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Week 12 Football: What to Watch (Rivalry/Hate Week)

A look at games that might pique your interest

NC State v Virginia Tech Photo by Ryan Hunt/Getty Images

There’s a huge week of football ahead of us with Rivalry/Hate Week having descended upon the college gridiron landscape. Even some of the non-rivalry games hold huge importance in terms of conference championship impacts.

NC State will host North Carolina on Saturday night in Raleigh. For the Wolfpack, a win would mark the best four-year ACC winning percentage since 1991-1994. It would also give State three straight wins over the Tar Heels, giving Dave Doeren the second such streak of his tenure. North Carolina is trying to avoid their second two-game skid of the season and trying to break a streak of late-season fades under Mack Brown.

Before we get to that Saturday night matchup, there’s a lot of good football to be had. Unfortunately, the Tuesday MACtion games aren’t exactly enthralling. None of the games will have a bearing on the MAC Championship Game, and the only thing on the line is bowl eligibility for Eastern Michigan.

Sadly, there are no games on Wednesday night, which is a travesty.

The Egg Bowl is the lone game on Thursday, which also feels not right. Mississippi State already canned their coach, but bowl eligibility is still on the line... plus, you know, the given hate. Ole Miss is one win shy of their second 10-win campaign in the last three seasons. It’s also possible this could be Lane Kiffin’s last game at Ole Miss before taking the Texas A&M job, but that’s purely speculation.

Friday after Thanksgiving has always been a personal favorite of mine for football action. Just a day to sit around, watch TV, and gorge on leftovers. It’s about as perfect a day as there is.

Not a lot is on the line in the Friday noon games, although Oklahoma needs to win to keep their Big XII title hopes alive. The midday games are much different.

The UTSA-Tulane has both teams undefeated in AAC play, as is SMU (who plays Saturday against Navy). It’s unlikely that SMU loses to the Midshipmen, so the Roadrunners-Green Wave game is essentially a play-in. That’s the midday game you’re going to want to watch.

The Air Force vs Boise State game is also a conference championship play-in game. The Falcons and Broncos are both tied for 2nd in the MWC along with San Jose State, but both have beaten SJSU, so the winner is on to the MWC Championship Game to face UNLV... Well, maybe. The winner is definitely going to the title game, but UNLV plays SJSU, so some chaos could ensue if SJSU wins. Also interesting is that Boise State has fired their head coach, but the team could still win the conference title. That would be kind of hilarious.

On Friday night, Texas needs to beat Texas Tech to avoid some crazy Big XII title game shenanigans. The Red Raiders are not yet eliminated from the conference title game, either, as there are a whopping seven teams still in contention for the two spots there. Gotta love it.

The Civil War between Oregon and Oregon State should be phenomenal on Friday night. The Beavers are out of the Pac-12 title race, but they are a very good team. Their only three losses on the year have all been in conference play and by a combined 8 points. The Ducks have been playing like the best team in the country and likely just need to win out to make the CFP, although that will require beating their in-state rival and then avenging their lone loss on the season (Washington) in the Pac-12 title game.

Saturday starts off right away with a huge one between Ohio State and Michigan. There is just an absolute ton on the line for this one - conference title berth, CFP implications, coaching spite, rivalry hate. Everything. This is a must-watch to kick off your Saturday football watching.

Also in the noon slate is Kentucky vs Louisville. The Wildcats are limping into this one having lost five of their last six. Devin Leary has not played well during most of that stretch, but he’s far from the only problem. Louisville, meanwhile, is looking to keep their slim-but-still-existent CFP hopes alive by piling on their rival’s misery.

Texas A&M vs LSU should be fantastically entertaining now that Jimbo Fisher has been relieved of his duties in College Station. It’s also fitting that the Aggies play at the same time Saturday as Duke since Mike Elko could well be on his way out of Durham and to College Station soon after that game.

Speaking of programs with canned head coaches, Syracuse can reach bowl eligibility with a home win over a struggling Wake Forest team. Also in the midday slate, the Iron Bowl has lost a lot of luster after Auburn got smoked by New Mexico State last week. Now watch the Tigers go and beat Alabama because that would just be hilarious.

Arizona will have an outside shot at the Pac-12 title game if Oregon loses on Saturday night. The Wildcats are in the midst of an amazing turnaround under Jedd Fisch. They have three losses this year by a combined 16 points... the program was 6-30 over their previous 36 games before this season started. That’s incredible.

Speaking of turnarounds, although not nearly to the extent of Arizona, Virginia Tech has bowl eligibility riding on the line against their Commonwealth rival. The Wahoos have been playing much better over the second half of the year, but will be staying home for the holidays.

An App State win over Georgia Southern coupled with a Coastal Carolina loss to James Madison will send the Mountaineers to the Sun Belt title game for the fourth time in the last six years. Coastal Carolina needs a win over the Dukes (or an App State loss to Georgia Southern) to clinch their ticket to face Troy in the Sun Belt championship game.

Washington State is looking for bowl eligibility (it would be the 8th time in the last nine years) and to ruin their Apple Cup opponent’s perfect season on Saturday. Kalen DeBoer has been an excellent hire for the Huskies so far as he’s off to a 22-2 start to his tenure there, which is all the more impressive when you consider DeBoer was just 12-6 at Fresno State before landing the Washington job.

Even though New Mexico State and Jacksonville State are tied for 2nd place in Conference-USA heading into their game this weekend, NMSU has already clinched a spot in the CUSA title game opposite Liberty thanks to this being an FCS-to-FBS transition year for Jacksonville State. Still quite the impressive season for the Gamecocks under Rich Rodriguez. Also one heck of a coaching job by Jerry Kill at New Mexico State, guiding that program to back-to-back bowl games. Prior to his arrival, the team had been to just one bowl game since the start of the 1961 season.

Florida needs to beat Florida State to reach a bowl game (Billy Napier era... not off to a great start), and FSU needs to beat Florida to keep their CFP hopes alive. Win this week and next week against Louisville in the ACC Championship Game and the Seminoles will be in the four-team playoff.

In the same vein as Florida, South Carolina needs to beat rival Clemson to reach a bowl game. That would make Shane Beamer three-for-three with bowl eligibility. Iowa State and Kansas State are two of the seven Big XII teams with a conference title shot still in the cards. That is an elimination game for one of those teams... or maybe both.

In the late night games, future ACC member Cal needs to beat UCLA to get to a bowl game. There’s been talk that the Bruins faithful are getting antsy with Chip Kelly, so a loss there might push some action on their coaching front. Justin Wilcox is looking to get the Bears back to a bowl game for the first time since 2019.

Go Wolfpack! GTHC!

Rankings for SP+ Ratings and Sagarin Ratings listed, respectively, ahead of each team’s name.


90/102 Bowling Green @ 114/114 Western Michigan - 7:00pm - ESPNU

105/133 Eastern Michigan @ 115/125 Buffalo - 7:30pm - ESPN2


16/16 Ole Miss @ 66/66 Mississippi State - 7:30pm - ESPN


32/25 TCU @ 15/9 Oklahoma - 12:00pm - FOX

28/31 Iowa @ 65/55 Nebraska - 12:00pm - CBS

27/39 Miami @ 76/89 Boston College - 12:00pm - ABC

45/50 UTSA @ 48/52 Tulane - 3:30pm - ABC

43/65 Air Force @ 49/45 Boise State - 4:00pm - FS1

44/30 Texas Tech @ 8/7 Texas - 7:30pm - ABC

6/6 Penn State @ 82/73 Michigan State - 7:30pm - NBC

12/15 Oregon State @ 4/5 Oregon - 8:30pm - FOX


3/2 Ohio State @ 1/1 Michigan - 12:00pm - FOX

33/44 Kentucky @ 19/19 Louisville - 12:00pm - ABC

13/14 Texas A&M @ 11/10 LSU - 12:00pm - ESPN

87/79 Pittsburgh @ 36/42 Duke - 12:00pm - ACCN

107/103 Navy @ 26/32 SMU - 12:00pm - ESPN2

92/86 Wake Forest @ 70/77 Syracuse - 2:00pm - CW

7/4 Alabama @ 38/36 Auburn - 3:30pm - CBS

23/21 Arizona @ 106/76 Arizona State - 3:30pm - ESPN

60/57 Virginia Tech @ 96/84 Virginia - 3:30pm - ACCN

77/97 Georgia Southern @ 55/58 Appalachian State - 3:30pm - ESPNU

21/46 James Madison @ 64/83 Coastal Carolina - 3:30pm - ESPN2

86/111 Arkansas State @ 103/104 Marshall - 3:30pm - ESPN+

50/48 Washington State @ 9/12 Washington - 4:00pm - FOX

63/94 Jacksonville State @ 62/92 New Mexico State - 4:00pm - ESPN+

5/13 Florida State @ 47/43 Florida - 7:00pm - ESPN

10/11 Notre Dame @ 108/99 Stanford - 7:00pm - PAC12N

2/3 Georgia @ 68/68 Georgia Tech - 7:30pm - ABC

24/18 Clemson @ 57/41 South Carolina - 7:30pm - SECN

18/28 North Carolina @ 42/37 NC State - 8:00pm - ACCN

34/26 Iowa State @ 14/8 Kansas State - 8:00pm - FOX

71/54 California @ 25/27 UCLA - 10:30pm - ESPN

59/78 Fresno State @ 112/110 San Diego State - 10:30pm - FS1