Vols, Wolverines out to flip trends against rivals
The history and geography say rivalry games. Recent results suggest lopsided matchups.
Tennessee hosts No. 4 Alabama on Saturday in a classic Southeastern Conference rivalry that the Crimson Tide has owned recently, winning seven straight.
Michigan goes to No. 8 Michigan State in a Big Ten rivalry that has flipped toward the Spartans, who have won five of six against the Wolverines.
''I think this football game ever since I've come here has a tendency to ground you a little bit. First off as a person because it's a great rivalry,'' Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said. ''But also to establish your credibility moving forward. I think every rivalry game is like that regardless of where you're at. You could look across this country and I think those things remain the same. To me there's football season and there are these type of games.''
Tennessee (3-4, 0-3 SEC) is desperate to establish some credibility under Butch Jones, the second-year coach whose program is making progress but has little to show for it in the win column.
A breakthrough against Alabama would be cathartic - and very difficult to achieve.
The Tide is coming off its best performance of the season in a 59-0 victory against Texas A&M. Jones said Alabama ''has no weaknesses at all.''
Just look to Michigan State to see what flipping a rivalry can do for a program.
The Spartans have climbed to the top of the Big Ten by stepping on Michigan after years of playing little brother to the Wolverines (3-4, 1-2 Big Ten).
At this point, upsetting Michigan State and swinging the rivalry back toward Michigan might be the only way for coach Brady Hoke to keep his job.
No. 3 Mississippi (minus 3 1/2) at No. 24 LSU
Tigers are completing on 51 percent of their passes. One-dimensional is a difficult way to attack the Rebels' ferocious defense ... OLE MISS 24-14.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
No. 6 Oregon (minus 18 1/2) vs. California at Santa Clara, California
Jake Fisher for Heisman. Since Ducks OT has returned from injury Oregon's offense has been humming ... OREGON 52-28.
No. 4 Alabama (plus 17) at Tennessee
Tide has won last four meetings with Vols by an average of 41-10. ... ALABAMA 41-10.
Michigan (minus 17) at No. 8 Michigan State
If Wolverines finish with 1 yard rushing it'll be 49 more than they had last season against Spartans. Yes, Michigan finished with minus-48 ... MICHIGAN STATE 35-14.
Texas (plus 9) at No. 11 Kansas State
Longhorns snapped five-game losing streak to Wildcats last season ... TEXAS 28-24.
No. 15 Arizona (minus 2 1/2) at Washington State
Cougars QB Connor Halliday has thrown 101 more passes than the player with the second-most attempts in FBS ... WASHINGTON STATE 35-31.
Syracuse (plus 14 1/2) at No. 21 Clemson
Tigers DE Vic Beasley leads ACC in sacks with eight. Orange have allowed only five sacks this season ... CLEMSON 28-7.
No. 1 Mississippi State (minus 13 1/2) at Kentucky
Who had Bulldogs at Wildcats pegged for CBS's SEC game of the week back in September? ... MISSISSIPPI STATE 35-24.
South Carolina (plus 18) at No. 5 Auburn
Tigers coach Gus Malzahn says he was inspired to wear a visor on the sideline by Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier, the godfather of the visor ... AUBURN 38-21.
Texas Tech (plus 23) at No. 10 TCU
Horned Frogs are 0-2 against Red Raiders since joining Big 12 ... TCU 45-17.
No. 13 Ohio State (minus 13 1/2) at Penn State
Since joining the Big Ten in 1993, Nittany Lions have never been such a big underdog at home ... OHIO STATE 45-17.
No. 14 Arizona State (minus 3 1/2) at Washington
Sun Devils have two good options at quarterback in Taylor Kelly, who is ready to return from injury, and Mike Bercovici, who was excellent filling in for Kelly. Huskies might be without QB Cyler Miles (concussion symptoms) ... ARIZONA STATE 28-17.
Rutgers (plus 17 1/2) at No. 16 Nebraska
From Columbus, Ohio, to Lincoln, Nebraska, in back-to-back weeks. Schedule-makers did Scarlet Knights no favors in first Big Ten season ... NEBRASKA 45-17.
No. 20 Southern California (minus 1) at No. 19 Utah
Matchup of Pac-12's leading rushers in USC's Buck Allen (130 yards per game) and Utah's Devontae Booker (124 ypg) ... UTAH 28-24
No. 22 West Virginia (plus 1) at Oklahoma State
Only two teams with worse turnover margins than West Virginia's minus-11 are Michigan and SMU, and they are a combined 3-10 this season ... WEST VIRGINIA 35-28.
No. 25 UCLA (minus 13 1/2) at Colorado
Buffaloes are last in Pac-12 in yards per play allowed at 6.4 ... UCLA 45-28.
COULD GET UGLY
UConn (plus 27 1/2) at No. 18 East Carolina
Pirates are 12th in country in scoring at 41 points per game; Huskies are 127th at 12.8 ... EAST CAROLINA 42-13.
FAU (plus 28) at No. 23 Marshall
Thundering Herd lead nation in yards per play at 7.75 ... MARSHALL 52-21.
UNRANKED BUT NOT UNINTERESTING
BYU (plus 6 1/2) at Boise State, Friday night
Cougars have lost two straight after QB Taysom Hill (leg) was injured ... BOISE STATE 35-24.
Miami (minus 2 1/2) at Virginia Tech, Thursday night
Virginia Tech beat Ohio State. Remember that? ... VIRGINIA TECH 27-24.
Last week: Record straight: 13-4; vs. points 9-8.
Season: Record straight: 109-35; vs. points 64-79-2.
Best bet: 4-4.
Upset special: 3-6.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP