Technically speaking, this Rivalry Week game doesn’t take place during this rivalry week. But since this Bedlam game still has the opportunity to cause much bedlam in the BCS standings, we’ll include the Dec. 3 showdown anyway. At one point this season, it wasn’t difficult to envision this as a matchup of unbeaten teams. Even though that didn’t prove to be the case, the Cowboys still have an outside shot at playing their way into the BCS championship with a win over their more-accomplished rivals.
A week like no other
Rivalry Week can be a funny thing. On the one hand, it’s one of the things that makes college football what it is, that makes it different from all other sports. But on the other, it also highlights the sport’s inherent regionalism: Auburn-Alabama might well be college football’s biggest rivalry, but more seasons than not, it doesn’t matter all that much to anyone outside the state. This season is different. This season, there’s a whole lot more than just pride at stake when these traditional rivals clash.
Texas at Texas A&M
If this game was any indication, we are in for a monster weekend. Playing for pride and a secondary bowl berth, these two played for perhaps the last time on Thursday to kick off Rivalry Week. The Aggies’ impending move to the SEC has put the future of this longstanding rivalry in doubt, meaning the winner of this game could have bragging rights for a good, long time. That's good news for Longhorn fans, as Texas won 27-25 on a field goal as time expired.
Auburn at Alabama
Even without taking alleged Toomer’s Corner defiler Harvey Updike Jr. into consideration, this is arguably the most poisonous rivalry in college football. And at least recently, it has also been the most important one when it comes to determining a national champion. This will be the third year in a row one of the two participants has come to the game with its sights set on the BCS title game, and this year it's Alabama. The past two years, one of them used an Iron Bowl victory as a springboard to a championship. Can Auburn stop Alabama from making it three straight?
Ohio State at Michigan
Five years ago, this game featured a matchup of the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the country. Since then? The Wolverines have been playing largely for pride against their longtime rivals. Not this year. With a win against Ohio State, Michigan will not only complete an impressive turnaround in Year 1 of the Brady Hoke era (assembling its first double-digit win season since that 1-vs.-2 showdown), it’ll put itself in an excellent position to claim an at-large BCS berth.
Oregon State at Oregon
Last week, Southern California went into Autzen Stadium and ruined the Ducks’ hopes of playing for a national championship. This week, Oregon State would like nothing better than to heap some more misfortune on its in-state rival. If the Beavers can spring the upset, it would knock Oregon out of the inaugural Pac-12 title game and likely spoil any shot the Ducks have at a BCS bowl berth. That’s not very civil, but then, that’s why they call this rivalry the Civil War.
Virginia Tech at Virginia
The Hokies know a thing or two about competing for a BCS bowl berth. After all, they’ve played in five of them since the inception of the system in 1998, including the national championship game in 2000. The Cavaliers, on the other hand, are still looking for their first appearance in a BCS bowl. But after stunning Florida State on Saturday, Virginia can hold out hope for that long-awaited invite. Whoever wins the 93rd meeting of these two schools will play Clemson for the ACC crown and the conference’s automatic berth.
UCLA at USC
When UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel took the job at his alma mater in 2008, he famously declared LA’s football monopoly to be officially over. That hasn’t exactly happened, but only one team playing Saturday has an opportunity to play in the Pac-12 title game. And it isn’t the Trojans. UCLA’s last opportunity to steal USC’s hold on the city before the Trojans’ two-year postseason ban ends comes Saturday — and with it comes a shot (however slim) to play in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2.