Title hopes on line for some, rivalries on tap for others
For many, it's all about the playoffs. Who's in? Who's out? Will a Big 12 team make it? What's up with Michigan State-Ohio State?
Well, when it comes to some of college football's most cherished rivalries, let's take a national title break. There are a few games Saturday offering something else: braggin' rights - and trophies!
So while Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame try to maintain their spots in the College Football Playoff ranking, here's a look at some other worthwhile matchups - from The Game (Harvard-Yale, NBCSN, 2:30 p.m.) to the Big Game (California-Stanford, ESPN, 10:30 p.m.) to the Most Played Rivalry (Lafayette-Lehigh, Lafayette Sports Network, 12:30 p.m.):
It's the 132nd meeting between Harvard and Yale, and this one has Ivy League title implications. A win by Harvard (8-1, 5-1) clinches a tie for the league title, with Dartmouth and Penn also needing wins to claim a share of the crown. Harvard is looking for a school record-setting third Ivy title in a row despite a loss last week to Penn.
The most famous game in the series that started in 1875 came in 1968. Both teams were undefeated. Yale led by 16 points, but Harvard staged a miraculous rally and scored 16 points in the final 42 seconds - a touchdown and 2-point conversion with no time remaining left the final score 29-29. The Harvard school newspaper headline the next day read: ''Harvard beats Yale, 29-29.''
The Crimson is led by quarterback Scott Hosch, who is 149 yards shy of breaking the school record for yards passing; Yale (6-3, 3-3) is led by Morgan Roberts, who has thrown for 2,203 yards. Harvard completed an undefeated season last year with a 31-24 win over Yale, scoring on a 35-yard TD pass with 55 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
''If we were 0-9 this would be an important game,'' Harvard coach Tim Murphy said.
THE BIG GAME
Unlike Harvard-Yale, this one is on the national radar even though No. 15 Stanford (8-2, 7-1 Pac-12, No. 11 CFP) is unlikely to make the final four with a win over Cal (6-4, 3-4). The Cardinal can clinch the Pac-12 North with a win, while the Golden Bears haven't won since 2009. The winner of the 118th Cal-Stanford game is awarded the Axe.
In a season already filled with unimaginable last-play miracles, there is no play more incredible than ''The Play'' in the 1982 Big Game. With Stanford, quarterbacked by John Elway, up 20-19, Cal fielded the kickoff with 4 seconds left. Five laterals later - and with Kevin Moen running through Stanford band members who made their way onto the field believing the game was over, the Golden Bears won 25-20.
This one features two of the league's top QBs in Jeff Goff (3,324 yards and 30 TDs) and Kevin Hogan (a 162.1 quarterback rating).
''We have a lot of older guys who want to beat Cal and keep the Axe and a bunch of guys who want to go to the Pac-12 championship game,'' Stanford coach David Shaw said. ''That's where our focus is.''
For the 151st time, it's Lafayette-Lehigh, with the visiting Leopards (1-9, 0-5 Patriot League) looking for a third straight win over the Engineers (5-5, 3-2). The series began in 1884, but is the most played because the teams met twice a year from 1884-1901 - and three times in 1891.
Last year's game was memorable - it was played at Yankee Stadium, and Lafayette won 27-7. Third-string QB Zach Zweizig was the hero. He started his first game in over a year after a series of concussions and threw a TD pass with 2:37 left to seal the win in what is considered among the top moments in ''The Rivalry.''
AND LET'S NOT FORGET ...
... Cats-Griz for the Great Divide Trophy and Duel in the Desert for the Territorial Cup
First, it's Montana (6-4, 5-2 Big Sky) at Montana State (5-5, 3-4), with the winner claiming the Great Divide Trophy (created in 2001). Many times the game has had conference title implications - and sometimes a national title - but no matter what, the winner at least gets to boast for a year.
The rivalry began in 1897 and at one point Montana won 16 in a row, beginning in 1986. Since the teams joined the Big Sky in 1963, Montana leads the series 29-22.
Most memorable game? Maybe 1968, when Montana State quarterback Dennis Erickson rallied the Bobcats from a 15-point, fourth quarter deficit to a 29-24 win, capped by Paul Schafer's dive into the end zone with 12 seconds left.
The Duel in the Desert matches Arizona (6-5, 3-5 Pac-12) at Arizona St. (5-5, 3-4), on FS1 at 3:30 p.m. The rivalry is not among the oldest (started in 1899) but the NCAA says the trophy - the Territorial Cup - is.
Last year, a Pac-12 title game berth was on the line. Not so Saturday. The Sun Devils need a win to become bowl eligible. The Wildcats are coming off an upset of Utah.
AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org