ATLANTA - There’s nothing like a good dose of rivalry week in college football.
With the regular season coming to an end and teams competing in pivotal matchups for a shot at the College Football Playoffs or a bowl game, the rivalry week is just that much sweeter.
While your team may or may not be competing for a spot in the CFP or a major bowl game, competing against your rival school brings out all of the excitement, emotions and antics of college football, with dramatic finishes and surprising upsets that will leave you speechless and on the edge of your seat in a stadium filled with 100,000 fans.
Channel 2 Action News and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution are your home for everything Georgia and Georgia Tech this week. Make sure to follow @WSBTV and @AJCSports for updates on Twitter & LIKE the official WSB-TV Facebook page!
The Georgia vs. Georgia Tech game will be televised LIVE on Channel 2 and broadcast on radio by WSB 750 AM and 95.5 FM. The game can also be heard on 680 AM and 93.7 FM.
What better way to spend the Thanksgiving holiday than by watching your favorite school and its rival battle for bragging rights in its respective state or conference?
As you sit at the dinner table, embrace family moments and stuff your stomach with turkey and dressing, and take a moment to gear up for a wild weekend of bitter rivalries that will produce another segment to the all-time series of timeless classics that will last for the ages.
For some teams – Alabama and Auburn for example – the Iron Bowl should be nothing short of a spectacle at The Plains of Jordan-Hare Stadium, in a game that could leave Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide with its first loss of the season and for the Tigers, a possible rematch with the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship game in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
If it has not already been done, Saturday’s games will serve as one step closer to ultimately deciding the fate for several teams this season.
How will the games turn out? Only the teams can determine that across the country on Saturday afternoon and Saturday night.
Week 13 kicked off Tuesday as Bowling Green lost on the road to face Eastern Michigan 34-31, Kent State lost to Akron 24-14, and Miami-Ohio defeated Ball State 28-7.
On Thursday, Ole Miss travels to Starkville, Mississippi, to face No. 14 Mississippi State in the annual Egg Bowl.
Then, a long list of games will kick off Friday morning. Western Michigan goes on the road to face Toledo. At noon, No. 2 Miami looks to stay perfect in a road game against Pittsburgh in ACC play, No. 12 TCU gets a home game against Baylor in Big 12 action, Northern Illinois takes on Central Michigan and Houston gets a shot at Navy.
Ohio travels to play Buffalo at 1 p.m., while Missouri and Arkansas clash in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in SEC play at 2:30 p.m.
Then, at 3:30 p.m., South Florida faces No. 15 UCF while New Mexico travels to San Diego to take on San Diego State. Texas State plays Troy, and Iowa and Nebraska kick off at 4 p.m.
The Friday evening slate of game features Western Kentucky at Florida International, No. 25 Virginia Tech at Virginia, Texas Tech at Texas and California at UCLA.
NOTE: The rankings for each team reflect the latest College Football Playoff rankings released on Tuesday.
Top Games on Channel 2
(2) Miami at Pittsburgh | 12 p.m. on Channel 2 (Friday)
It has been proven that Miami can find a way to win in the face of adversity. The Hurricanes (10-0) have managed to rise above in what was a slew of weekly criticism midway through the season from many, saying they failed to win games in convincing fashion against sub-par teams in the ACC this year like Florida State, Syracuse and North Carolina.
For Miami coach Mark Richt, the opinions of critics never phased him as he emphasized over the weeks for his Hurricanes to simply “keep winning.” Miami has done just that, and the Hurricanes’ success has allowed them to compete for an ACC title against Clemson on Dec. 2 and a spot in the top four teams competing for the College Football Playoff (CFP) National Championship.
With a solid offense and a veteran, talented defense powered by the gold turnover chain, the Hurricanes have all the right pieces in what could potentially lead to Miami’s sixth national championship. The last time the Hurricanes won a national championship was in 2001.
To stay on track before competing in the ACC title game or finding out its final fate in the CFP rankings, the Hurricanes must take care business on the road against Pittsburgh on a chilly Saturday at Heinz Field.
Pittsburgh (4-7) started the season with high hopes, but the Panthers failed to live up to their expectations. It is worth noting they have played numerous current or previous top-25 ranked teams this season, including Penn State, Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, NC State and most recently Virginia Tech.
While Pitt does not use that as an excuse, Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi will look to coach his team to a victory in a game that is heavily favored toward the Hurricanes. The Panthers struggled to score in last week’s loss to Virginia Tech, something that has been a consistent trend for Pittsburgh this season.
The Panthers average 368 yards of total offense per game, with 220 in the passing game and 148 in the running game. The running game, one that had been consistent for the Panthers, failed to take shape last week against Virginia Tech, as the Hokies allowed them only 55 yards.
Then, Pitt not knowing whether freshman quarterback Kenny Pickett or sophomore Ben DiNucci will start in the game raises questions for the Panthers' offense going into the game as well.
The key to Pitt having any success is establishing a running game. Even then, the Panthers would have to play smart and not turn the ball over, something the Hurricanes’ defense thrives off of.
Miami has 27 takeaways this season, ranked third in the nation. The Hurricanes' defense has given up big plays and allowed teams to move the ball up and down the field on them. However, when a big stop is needed, the defense has managed to get the key stops that have led the Hurricanes to victory.
Look for the Hurricanes to go after Pickett or DiNucci and also stop the Panthers’ rushing attack, much like the Hokies did.
As for Miami on offense, look for the Hurricanes to have a solid day on the ground and through the air. Pitt surrenders 412 yards per game, with 260 of those coming through the air. If the Panthers fail to get pressure on Rosier and running back Travis Homer gets a steady running game to help Rosier, Pitt could be in trouble.
Dating back to 2010, the Hurricanes have won four of the last five matchups. The last time Pitt won was in 2014, when the Panthers defeated the Hurricanes, 35-23, in Miami.
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South Florida at (15) UCF | 3:30 p.m. on Channel 2 (Friday)
Central Florida (10-0) will put its undefeated season on the line against its American Athletic Conference (AAC) rival and one-loss South Florida, a team that is no stranger to the Knights.
Under head coach Scott Frost, who led UCF to a bowl game last season, the Knights will look to stay on track for a shot at a New Year’s Six bowl game and a chance to compete for a AAC championship when they take the field against the Bulls Saturday in the “War on Interstate 4” rivalry.
In what should be a very competitive game, South Florida (9-1) has held Central Florida’s number in the series, as the Bulls have won six of the total eight matchups between the two teams that include last year’s 48-31 victory for the Bulls.
For UCF, which currently sits at No. 15 in the latest College Football Playoffs (CFP), beating South Florida will be no easy task.
If the Knights, however, want a chance to play Memphis in the AAC Championship game and a major bowl game appearance, Frost must put together a game plan that includes the Knights being very efficient on offense. More importantly, UCF must take advantage of scoring opportunities in big moments, something that hurt them in last year’s meeting against South Florida.
The Knights feature the conference leader in total offense with quarterback McKenzie Milton, who averages 330 yards of total offense per game, with 293 yards through the air. Milton has been a big part of the Knights’ success this season, and the Knights will need him to have another strong performance against the Bulls. The sophomore quarterback has thrown for 2,928 yards, 26 touchdowns and five interceptions.
South Florida’s defense, under first-year head coach Charlie Strong, leads the conference in scoring defense (allowing its opponents nearly 20 points per game) and total defense (324 yards). If the Bulls manage to get pressure on Milton and the Knights fail to take full advantage of scoring opportunities, South Florida could be looking at an opportunity to spoil the idea of the Knights having a perfect season and rearranging their postseason plans.
Offensively, South Florida has a playmaker of its own in quarterback Quinton Flowers, who averages nearly 210 passing yards and 87 rushing yards per game. Flowers has a knack for making big plays. His ability to do so will be a major factor as to whether the Bulls earn a spot in the conference championship and maintain bragging rights in Florida’s most heated rivalries.
But, like the Bulls, the Knights rank second in scoring defense and total defense. Central Florida has the playmakers on defense to make things difficult for Flowers, something to pay attention to in Saturday’s game.
This game will come down to which offense can make the most of the possessions and opportunities presented to it and which defense will step up in clutch situations to create some separation in the score.
While the track record favors the Bulls, this could be UCF’s year to get over the hump and the Knights' chance in continuing their magical season, which could shift to a tough conference championship game and a likely New Year’s Six bowl game.
(7) Georgia at Georgia Tech | 12 p.m. on Channel 2 (Saturday)
It’s officially Georgia-Georgia Tech week, and while the two teams have had very different seasons, it’s still a rivalry game that all of the state looks forward to each and every year.
In 2016, Georgia Tech won 28-27 in Athens. In fact, the visiting team has won the last four games in the series. Only once have the Yellow Jackets won when the Bulldogs were ranked in the top 10, and that was in 2014, when Georgia Tech was itself No. 15.
Georgia leads the overall series 65-41-5.
In most sports books, Georgia is favorite by 11 points. Experts anticipate a lot of action on the Bulldogs, so expect this line to increase as the week moves on.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Georgia (10-1) ended its home schedule last Saturday with a 42-13 victory over Kentucky. The Bulldogs have clinched a spot in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 2 in Atlanta.
The Bulldogs will face the winner of the Iron Bowl. They’ll either have a showdown with undefeated Alabama, or a chance at redemption against Auburn.
However, Georgia cannot afford a second loss on its resume, making Saturday’s game with Georgia Tech extremely important.
A loss to the Yellow Jackets would likely eliminate Kirby Smart’s team from the College Football Playoff picture.
Georgia Tech (5-5) has a lot on the line as well.
A victory would make Paul Johnson’s team bowl-eligible and complete an undefeated season at home.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mark Bradley expects this game to be pretty one-sided.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t imagine this not being a two-touchdown game,” Bradley said. “I can imagine it getting much worse than that.”
CLICK HERE to read Bradley’s full preview.
(5) Wisconsin at Minnesota | 3:30 p.m. on Channel 2 (Saturday)
Wisconsin has won 11 games this season, the first time in school history. The Badgers, sitting at No. 5 in the CFP rankings, have a legitimate chance to compete for the CFP and will play in the Big Ten championship against No. 9 Ohio State.
Before the Badgers meet the Buckeyes in the Big Ten title game, Wisconsin (11-0) will look to remain perfect on the year when it faces Minnesota on the road for Paul Bunyan’s Axe.
As the most played rivalry in college football, dating back to 1890, the Badgers have won 20 of the past 22 meetings between the two teams, despite the all-time series being tied 59-59-8.
While anything can happen in college football, Wisconsin should use huge productions from sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook and freshman running back Jonathan Taylor to get the win against the Gophers Saturday.
Hornibrook ranks in the top 15 in passing efficiency and has thrown for 2,006 yards, 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Taylor, meanwhile, has rushed for 1,657 yards and 12 touchdowns, and should not have many problems with having success on the ground against a Gophers’ defense that gives up 337 yards to its opponents.
Look for Badgers coach Paul Chryst to use Taylor’s production to set the tone for Hornibrook to take shots down the field in the game. Minnesota could be in for a long day in stopping Wisconsin on offense.
Offensively, Minnesota averages 324 yards of total offense per game, with most of the Gophers' production coming on the ground.
However, against a Badgers’ defense that leads the nation in run defense (allowing 79 yards per game) and ranks No. 2 in total defense (allowing 246 yards per game) and scoring defense (allowing 13 points per game), the Gophers may be in trouble.
The Gophers will be in trouble if they fail to run the ball against the Badgers. Meaning, Minnesota would have to make plays through the air to move the ball against Wisconsin.
Revisiting the stat line from Minnesota’s 39-0 loss to Northwestern last week, quarterback Demry Croft finished the game with 43 passing yards and three interceptions. Then, factoring in the idea that left guard Garrison Wright and center Conner Olson may or may not play in Saturday’s game leaves further questions as to how productive the Gophers' offense may be.
Beyond the stats from both teams, the Gophers' saving grace to a degree is that their coach is the former Western Michigan coach who led the Broncos to the Cotton Bowl last year when they lost to the Badgers, 24-16.
All in all, look for Minnesota to give Wisconsin a hard-fought effort, but in the end, the Badgers' running game and defense will be too much for the Gophers, who will be looking to earn their sixth win to become bowl-eligible.
(8) Notre Dame at (21) Stanford | 8 p.m. on Channel 2 (Saturday)
When No. 21 Stanford takes the field on Saturday against No. 8 Notre Dame, the Cardinals (8-3) will know their final home game will not be an easy match against a Fighting Irish team that will be looking to get a big win on the road to end the regular season.
Whether the Cardinals win or lose, their postseason fate lies in the Washington-Washington State game on Saturday. This game will determine whether the Cardinals will play in the Pac 12 Championship. If Washington wins, Stanford will play in the conference title game on Dec. 1 against Pac 12 South champion, USC. More importantly, if the Cardinals manage to earn a spot in the conference title and defeat the Fighting Irish on Saturday, this will only increase Stanford’s chances to play in a top-tier bowl game.
The first order of business for the Cardinals to ensure a victory is figuring out a game plan to limit the production of Fighting Irish quarterback Brandon Wimbush and running back Josh Adams.
In the Fighting Irish's last two games, Wimbush struggled early to find a rhythm on offense. During the game against Navy last week, Wimbush started slow, but managed to throw for 164 yards and two touchdowns. Against Miami, a team with a solid defense, Wimbush threw two interceptions early in the game.
The Cardinals enter Saturday’s game ranked 61st in total defense, giving up 388 yards to their opponents, 69th in rush defense (surrenders 172 yards per game) and 58th in passing yards allowed (216 yards per game). With an average defense, the Fighting Irish could potentially catch a break and have a productive day on offense.
Adams, who ranks 14th in the nation in rushing yards per game, has run for 1,337 yards and nine touchdowns this season. If Adams can make plays early in the game on the ground, it would set up Wimbush nicely to make plays in the passing game. If this happens, the Cardinals could be in for a long day defensively in defending the run and the pass from Notre Dame.
Defensively, Stanford’s best option would be to force Notre Dame to throw the ball, instead of run.
Offensively, the Cardinals' best playmaker comes in the form of the legs of running back Bryce Love, who has rushed for 1,723 yards and nine touchdowns this season. Love also leads the nation in rushing yards per game, averaging 172 and nearly nine per carry.
Love, however, has been dealing some ankle injuries, but will most likely play in Saturday’s game. The Cardinals' offensive line will need a solid push up front to allow for Love to have a productive day. A game without Love, or even if he sees limited production, would hurt the Cardinals’ chance in beating the Fighting Irish.
If Love fails to get going in the game, freshman quarterback K.J. Costello will be forced to pick up the load on offense against a Fighting Irish defense ranked 41st in total defense. Notre Dame is 52nd in rush defense, allowing its opponents 153 yards per game.
Last week against Navy – a team that was ranked No. 1 in rush offense, averaging 370 yards per game – the Fighting Irish held the Midshipmen to 277 yards on the ground. So, Notre Dame has proven it can stop an offense powered by the run. It will be interesting to see if Brian Kelly’s Fighting Irish team can duplicate its results against Love and the Cardinals.
If previous meetings between the two teams matter at all, Stanford has won six of the past eight games. It should be an interesting game Saturday night at Cardinal Stadium.
Top Local Games
Appalachian State at Georgia State | 2 p.m.
At the start of the season, following a depressing 17-10 loss to Tennessee State and 56-0 blowout by then No. 5 Penn State, Georgia State was off to a rocky start under first-year head coach Shawn Elliott.
Turnovers and inconsistency in scoring on offense were the two biggest things hurting the Panthers early on. Eight weeks later, the Panthers have won six of their last seven games, with five of their victories coming on the road and are bowl eligible for the second time in three years.
In what was a sloppy start has turned out to be an impressive season for Georgia State. On Saturday, the Panthers (6-3) will once again look to continue their winning ways in a tough home game against Appalachian State, hoping to stay in the running for first place in the Sun Belt Conference.
Currently, four teams – Troy, Arkansas State, Georgia State and Appalachian State – sit at 5-1 in conference play, with Georgia State sitting with on less loss than Appalachian State.
With all the Panthers success this season, the Panthers have struggled in games against Appalachian State in the all-time series. The Mountaineers have won all three meetings in the series that includes last year’s 17-3 win.
Elliott will look to change the tide in the series. Elliot and Mountaineers head coach Scott Satterfield were teammates and roommates at Appalachian State. Elliot spent 13 seasons on the App State coaching staff and helped lead the Mountaineers to three NCAA FCS titles, two trips to the national semifinals and three appearances in the quarterfinals.
Thus, Elliott is no stranger to the Mountaineers and his Panthers team has plenty of big time playmakers to help secure a victory on Saturday. Georgia State averages 390 yards per game on offense, with 278 coming in the passing game with quarterback Conner Manning, who has thrown for 2,398 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Most of the Manning passes have gone to his favorite target in Sun Belt’s leading receiver, Penny Hart. This season, the sophomore wide receiver has recorded 65 catches, 961 yards and eight touchdowns.
Nationally, Hart ranks seventh in receptions (seven per game), fifth in FBS in receiving yards (107 per game) and ranks fourth among all active FBS receivers with career averages of six receptions and fifth 88 receiving yards per game.
Here’s a Mountaineers defensive stat to consider.
Appalachian State gives up 364 yards to its opponents, with the Mountaineers defense giving up most of its yards in the passing game. That’s a good sign for the Panthers. Look for Elliott to utilize the Manning-Hart connection in what the Panthers hope will earn them their seventh win for the season.
As for Appalachian State, the Mountaineers average 422 yards per game on offense (232 through the air, 190 on the ground). Taylor Lamb has had an exceptional year for App State, throwing for 2,257 yards, 21 touchdowns and four interceptions.
In addition, Mountaineers running back Marcus Williams Jr, rushed for 130 yards on 28 carries against a winless Georgia Southern team.
App State has offensive weapons and so does Georgia State. The winner of this game will be determined by which team’s defense can make critical stops against the opposing offense. This year’s game could be a close one Saturday afternoon.
Samford at Kennesaw State (FCS Playoffs First Round) | 2 p.m.
Kennesaw State made history in a lot of ways last Saturday in its final home game of the regular season. The Owls (10-1) won their first Big South Conference Championship, destroying Monmouth 52-21 and they finished with a perfect 6-0 record at home, marking the program’s first undefeated regular-season mark.
With a conference title and now on a journey to win a FCS Championship, the Owls will get the chance to make more history but do it against the only team that kept them from a perfect season, Samford.
In Week 1, Samford (8-3) defeated Kennesaw State 28-23 in Birmingham, Alabama. In that game, the Owls controlled the first half but things spiraled out of control in the second half that led to Samford victory after a three-and-a-half-hour weather delay due to Hurricane Harvey.
This time, however, the Owls will have home field advantage and they will get the opportunity to show how much they have grown since suffering their only loss of the season.
The Owls, who are currently ranked No. 16 and No. 18 in the FCS Coaches and STATS FCS polls, enter Saturday’s game averaging nearly 33 points per game and 435 yards of total offense per game, with 344 coming in the running game and 92 coming through the air in their 10-game winning streak. The Owls are ranked first in the nation in rush offense, second in scoring (32 points per game), sixth in time of possession (33:33) and second in the Big South in red zone efficiency (83%).
Chandler Burks plays a huge part in the Owls’ success on offense, along with running backs Bronson Rechsteiner and Jake McKenzie. Against Samford, Burks threw for 225 yards and ran for 63. Bronson and Rechsteiner combined for 115 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, in the first meeting between the two teams, the Bulldogs held the Owls to only 293 yards on the ground on 61 attempts and 252 yards through the air. The Owls also controlled the time of possession and recorded 50 percent of third-down conversions. The difference maker in the game was red zone efficiency. Kennesaw State scored on three of its total five attempts in the red zone, something the Owls will need to change in Saturday’s playoff game.
Defensively, the Owls have been stellar and they will need to continue the trend. Kennesaw State ranks fifth nationally in scoring, giving up nearly 15 points per game, first in turnover margin (+23), first in turnovers gained (32) and ninth in total defense (282 yards per game). Not to mention, the Owls have pitched three shutouts this season.
In what should be another close game between two teams, Kennesaw State will be at home, where the Owls are 6-0 this season and 15-3 all-time.
Look for Kennesaw State to earn its 11th straight victory of the season and earn its revenge against Samford.
The winner will advance to play at third-seeded Jacksonville State in the second round.
Other ACC Action
Florida State at Florida | 12 p.m.
Louisville at Kentucky | 12 p.m.
Boston College at Syracuse | 12:20 p.m.
Duke at Wake Forest | 12:30 p.m.
North Carolina at NC State | 3:30 p.m.
(3) Clemson at (24) South Carolina | 7:30 p.m.
Other SEC Action
(1) Alabama at (6) Auburn | 3:30 p.m.
Vanderbilt at Tennessee | 4 p.m.
Texas A&M at (18) LSU | 7:30 p.m.
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