Rivalry week picks


Conference title and playoff hopes are just part of what’s on the line during college football’s rivalry weekend.

There’s the Golden Egg in Mississippi. The Territorial Cup in Arizona. The Old Oaken Bucket in Indiana. The Apple Cup in Washington. The Fremont Cannon in Nevada. The Governor’s Cup in Kentucky.

Wisconsin and Minnesota will play for Paul Bunyan’s Axe. And the winner of the Michigan State-Penn State game gets the Land-Grant Trophy, which has a lot going on.

The main course of the Thanksgiving football feast are the rivalry games with championship stakes attached between highly ranked teams. You’ll find those in Columbus, Ohio, and Los Angeles and they lead this week’s most intriguing games:

No. 3 Michigan at No. 2 Ohio State, Saturday

The Game has a long history of monster matchups. Eleven previous time the Buckeyes and Wolverines have played with both in the AP’s top five. Jim Harbaugh and Michigan broke a long drought in the rivalry last season on the way to a Big Ten title and playoff appearance. There is a chance the winner and loser could land in the CFP this year, but neither wants to test that possibility.

LINE: Ohio State by 7 1/2. PICK: Ohio State 35-24.

No. 13 Notre Dame at No. 5 Southern California, Saturday

The Fighting Irish have won four straight meetings and eight of the last 11, but the stakes have not been this high for the Trojans in more than a decade. USC has dreams of a playoff spot and Heisman Trophy for star quarterback Caleb Williams. The Irish are hoping to put an exclamation point on Marcus Freeman’s first season as coach.

LINE: USC by 5 1/2. PICK: USC 38-31.

No. 10 Oregon at No. 22 Oregon State, Saturday

The Ducks have owned this rivalry for almost two decades, with the Beavers winning just twice since 2007. It’s the first time since 2012 and just the fifth time in 106 meetings that both teams are ranked. Oregon, which earns a spot in the Pac-12 title game with a victory, hopes to have a healthier QB Bo Nix this week.

LINE: Oregon by 3 1/2. PICK: Oregon State 28-24.

Mississippi State at No. 20 Mississippi, Thursday

The Egg Bowl often produces competitive games and odd drama. Hanging over this year’s Thanksgiving night meeting is speculation about the future of Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin, who could be a candidate to fill coaching vacancy at Auburn.

LINE: Ole Miss by 3. PICK: Ole Miss 33-28.

Kansas at No. 15 Kansas State, Saturday

The Wildcats have won 13 straight in the Sunflower Showdown as the Jayhawks have wallowed at the bottom of the Big 12. Kansas is better than it has been in more than decade, bowl eligible but still losers of five of their last six. The Wildcats clinch a spot in the Big 12 title game with a victory.

LINE: Kansas State by 11 1/2. PICK: Kansas State 42-27.

The rest of this week’s game involving ranked teams with lines by FanDuel Sportsbook:


Florida (plus 10) at No. 16 Florida State (minus 10)

Gators have won three straight, but this looks like a tough matchup for their leaky run defense; ‘Noles average 5.54 yards per carry (ninth in the country) … FLORIDA STATE 42-35.

No. 17 UCLA (minus 10 1/2) at California

Pac-12 title hopes are gone for the Bruins but they can get to nine victories for the first time since 2014. … UCLA 38-26.

North Carolina State (plus 6 1/2) at No. 18 North Carolina

QB injuries have derailed the Wolfpack’s season and Tar Heels are coming off an upset loss; Even more reason to want to beat your rival … NORTH CAROLINA 28-24.

No. 19 Tulane at No. 21 Cincinnati (minus 2 1/2)

Bearcats looking for their fourth straight trip to the AAC title game; Green Wave its first … CINCINNATI 24-20.

Baylor at No. 24 Texas (minus 7 1/2)

Longhorns will take the field with a chance to get to the Big 12 title game … TEXAS 33-24.


Georgia Tech at No. 1 Georgia (minus 35 1/2)

Bulldogs have won the last four by an average of 36 points … GEORGIA 42-6.

Iowa State at No. 4 TCU (minus 10 1/2)

Horned Frogs are due for a comfortable victory … TCU 28-14.

No. 6 LSU at Texas A&M (plus 9 1/2)

Tigers are headed to the SEC title game and the Aggies are playing out the string … LSU 24-16.

South Carolina (plus 14 1/2) at No. 7 Clemson

Tigers have won seven straight Palmetto Bowls, mostly blowouts … CLEMSON 27-17.

Auburn at No. 8 Alabama (minus 21 1/2)

Likely Bryce Young’s last home game for the Tide … ALABAMA 38-14.

No. 9 Tennessee (minus 14 1/2) at Vanderbilt

Vols still have hopes for a New Year’s Six bowl, but will have to manage without star QB Hendon Hooker (knee) … TENNESSEE 45-24.

Michigan State (plus 18 1/2) at No. 11 Penn State

If both Michigan and Ohio State end up in the playoff, the Nittany Lions could land in the Rose Bowl … PENN STATE 31-14.

No. 12 Washington at Washington State (plus 2 1/2)

Huskies’ Pac-12 title hopes are slim and could be gone by the time they take the field … WASHINGTON STATE 31-28.

No. 14 Utah (minus 29 1/2) at Colorado

End can’t get here fast enough for the Buffaloes, who have lost nine games by at least 23 points and the last three by an average of 41 … UTAH 51-10.

No. 23 Coastal Carolina (plus 13 1/2) at James Madison

Chants QB Grayson McCall remains out, hence the big line in favor of the Dukes … JAMES MADISON 33-28.

No. 25 UCF (minus 19 1/2) at South Florida

Knights blew a chance to host the AAC title game last week, but can still get into the game through the conference’s complicated tiebreakers that involve CFP rankings and computer formulas … UCF 52-28.


Louisville (plus 3 1/2) at Kentucky — mjlorange. Cardinals looking to snap a three-game losing streak to Wildcats with status of QB Malik Cunningham up in the air … LOUISVILLE 23-20.

Arkansas at Missouri (plus 3 1/2) — lakehog_stephen. Tigers need one more victory to get bowl eligible … MISSOURI 26-24.

Arizona State at Arizona (minus 4 1/2) — ArtWMoore. Sun Devils have a five-game series winning streak, but the Wildcats look like the program with the arrow pointed up … ARZIONA 38-28.

Minnesota at Wisconsin (minus 3) — kyleinmke. Let’s appreciate Gophers TB Mohamed Ibrahim: Nation’s leading rusher has 173 carries for 830 yards and 10 touchdowns in the last five games … WISCONSIN 21-16.



Last week: Straight-up — 19-7; Against spread — 11-14-1.

Season: 195-75; 137-139-3.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com


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