This is the part of the college football season that I enjoy the most: rivalry games.
This is where the passion of this sport really comes out; the renewal of traditional grudges and ancient hatreds.
This is the time when students, alumni, and fans often partake in making obscene gestures and insulting jokes about their interstate—or in the case of UCLA and USC, intercity—enemies, and where extra precautions are taken to prevent riots and brawls on the field as well as in the stands.
With the campaign for the BCS championship heading down the stretch, here are five civil brawls that I feel are worth watching, starting with three games that could well be BCS spoilers:
-No. 3 Texas at Texas A & M, November 26
-No. 2 Alabama at Auburn, November 27
-Florida State at No. 1 Florida, November 28
It's no secret that the Longhorns, Crimson Tide, and Gators are the class of college football this year.
Florida, in particular, has been a solid number one all season. Alabama has had a campaign for the ages, and Texas has made everything pointless in the Big 12.
It hasn't hurt that each of those teams has had one thing in common besides being undefeated: Heisman Trophy candidates. Tim Tebow, Mark Ingram, and Colt McCoy have led the Gators, Tide, and 'Horns, respectively, and are odds-on favorites to be invited to New York to see who gets that big statue.
That is precisely what makes these games intriguing; Florida State, Auburn, and Texas A & M are perfectly decent teams who have absolutely nothing to lose.
Those are often the most dangerous opponents.
In the case of the Seminoles and Aggies, they are trying to secure a place at the postseason bowl table. What better way to do so than to beat your hated enemy?
That's certainly what I would be thinking if I was them.
As for Auburn, their Iron Bowl with Alabama is at Jordan-Hare Stadium, a home game for them. It's an extremely safe bet that the Tigers, with the backing of their rabid fans, would like nothing more than to ruin the Crimson Tide's bid for a national championship.
"Clean, good ol' fashioned hate," indeed—that's what that Iron Bowl is called.
Having said all of that, here's how I think those contests will unfold:
Texas will take care of A & M in College Station fairly comfortably. The combination of McCoy and WR Jordan Shipley,his roommate, will be a bit too much for the Aggies.
The Seminoles will give the Gators a battle for a while, but Florida will ultimately prevail in the Swamp.
And as for the Iron Bowl on the plains, that is my upset special; I'm picking Auburn to spectacularly rise up and defeat the Tide in a close game, leaving 'Bama's BCS chances in ruins.
There are two other rivalry games, both in the Pac-10 Confefence, that folks should check out.
No. 25 California at No. 17 Stanford, November 21
This is shaping up to be one of the better Big Games, as both teams are 7-3 and bowl bound, with the Cardinal still having an outside chance for the Rose Bowl.
Shane Vereen has filled in nicely in place of RB Jahvid Best, who's out with a concussion and a sore back for the Golden Bears, who have won four out of their last five games.
And if Stanford running back Toby Gerhart doesn't win the Pac-10 Player Of The Year Award, nothing makes sense in the world. That senior, along with quarterback Andew Luck, has been a significant reason the Cardinal is on fire; that 55-21 beatdown of USC is no fluke.
That makes this battle for the Axe all the more attractive.
My pick: Stanford . After scoring more points against the Trojans than any other opponent ever, I don't think there is any way they'll let down against Cal at the Farm. They are on a huge roll right now.
No. 19 Oregon State at No. 11 Oregon, December 3
This Civil War, the oldest rivalry on the West Coast, gets my vote for top rivalry game this year.
Both the Ducks and the Beavers are ranked in the top 20, which is a rare occurrence in this war.
Plus, they both have had great seasons; Oregon has been led by RB LaMichael James and OB Jeremiah Masoli. They have definitely recovered from that LaGarrett Blount incident.
As for Oregon State, the Rodgers brothers, WR James and RB Jacquizz, and their Beaver teammates are dying to get revenge for last season's humiliating beat down in Corvallis, when the Ducks put up over sixty points in denying them the Rose Bowl bid.
And on top of everything else, if the Beavers beat Washington State this week (as expected) and Oregon gets by Arizona in Tucson, then their matchup will be for the Pac-10 title and the Rose Bowl berth.
Put it all together, and it could be a Civil War for the ages.
My pick: Oregon in a close battle. The game is at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, one of the toughest and loudest places to play in the country. Also, Masoli is a little better than his Oregon State counterpart, Sean Canfield.
That's how I see rivalry season in college football unfolding this season. One thing is for sure, however:
No matter what happens, it will all be very interesting.