1908, became the first Hawaiian to be inducted into the National Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1999.
PAUL BUNYON’S AXE – (14) Wisconsin at Minnesota – Saturday, 4pm EST, FOX – series started in 1890 – Wisconsin leads 62-60-8 and has won 16 of the last 17.
Introduced in 1948, Paul Bunyan’s Axe was preceded by a wood-crafted Slab of Bacon, awarded to the winner of the annual clash between the two schools beginning in 1930. The tradition of “bringing home the bacon” was halted in the early 1940s when the slab went missing (it was found in 1994 in Madison). Recorded on the handle of Bunyan’s Axe are the winners of every game since the series began. Wisconsin has taken possession of the Axe 45 times vs. Minnesota’s 25.
THE PLATYPUS TROPHY – Oregon State at (11) Oregon – Saturday, 3:30pm EST, ESPN – series started in 1894 – Oregon leads 66-48-10, Oregon State’s win last year snapped a three-game losing skid.
Awarded to the winner of the Civil War, the Platypus Trophy was sculpted (but never officially finished – it’s missing its feet) by an Oregon art student in 1959. Oregon State won the first-ever Trophy game and then retained the prize until 1961 when it disappeared. The Platypus didn’t resurface until 2006 and was reintroduced to the rivalry game in 2007. Since then, the Ducks have won the duck-billed mammal 11 times vs. the Beavers’ three.
THE TERRITORIAL CUP – Arizona at Arizona State – Saturday, 4pm EST, Pac-12 Network – series started in 1899 –Arizona leads 49-44-1 but Arizona State has won four-straight.
The self-proclaimed “oldest trophy for a rivalry game in America” the Territorial Cup is unique because not only has it been in use for the entirety of the series – it’s also over 100 years old. The name refers to the fact that the Cup was awarded before Arizona was even a state, remaining a territory until 1912.
THE VALLEY CUP TROPHY – Fresno State at San Jose State – Thursday, 3:30pm EST, FS1 – series started in 1921 – Fresno State leads 42-38-3 but the two have split the last four.
The Valley Trophy, quite literally a giant metallic “V”, was established in 2013 to “acknowledge the rivals that represent the Silicon Valley and San Joaquin Valley, respectively.” The Spartans have won the big “V” four times vs. the Bulldogs’ three.
THE WAR ON I-4 TROPHY – South Florida at UCF – Friday, 3:30pm EST, ESPN – series started in 2005 – tied at 6-6 but UCF has won four-straight.
Not to be confused with the FBS’s other “Interstate rivalry” – The Battle of I-75 – the War on 4 is an “annual series of scored competitions across multiple sports programs” at USF and UCF that kicked off in 2016-17. Not only do the Knights hold a 4-1 advantage over the Bulls on the gridiron since the War ensued but, after splitting the inaugural title, they’ve also won the overall competition each year since its inception. The two schools are located 100 miles apart on Interstate 4 in central Florida.
THE WOODEN BOOT – ULM at Louisiana – Saturday, 4pm EST, ESPNU – series started in 1951 – Louisiana leads 30-25 and has won six of the last seven.
Referred to as “The Battle of the Bayou,” ULM and Louisiana have played annually since 1997 and also met consecutively from 1953-71 under their previous names – in 1999, Northeastern Louisiana University (NLU) became Louisiana-Monroe (ULM) and the University of Southwestern Louisiana (USL) became Louisiana (Lafayette). The Wooden Boot trophy debuted in 2002 – the Ragin’ Cajuns have won the Boot 12 times vs. the Warhawks’ seven.
The prospect of Georgia Tech upsetting (1) Georgia this Saturday seems like one of the most unrealistic outcomes of Week 13 (the Jackets are 34.5-point underdogs) but…if it does happen, it will be the first time:
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