Cupcake Saturday came and went with minimal excitement, as the nation’s best teams had their final tune-ups before Rivalry Week.
There were a few exceptions. No. 5 Wisconsin beat No. 24 Michigan 24-10, No. 3 Miami came back to beat Virginia comfortably, Kansas State upset No. 13 Oklahoma State, Baker Mayfield stirred the pot and Will Grier broke his finger. But, Week 12, not unexpectedly, left a lot to be desired. For the first time since the first College Football Playoff rankings debuted in 2014, every top 10 team won in a single week.
You could sense that a few teams were looking ahead to next week so we’ll do the same. College football fans ate their vegetables this week. Next week, we get turkey and mashed potatoes. There will even be pie and dressing. But no cranberry sauce. Gross.
If Week 12 was the appetizer, Rivalry Week is the main course. Here’s what we’ll be salivating over in Week 13:
Dad’s succulent fried turkey: Iron Bowl
You know it isn’t good for your health, but you just can’t get enough. It’s just so juicy and worthy of its place at the center of the table. Especially this year.
No. 1 Alabama and No. 6 Auburn made quick work of their overmatched opponents Saturday and the winner of the Iron Bowl is headed to Atlanta for the SEC championship game. If you’re going to Atlanta, you’re in position for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
For the Tide, it’s basically win twice and you’re in, while two-loss Auburn could slide into the top four with a second win over a No. 1 team in three weeks, followed by another top-10 win against Georgia (again).
This is one of the best rivalries in sports, and it’s once again at the center of the college football universe.
When the turkey is good, we all win on Thanksgiving.
Extra cheesy green bean casserole: Clemson-South Carolina
Green bean casserole is a staple at just about every Thanksgiving meal and it can be very hit-or-miss. When it’s good, it can be the star of the table, or it can be a forgettable side dish that you don’t need to cram onto your already overflowing plate.
That’s what this year’s Clemson–South Carolina game is. Clemson should win, but you can’t help but think that this new and improved, eight-win South Carolina team is going to make things a little challenging for the Tigers. Will Muschamp is one of the sport’s great motivators, and he’ll have his team ready to prove themselves in Columbia.
Don’t sleep on the entertainment value of this game.
Don’t talk politics at the dinner table: The Egg Bowl
Just don’t bring it up. You aren’t changing grandpa’s views on taxes over dinner and it isn’t worth the argument that will ruin everyone’s appetite.
That’s pretty much how it is with Ole Miss–Mississippi State. You don’t get these two sides together anymore without there being a lot of nasty things said to each other. The level of vitriol between the two fan bases has been totally out of control lately (just check social media and any message board associated with either school), and it will be no different in Starkville on Thanksgiving night.
There’s also another level of intrigue with this game, as Ole Miss will certainly have a new coach next year and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen is yet again hearing his name linked to a number of jobs around the country, including a couple in the SEC.
Traditional Thanksgiving stuffing: Ohio State-Michigan
It’s a quintessential Thanksgiving dish. Whether you like it or not, there’s no way you have dinner without stuffing making it onto the table.
But can we all agree that stuffing is vastly overrated? It can be dry and overly salty for no good reason.
This year, that’s what Ohio State-Michigan is. It’s an all-time classic. It’s a storied rivalry. But this year, it’s just salty and dry without any flavor.
Ohio State needs a ton of help to get back into the playoff race, and Michigan isn’t a contender this year. The Buckeyes are looking to finish strong after getting their doors blown off by Iowa a couple of weeks ago. The Wolverines, ravaged by injury, are in fourth place in the Big Ten East with an offense going nowhere fast.
We’ll fawn over this game because of the names on the jerseys and the fact that Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh will be stalking the sidelines, but while it has theatrics it lacks in substance. That doesn’t mean it won’t be a good game, but it only warrants a spot on the big table because of its reputation.
The black sheep of the family brings a new, questionable significant other: LSU-Texas A&M
We aren’t really sure why they’re at dinner, but we have to get used to it. This game was forced into Rivalry Week by the SEC and we aren’t sure about it yet, though we have to acknowledge its weirdness.
This game, like that uncomfortable new dinner guest, always brings some sort of drama and intrigue. Kevin Sumlin, who hasn’t beaten LSU as Texas A&M’s coach, enters the game with mounting speculation about his job status. LSU’s Ed Orgeron has certainly turned things around since a disastrous loss to Troy, but you really never know what you’re going to get from the unpredictable Tigers.
Mom’s cornbread: UCF-USF
You can’t forget about that slice of cornbread. It might not be an iconic staple in a lot of households, but it’s one of those side dishes that you have to reach for if it’s on the table.
UCF leads the nation in scoring (47.7 points per game) and USF isn’t far behind with 37.5. Knights coach Scott Frost is one of the hottest names on the coaching carousel and he’s been linked to a couple of high-profile jobs. USF’s Charlie Strong is one of the most respected coaches in the business and could also be in line for another big-time job after his comeback tour in Tampa.
They have 19 wins between them, and the winner clinches a spot in the American Athletic Conference championship game.
Extra butter on that cornbread, please.
Your aunt’s failed attempt at making grandma’s famous mac and cheese: Florida-Florida State
Granny’s mac and cheese recipe used to be untouchable, until your aunt decided to recreate it this year and it didn’t even reach subpar. Out of respect, it’s on the table, but you almost wish the dog would get a hold of it before any humans consume it.
Florida State started the season ranked third, while Florida was 17th. Now, both could miss out on a bowl game.
Injuries have played a major part in both programs hitting a wall this year, and both are among the lowest-scoring teams in the nation.