College Football Weekly Update – It's Rivalry Week


Each of the nation’s top three teams are pretty heavy favorites going in to their annual in-state rivalry games. #1 Florida hosts Florida State, #2 Alabama plays at Auburn and #3 Texas heads to Kyle Field to take on Texas A&M.

Today, I’m going to take a look back at some of the great games in these rivalries and look ahead to this year’s games.

Iron Bowl

#2 Alabama @ Auburn

Date: Friday, November 27

TV: CBS, 2:30 pm EST

The Line: Alabama -10.5

Series: Alabama leads 39-33-1

Last season: Alabama defeated Auburn 36-0 in Tuscaloosa. It’s was Alabama’s first win at Bryant Denny Stadium in the series.

Current Streak: Auburn had six straight in the series prior to Alabama’s win in 2008.

The game used to be played at Legion Field in Birmingham and several contests have taken place in Montgomery. The first game played at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium was a 30-20 Tigers victory in 1989. It was not until 2000 that a game took place in Tuscaloosa – a 9-0 Auburn win.

Memorable Games:

1967: The Run in the Mud

Bear Bryant said that the 1967 Iron Bowl played at Legion Field in Birmingham featured the worst conditions he’d ever seen a football game played in.

Neither team could must much of anything on offense. It was hard-hitting defensive battle. One big play was going to win the game. And it did. Kenny “The Snake” Stabler, Alabama’s Quarterback took off for a 53-yard touchdown run that would prove to be the difference as Alabama won 7-3.

1972: Punt Bama Punt

The game was played at Legion Field in Birmingham. Trailing 16-0 with just ten minutes to play, Auburn kicked a field goal to cut the Tide’s lead to 16-3. On the next possession, Auburn forced a punt and blocked it, returning for a touchdown. Later in the quarter, Alabama was back to punt and once again, the Tigers blocked it. The Tigers hit the extra point and shockingly won the game 17-16. Bill Newton blocked both punts and David Langner scored both Tiger touchdowns.

1982: Bo Over the Top

The game was play in Birmingham and would be the last Iron Bowl of Bear Bryant’s career, but Bryant was overshadowed by one famous play by one fantastic freshman simply known as “Bo over the top.” Alabama entered the game on a nine-game winning streak against the Tigers, the longest in the history of the series.

Trailing 22-17 in the fourth quarter, Auburn got a stop and took over at their own 34-yard line with just under five minutes to play. After a few plays, the Tigers drove to the one yard line and faced fourth-and-goal. Bo Jackson took a hand-off and jumped into the air. He was hit mid-air but somehow was able to stretch the ball into the end zone and Auburn won the game 23-22.

1985: Tiffin’s Kick Beats Auburn

Van Tiffin kicked a 52-yard field goal to win the game 25-23 after Quarterback Mike Shula drove Alabama from their own 12 to the Auburn 35 in under 37 seconds.

1989: First Iron Bowl in Auburn

In 1989, it was all on the line. Alabama was unbeaten and was the #2 team in the nation and a win would put them in the national championship. With a win, Auburn, would share the SEC Championship.

The 11th ranked Tigers upset the Tide 30-20.

1994: Battle of the Unbeatens

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Both teams entered the 1994 battle without a loss. Alabama as 10-0 and was the third-ranked team in the country. Auburn entered the game at 9-0-1, was ranked sixth and had a 21-game unbeaten streak after completing the 1993 season 11-0. The Tide would stop the Tigers just one inch short on a crucial 4th down play. The Tide won the game 21-14 but would lose one week later to Florida in the SEC Championship game, ending their National Title hopes.

2009 Preview:

Auburn appears to have a better shot of pulling off an upset than either Florida State or Texas A&M, but I still wouldn’t count on it.

Auburn’s offense started off looking like the most improved unit in the country but has struggled since midway through the season. They do have the nation’s 11th best rushing attack at 219.55 yards per game, but the Tide have the country’s #1 total defense and #2 rush defense.

I’d expect the Tide to load up to try and stop Auburn Running Back Ben Tate, who has rushed for 1,209 yards and 8 TDs. Tate also made the statement that he, not Alabama’s Mark Ingram, is the best back in the state.

As if Tate needed to give Alabama’s swarming defense bulletin board material.

The Tide will force Auburn Quarterback Chris Todd to beat them. Although Todd has improved (19 TDs, 5 INTs in ’09 after 5 TDs and 6 INTs in ’08), I don’t think he can. Todd is too inconsistent and the Tide should be able to force a few turnovers.

Auburn’s defense has not been very good. Their usually dominating D has fallen to 56th in the country and are just 88th against the run. Alabama features the nation’s 10th best rushing attack, led by Heisman Front-Runner Mark Ingram (205 carries, 1,399 yards, 12 TDs). Auburn is also going to load up to stop the run, but I’m not sure they can. Auburn’s only real chance is to shut down the Tide’s running game and force inconsistent Quarterback Greg McElroy into mistakes.

I don’t expect that to happen.

Lone Star Showdown

#3 Texas @ Texas A&M

Date: Thursday, November 26

TV: 8:00 pm EST, ESPN

The Line: Texas -21.6

Series: Texas leads 74-36-5.

Last Season: Texas defeated A&M 49-9.

Streak: Texas won last season after A&M has upset the Longhorns in the 2006 and 2007 seasons.

The series returns to Thanksgiving night for the first time since 1996 when the game was moved to the day after Thanksgiving. The two schools have played on Thanksgiving 60 times and 114 times overall.

Each team mentions the other in their fight songs.

Each team has their own rally before the game. Texas holds the Hex Rally where they burn red candles and it features the football team, band and cheerleaders. Texas A&M has the Aggie Bonfire. The students build a huge bonfire one or two nights before the football game. Unfortunately, it has been held off-campus since 2002 because of an accident that killed twelve people and injured twenty-seven others.

Memorable Games:

1920 – Texas defeats unbeaten A&M

The Longhorns upset the Aggies 7-3, giving them their first loss in two years.

1990: Horns eek out one-point win

Texas entered the game ranked fifth in the country and knocked off the Aggies 28-27. A&M battled back after trailing 21-14 entering the fourth quarter. A&M rushed for 338 yards but amassed just 23 yards passing. Texas also had a dominate game on the ground with three players gain at least 70 yards rushing.

1998: Ricky Runs Wild

The ‘Horns upset the Aggies 26-24 behind the legs of Heisman-Trophy winner Ricky Williams. He rushed for 259 yards on 44 carries.Williams broke Tony Dorsett’s rushing record during the game.

1999: A&M Comes Back

The Aggies trailed the Horns 16-6 at halftime, but shut out the Sooners in the second half and scored the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter on a 14 yard pass from Randy McCown to win 20-16.

2004: Texas Keeps BCS Hopes Alive.

In 2004, Texas A&M went to halftime with a 13-6 lead over the rival Horns behind a big first half by Quarterback Reggie McNeal.

In the second half, the Texas defense took over and put the game on the shoulders of Running Back Cedric Benson because of Quarterback Vince Young’s struggles. Benson rushed for 165 yards and a TD as the Horns out-scored the Aggies 19-0 in the second half and went on to play in the Rose Bowl.

2005: Horns Avoid Upset, Complete Perfect Regular Season

The 2005 Texas Longhorns were the undefeated national champions but nearly had their perfect season spoiled by Quarterback Stephen McGee and the Aggies.

Texas took an early 14-0 only to see the lead fade by the second quarter at 15-14. A&M again took a one-point lead in the third quarter 22-1. Texas would score the next two touchdowns before McGee ran for another touchdown to cut the lead to five.

Texas’ defense stepped up in the final quarter, shutting out the Aggies. David Pino kicked two field goals to put the game out of reach and the Horns won 40-29.

2009 Preview:

Texas comes in needing a win over A&M Thursday and then a win against Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship next week.

Texas Quarterback Colt McCoy was 0-2 against the Aggies before Texas won last year’s game, 49-9. McCoy enters the game completing 73% of his passes for 3,024 yards, 23 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. That doesn’t bode well for an A&M pass defense that allows 259 passing yards per game which is 110th in the nation.

A&M has been explosive this year and is seventh in total offense and are very balanced (25th ranked rushing offense, 24th in passing). Aggie Quarterback Jerrod Johnson has been excellent, passing for 24 TDs and throwing just 5 interceptions. He has also rushed for 8 TDs.

Texas counters that with the nation’s third-ranked defense.

I expect Texas to slow the A&M defense and exploit A&M’s awful defense. McCoy will throw screens and short passes early on to avoid a decent Aggie pass rush and open the field later in the game.

A&M should be able to keep it close for a while behind the 12th man at Kyle Field but I expect Texas to eventually run away with it.

The Battle for the Governor’s Cup

Florida State @ #1 Florida

Date: Saturday, November 28

TV: 3:30 pm EST, CBS

The Line: Florida – 23

Series: Florida leads 32-19-1

Last season: Florida blew out the Seminoles 45-15.

Current Streak: Florida has won five straight in the series.

Originally, the Seminoles needed an act from the Florida state legislature to force the Gators to play their arch rivals. Florida dominated the series early on, going 15-2-1 in the first 18 games. The series is tied 17-17-1 since Bobby Bowden became Florida’s head coach in 1976.

The game was known as the Rivalry of the 90’s.

Memorable Games:

1966: The “Catch”

Florida had a late three-point lead when FSU Wide Receiver Lane Fenner caught what seemed to be the game-winning touchdown. The official, Doug Moseley, said that Fenner did not have possession and Florida held on for the win, 22-19. The next day, photos appeared to show that Fenner did have possession of the ball and was in fact in bounds. Read more on this game here.

1993: Ward to Dunn

The top-ranked Seminoles entered the game with a chance to clinch a berth in the National Championship game. thanks to Boston College’s upset of Notre Dame. The Gators came in with just one loss, a clinched spot in the SEC title game and an outside shot at a national title.

The Noles jumped all over the Gators, taking a 27-7 lead in the fourth quarter. The Gators scored two quick touchdowns and cut the lead to just six points with about six minutes left. The Florida defense forced FSU into a third down from their own 21. Those in attendance said that this was the loudest that the “Swamp” had ever been. Heisman-Trophy winning Quarterback Charlie Ward avoided a sack and found freshman tailback Warrick Dunn, who ran up the sideline for a 70-yard touchdown that clinched a 33-21 FSU victory.

1994: The Choke at the Doak

This is probably the most well-known game in the history of the series. Both teams entered the game at 9-1. Florida was ranked fourth and Florida State seventh. There were still National title implications.

After FSU took an early 3-0 lead, it was all Gators. 1996 Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel accounted for four touchdowns (three passes, one run) as the Gators took a 31-3 lead into the fourth quarter. Doak Campbell Stadium was about half empty and most fans thought the game was over.

The Seminoles went on a 10-play drive that included a 4th down conversion to score their first TD of the game. After a three-and-out, Florida had to punt and the Seminoles drove down the field, scoring another touchdown to cut it to 31-17. After forcing yet another punt, the Noles had another long drive, capped by a TD run by Quarterback Danny Kanell.

When Florida got the ball back, they started to get back to their game plan – the fun ‘n gun. Wuerffel had a pass picked off by James Colzie at the 40-yard line and the Seminoles were able to tie the game. Bobby Bowden decided to tie the game with a PAT rather than risk losing. Neither team scored again and the final was 31-31.

A rematch was set up in the 1994 Sugar Bowl. The Seminoles won 23-17.

1996: #1 vs. #2

Both teams entered the game at 10-0, ranked first and second in the country. The ‘Noles were a home underdog. FSU got off to a 10-0 lead after a blocked punt led to a touchdown. The 1996 Heisman-winner Danny Wuerfell threw three interceptions in the game. The Seminoles held off a late Gator rally and won 24-21. Warrick Dunn was the Seminoles’ star, rushing for 185 yards.

1997: Rematch for the National Championship

The two teams would face off again just over a month later in the Sugar Bowl. The Gators needed some luck to get there. Third-ranked Nebraska was upset by Texas in the first Big 12 Title game. Because there was no BCS yet, the second-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils faced Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes upset the Sun Devils to set up a winner-takes-all Sugar Bowl.

The Gators lead by just 4, 24-20 in the third quarter before blowing it open and winning 52-20.

1997: Gators upset #1

The Seminoles came into the game ranked #1 in the country and were 10-0. The 10th ranked Gators were 8-2. It was a back-and-fourth game. FSU had a 29-25 lead with 2:33 before the Gators drove down the field (mostly on a 63-yard reception by Jacquez Green) to take a 32-29 lead. They would seal the game with an interception just a few plays later. Steve Spurrier rotated starting Quarterback Doug Johnson with walk-on Noah Brindise, confusing the top-ranked Seminoles’ defense.

1998: No Weinke? No Problem.

FSU lost starting QB Chris Weinke for the season, but still managed to win the game 23-12 behind the play of Peter Warrick. He threw for a touchdown and caught a touchdown. The Seminole defense shut out the Gators in the second half.

Before the game, it is rumored that Florida QB Doug Johnson threw a ball at Bobby Bowden’s head during a pregame fight that got Florida Safety Tony George ejected.

2003: Rix to Sam

This was perhaps the most exciting game in the series but it was overshadowed by several questionable calls that went against Florida. Florida came from behind to take a 34-31 lead when Chris Leak hit Ben Troupe for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. It looked like the Gators were going to win after forcing the ‘Noles into a 4th and 14. Chris Rix hit Dominic Robinson for the first down. One play later, Rix found an open P.K. Sam in the back of the end zone for a game-winning 52-yard touchdown, giving the ‘Noles a 38-34 win. This was FSU’s last victory in the series. A fight broke out at the conclusion of the game, which is commonplace in this series.

2009 Preview:

This appears to be the biggest mismatch.

Sure, Florida’s offense has struggled. Their rushing numbers have dropped since early in the season and they have only the 65th ranked passing attack in the country.

That doesn’t matter against Florida State.

The Noles defense, which has shown some signs of improvement, is awful. They are 106th against the pass and 105th against the rush and are 106th in total defense. That’s bad. Really bad.

Florida should be able to control this game on the ground by sending Tim Tebow up the middle and running outside with their lightning-quick backs, Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps.

It looked like the Seminoles may be able to make a game of it because of their offense, which is very good. The Noles are 21st in total offense and 14th in passing offense. Florida State’s running game has also improved throughout the season, but the Seminoles are without star Quarterback Christian Ponder and could be without their best player, Guard Rodney Hudson. The Noles will have to rely on Redshirt Freshman E.J. Manuel. Manuel is coming off a three-interception performance against Maryland, but he did lead the ‘Noles on a last-minute, game-winning drive to beat the Terps.

I expect Manuel to struggle. This will be easily the best defense and loudest crowd he has seen.

The only chance that the ‘Noles have is if they don’t turn the ball over, control the ball and force Florida into several mistakes (turnovers) and I don’t expect that to happen. FSU will try to control the ball and keep it close but they just don’t have the talent or the coaching that it takes to beat one of the nations’ best teams.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and a contributor at NFL Mocks Subscribe to his RSS feed and add him on Twitter to follow him daily.)