This is arguably the biggest weekend in high school and college football.
On the high school gridiron, all six classifications will determine which two teams from each class will play for a state title next Friday and Saturday at Southern Miss in Hattiesburg. This is also rivalry weekend in college football and there are several key games that will have serious implications on this year’s College Football Playoffs.
It started on Thursday when Miss. State visited hated rival Ole Miss in the annual battle known as the Egg Bowl. It was the 115th meeting between the schools separated by a mere 98 miles and who have a certain degree of disdain for each other. The outcomes did not have any implication on the playoffs, but it was more than a regular Egg Bowl for the Rebels since they are banned from postseason play. This was their bowl game, but apparently nobody told them that.
The loss by the Rebels sends them to a 5-7 record and a losing season. At 8-4, Miss. State will be headed to a solid bowl game.
I enjoy watching Ole Miss lose almost as much as I do watching LSU win. State’s beatdown of its rival was a great start to what could be a huge weekend.
On Friday, the gridiron action shifted even more local when West Jones visited Picayune for the Class 5A South State championship. The winner advanced to play either West Point or Olive Branch at The Rock in Hattiesburg this coming Saturday at 7 p.m. I hope there’s one more game in store for the Mustangs after this is printed. (Go to www.leader-call.com to find out)
Back to the college game. A pair of games with possible playoff implications were scheduled with Oklahoma (10-1) visiting West Virginia (9-2) in what could also be a preview of next week’s Big 12 title game. Meanwhile, more than 2,300 miles across the country in Pullman, Wash., the Washington State Cougars (10-1) had their playoff dreams on the line when the Cougs hosted rival Washington in the annual Apple Cup. If Wazzu pulled off the win and also wins the Pac 12 title game this coming weekend, they just might find one of the four playoff spots as their early Christmas gift.
Central Florida, 11-0 and ranked No. 9 in the latest CFP rankings, played at South Florida on Friday afternoon. A loss by the Golden Knights ended any hopes of making the CFP. But if UCF won, then the Knights are still in the hunt.
Today (Saturday), there are five games on the slate that could play a big part in deciding the four teams who make the CFP.
At 11 a.m. on Fox, Michigan invades Ohio State in what should be an epic battle of defense (Wolverines) versus the high-octane offense of the Buckeyes. They say defense wins championships, but, for more personal reasons, I hope that adage proves wrong in this one.
At 2:30 p.m. on CBS, the Iron Bowl is scheduled to kick off, and even though Alabama (11-0) is ranked No. 1, anything can happen when the Tide plays Auburn — and sometimes all that is needed is one second. However, this might be close through the first half but expect the Tide to roll in this Iron Bowl.
At 6 on ESPN, No. 2 Clemson puts its unblemished mark on the line against rival South Carolina and the Cocks would love to spring the upset on the Tigers. Clemson has appeared vulnerable at times this year and Carolina has had some big games. I think Clemson wins but closer than expected and I won’t be shocked if an upset occurs in this one.
LSU travels to College Station for a 6:30 battle with Texas A&M on the SEC Network. LSU currently sits at No. 7 in the CFP rankings and a win over the Aggies would put the Tigers at 10-2 on the season and keep them alive in the playoff hunt. Don’t think LSU can make the CFP? Just look up the 2007 season — anything can happen.
Notre Dame squares off at 7 on ABC at USC. The two longtime rivals have no love lost between them. The Irish currently are ranked No. 3 in the CFP rankings and a win over the Trojans would cap a perfect regular season and punch Notre Dame’s ticket into the playoffs. Despite the Trojans’ 5-6 mark, this will be a close game, and keep in mind that this USC team is the team that handed Washington State its only blemish on the season.
Today will be a great day to watch football because the above mentioned games are like playoff games for several teams. I still think the playoffs should be expanded, but for now this will have to suffice.
With the Dawgs knocking off Ole Miss, all I hope for by the time this is printed is that West Jones won on Friday and that LSU takes care of A&M today. For me, that would be plenty to be thankful for.
And it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if Washington, Ohio State, West Virginia, South Carolina and USC all win.
Guru Nichols is former sports editor of the Leader-Call.