Edited by: Matthew Ruskan (@MRuskan)
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Happy Thanksgiving! We here at Our Sports Report hope that you are spending this week with friends and family, eating lots of food, and, of course, watching football! It is rivalry week, which means all the high profile matchups where anything crazy can happen. Kick six? You know Auburn fans are praying for something similar in the Iron Bowl this year. The Apple Cup? Should be a great matchup. Oklahoma and West Virginia? All. The. Points. The bottom line is this is Thanksgiving. Go be with your families and enjoy the company, then hunker down Friday with as many screens as you can find.
Mississippi State (7-4) vs. Ole Miss (5-6)
Thursday, November 22 - 7:30 PM ET
Vaught Hemingway Stadium – Oxford, MS – ESPN
Preview: This matchup in its last 10 meetings is split right down the middle at 5-5. This has been a relatively down year for each team in comparison to the last few years. Ole Miss is trying to become bowl eligible and Mississippi State is looking to avenge last year’s stunning loss. Mississippi State finally got its offense rolling again, putting up 52 last week. Although it was against Arkansas, it may have been the confidence the Bulldogs needed going into a rivalry game. Ole Miss is coming off of a devastating loss on a controversial call against Vanderbilt. They’re going to come in already “rivalry game angry” so add vengeful and you’ve got a beautiful in-state rivalry game.
MSU Key Players: QB Nick Fitzgerald, S Johnathan Abram
OM Key Players: WR A.J. Brown, LB Mohamed Sanogo
Virginia (7-4) vs. Virginia Tech (4-6)
Friday, November 23 - 3:30 PM ET
Lane Stadium – Blacksburg, VA – ABC
Preview: Fourteen straight years. That is the current win streak for the Virginia Tech Hokies against the University of Virginia Cavaliers in the battle for the Commonwealth Cup. Fourteen glorious years for Hokie fans. Fourteen long, dark years for UVA fans. If there has ever been a year, however, where it feels like the streak might be broken, this is the year. Virginia Tech has been struggling, losing four straight games, games they never felt competitive in. UVA, meanwhile, has felt dangerous with QB Bryce Perkins. This one is in Blacksburg, but that has not meant much for Virginia Tech this season. This could be an interesting close game, or UVA could run away and not look back as they earn the W they have wanted for so long.
UVA Key Players: QB Bryce Perkins, S Juan Thornhill
VT Key Players: QB Ryan Willis, DB Reggie Floyd
UCF (10-0) vs. USF (7-3)
Friday, November 23 – 4:15 PM ET
Raymond James Stadium – Tampa, FL – ESPN
Preview: USF has now dropped four straight games, racing out to a seventeen point first half lead against the Owls of Temple before Temple scored twenty-seven unanswered in the second half. Rivalry games often tend to play a little weird, but I would expect UCF to be able to move the ball pretty easily against the Bulls. Blake Barnett will have to match McKenzie Milton score for score, and that is not something I can see the Alabama-ASU transfer capable of pulling off. But hey, it is college football, who knows?
UCF Key Players: QB McKenzie Milton, DB Richie Grant
UCF Key Players: QB Blake Barnett, CB Ronnie Hoggins
Oklahoma (10-1) vs. West Virginia (8-2)
Friday, November 23 – 8:00 PM ET
Milan Pusker Stadium – Morgantown, WV
Preview: West Virginia and Oklahoma is one of few games this weekend which are not between traditional rivals, but it may have the biggest stakes. Assuming Texas wins at Kansas, which is not a guarantee, the winner of this game heads to the Big XII title game. Furthermore, West Virginia’s playoff dreams are over, but Oklahoma’s are not. They’ll need some help to jump Michigan, Georgia, or Notre Dame, but the Sooners must handle their own business before they can start paying attention to other games. Both these offenses are clicking on all cylinders, though the defenses are not, so if you like points, watch this and only this on Friday night.
OU Key Players: RB Trey Sermon, LB Kenneth Murray
WVU Key Players: RB Kennedy McKoy, S Kenny Robinson
Washington (8-3) vs. Washington State (10-1)
Friday, November 23 – 8:30 PM ET
Martin Stadium– Pullman, WA - FOX
Preview: The other high stakes game on Friday night is the Apple Cup. The winner is going to the Pac-12 title game, and Washington State still has an outside chance at the College Football Playoff. Other one-loss teams are ranked ahead of the Cougars, but this would be their best win to date, and the #16 Utah Utes have already clinched a spot in the Pac-12 title game. At the very least, a likely Rose Bowl bid lies in the balance here. Washington leads the all time series with a ridiculous record of 72-32-1. More recently, the Huskies have won five straight and eight of the last nine. Having said all that, this is the best chance Washington State has had since Chris Petersen took over at Washington. The game is in Pullman, the Cougars are slight favorites, and their defense has a pulse for the first time in the Mike Leach era. It’s now or never for Washington State, but the Washington seniors are proud, and have never lost to their most hated rivals.
UW Key Players: QB Jake Browning, LB Ben Burr-Kirven
WSU Key Players: QB Gardner Minshew, LB Jahad Woods
Florida (8-3) vs. Florida State (5-6)
Saturday, November 24 – 12:00 PM ET
Doak Campbell Stadium – Tallahassee, FL – ABC
Preview: Don’t sleep on this game. Florida seems to be on the up and up lately and Florida State is feeling good after a HUGE win over Boston College on Saturday. These two teams really don’t like each other and this one will likely get chippy. Florida State will need a big performance on both sides of the ball and need to take their shots deep with this really good Florida secondary and if they can get a good game out of Cam Akers, it could be fun day in Tallahassee. On the other side, Florida will also need its offense to step up. Feleipe Franks will need to prove himself and sling the rock and this defense will need to avoid allowing the Noles to make those big chunk plays. Look for this game to either be a runaway or a fun ending.
UF Key Players: RB Lamical Perine, S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson
FSU Key Players: WR Tamorrion Terry, S Hamsah Nasirildeen
Georgia Tech (7-4) vs. Georgia (10-1)
Saturday, November 24 – 12:00 PM ET
Sanford Stadium – Athens, GA – SECN
Preview: Georgia Tech of late has been a force, winning four straight and making some defenses look absolutely foolish. Georgia, however, is not some middling ACC team. The Bulldogs’ only loss is to LSU, and they have come away victorious against some good SEC opponents. The risk for Georgia is overlooking this out of conference clash as they prepare for Alabama next week. Doing so would be a sure fire way for the triple option to strike for supreme efficiency. Georgia knows this, though, so if they avoid the trap of complacency they should be fine.
GT Key Players: QB TaQuon Marshall, DL Anree Saint-Amour
UGA Key Players: RB D’Andre Swift, LB Monty Rice
Michigan (10-1) vs. Ohio State (10-1)
Saturday, November 24 – 12:00 PM ET
Ohio Stadium – Columbus, OH – FOX
Preview: Their records are the same, yet it is hard to escape the feeling that these are two programs heading in two different directions. Michigan has rolled the last several weeks, Sheae Patterson seems more and more at home with the offense, and the defense is insane. Ohio State, meanwhile, has barely held on the last several weeks, needing overtime to beat a Maryland team dealing with some serious off the field issues. Add in all the rumblings around Urban Meyer, and the time feels ripe for Michigan to finally beat the Buckeyes. The game is in Columbus, and the Shoe will be rocking, which will help the Buckeyes. Ohio State’s offense is their strength, so it should be fun watching them compete with the Wolverine’s defense.
UM Key Players: RB Karan Higdon, LB Devin Bush
OSU Key Players: QB Dwayne Haskins, S Jordan Fuller
Pitt (7-4) vs. Miami (6-5)
Saturday, November 24 – 3:30 PM ET
Hard Rock Stadium – Miami, FL – ESPN
Preview: Your ACC Coastal Champions: Pitt Panthers, weird right? Pitt’s running game is on a new level with their two-headed monster of Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall. Kenny Pickett had his breakout game vs Wake, throwing for 300 plus yards and the defense seems to be clicking. What a good time to be doing all of those things as they have a tough game against the Canes before they head to Charlotte to take on Clemson in the ACC Championship. Miami on the other end, just came off a much needed win over Virginia Tech and wants this win, bad. N’kosi Perry will need to have a big game and fix some of the small mistakes that have been noticed as of late. They’re going to need a lot of offensive output to keep up with this Pitt team that is red hot right now.
PITT Key Players: RB Qadree Ollison, S Damar Hamlin
MIA Key Players: QB N’Kosi Perry, CB Jaquan Johnson
Auburn (7-4) vs. Alabama (11-0)
Saturday, November 24 – 3:30 PM ET
Bryant Denny Stadium – Tuscaloosa, AL – CBS
Preview: Last year, the Iron Bowl was Alabama’s lone loss and we all know how that ended up turning out. This year, this Alabama is better, stronger and a lot more athletic. Tua Tagovailoa puts this team at an entire different level that this Auburn team hasn’t seen. Last year Alabama couldn’t get out in front and take care of business and with this defense coming hungry after a pretty embarrassing performance against the Citadel, this could be dangerous, and it’s at home. And on the other side of things, this is Auburn’s de-facto national championship and they will play with nothing to lose. The Tigers defense has been pretty solid all year but their offense has been up and down all season long. But if there’s any game, according to history where it can show its full strength, it’s the Iron Bowl. This is a “records don’t matter” game, the environment is going to be crazy and it should be a fun classic rivalry game.
UA Key Players: WR Jerry Jeudy, LB Mack Wilson
AU Key Players: QB Jarrett Stidham, LB Deshaun Davis
South Carolina (6-4) vs. Clemson (11-0)
Saturday, November 24 – 7:00 PM ET
Memorial Stadium – Clemson, SC – ESPN
Preview: South Carolina looked like a team which could take a step forward this season, but has disappointed as the rest of the SEC East improved by a wide margin. Clemson, on the other hand, has met and possibly exceeded its lofty preseason expectations, and is in line for an ACC championship and a berth in the College Football Playoff. This game should be a laugher, but a South Carolina win would go a long way in helping Gamecock fans reckon with a fine but uninspiring season. As for Clemson, the Tigers’ resume is thin, and they are relying heavily on an unblemished record and the eye test. How would the committee perceive an upset? It’s hard to say.
SC Key Players: QB Jake Bentley, LB T.J. Brunson
CLEM Key Players: RB Travis Etienne, S Isaiah Simmons
LSU (9-2) vs. Texas A&M (7-4)
Saturday, November 24 – 7:30 PM ET
Kyle Field – College Station, TX – SECN
Preview: One thing has become increasingly clear the last several weeks: LSU is allergic to creative offense. The Tigers have gone increasingly conservative as the season has progressed, and it is not like they started the year on the crazy side. They need to buck this trend if the want to beat the Texas A&M this week. A&M is middle of the pack, but if you give them the opportunity they will find a way to win. I expect turnovers to play a big part of this game, and if LSU gets their ground game going it could be a long day for the Aggies.
LSU Key Players: WR Justin Jefferson, S Grant Delpit
TAMU Key Players: RB Trayveon Williams, LB Tyrel Dodson
Notre Dame (11-0) vs. USC (5-6)
Saturday, November 24 – 8:00 PM ET
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum– Los Angeles, CA – ABC
Preview: USC has disappointed this year, but the roster is still talented, if young and inexperienced. The Irish have lost their last five West Coast season finales against either USC or Stanford, but the last time the Irish won their last game of the season, they were vying for a 12-0 regular season and berth in the BCS title game. Will history repeat itself, or with the Trojans end the season by ruining a rivals’ title dreams to achieve bowl eligibility?
ND Key Players: QB Ian Book, LB Te’von Coney
USC Key Players: QB JT Daniels, LB John Houston Jr.