Gabriel: A look at the big rivalry games Saturday

November 24, 2018

For many college football fans, Thanksgiving weekend is the best of of the season because it is rivalry weekend, when many of the game’s best rivalries reunite. In some games, a win can mean in-state bragging rights, while in other games, it goes even further and direct affects the College Football Playoff.

The big games began yesterday, when Oregon met Oregon State in Corvallis. The Ducks easily won, 55-15, but lost star quarterback Justin Herbert to a shoulder injury. The extent of Herbert’s injury isn’t known at this time, but it could play a role on whether Herbert can play in Oregon’s Bowl game and if he enters the 2019 NFL draft. Herbert would be one of the better QB prospects in this draft, if he comes out.

In the UCF-South Florida game, UCF lost QB McKenzie Milton to a serious knee injury in its 38-10 win, and though the injury has no effect on the draft, it could have a huge effect on if UCF can beat Memphis in the AAC Championship game next week. A UCF loss removes any chance the Knights have of getting into the playoff.

Saturday’s big games begin at 11:00 a.m., when No. 4 Michigan plays at No. 10 Ohio State on Fox. Not only is this a huge rivalry game, it will have a direct effect on what four schools make it to the playoff.

The winner of this game will play Northwestern next week in the Big Ten Championship. But if Ohio State wins, it basically assures that the BIG won’t have a team in the Playoff. A Michigan win both this week and next week will put them in the Playoff as either the third or fourth seed.

Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins — who still has two years of eligibility remaining — needs a big game. Many scouts have him rated as the top quarterback in the draft, if he in fact comes out. Since Ohio State lost DE Nick Bosa to a core muscle injury early in the year, its defense has not played very well. There are also many who feel this could be Urban Meyer’s last home game as the Buckeyes head coach.

South Carolina plays at Clemson tonight on ESPN for the bragging rights of the state, but the game also will impact the Playoff. Clemson is currently ranked No. 2 and needs a win to hold on to that ranking. With South Carolina sitting at 6-4 on the year, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Also tonight, undefeated and third-ranked Notre Dame plays at USC on ABC in the schools’ annual rivalry game. Since Notre Dame is not in a conference, the Irish have to win to hold on to their ranking. A loss paired with the other teams in the top four winning would certainly knock Notre Dame out of Playoff consideration.

An interesting fact about this game: the four previous times an undefeated Notre Dame has traveled to USC to play an unranked USC team, the Irish won only one time. USC is obviously in a down year but would like nothing better than to knock Notre Dame out of the Playoff.

The big game in the SEC is the annual Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn. This game kicks off at 2:30 on CBS. This year the game is at Alabama and the Crimson Tide need the win to hold on to the number one ranking. Regardless of whether Alabama wins or loses, it plays in the SEC championship game next Saturday in Atlanta against No. 5 Georgia.

Georgia plays its annual rivalry game against Georgia Tech today in Athens (11:00, SEC Network) and should have no problem winning, as Georgia Tech has already lost four times this year.

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