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The hater’s guide to Rivalry Week

Nov 20, 2018

  • Mark Schlabach
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    ESPN Senior Writer
    • Senior college football writer
    • Author of seven books on college football
    • Graduate of the University of Georgia
  • Dave Wilson
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    ESPN Staff Writer
      Dave Wilson is an editor for ESPN.com since 2010. He previously worked at The Dallas Morning News, San Diego Union-Tribune and Las Vegas Sun.

Rivalry Week forces families to pick sides and kids to become unwitting pawns. There’s a little extra zing on those jokes in the office.

This week is for embracing college football’s good, clean old-fashioned hate, as they say down in Georgia. It’s certainly not the time you want to have to apologize for saying your rival sucks. Matter of fact, it’s the opposite of that.

So we’re here to remind you why these teams don’t like the other guys, and why the sight of certain colors could induce more nausea than that gelatinous cranberry stuff you’ll slice into discs in a couple of days.

So let’s all give thanks for the Hater’s Guide to Rivalry Week, sorted in handy chronological order.

THURSDAY

Egg Bowl

No. 21 Mississippi State at Ole Miss

Thursday, 7:30 ET, ESPN

Year it began: 1901

Overall record: Ole Miss leads 64-44-6

Past five years: Ole Miss leads 3-2

Mississippi State’s biggest villain: Former Ole Miss coach Johnny Vaught guided the Rebels to a 19-2-4 record in the Egg Bowl during his tenure from 1947 to 1970 and again to a win as interim coach in 1973. His second loss to the Bulldogs was a 19-14 defeat during Archie Manning’s senior season in 1970.

Ole Miss’ biggest villain: The Rebels can’t stand Steve Robertson, a Mississippi State recruiting reporter and author, who broke the story about Ole Miss recruiting violations and uncovered the phone call to an escort service that led to former Rebels coach Hugh Freeze’s resignation in July 2017.

Story that best explains the rivalry: Rebels fans rushed the field after Ole Miss snapped a 13-game losing streak to Mississippi State in 1926. But Bulldogs fans stood their ground and were determined to protect the goal posts, so an ugly brawl ensued. The poor sportsmanship led the student bodies to create the Egg Bowl trophy.

Hater’s guide to watching this year: The Rebels are ineligible for the postseason for the second straight season because of NCAA sanctions, but a second consecutive win over the No. 21 Bulldogs would spoil new MSU coach Joe Moorhead’s Egg Bowl debut.


FRIDAY

Civil War

Oregon at Oregon State

Friday, 4 ET, FS1

Year it began: 1894

Overall record: Oregon leads 64-47-10

Past five years: Oregon leads 4-1

Oregon’s biggest villain: In 2000, No. 5 Oregon and No. 8 Oregon State met for the first time in the rivalry’s history when they were both ranked in the top 10, with a Pac-10 title and Rose Bowl berth on the line. Oregon’s BCS dreams came to a halt, however, when backup safety Jake Cookus (now an Oregon State assistant coach) intercepted Ducks quarterback Joey Harrington three times as the Beavers won 23-13.

Oregon State’s biggest villain: Rich Brooks played defensive back at Oregon State, then was an assistant coach for the Beavers during three different stints between 1963 and 1973. Hired as Oregon’s coach in 1977, he went 14-3-1 against the Beavers.

Story that best explains the rivalry: In 1960, Oregon fans abducted Oregon State homecoming queen Ardis Henry in front of her home, then delivered a ransom note to the Oregon State student body president demanding that he ride a scooter across Oregon’s campus begging for her release. She was released a half-hour later. The Ducks and Beavers played to a 14-14 tie.

Hater’s guide to watching this year: Oregon is 7-4, a two-touchdown favorite, and blasted Oregon State 69-10 last season after the abrupt midseason resignation of Beavers coach Gary Andersen. But while OSU is 2-9 this season, this game means a lot to first-year Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith, who was a walk-on at OSU and became a four-year starter at quarterback from 1998 to 2001, going 2-2 against the Ducks, including that huge win in 2000.

Apple Cup

No. 18 Washington at No. 8 Washington State

Friday, 8:30 ET, Fox

Year it began: 1900

Overall record: Washington leads 72-32-6

Past five years: Washington leads 5-0

Washington’s biggest villain: Ryan Leaf said there was a joke on campus during his time at Wazzu: “What’s the difference between God and Ryan Leaf? God doesn’t think he’s Ryan Leaf.” He was brash and arrogant, and he could back it up. And in 1997 in Seattle, Leaf threw for 358 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-35 victory over the favored Huskies and was carried off the Husky Stadium field as the Cougs celebrated their first Rose Bowl berth in 67 years.

Washington State’s biggest villain: Hall of Fame coach Don James, the Dawgfather, led Washington from 1975 to 1992 and was 13-5 in the Apple Cup. He also didn’t mind needling his rival. “I’ve always felt that being a Cougar prepares you well for life,” James said. “You learn not to expect too much.”

Story that best explains the rivalry: In 2002, Washington State was 9-1 overall, ranked No. 3 and could clinch a Rose Bowl berth and a shot at a BCS appearance with a home-field win over a 6-5 Washington team. Wazzu QB Jason Gesser, who shared Pac-10 Player of the Year honors with USC’s Carson Palmer, went down with an injury in the fourth quarter, and Washington rallied from a 20-10 deficit to tie the score and force overtime. In the third OT, Washington State backup Matt Kegel threw a short pass that was batted down by Washington’s Kai Ellis, who fell on the ball afterward. After an officials’ huddle, they ruled it was a backward pass and a fumble, with a Washington recovery, and the game was over, just like that. A near-riot ensued as shocked fans pelted the field with bottles, souvenirs and anything that wasn’t bolted down.

Hater’s guide to watching this year: This is a high-stakes Apple Cup. A win here for Wazzu would preserve the Pac-12’s only hope for a College Football Playoff spot. For the third straight year the winner will win at least a share of the Pac-12 North title, and this year, the winner will face Utah in the Pac-12 title game on Nov. 30. Washington State is one of the country’s biggest surprises and hottest teams, going 10-1 behind transfer quarterback Gardner Minshew, with just a three-point loss to USC as their only blemish. Washington, No. 6 in the preseason AP poll, slipped to 8-3. But Huskies coach Chris Petersen is 4-0 against the Cougars’ Mike Leach, outscoring him 161-54 in those games, an average outcome of 40-14.


SATURDAY

Sunshine Showdown

No. 13 Florida at Florida State

Saturday, noon ET, ABC

Year it began: 1958

Overall record: Florida leads 34-26-2

Past five years: Florida State leads 5-0

Florida’s biggest villain: Florida State was 2-16-1 all time against Florida when Bobby Bowden was hired. He turned around the Seminoles’ fortunes and produced some of their greatest teams, going 17-18-1 against seven different Gators coaches.

Florida State’s biggest villain: Undoubtedly it’s Steve Spurrier, who loved talkin’ about the Noles. After an unregistered agent was busted buying more than $6,000 worth of shoes for players, Spurrier issued his legendary statement: “You know what FSU stands for, don’t you? Free Shoes University.”

Story that best explains the rivalry: In 1996, No. 2 Florida State beat No. 1 Florida 24-21 in Tallahassee as the Noles sacked Gators quarterback Danny Wuerffel six times, hit him behind the line 21 times, and were called for two roughing the passer penalties. After Florida beat Alabama for the SEC title, the teams were matched again in the Sugar Bowl, and Spurrier continued to say the Seminoles were dirty for their shots on Wuerffel. “I’ve never seen Steve get this personal,” Bowden said. “I like him, dadgummit, and I like his family.” This time, Wuerffel threw for 306 yards and 3 TDs and No. 3 Florida blew out No. 1 FSU 52-20 to win the Gators’ first national title.

Hater’s guide to watching this year: At 5-6, Florida State’s NCAA-record 36-year bowl streak could be snapped with a loss to the Gators. “That’d be great,” new Florida coach Dan Mullen said this week. “I’d love to do it.” The 8-3 Gators are trying to break their own streak: Since 2008, they’re 1-7 against FSU, including losing the past five.

The Game

No. 4 Michigan at No. 10 Ohio State

Saturday, noon ET, Fox

Year it began: 1897

Overall record: Michigan leads 58-49-6

Past five years: Ohio State leads 5-0

Michigan’s biggest villain: The Wolverines loathed longtime Ohio State coach Woody Hayes, but Jim Tressel did far more damage against them. Tressel had a 9-1 record against Michigan during his tenure as coach from 2001 to 2010 (a 37-7 victory in 2010 was later vacated because of NCAA violations), and his team’s 42-39 win in 2006 secured the Buckeyes a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.

Ohio State’s biggest villain: OSU fans will probably never forgive current ESPN analyst Desmond Howard for striking a Heisman pose in the end zone after a 93-yard punt return for a touchdown in the Wolverines’ 31-3 rout in 1991. It was the longest punt return in Michigan history — and the Buckeyes’ worst loss to the Wolverines since 1946. Howard’s teams went 3-0 against OSU from 1989 to ’91.

Story that best explains the rivalry: The legend goes that Hayes refused to call Michigan by its name and referred to it as “that school (or state) up north.” In fact, during a recruiting trip to Detroit in February 1972, Hayes refused to purchase gas in Michigan, instead choosing to return to Ohio on fumes. “We’re not getting any gas in this [expletive] state,” Hayes told an assistant. “The tax money we’d be paying them on the gas would be going to them, and I’m not supporting them in any way possible.”

Hater’s guide to watching this year: The Big Ten East title and a spot in the conference championship game are up for grabs. The No. 11 Buckeyes have won six in a row and 13 of 14 against the No. 4 Wolverines, who are still in the hunt for a spot in the CFP.

Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate

Georgia Tech at No. 5 Georgia

Saturday, noon ET, SEC Network

Year it began: 1893

Overall record: Georgia leads 66-41-5

Past five years: Georgia leads 3-2

Georgia Tech’s biggest villain: Former Bulldogs coach Mark Richt probably deserves a statue somewhere near Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium. Richt’s teams went 13-2 against the Yellow Jackets and never lost in Atlanta. Richt’s last game as UGA’s coach was a 13-7 victory at Tech on Nov. 28, 2015; he was fired the next day.

Georgia’s biggest villain: A seven-man SEC officiating crew was suspended two days after they blew a call near the end of Georgia Tech’s 51-48 overtime victory in 1999. With the score tied at 48 with 15 seconds left in regulation, the officials ruled that Georgia’s Jasper Sanks fumbled at the 1-yard line. TV replays showed the ball popped out after Sanks hit the ground, but it was before the era of instant replay. Tech kicked a field goal in overtime — after an attempt was blocked on third down — to win the game.

Story that best explains the rivalry: Georgia and Georgia Tech were charter members of the SEC, but the Yellow Jackets left the league in 1964 because of coach Bobby Dodd’s concerns about scholarship limits and player mistreatment. Tech tried to re-enter the league in 1975 with Bear Bryant’s help, but the Bulldogs led the charge to block membership.

Hater’s guide to watching this year: The No. 5 Bulldogs are two victories away from reaching the CFP for the second straight season, but they’ll have to slow down Tech’s vaunted triple-option offense and then beat No. 1 Alabama in the SEC championship game on Dec. 1. After starting 1-3, the Jackets have won six of their past seven games.

Iron Bowl

Auburn at No. 1 Alabama

Saturday, 3:30 ET, CBS

Year it began: 1901

Overall record: Alabama leads 45-36-1

Past five years: Alabama leads 3-2

Auburn’s biggest villain: With 57 seconds left in the 1985 Iron Bowl, Alabama trailed 23-22 and was backed up at its 12-yard line. But then Tide quarterback Mike Shula connected on three passes and threw a key block on a reverse to move to Auburn’s 35-yard line. With the Iron Bowl hanging in the balance, Alabama’s Van Tiffin made a dramatic 52-yard field goal as time expired for a 25-23 win.

Alabama’s biggest villain: Quarterback Cam Newton played with the Tigers for only one season, and many Alabama fans will go to their graves swearing he shouldn’t have been eligible for that long. Newton’s father was accused of shopping his son out of junior college, and Auburn declared Newton ineligible for a few hours. Of course, he was reinstated in time to lead Auburn back from a 24-point deficit in a 28-27 victory over the Tide in the 2010 Iron Bowl, which became known as the “Camback.”

Story that best explains the rivalry: Following Auburn’s 2010 national championship, Alabama fan Harvey Updyke poisoned the iconic trees at Toomer’s Corner, where Tigers fans traditionally gather to celebrate victories. Updyke later pleaded guilty to criminal damage of an agricultural facility and was sentenced to six months in jail and five years of supervised probation. “I just have too much Bama in me,” Updyke said.

Hater’s guide to watching this year: The Crimson Tide are two victories away from having a chance to play for back-to-back national championships and a sixth under coach Nick Saban. The Tigers are 7-4 and would love to spoil Alabama’s title hopes again. Twice in the past five years, Auburn has defeated a No. 1 Alabama team: last season’s 26-14 win and the 34-28 “Kick-Six” shocker in 2013.

Territorial Cup

Arizona State at Arizona

Saturday, 3:30 ET, FS1

Year it began: 1899

Overall record: Arizona leads 49-41-1

Past five years: Arizona State leads 3-2

Arizona State’s biggest villain: In 1986, the Sun Devils went 10-1-1, beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl and finished No. 4 in the AP poll. But that one loss came to Arizona, and it was sealed late in the third quarter when Chuck Cecil intercepted a pass in the end zone and returned it 100 yards to give Arizona a 31-10 lead in what became a 34-17 win.

Arizona’s biggest villain: Sun Devils linebacker Vontaze Burfict, naturally. He had 16 personal fouls in his last 26 college games, and he once took a swing at an Arizona player during a 2009 scuffle. Three of his seven tackles in the Sun Devils’ 30-29 Territorial Cup win in 2010 came with the game on the line in overtime.

Story that best explains the rivalry: The NCAA certified the Territorial Cup as the oldest rivalry trophy in college football. A photo exists of it in 1899 in Tempe, but it was not seen again until 1983, when it was found in a Tempe church basement and returned to ASU. It wasn’t awarded to Arizona until 2001, when the teams decided to let the winner display it each year, and a replica was made for on-field celebrations.

Hater’s guide to watching this year: There’s nothing but pride on the line, and first-year coaches Kevin Sumlin and Herm Edwards have only said nice things about each other. Sumlin has had a disappointing 5-6 debut at Arizona, which gave up 69 points last week to Washington State, while Arizona State is 6-5 and is coming off a two-point loss to Oregon that eliminated the Sun Devils from Pac-12 South contention.

Palmetto Bowl

South Carolina at No. 2 Clemson

Saturday, 7 ET, ESPN

Year it began: 1896

Overall record: Clemson leads, 69-42-4

Last five years: Clemson leads, 4-1

South Carolina’s biggest villain: Clemson freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson guided the Tigers to a 35-17 victory in 2014, throwing for two touchdowns and running for two more — while playing with a torn ACL in his left knee. The loss snapped USC’s five-game winning streak, and Watson went 3-0 in the series before turning pro.

Clemson’s biggest villain: In 1992, USC freshman quarterback Steve Tanneyhill, with his long mullet hanging down his back, hit fake home runs after big plays and then autographed the Tiger paw at midfield at Death Valley following the Gamecocks’ 24-13 victory. Two years later, he returned to Clemson and directed a 33-7 rout, which secured a winning season and bowl appearance.

Story that best explains the rivalry: The teams traded blows for nearly 10 minutes in the fourth quarter of Clemson’s 33-7 victory at Death Valley in 2004. No one was hurt before law enforcement and coaches broke up the ugly melee. Administrators at both schools self-imposed bowl bans as a result of the fight. It was Lou Holtz’s final game as USC’s coach.

Hater’s guide to watching this year: The Gamecocks are 6-4 and bowl eligible for the third straight season, and they’d probably like nothing more than to spoil Clemson’s return to the CFP. The Tigers have won four in a row in the series and haven’t lost to USC at home since 2012.

Governor’s Cup

No. 17 Kentucky at Louisville

Saturday, 7 ET, ESPN2

Year it began: 1912

Overall record: Tied 15-15

Past five years: Louisville leads 4-1

Kentucky’s biggest villain: Former Louisville coach Bobby Petrino loved beating the Wildcats more than anyone else. His teams went 4-0 during his first tenure from 2003 to ’06 and then 3-1 after he returned in 2014. During his first game against Kentucky as Louisville’s coach in 2003, the Cardinals scored their final touchdown with 13 seconds left in a 40-24 rout.

Louisville’s biggest villain: Record-setting UK quarterback Tim Couch threw for 398 yards with four touchdowns in a 38-24 victory over the Cardinals in 1997, and then had 498 yards with seven touchdowns in a 68-34 win in the first game at Papa John’s Stadium the next year. The pass-happy Wildcats piled up 801 yards in the second one.

Story that best explains the rivalry: UK fans have long professed their superiority over the Cardinals in the Commonwealth. The Wildcats won the first six games by a combined score of 210-0 from 1912 to 1924 — and then the rivalry wasn’t played again for 70 years. The Cardinals had to wait until a 13-10 victory in 1995 to claim their first win in the intrastate series.

Hater’s guide to watching this year: With the Cardinals limping through a woeful 2-9 season, Petrino was fired on Nov. 11. The Wildcats had a chance to win the SEC East for the first time until falling to Georgia 34-17 on Nov. 3. UK can still win nine games in a season for the first time since 1984 and for only the fifth time in school history.

Battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh

No. 3 Notre Dame at USC

Saturday, 8 ET, ABC

Year it began: 1926

Overall record: Notre Dame leads 47-37-5

Past five years: Notre Dame leads 3-2

Notre Dame’s biggest villain: Anthony Davis became known as “The Notre Dame Killer” after scoring 11 total touchdowns in two games against them. In 1972, Davis returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, added another kickoff return touchdown plus four rushing touchdowns during a 45-23 victory. In ’74, with USC trailing 24-6 at halftime, Davis returned the second-half kickoff 102 yards and added four more touchdowns, igniting the Trojans in what became known as The Comeback, when they scored 49 straight points in 17 minutes to win 55-24.

USC’s biggest villain: Lou Holtz took over at Notre Dame in 1986 and rallied the Irish, down 37-20 in the fourth quarter, to a 38-37 victory in his first season. From then on, Holtz dominated the series, going 9-1-1 in 11 games, with the lone loss coming in overtime in his final game. He delighted in referring to the Trojans as Southern Cal, even when told at the time that school officials preferred USC or Southern California. “I was not aware of that. I am glad you brought it to my attention,” he said. “To the Southern Cal people, I apologize.”

Story that best explains the rivalry: The origin of the series is often attributed to the friendship between Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne and his wife, Bonnie, and USC athletic director Gwynn Wilson and his wife, Marion. The Wilsons were dispatched to Nebraska, where Notre Dame was playing the Huskers, to convince the Irish to play in Los Angeles. Marion is widely credited with convincing Bonnie that a trip to California in December would be better than the cold-weather alternatives, and in turn, she sold her husband on a trip West every other year. Now, 92 years later, it remains one of college football’s great intersectional rivalries with 18 meetings between the teams in which both were ranked in the top 10.

Hater’s guide to watching this year: USC (5-6) is coming off a demoralizing loss to a 2-8 UCLA team and will face No. 3 Notre Dame, which is undefeated and on course to crash the College Football Playoff. But USC victories in the last week of the season have spoiled the Irish’s title hopes in the 1930s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, and the Irish have not won at the Coliseum since 2012. USC coach Clay Helton may be coaching for his job.

Holy War

BYU at No. 19 Utah

Saturday, 10 p.m. ET, FS1

Year it began: 1896

Overall record: Utah leads 60-34-4

Past five years: Utah leads 5-0

BYU’s biggest villain: Utah kicker Chris Yergensen made a 55-yard field goal with 25 seconds left — after missing three earlier attempts — to beat the Cougars 34-31 in Provo in 1993. Utes fans tried to tear down the goal posts afterward, prompting BYU nose guard Lenny Gomes to say, “All those [Utes] think that’s all there is to life. But when I’m making $50,000 to $60,000 a year, they’ll be pumping my gas. They’re low-class losers.”

Utah’s biggest villain: Legendary BYU coach LaVell Edwards’ teams went 22-7 against the Utes, and he drew their ire when he put quarterback Marc Wilson back into the game to break an NCAA single-game record for passing yards during a 38-8 blowout in 1977. Afterward, Utah coach Wayne Howard vowed revenge: “This today will be inspiring. The hatred between BYU and Utah is nothing compared to what it will be. It will be a crusade to beat BYU from now on.”

Story that best explains the rivalry: During the 1999 Holy War, a BYU fan jumped out of the stands and tackled a male cheerleader carrying the big “U” flag. The cheerleader punched the fan seven or eight times before police broke up the fracas, causing Utes receiver Steve Smith to proclaim, “Even our cheerleaders are kicking your ass.”

Hater’s guide to watching this year: The Cougars haven’t beaten the Utes since 2009, and they’ll be overwhelming underdogs to drop an eighth straight game in the Holy War. The No. 19 Utes wrapped up their first Pac-12 South title this past weekend.

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