Week 13 of college football: Ranking the top 35 games from Rivalry Week

Just now, college football provided us with an almost ideal Saturday. With many rivalry games attempting to divert our attention, each window of games offered us a compelling duel in the middle of the field.

We saw Michigan-Ohio State in the early session, and in the distance we saw Purdue-Indiana and Kentucky-Louisville doing some crazy stuff.

With the Apple Cup, Oklahoma State-BYU, and Northwestern-Illinois as amazing sides, the afternoon window served up another all-time Iron Bowl as the main entrée.

Though somewhat more subdued, the evening session nonetheless included exciting and largely tight Georgia-Georgia Tech and Florida State-Florida games, along with the most visually stunning match of the day—a snow-filled and furious Farmageddon match between Iowa State and Kansas State.

Even though the Egg Bowl on Thursday and the majority of Friday were disappointing, Saturday’s flawless performance indicates that this was one of the greatest Rivalry Weeks in college football history.

(And I haven’t even spoken about the amazing slate of playoff games we had for tiny schools!) Let’s use the most fun method I know to evaluate what we observed and what it means: rating games!

The top 35 games from Rivalry Week are listed below. (Stopped at 35; it was an effort.)

Usually, the Iron Bowl is only terrific every other year (the last six games in Tuscaloosa have had average scores of Bama 46, Auburn 20, and 28-28 at Auburn), but when it is, it is still the greatest.

And whereas Kick Six from 2013 is still the best game the rivalry has ever produced, this one may have been the best ever, or very nearly.

It was impossible to discern that Auburn was coming off a humiliating 31-10 loss to New Mexico State.

The Tigers’ one-dimensional offense proved to be effective as it generated 244 running yards, two touchdown throws to Ja’Varrius Johnson, and a final-minute advantage of 24–20.

With 4:48 remaining, however, Bama recovered a mishandled punt and somehow managed to need nearly four minutes to travel 30 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

There are few things better than when a hugely anticipated game meets the hype. This one most certainly did. And Ohio State has to be aching about letting it get away.

The Buckeyes generated more yards (378-338), yards per play (6.5-5.6) and first downs (21-18) and won a majority of the game’s third downs, going 4-for-9 to Michigan’s 3-for-12.

Michigan won, however, with little things. The Wolverines won the field position battle by 9 yards per drive. They won the special teams battle with awesome punting and better place-kicking. They won the fourth-downs battle — stand-in head coach Sherrone Moore & Co.

were assertive in the first half, going 3-for-3 on fourth-and-short conversions (fourth-and-goal from the 1, then two more on an eventual TD drive), while Ohio State punted on a fourth-and-1 from its 46 in the first quarter and let more than 30 seconds run late in the half to set up an ill-fated 52-yard field goal on fourth-and-2.

Most importantly, Michigan won the turnover battle, setting up the game’s first points with an interception and ending the game with another pick.

Most significantly, Michigan prevailed in the battle of turnovers, using an interception to set up the opening points of the game and another pick to seal the victory.

This was basically one team playing a little bit cleaner ball than the other (and one staff, without its head coach, doing a better job of playing to win); it wasn’t the story-defining, second-half dominance of the previous couple of years.

The most bizarre game was ISU-KSU, but the most bizarre and spectacular ending was provided by ODU-GSU.

A. Needing a victory to qualify for the bowl, Old Dominion trailed 21-0 early on and went down 24–14. Chris Adams scored on a tackle-eligible throw, but the Monarchs had to settle for a field goal when Adams was flagged for a face mask violation while stiff-arming a defender.

B. Despite barely recovering from a squib/onside kick combo, Georgia State was flagged offside. The subsequent kick was squibbed by ODU, and GSU recovered at its own 10.

With 1:18 remaining, ODU sacked Darren Grainger in the end zone for a safety after stuffing him for a 6-yard loss following a high snap.


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