We’ve made it to Rivalry Week, where national championship aspirations are verified or crushed, and bragging rights are cemented for the next 366 days. You never want to be on the losing end of this week’s game, regardless of how good or bad your team’s season has been to this point.
There are tons of games on the docket today, so let’s get started.
My record in predictions this year: 25-14
No. 13 Georgia (9-2, 7-1 SEC) at No. 23 Georgia Tech (8-3, 5-3 ACC), 12 p.m.
Rumors of Mark Richt benching some of his players for this game have been swirling, and in all honesty, this game is for the bragging rights of the fans and little more. Georgia running back Isaiah Crowell is questionable, as always, with a bad ankle. We’ll see if they need him to win this game.
To me, this game comes down to how Georgia Tech’s offense performs. If they have an ugly game where they put the ball on the ground several times, they won’t win. But if they can play clean football and Paul Johnson coaches a good game, they have a shot. Nevertheless, I think Georgia wins today.
My prediction: Georgia 40, Georgia Tech 25
No. 5 Virginia Tech (10-1, 6-1 ACC) at Virginia (8-3, 5-2 ACC), 3:30 p.m.
The winner of this rivalry game gets the ACC Coastal crown, so there is plenty to play for this afternoon in Charlottesville. The Hokies still have an outside chance to earn a spot in the BCS Championship game if several teams ahead of them lose today, but they must first focus on winning the ACC, and winning today.
Virginia is much-improved under the leadership of Mike London, and they have a very good chance to win the conference. The Cavaliers have home-field advantage today, and they are riding high after last weekend’s victory over Florida State, so expect a dogfight this afternoon.
My prediction: Virginia Tech 35, Virginia 34
No. 2 Alabama (10-1, 6-1 SEC) at No. 24 Auburn (7-4, 4-3 SEC), 3:30 p.m.
The Iron Bowl has national championship implications yet again this year, only this time, it’s Alabama that is playing for all the marbles. After blowing a 24-0 lead at home to the eventual-champion Tigers, ‘Bama is looking to get revenge this season.
Auburn is not a good football team, and it’s my belief that the voters have kept them in the rankings just to build hype for today’s game. At 7-4, they don’t belong in the rankings, regardless of whether they play in the SEC, Conference-USA, NFC South or anything else. But they are 6-0 at home, and the atmosphere is the only reason to make me think Auburn could do the impossible today and beat Alabama. But aside from that, I can’t really point to any reason why the Tigers should be confident this afternoon.
My prediction: Alabama 28, Auburn 7
No. 19 Penn State (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten) at No. 16 Wisconsin (9-2, 5-2 Big Ten), 3:30 p.m.
The top two teams in the Leaders Division of the Big Ten meet today in Madison, with the winner going to Indianapolis to take on Michigan State. Wisconsin is the Big Ten’s best offense, scoring an average of 44.8 points per game, while Penn State’s defense is allowing a league-low of 13 points per game. Something has to give in that match-up.
The Badgers’ offense has two players that could easily be Heisman contenders in quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Montee Ball. Wilson has thrown 26 touchdowns and Ball has rushed for 25 — I just don’t see any way the Nittany Lions can keep up with the Badgers today.
My prediction: Wisconsin 53, Penn State 28
No. 17 Clemson (9-2, 6-2 ACC) at No. 12 South Carolina (9-2, 6-2 SEC), 7:45 p.m.
Clemson is seeking its first 10-win season in 20 years, and they will be getting super-freshman Sammy Watkins back from injury today. If Clemson doesn’t continue its typical late-season meltdown, they should win this game.
But that’s a big “if,” and keep in mind that the Gamecocks have the home-field advantage tonight. The Tigers have turned the ball over 11 times in the last three games after having just eight turnovers in their first eight games. If they can make sure to get the ball into Watkins’ hands and let him make the big plays, they can win. If Tajh Boyd slings the ball around like he has in the last three games, they will lose.
My prediction: Clemson 27, South Carolina 21
No. 22 Notre Dame (8-3) at No. 6 Stanford (10-1, 8-1 Pac-12), 8 p.m.
Stanford has never won three games in a row against Notre Dame, but they have a chance to do that today. The Cardinal is also back in the national championship conversation, even if they likely won’t win their own division or conference.
Andrew Luck lost a lot of positive publicity in his loss to Oregon, but he can begin to gain that back and climb back into the Heisman race today. Notre Dame running back Jonas Gray is out for the rest of the year with a torn ACL, so it will be tougher for the Irish to keep pace with the nation’s fourth-ranked scoring offense.
My prediction: Stanford 55, Notre Dame 31