It is Thanksgiving week, and that means bitter southern rivalries take center stage. This is also a week where two power five conferences, the ACC and SEC, clash in multiple match-ups. We all know sometimes family gatherings can get uncomfortable. Usually subjects such as politics and religion are off limits. In the south, where college football is king, team allegiances can bring about the same passion and confrontation at the dinner table. Opposing fans can often divide a family. This is the week where a holiday brings people together at the table, and football allegiance tears them apart at the television.
Southern Rivalries on the Holiday Weekend
We take a look at the southern rivalries that will once again pit friend against friend and cousins against cousins. The bragging rights that go along with these games last all year long. The stakes are so high because no one wants to be on the wrong end of 365 days of trash talk. These rivalries are so important that in some cases they get named. Everyone has the cousin who will be relentless with trash talk if his team wins. There is the aunt who doesn’t know much about football, but wears the rival colors just to get under your skin. Let’s take a look at all the match-ups ahead of us on this holiday weekend.
The Egg Bowl – Ole Miss Rebels at Mississippi State Bulldogs
The Rebels travel to Starkville on Thanksgiving night to face the rival Bulldogs. They will come in at 5-6 (2-5 in SEC) and look to get that sixth win and end the year at .500. Ole Miss has performed admirably considering the turmoil currently surrounding their program. The Bulldogs will be looking for their ninth win and a winning SEC record. Led by Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State has won four of its last five games. Fitzgerald had a career day in Oxford last year with 258 yards rushing in a 55-20 win. This is the 114th edition of the Egg Bowl, with Ole Miss leading the series 63-44-6.
The Iron Bowl – Alabama Crimson Tide at Auburn Tigers
In what will be the biggest game of the day on Saturday, the Tide travel across the state to face the Tigers in the 82nd meeting between the two. This is certainly one of those “divide the state” southern rivalries. The hate between these two programs is fierce, and the stakes are even higher this year with a trip to the SEC title game on the line. Auburn just beat the number one team in the country with a 40-17 win over Georgia. Now they will face the new top ranked team, the Crimson Tide. The Tigers are led by a dominant defense only allowing 16.6 points per game. On offense, Kerryon Johnson leads the SEC with 1172 yards and 16 touchdowns. There are also College Football Playoff implications in the Iron Bowl. Both teams still control their own destiny for a spot in the final four.
Alabama is the same dominant team they have been for the past decade under Coach Nick Saban. The defense has faced multiple injuries, especially at linebacker, but is still loaded with talent. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has been solid and timely with his play making all year long. His numbers may not wow anybody, but the team keeps winning and when they need a big play he finds a way to make it. Bama will look to gets four in a row in a series they lead all-time 45-35-1. A victory on Saturday will finish off an undefeated regular season, and send the Tide to face Georgia in the SEC Championship.
Battle Line Rivalry – Missouri Tigers at Arkansas Razorbacks
The Battle Line Rivalry just became permanent in the SEC. These two are now cross-division rivals in the SEC. Arkansas has struggled this year, with only one conference win and a 4-7 record. The Razorbacks have had issues protecting their quarterback, and stopping opposing offenses. The latter of those two concerns will be magnified this weekend with Mizzou coming to town. Drew Lock has 3,247 passing yards to lead the SEC. After a season that started in disaster, the Tigers have rebounded well. The Tigers followed a five game losing streak with five straight wins. To be bowl eligible considering where this team was in mid-October is an impressive accomplishment for Coach Barry Odom and his players.
Vanderbilt Commodores at Tennessee Volunteers
Who will end a bad season on a high note? Both these teams are win-less in the SEC this year. The Vols have already fired Butch Jones, and have a complete mess for a football program at the moment. Vandy thought they had turned a corner when a 14-7 win over Kansas State moved them to 3-0. They have lost seven of eight games since then. Both teams have had seasons they want to forget, and losing in this contest will only make things worse.
Southern Rivalries – ACC vs SEC
The Palmetto Bowl – Clemson Tigers at South Carolina Gamecocks
The defending champion Tigers will travel to Williams-Brice Stadium for the 115th meeting between the two schools. This game has been played in more consecutive years than any of these heated southern rivalries. The Tigers won in blowout fashion last season. Clemson again has a suffocating defense, and will look to use their advantage in the trenches to stay on top of their rival. The Gamecocks have outperformed expectations this season and come into the Palmetto Bowl at 8-3 and ranked 24th by the CFP and 25th in our poll. South Carolina will look to thwart Clemson’s playoff chances. The Tigers will look to keep their momentum rolling and move on towards the ACC title game with Miami.
Clean Old Fashioned Hate – Georgia Bulldogs at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
The battle of the peach state should be one of the quicker games this weekend. With Paul Johnson’s Yellow Jackets running the triple option and the Bulldogs reliance on their talented tailbacks, the clock may just run continuously all game. Georgia leads the all-time series 65-41-5 in 111 meetings. The Bulldogs come in at 10-1 and in the top ten in the country. Like Alabama, Auburn, and Clemson, they control their own destiny in the CFP. But they’ve lost two of the past three to their in state rival.
Georgia’s tandem of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel have combined for 1,863 yards and 24 touchdowns on the ground this season. Georgia Tech averages 319 rushing yards per game, and is led by quarterback TaQuan Marshall’s 1,074 yards and 26 total touchdowns. Both teams’ stout run defenses will be thoroughly tested on Saturday. The Dawgs still have the SEC Championship game to move on to, while the Yellow Jackets need a victory to get to six wins and bowl eligibility.
Sunshine Showdown – Florida State Seminoles at Florida Gators
This game could be called the disappointment bowl in 2017. These two tradition rich programs have hit hard times this season. Each team comes in at 4-6, and the Gators fired Coach Jim McElwain earlier in the season. Defense carries each team, while they both have had a lion’s share of struggles on offense. This one could be a real ugly one to watch. The Gators haven’t beaten the Seminoles since 2012. Florida does lead the overall series, 34-25-2 all-time.
Governor’s Cup – Louisville Cardinals at Kentucky Wildcats
The Wildcats have had one of their best football seasons in some time and have a chance for eight wins and back-to-back victories in this match-up. After a 70-year gap between meetings, 1924-93, this rivalry renewed in 1994. They have played every season since. Kentucky upset Heisman winner Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals last season. Overall the Wildcats lead the series 15-14. Both teams are known more for their hoops rivalry, and rightfully so, but the bragging rights on the gridiron still mean plenty in the Bluegrass State. Both squads are 7-4 and will look to secure a better bowl bid with a win. Lamar Jackson is still filling the stat sheet for Louisville. Sophomore tailback Benny Snell has 1,107 yards and 16 touchdowns for Big Blue.
So this is the week all the fans are waiting for. Trash talk will be at a season high, with families and friends putting their love for one another on hold until their teams fight it out on the field. There are grudge matches all over the country this weekend, with games like Ohio State vs Michigan, Washington vs Washington State, Arizona vs Arizona State, and Oregon vs Oregon State also on the schedule. Down here, where college football rules, the southern rivalries will be as heated as ever.
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