The most anticipated week of the regular season has finally arrived for college football fans. Dozens of rivalry games will be played across the nation on Thanksgiving and this upcoming weekend. Implications in these matchups will range locally from state bragging rights to nationally with championship implications. The BCS picture will be officially sorted next weekend when the conference championship games are played, but surprising results over the next few days could create more chaos in the national title race. There’s so many rivalry games and anticipated showdowns, that the usual ten game list needed to be doubled in size. College football fans should have more than enough matchups to be keep an eye on this week.
20. Penn State at #15 Wisconsin (-24) (3:30pm, ESPN): Wisconsin wont be making a trip to Pasadena for the fourth year in a row, but the Badgers could be playing in a BCS bowl again, depending on how the rest of the season plays out for Ohio State and Michigan State. This will be a de-facto bowl game for the Nittany Lions, who are ineligible for the postseason for a third straight year.
19. Oregon State at #13 Oregon (-21.5) (7pm, Friday, Fox Sports 1): A second November loss (42-16 to Arizona) will keep the Ducks out of a BCS bowl, but Helfrich’s squad can still make it six straight years with 10+ wins and a victory over their in-state rival.
18. Miami (-3) at Pittsburgh (3:30pm, Friday, ABC): The Hurricanes strong start to 2013, fell apart after losing their first three games this month. The program could still achieve their best season in a decade, by winning their final two games of the season. Miami has the edge in the series historically having won 15 of the last 16 games against their former Big East counterpart.
17. #2 Florida State (-27.5) at Florida (12pm, ESPN): The Seminoles have dominated their way to a likely spot in the national title game. 10 of their 11 wins have come by more than 30 points, with the closest being a 48-34 win over Boston College in September. Another dominant game will get them one step closer to championship matchup and could end the Will Muschamp era in Gainesville.
16. Iowa at Nebraska (-3) (12pm, Friday, ABC): Nebraska will look to make it three in a row against Iowa, who they have not lost to since joining the Big Ten. A win for the Hawkeyes would equal their highest win total since 2010.
15. Arkansas at #17 LSU (-24.5) (2:30pm, Friday, CBS): The Battle for the Golden Boot has fallen off the national radar the last few years because of the Razorbacks decline. Nonetheless its still one of the most anticipated games of the year for both fanbases. Six of the last eight meetings have been decided by eight or fewer points, including a 20-13 win a year ago for the Bayou Bengals. Arkansas has lost their last eight regular season games and 11 consecutive SEC games.
14. #9 Baylor (-13) at TCU (3:30pm, ESPN2): A crushing 49-17 defeat in Stillwater may have ended the Heisman campaign for Bryce Petty and national title hopes for the Bears, but their chances are still alive for the program’s first conference title since 1980. Baylor can still win the Big 12 if they beat TCU and Texas, and if Oklahoma State loses to Oklahoma in the Bedlam Series next Saturday.
13. East Carolina at Marshall (-3) (12pm, Friday, CBS Sports Network): First place in Conference USA and a potential top 25 ranking will be on the line on Black Friday in Huntington, West Virginia. The winner of this game will play the winner of Tulane/Rice for the conference title next weekend.
12. Ole Miss (-4) at Mississippi State (7:30pm, Thursday, ESPN): The Rebels will once again finish in the bottom half of the SEC West in Hugh Freeze’s second year in Oxford, but the program has improved dramatically since his arrival. A win in Starkville would give them their first back-to-back Egg Bowl victories since 2004 and keep Mississippi State out of a bowl game.
11. Georgia (-3) at Georgia Tech (3:30pm, ABC): The Hutson Mason era will begin earlier than expected in Athens, after Aaron Murray suffered a season-ending ACL injury in his final home game at Sanford Stadium. A win in Mason’s official debut as the starting quarterback could extend the Bulldogs streak to five games against the Yellow Jackets. Georgia has beaten Georgia Tech 11 out of 12 times in the Mark Richt era, their only loss occurring in 2008 during Paul Johnson’s first year as head coach of the Yellow Jackets.
10. Arizona at #12 Arizona State (-11) (9:30pm, Pac-12 Network): Arizona pulled off the biggest upset of this past weekend, beating Oregon by more than three touchdowns. Rich Rodriguez’s players can cause even more chaos in the BCS by beating the Sun Devils. Arizona State has clinched a spot in the Pac-12 title game, but wont be playing in a BCS game if they cant win their next two.
9. Minnesota at #11 Michigan State (-14.5) (12pm, Big Ten Network): The Spartans have already taken care of the Legends division and are looking to secure a potential at-large BCS berth. A win for Michigan State in their final regular season game could put them in position for a major bowl game, even if they cant get past Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game.
8. #24 Duke at North Carolina (-6) (12pm, ESPN2): Tobacco Road isn’t just about basketball in 2013. The 9-2 Blue Devils can achieve their highest win total in program history and a spot in the conference championship game, with a triumph in Chapel Hill. An upset by the Tar Heels and potential outcomes from other ACC games on Saturday could create a five team tie in the Coastal Division.
7. Texas Tech at Texas (-4) (7:30pm, Thursday, Fox Sports 1): Despite all the rumors and speculation about the future of Mack Brown this season, the Longhorns will still be playing for a potential conference championship on Thanksgiving. Texas would earn the Big 12 crown by beating TCU this week and Baylor next Saturday, and if Oklahoma can get past Oklahoma State in their regular season finale.
6. #25 Notre Dame at #8 Stanford (-14.5) (7pm, Fox): The Cardinal were just one of the many close wins that Notre Dame pulled off last year (20-13) on their way to the national title game. Stanford will look to avoid the same fate again this year, having already lost two games going in to their matchup with the Fighting Irish. A loss in one of their next two games will end a three year streak of BCS bowls.
5. #22 UCLA at #23 USC (-3) (8pm, ABC): Bragging rights for Los Angeles will be on the line at the Coliseum on Saturday. There’s no conference title and BCS hopes on the line for either school, but the Trojans and Bruins will meet on the gridiron as ranked opponents for the fist time since 2005. UCLA has not beaten USC in consecutive years since 1998.
4. #3 Ohio State (-16) at Michigan (12pm, ABC): The Buckeyes boast the nation’s longest winning streak of 23 games and could still be shutout of the national title game for a second straight year, despite an unbeaten regular season (Ohio State was ineligible for postseason play in 2012). Ohio State has been dominant over their last four games, but some closer calls than expected in the Big Ten earlier this season, is a big reason why they are still behind Alabama and Florida State in the polls. Another win in Ann Arbor would keep their championship hopes alive, an upset on the road could open up the door for another one loss SEC team to play for a national title.
3. #21 Texas A&M at #5 Missouri (-5) (7:45pm, ESPN): There will be at least one Columbia rooting for Johnny Football this weekend. Missouri will be playing for the SEC Championship next weekend in Atlanta if they can win their home finale against Johnny Manziel and the Aggies. Manziel had his least impressive game of the season last weekend against LSU, which helped end the Aggies chances of a BCS bowl. A strong performance in Columbia could get him back in the Heisman race and end the Tigers chances of a conference title. A loss for Missouri would give South Carolina the SEC East title.
2. #6 Clemson at #10 South Carolina (-5) (7pm, ESPN2): Hard to believe the Gamecocks could lose this game and still play in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day. Steve Spurrier’s squad wont be getting an at-large BCS bid this year, but they can end Clemson’s hopes of another trip to the Orange Bowl. While many South Carolina fans will be watching the scoreboard closely on Saturday night for updates on Texas A&M/Missouri and hoping to make travel arrangements to the Georgia Dome, beating Clemson for a 5th straight year (a series record) would secure their status as the top program in the Palmetto State yet again.
1. #1 Alabama (-10.5) at #4 Auburn (3:30pm, CBS): No game will come close this week to matching the hype and attention surrounding this year’s Iron Bowl, which could be the biggest of all-time. The programs have meet twice in the past as unbeatens, but this is the first time the winner of this matchup will determine the SEC West champion. Auburn has had one the biggest turnarounds in SEC history this season and could complete an improbable regular season by ending Alabama’s hopes for a three-peat. A BCS National Championship Game berth is also possible, if Florida State and/or Ohio State lose one of their next two games. The Crimson Tide wont be able to make it back to the national title game with a loss this year, but would still be in-line for a Sugar Bowl matchup as a consolation prize. Alabama has been dominant in this series the last two years, winning those games by a combined score of 91-14. Another rout in their favor and a big game from AJ McCarron could push him further in to the Heisman conversation.