The Herald Bulletin

November 29, 2013

Rivalries dominate this weekend


The Herald Bulletin

---- — You don't need your GPS to know the road to the BCS title game goes through the Iron Bowl.

It has lately, anyway, since the winners of the past four Alabama-Auburn meetings have ended up national champions.

It's rivalry week, with so much to prove, which means a crowded Tense 10. But it all starts with the No. 1 Tide vs. the No. 4 Tigers. Nobody is giving more thanks this week in the state of Alabama than the ticket scalpers.

Alabama at Auburn. Alabama has a perfect season, big BCS title plans, a chance to make history with a national championship threepeat — and Auburn could blowtorch it all, plus advance to the SEC championship game, a year after going 3-9. Of course, the trick is doing it. Alabama has allowed five touchdowns to its last nine opponents, and now aims the be the wall that Auburn's 320 yards-per-game rushing attack goes splat against. The Tide have beaten the Tigers by a combined score of 91-14 the past two years. This feels a lot closer.

Purdue at Indiana. Well, it's not exactly Alabama-Auburn. You could combine their winning totals — Indiana is 4-7, Purdue 1-10 — and not even be bowl eligible. But the only thing worse than having a lousy season is having a lousy season with an Old Oaken Bucket loss at the end. Defensive purists should turn away. Indiana is 115th in the nation in scoring defense, Purdue is 108th.

Ohio State at Michigan. What rivalry? Ohio State has won 10 of the last 12 meetings. If that wouldn't frost Bo Schembechler's glasses, this would: Michigan is 100th in the nation in rushing. No reason to think the wavering Wolverines — four losses in six games — can stop Ohio State's 23-game winning streak, except maybe old home movies. The Buckeyes' previous longest streak was 22, before it ended in Ann Arbor in 1969 against another Michigan team that wasn't supposed to win.

Duke at North Carolina. A national headliner, as usual. Wait a minute, this isn't a basketball game? Sorry for the confusion. Duke has never won 10 games in a football season and never been in the ACC title game, and the Blue Devils will do both with a victory. North Carolina, 6-5 after starting 1-5, has lost twice to Duke in 23 years.

Florida State at Florida. The Seminoles are outscoring opponents by an average score of 55-11. Florida has dropped six in a row, including to a Georgia Southern team that didn't complete a pass, which guaranteed the first losing season in Gainesville in 34 years. Even the state's alligators are calling for Will Muschamp's job. It's a last chance — if the size of a gnat — for Florida to erase a disaster.

Texas A&M at Missouri. A Tigers victory sends them to the SEC championship game, the final answer to those who ever questioned if they belonged. Johnny Manziel's Heisman reelection campaign is in trouble, but still could be saved with a big day.

Fresno State at San Jose State. If you're one of the 99.8 percent of Americans who have never seen Fresno State play, the Bulldogs can finish their first perfect regular season in 52 years and likely grab a BCS bowl spot. In 502 passes, Derek Carr has thrown 39 touchdowns and only four interceptions. It'd be nice if someone noticed.

Clemson at South Carolina. Clemson has somehow gone 10-1 quietly, but the Tigers can worry about recognition later. First, they have to do something about that four-game losing streak against Steve Spurrier.

UCLA at USC. If the Trojans win, how can USC not hire interim coach Ed Orgeron as a fulltimer, right there on the 50? Meanwhile, UCLA coach Jim Mora is anxious to stop USC's recent dominance in this crosstown war — the Trojans are 12-2 the past 14 years — no matter his ancestry. Both his parents went to USC.