While the SEC was decided on Saturday with Florida beating LSU to win the East, there’s still plenty to look forward to in the final week of the college football regular season.
The games ramp up early this week, kicking off with LSU and Texas A&M on Thanksgiving Day and running all the way through to Saturday.
So for those of you that are looking to pre-plan your SEC watching experience before the Thanksgiving comatose sets in, here’s a look at the most intriguing games of rivalry week.
1. The Iron Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 16 Auburn
Alabama looks like a team poised to blow through everyone this year, especially given inconsistent play from Nos. 2 and below this season.
But while the Crimson Tide are well favored this week, they have genuinely nothing to play for. They can’t lose the West, so they still play Florida for the SEC Championship next week. Even if they did lose, they likely aren’t out of the College Football Playoff top four because everyone else below them has lost, and Auburn likely jumps into the top 10 if they beat undefeated Alabama, making that a pretty solid win.
Because of that, it’s feasible that maybe Alabama just doesn’t come out firing on all cylinders, which could make for a close game. I’d bet Nick Saban and company are keenly aware of that and on guard for any sense of apathy, though.
2. No. 4 Clemson vs. South Carolina
Alright, hear me out.
Yes, South Carolina is probably going to get pummeled. The betting lines have Clemson as a 23.5 point favorite. But anything can happen during rivalry week, and can you imagine the implications if the Gamecocks pulled out the upset?
Clemson is clinging to its playoff aspirations as it is. If they lose, they still play in the ACC Championship game. But even if they won that, there’s no way that a team that lost to a seven-win South Carolina team is going to make the playoffs.
So what happens? Does Louisville get that spot, a team that lost to the team that lost to South Carolina? Does Washington and their favorable schedule get the fourth spot. If South Carolina can shock the world, #TeamChaos wins, and that’s why this is the second most intriguing game.
3. No. 15 Florida State vs. No. 13 Florida
Will the real Florida please stand up?
It hasn’t always been pretty for the Gators (see: blowing a 25-point halftime lead to Tennessee), but this week, they shocked some people and took down an LSU team that has been surging since Ed Orgeron took over.
Now, Florida has an outsiders shot at making the College Football Playoff. If they can beat Florida State this week and then turn around and shock Alabama in the SEC Championship game next week, they’d easily have the best resume of any two-loss team in the country. With wins over LSU, Florida State and Alabama, all definitely going to be ranked at the season’s end, I think it’d be a hard sell to keep a non-conference champion team over the Gators.
4. No. 22 Texas A&M vs. No. 25 LSU
This hasn’t really been a rivalry game since the ’90s, but we’ve pretended like it is since Texas A&M joined the SEC.
This game carries intrigue in the sense that it’s two pretty decent teams playing for absolutely nothing after you’ve eaten your bodyweight in Thanksgiving food. It’s a nice alternative to what’s likely to be a pretty hard-to-watch Steelers-Colts NFL matchup on Thursday night. Plus, you might be watching Leonard Fournette’s last regular season game and Ed Orgeron is auditioning for his job, so that could be something.
5. No. 11 Louisville vs. Kentucky
There’s not a ton to see here, but at least you get Lamar Jackson. Louisville’s blunder against Houston ended any playoff shot they might’ve had, so if you’re interested in watching Jackson pad his Heisman resume, this game is worth the watch. Otherwise, eh.
6. Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State, Vanderbilt vs. No. 24 Tennessee
If you don’t live in [insert name of state where the game is being played], these games are meaningless to you.
Outside of bragging rights, all of these teams are playing for nothing. All six teams either severely underperformed this season or just weren’t that good to begin with. Sure, there are some young quarterbacks (Jacob Eason for Georgia and Shea Patterson for Ole Miss) that might bring some excitement, but these games will offer very little substance.
7. Missouri vs. Arkansas
This game will be great background noise at that second Thanksgiving dinner on Friday at the house of that uncle that makes you kind of uncomfortable.
But seriously, this game is an affront to rivalry week. It’s not a rivalry. But I guess if you’ve got to have something on during your post-Black Friday power nap, there are worse things to watch than a football game between two teams with few redeeming qualities. You know, like daytime court TV.