Forde-Yard Dash: Gauging hate, intrigue and more for this year's Rivalry Weekend

Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (Ray Lewis highlight video sold separately to the conscientious tackling objectors in Lawrence, Kansas):

A boring Saturday, that’s what everyone (including The Dash) said Nov. 22 would be. Naturally, that’s when the following wonders would occur: a 427-yard rushing game by a true freshman; a 30-point beatdown of a top-10 team by an opponent that is last in its division – a result presaged by The Dash, but certainly not a predicted margin; a 19th century throwback game in Winston-Salem that ended regulation scoreless and ultimately was decided 6-3 in double overtime; and on a Pacific island in the wee hours of Sunday morning, a game-winning touchdown on the last play fueled by two personal foul penalties and some controversial clock keeping.

So, yeah, boring. This week expectations are higher, and hopefully the games deliver. This is the best weekend of the year, Rivalry Weekend, and The Dash is here to edify you on the great ones, the near-great, the boring and the contrived.

RIVALRY PRIMER

There are a whopping 30 FBS matchups this week that could be described as rivalry games – some with more veracity than others. All you need to know follows:

HIGH STAKES

Games that will affect the playoff race and/or major conference championships:

Auburn at Alabama (1), aka the Iron Bowl. With a victory, the Crimson Tide (10-1) win the SEC West and take a large step toward the College Football Playoff. A win by Auburn (8-3) likely would crush Alabama’s national championship dreams for the second straight year.

When: 7:45 p.m. ET Saturday.

Hate meter: Doesn’t go high enough to measure it.

Academic prestige meter: Alabama is tied for No. 88 in the most recent U.S. News & World Report rankings of American universities, while Auburn is No. 103.

Upper hand lately: Auburn won the last meeting rather memorably. It also has won two of the last four and eight of the last 12.

Alabama's Arie Kouandjio (77) battles Auburn's Gabe Wright (90) for position in the 2013 Iron Bowl. (USAT)
Alabama's Arie Kouandjio (77) battles Auburn's Gabe Wright (90) for position in the 2013 Iron Bowl. (USAT)

Upper hand historically: Alabama leads the series 42-35-1.

Trinket: There is a long-standing but obscure “Sportsmanship Trophy” associated with the game that is traditionally passed back and forth between the schools when they meet in basketball on the home court of the school that won the football game. But generally speaking, winning the rivalry means far more than any trophy could convey. Hence its obscurity.

Pick: Alabama 35, Auburn 17. There will be no sequel to the Kick Six.

Oregon at Oregon State (2), aka the Civil War. With a win, Oregon (10-1) would remain in the CFP top four heading into the Pac-12 championship game. If Oregon State wins, the Beavers (5-6) would hit the daily double: bowl eligibility plus the pleasure of ruining the Ducks’ national title hopes.

When: 8 p.m. ET Saturday.

Hate meter: West Coast strong, which is more like an average grudge match in most other parts of the country.

Prestige meter: Oregon is tied for 106th in the U.S. News rankings. Oregon State is tied for 138th.

Upper hand lately: The Ducks have won six straight, four of them by 17 or more points.

Upper hand historically: Oregon leads the series 61-46-10. The Beavers were winless in the series from 1975-87, with the high point in that stretch being a scoreless tie in 1983.

Trinket: The Platypus Trophy is one of the all-time rivalry trinkets. It’s weird, and it went missing for decades before being found in 2005 in a closet at Oregon’s old basketball gym. Since being rediscovered the trophy has not been embraced by the schools’ athletic directors, but the alumni associations pass it back and forth to the winning school.

Pick: Oregon 44, Oregon State 21. Marcus Mariota places a stronger grip on the Heisman Trophy.

Florida at Florida State (3), allegedly known as the Sunshine Showdown, although that name has not garnered a lot of traction. Seminoles are bidding to keep their perfect record and CFP standing intact. Gators would love nothing more than to salvage some of a disappointing season with a major upset that sends fired coach Will Muschamp out on the kind of high note he rarely could hit in four seasons.

When: 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

Hate meter: Highest it’s been since skilled antagonist Steve Spurrier left Gainesville after the 2001 season. Jameis Winston is the lightning rod now.

Prestige meter: Florida is tied for No. 48 in the U.S. News rankings. Florida State is tied for 95th.

Upper hand lately: Florida State won last year and has won three of the last four. The Seminoles’ 30-point beating of the Gators in The Swamp in 2013 was their biggest margin of victory in series history.

Upper hand historically: Florida leads the series 34-22-2. The Gators won 16 of the first 19 meetings, with one tie.

Trinket: None to The Dash’s knowledge. They seem to be doing fine without one.

Pick: Florida State 21, Florida 20. On a Roberto Aguayo field goal that hits the crossbar and bounces through on the last play.

Dan Mullen's Bulldogs have won the Egg Bowl four of five seasons he's coached in the game. (AP)
Dan Mullen's Bulldogs have won the Egg Bowl four of five seasons he's coached in the game. (AP)

Mississippi State at Mississippi (4), aka the Egg Bowl. With State (10-1) playing for a spot in the playoff and Ole Miss (8-3) ranked in the top 20, it’s certainly the biggest meeting of the last half century, if not longer. In 1963, Ole Miss entered the game 7-0-1 and ranked third, while Mississippi State was 7-2-1. The Rebels kicked a 20-yard field goal to tie the game and preserve an unbeaten record but then went on to lose in the Sugar Bowl.

When: 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

Hate meter: Historically high and certainly escalated this year, with both schools jockeying for playoff position for so much of the season. The State extremists will tell you Ole Miss is a snob school with a Confederate fetish; the Ole Miss extremists will tell you that State is a bumpkin school for uncultured farmers. The more moderate factions will settle on mutual dislike.

Prestige meter: Mississippi is tied for 149th in the U.S. News rankings. Mississippi State is tied for 156th.

Upper hand lately: State won last year, 17-10, and has won four of the last five – a fact coach Dan Mullen is quick to point out.

Upper hand historically: Ole Miss leads the series 61-43-6. The series has been played in seven different towns in the state.

Trinket: The Golden Egg, a trophy that dates back to 1927. It came into being as something of a peace offering after the 1926 game resulted in a melee, according to rivalry lore. Ole Miss ended a long losing streak in the series, and its fans’ attempt to tear down the goalposts in Starkville was met by Mississippi A&M (as it was known) backers wielding wooden chairs. The next year, the trophy was introduced. It’s supposed to be football-shaped, but it’s oval enough to have been dubbed the Golden Egg.

Pick: Mississippi State 23, Mississippi 17. Ironically, an impressive Bulldogs victory may spur them root for Alabama to win Saturday night. That would give the Crimson Tide the SEC West title and send it to the SEC championship game with a risk of losing, while at 11-1 State’s hay would be in the barn and may be good enough to lock up a playoff spot.

Michigan at Ohio State (5). Too big for a name, which The Dash respects. The Buckeyes (10-1) are playing to remain in contention for the playoff. For the Wolverines (5-6), the goal is both a bowl bid and a likely fond farewell to embattled coach Brady Hoke. (There are high stakes and then there are tent stakes, and Michigan is advised to leave the latter at home Saturday after the stunt pulled at their last rivalry game.)

When: Noon ET Saturday.

Hate meter: Just about the only thing separating this rivalry from Alabama-Auburn are two dead trees at Toomer’s Corner.

Prestige meter: Michigan is No. 29 in the U.S. News rankings. Ohio State is No. 53.

Upper hand lately: The Buckeyes have won the last two, and nine of the last 10 – their longest period of domination in series history.

Upper hand historically: Michigan leads the series 58-45-6.

Trinket: Again, don’t need one. Game is plenty big on its own.

Pick: Ohio State 38, Michigan 14. Expect a Sunday press conference in Ann Arbor.

Georgia Tech at Georgia (6), aka Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate. The Bulldogs need to win to stay on the periphery of the playoff chase. The Yellow Jackets are shooting for just their third double-digit victory season since 1956.

When: Noon ET Saturday.

Hate meter: Popular nickname to the contrary, Bulldogs fans seem to direct more venom toward Florida and even Auburn these days than Tech.

Prestige meter: Georgia Tech is No. 35 in the U.S. News rankings. Georgia is No. 62.

Upper hand lately: Georgia has won five straight and 12 of the last 13. The Bulldogs have scored at least 30 points in all six meetings with Paul Johnson-coached Tech teams.

Upper hand historically: Georgia leads the series 64-39-5.

Trinket: There is a Governor’s Cup that seems to get little acclaim or attention.

Pick: Georgia 32, Georgia Tech 28. Mark Richt moves to 13-1 against the Jackets.

Jaelen Strong (R) and Arizona State won last year's Territorial Cup in a 58-21 rout. (USAT)
Jaelen Strong (R) and Arizona State won last year's Territorial Cup in a 58-21 rout. (USAT)

Arizona State at Arizona (7)

, aka the Territorial Cup. One of the biggest meetings ever, with both teams ranked for the first time since 1986. If Stanford beats UCLA in a game that kicks off at the same time, the winner of this one takes the Pac-12 South.

When: 3:30 p.m. ET Friday.

Hate meter: Plenty of it, especially by Pac-12 standards. ASU backers refer to Tucson as a cowtown located in Greater Mexico. U of A backers cite their older academic standing and dismiss the former teacher’s college that is little more than background noise in a pro sports city.

Prestige meter: Arizona is tied for No. 121 in the U.S. News rankings. Arizona State is tied for No. 129.

Upper hand lately: Arizona State has won the last two, three of the last four and six of the last nine.

Upper hand historically: Arizona leads the series 47-39-1, mostly because it won 20 of the first 22 between 1899 and 1948.

Trinket: The Territorial Cup, which has quite a history. It allegedly dates to the first meeting, in 1899, and then was lost for more than 80 years before being rediscovered in a church basement near Tempe, according to the ASU student newspaper. It came back into circulation this century, although a more modern replica is handed out to the winning team postgame instead of the real artifact.

Pick: Arizona 34, Arizona State 31. The game is big enough on its own that Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez said he doesn’t want updates on Stanford-UCLA during the game. Sun Devils coach Todd Graham said, “You can be 11-0. If you lose this one it’s an unsuccessful season.”

Minnesota at Wisconsin (8). In terms of stakes on both sides, this is the biggest this game has been in eons. Winner takes the Big Ten West and plays for the conference championship against Ohio State on Dec. 6.

When: 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

Hate meter: If you’ve heard the phrase “Minnesota Nice,” then you know. Minnesotans are too courteous and polite to get bent very far out of shape by a football rivalry – even one their team hasn’t won in forever.

Prestige meter: Wisconsin is No. 47 in the U.S. News rankings. Minnesota is tied for 71st.

Upper hand lately: It’s been all Badgers. They’ve won the last 10 meetings, and the last four by a minimum of 13 points.

Upper hand historically: Minnesota leads the all-time series 59-56-8. From 1933-41, the Gophers won every game and beat Wisconsin by a total of 176 points.

Trinket: Paul Bunyan’s Axe, which ranks among the great rivalry totems ever. Axe tradition is not something to be trifled with, as discovered during a mini-furor Monday afternoon when Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said the axe would be left in the locker room instead of brought to the field. By Monday evening, a clarification had been released: the axe will be brought to the field near the end zone of the winning team, as opposed to the bench area. Tradition has it that the winning team rushes the sideline, grabs the axe and mimics chopping down the goal posts, but last year Minnesota players would not allow the Badgers a clear path to one post and a brief scuffle broke out. In an effort to maintain domestic tranquility in the law-abiding Upper Midwest, the axe will be relocated away from the benches. Whatever.

Wisconsin's Conor O'Neill celebrates a win over Minnesota in 2013. (AP)
Wisconsin's Conor O'Neill celebrates a win over Minnesota in 2013. (AP)

Pick: Wisconsin 24, Minnesota 13. In what was hoped to be a battle of marquee running backs, the Badgers’ Melvin Gordon is hitting on all cylinders while the Gophers’ David Cobb is questionable with a hamstring strain.

STAKES

Colorado State at Air Force (9). The Rams (10-1) are trying to stay in the running for one of the New Year’s Six bowls and the Mountain West Conference championship.

When: 3:30 p.m. ET Friday.

Hate meter: Nobody hates the service academies except other service academies. And even then it’s not really hate, just a deep desire to beat each other’s brains in. But these are two schools located 125 miles apart and have played every year since 1977, so there is a fair amount of competitiveness.

Prestige meter: U.S News doesn’t rank service academies – but safe to say, there is a lot of prestige that goes along with an AFA education. Colorado State is tied for 121st.

Upper hand lately: The Rams won in a rout last year, but prior to that the Falcons had won seven straight.

Upper hand historically: Air Force leads the all-time series 31-20-1. The only school the Falcons have beaten more is Army.

Trinket: The victory retains the Ram-Falcon Trophy, a woodenly named hunk of wood that rather appropriately depicts a Ram and a Falcon. The trophy has been in circulation since 1980.

Pick: CSU 35, AFA 20. The Rams’ Garrett Grayson and Rashard Higgins form the best pass-and-catch combo you’ve never heard of.

Kansas at Kansas State (10). Wildcats are trying to remain in contention for the Big 12 title. They’ll need a loss from TCU and to beat Baylor head-to-head Dec. 6, but for now it’s possible.

When: 4 p.m. ET Saturday.

Hate meter: Pretty high in general, but not a lot of spite specific to football. Kansas fans are so beaten down that they save virtually all their chesty behavior for basketball season.

Prestige meter: Kansas is tied for 106th in the U.S. News rankings. Kansas State is 142nd.

Upper hand lately: K-State has won five straight and 18 of the last 23.

Upper hand historically: Kansas leads the all-time series 64-42-5. That includes winning 17 of the first 21, with three ties.

Trinket: The Governor’s Cup, an ornate but generically named bauble that has gone to the winner since 1969. Back in the day there alleged was a “Peace Pact Trophy” in the form of small bronze goalposts, which was awarded for a while in an attempt to keep fans from trying to tear down goalposts on opposing soil.

Pick: Kansas State 41, Kansas 14. But the Jayhawks will not allow any Wildcats running backs over 400 yards.

Virginia at Virginia Tech (11). Loser leaves town? With a moving van? Two embattled coaches with 5-6 records, both seeking to become bowl eligible. Cavaliers coach Mike London would appear to be less in control of his destiny than longtime Hokies boss Frank Beamer, but neither fan base is happy.

When: 8 p.m. ET Friday.

Hate meter: The enmity is alive and well, though neither side can be cocky in the grand scheme of things. Thomas Jefferson’s university has the classic, We Were Here First You Uncultured Heathen outlook on the old ag-and-mechanical cow college. The response from Blacksburg is to dislike the perceived arrogance of the entitled prepwads in Charlottesville. Some Virginia fans expressed there-goes-the-neighborhood dismay when Virginia Tech was allowed to join the ACC.

Prestige meter: Virginia is tied for 23rd in the U.S. News rankings. Virginia Tech is tied for 71st.

Upper hand lately: It’s been Hokie ownage. They’ve won 10 straight, a span of ownership now stretching more than 3,000 days – something plenty of Tech fans can tell you off the top of their head.

Upper hand historically: Tech leads the all-time series 53-37-5.

Trinket: the Commonwealth Cup is a handy bit of hardware. It’s a four-foot tall whopper, but the useful part is the silver cup that can be detached and used to drink the sweet nectar of victory postgame. Which is something Virginia Tech is quite accustomed to doing.

Pick: Virginia 16, Virginia Tech 14. The nightmare losing streak ends at 10 for the ‘Hoos.

Kentucky at Louisville (12). After a 5-1 start, Wildcats are still scrambling for bowl eligibility – and after consecutive 2-10 seasons, a bowl bid would be big. Cardinals are trying to put the finishing touches on a 9-3 season that was close to being much better.

When: Noon ET Saturday.

Hate meter: High, but there are no fistfights at the dialysis centers during football season. In fact, if this game were still played during as the season opener, interest and in-fighting would be higher. But it’s basketball season now for Kentucky fans, and more than a few Louisville fans as well. The timing takes it down a notch.

Prestige meter: Kentucky is tied for 129th in the U.S. News rankings. Louisville is tied for 161st.

Upper hand lately: The Cardinals have won the last three, by an average of 13 points.

Louisville dominated Kentucky in 2013 with Teddy Bridgewater at the helm of its offense.
Louisville dominated Kentucky in 2013 with Teddy Bridgewater at the helm of its offense.

Upper hand historically: Kentucky leads the all-time series 14-12, having won the first seven from 1912-94 and four straight from 2007-10.

Trinket: Another Governor’s Cup, which evokes nothing but gives the winning players something to parade around the field.

Pick: Louisville 27, Kentucky 16. Calendar benefits the Wildcats – coming off a bye week, while the Cardinals are coming off an emotional road victory at Notre Dame. But a late bye week only helps if your team is still focused; if the young 'Cats have mentally checked out, this could be a rout.

Illinois at Northwestern (13). Both teams bidding for bowl eligibility, which is better than things looked a few weeks ago. Tim Beckman might also be coaching for his job at Illinois.

When: Noon ET Saturday.

Hate meter: Meh. Skirmishing in Chicago, where Northwestern alums can assert their academic prowess. But much of the rest of the state can afford to ignore Northwestern if it so chooses.

Prestige meter: Northwestern is No. 13 in the U.S. News rankings. Illinois is No. 42.

Upper hand lately: The Wildcats have won the last two, four of the last six and eight of the last 11.

Upper hand historically: Illinois leads the series 54-48-5. The Illini has never won more than seven straight in the series, and the Wildcats have never won more than four straight.

Trinket: the Land of Lincoln Trophy, a bronze replica of Honest Abe’s stovepipe hat. Unfortunately, the hat is affixed to a wooden base and cannot be worn at a jaunty angle by celebrating winners. Previous trophy was the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk, which was passed back and forth from 1945-2008 before the NCAA phased out Native American imagery. And before the tomahawk was an even less politically correct talisman, a wooden cigar-store Indian.

Pick: Northwestern 29, Illinois 24. The Illini hasn’t won consecutive Big Ten games since October 2011. Don’t expect that to change now.

Tennessee at Vanderbilt (14). Volunteers (5-6) playing for a bowl. Commodores (3-7) just trying to end the nightmare.

When: 4 p.m. ET Saturday.

Hate meter: See Northwestern-Illinois above, replace Chicago with Nashville, and repeat.

Prestige meter: Vanderbilt is tied for 16th in the U.S. News rankings. Tennessee is tied for 106th.

Upper hand lately: Of all the miserable elements of Tennessee football the past six years, consecutive losses to Vandy is the worst. First time it happened since 1925-26.

Upper hand historically: Tennessee leads the all-time series 73-29-5. Twenty-one of Vanderbilt’s victories predate World War II.

Trinket: None. Dash suggestion: a bronzed hot fried chicken drumstick.

Pick: Tennessee 37, Vanderbilt 17. Vols reach six wins for the first time since 2010. Which is crazy.

Nevada at UNLV (15), aka the Battle for Nevada. Wolf Pack still has a chance to win the utterly mediocre West Division of the Mountain West, though it will require some help. Rebels must decide whether to extend the Bobby Hauck Era to a futile sixth season, after a 15-48 record to date.

When: 10:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

Hate meter: No love lost, but not exactly Auburn-Alabama. Nevada-Reno tends to claim academic superiority while UNLV claims a more cultured locale.

Prestige meter: Nevada is tied for No. 194 in the U.S. News rankings. UNLV is unranked.

Upper hand lately: UNLV won last year, breaking an eight-year losing streak in the rivalry.

Upper hand historically: Nevada leads the all-time series 23-16.

Trinket: Fremont Cannon, one of the coolest trophies going. It’s a replica of the cannon allegedly used by explorer John Fremont and left in a snow drift in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Winner gets to paint it in school colors for as long as it owns the weapon.

Pick: Nevada 45, UNLV 28. Wolf Pack quarterback Cody Fajardo goes out in a blaze of dual-threat glory.

JUST BRAGGING RIGHTS

Notre Dame at USC (16). Nobody’s happy.

When: 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday. When it’s not on prime time, that’s a sure sign this game isn’t what it has been many times in the past.

Hate meter: It exists, but lack of geographic proximity lessens the daily tension. Domers think the Trojans are spoiled rich kids with a SoCal superiority complex. Trojans think Domers are spoiled rich kids with a Catholic superiority complex.

Prestige meter: Points to South Bend. Notre Dame is No. 16 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of the nation’s best universities. USC is tied for No. 25.

Bragging rights are pretty much all that's on the line in this year's USC-Notre Dame rivalry game. (USAT)
Bragging rights are pretty much all that's on the line in this year's USC-Notre Dame rivalry game. (USAT)

Upper hand lately: Notre Dame has won the last two, three of the last four, and the last two meetings in Los Angeles.

Upper hand historically: Notre Dame leads the all-time series 45-35-5. In a series filled with some notable periods of dominance, the Trojans have struggled post-Pete Carroll.

Trinket: The Jeweled Shillelagh. It’s an Irish club with shamrocks and Trojan heads affixed to commemorate each victory in the series history, a gaudy and inartistic accessory that has no significant role in the series. Simply put, it’s no Paul Bunyan Axe.

Pick: USC 34, Notre Dame 31. Not decided on a Fighting Irish kicking snafu. Kyle Brindza has suffered enough.

South Carolina at Clemson (17), aka the Palmetto Bowl. At 6-5, the Gamecocks are a major bust. At 8-3, the Tigers are marginally better. First time since 2009 that neither team enters the game ranked in the Top 20.

When: Noon ET Saturday.

Hate meter: High and deep-seated, hearkening back to the very different educational missions of the schools and the tensions that arose between them from the start. The garden-variety athletic hate could actually be higher this year than usual since winning this game would make the season for both teams.

Prestige meter: Clemson No. 62 in U.S. News rankings. South Carolina No. 113.

Upper hand lately: As the Head Ball Coach is likely to point out this week, the Gamecocks have won five in a row. That’s South Carolina’s longest winning streak ever in the series.

Upper hand historically: Clemson leads the all-time series 65-42-4. That’s despite the first 57 meetings all taking place in Columbia.

Trinket: There is a Palmetto Bowl Trophy of little distinction.

Pick: South Carolina 23, Clemson 22. If DeShaun Watson (injured knee) can’t play or is ineffective at quarterback, the Tigers are in trouble. Again.

North Carolina State at North Carolina (18).

When: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

Hate meter: Might be highest ever in football. North Carolina State fans’ loud and proud role in stoking the flames of the UNC academic scandal have ramped up the ill will considerably. Prestige meter: North Carolina is No. 30 in the U.S. News rankings. North Carolina State is No. 95. Though there is the minor issue of UNC’s accreditation being at risk.

Upper hand lately: The Tar Heels have won the last two, after the Wolfpack had won the previous five.

Upper hand historically: North Carolina leads the all-time series 65-32-6. The Tar Heels won 34 of the first 45 meetings, with six ties. Since then the series has been close to even.

Trinket: If there is one, the schools keep it cleverly hidden from much of the public.

Pick: North Carolina 43, North Carolina State 19. The Wolfpack rank among the nation’s worst bowl-eligible teams.

ENNUI

Purdue at Indiana (19). If you insist on storylines, there is this: the Big Ten West leads the Big Ten East by one game in cross-divisional matchups.

When: Noon ET Saturday.

Hate meter: If only this were basketball, and Keady vs. Knight. Instead this is football, and Hazell vs. Wilson, and two beaten-down fan bases.

Prestige meter: Purdue is tied for 62nd in the U.S. News rankings. Indiana is tied for 76th.

Upper hand lately: Pretty even. Indiana won by 20 last year, after losing by 21 the year before.

Upper hand historically: Purdue leads the all-time series 72-38-6. The last time Indiana won more than two in a row was the 1940s.

Trinket: The Old Oaken Bucket. At least this rivalry has an iconic Big Ten bauble for the winners.

Pick: Indiana 41, Purdue 37. Tevin Coleman, winner of the Best Player on a Bad Team Award for 2014, runs wild for the Hoosiers.

Washington at Washington State (20), aka the Apple Cup. The Huskies are bowl-eligible but uninspiring. The Cougars are not bowl-eligible and uninspiring. Though the Chris Petersen-Mike Leach matchup holds some intrigue.

When: 10:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

Hate meter: Not visceral hatred, but mutual dislike. They’re in the same state but 4 ½ hours apart, with not much in common.

Prestige meter: Washington is No. 48 in the U.S. News rankings. Washington State is No. 138.

Upper hand lately: The Huskies won last year and have won four of the last five.

Washington players hold the Apple Cup after the Huskies' 2013 win over Washington State. (AP)
Washington players hold the Apple Cup after the Huskies' 2013 win over Washington State. (AP)

Upper hand historically: Washington leads the all-time series 68-32-6. Amazingly, the Cougars have never won more than two in a row.

Trinket: The Apple Cup trophy, which unfortunately is just another trophy instead of a vessel that could actually contain apples.

Pick: Washington 34, Washington State 27. Shaq Thompson scores an offensive touchdown, a defensive touchdown, kicks a field goal and sings the national anthem.

Central Florida at South Florida (21), aka The War on I-4. The Knights (7-3) still have a shot at winning the American, though due to league schedules it will not play either of the two teams currently tied with them in the loss column, Memphis and Cincinnati. The Bulls (4-7) are simply in it for the spoiler opportunity.

When: noon ET Friday.

Hate meter: There hasn’t been much time to really build deep dislike in a five-game series that started in 2005. But the two striver programs in the Sunshine State definitely are competitive with each other, and each wants to step on the other’s neck on the climb up the ladder.

Prestige meter: USF is tied for No. 161 in the U.S. News rankings. UCF is No. 173.

Upper hand lately: UCF narrowly escaped a major upset bid 23-20 last year, on its way to a Fiesta Bowl triumph.

Upper hand historically: USF won the first four games and has a 4-1 all-time edge.

Trinket: None to The Dash’s knowledge. Dash suggestion: a bronze bottle of suntan lotion.

Pick: UCF 20, USF 12. The Bulls’ dysfunctional offense doesn’t figure to get well in this game.

Syracuse at Boston College (22). The outcome of this game will not significantly alter the season for both teams – the Eagles (6-5) are going bowling and the Orange (3-8) is going to basketball season.

When: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

Hate meter: Barely moves the needle. Nothing there to get hateful about in a series with Big East roots but not many meetings lately.

Prestige meter: Boston College is No. 31 in the U.S. News rankings. Syracuse is No. 58.

Upper hand lately: The Orange won last year, 34-31. The last previous meeting was 2010, and before that 2004.

Upper hand historically: Syracuse leads the all-time series 29-18.

Trinket: Currently none, though the schools are discussing the creation of one since they will be annual season-ending opponents in the ACC. The Dash’s suggestion: a half-maroon, half-orange snow shovel.

Pick: Boston College 26, Syracuse 14. Tyler Murphy runs around a little more, and the abysmal Orange offense goes the final five games without scoring more than 17 points.

Wake Forest at Duke (23). Blue Devils are going bowling, but not going to the ACC championship game. Despite being flush with the thrill of ACC victory for the first time last week, the Demon Deacons aren't going nowhere.

When: 7 p.m. ET Saturday.

Hate meter: No.

Prestige meter: A true heavyweight matchup here at least. Duke is No. 8 in the U.S. News rankings. Wake Forest is No. 27.

Upper hand lately: Duke has won the last two meetings, after serving as Jim Grobe’s personal piñata for many years beforehand.

Upper hand historically: Duke leads the all-time series 55-37-2. From 1927-63, the Blue Devils won 30 of 36 matchups, with one tie.

Trinket: None that The Dash knows of in a battle of Tobacco Road private schools. Dash suggestion: a pack of cigarettes.

Pick: Duke 19, Wake Forest 10. Wake will make a comeback in the next few years. But Dave Clawson isn’t ready to beat David Cutcliffe yet.

CONTRIVANCES

TCU at Texas (24). Reincarnated Southwest Conference non-rivalry slotted to replace Texas-Texas A&M on Thanksgiving. Horned Frogs have a ton to play for, though, sitting on the playoff bubble and trying to win at least a share of the Big 12 title.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET Thursday.

Hate meter: Like most schools in the Lone Star State, TCU would love to take haughty Texas down a peg. Longhorns fans do their best to pretend TCU doesn’t matter.

Prestige meter: Texas is No. 53 in the U.S. News rankings. TCU is No. 76.

Will Charlie Strong's Longhorns pull off the upset and ruin TCU's playoff hopes? (AP)
Will Charlie Strong's Longhorns pull off the upset and ruin TCU's playoff hopes? (AP)

Upper hand lately: The Longhorns won last year and the two have split their two games since coming back into the same conference for the first time since 1995.

Upper hand historically: Texas leads the all-time series 62-21-1, including 24 straight meetings from 1968-91.

Trinket: Texas has trinket games with Oklahoma and Texas Tech. It doesn’t need another one.

Pick: Texas 26, TCU 24. Boom goes the Big 12 dynamite. Longhorns get their first signature victory under Charlie Strong.

Arkansas at Missouri (25). SEC insta-rivalry leadenly dubbed the “Battle Line Rivalry,” presented by Shelter Insurance. No, seriously. Huge game for the Tigers, who are playing for the SEC East title. Razorbacks trying to win third SEC game in a row after losing 17 straight.

When: 2:30 p.m. ET Friday. Precisely when Arkansas used to play LSU.

Hate meter: No reading. If this were basketball it might be different, but it’s not.

Prestige meter: Missouri is tied for 99th in the U.S. News rankings. Arkansas is No. 135.

Upper hand lately: Mizzou won the 2008 Cotton Bowl in a rout. If that counts.

Upper hand historically: Missouri leads the all-time series 3-2. Two meetings are in bowl games, and the last regular-season matchup was 1963. They have played the five games in five different cities.

Trinket: None yet. Though perhaps the winning state can take control of Blytheville, Ark.

Pick: Missouri 21, Arkansas 16. Hogs’ defense is good, but looked better than it is in shutting out the error-ridden offenses of LSU and Ole Miss.

LSU at Texas A&M (26). Another Thanksgiving weekend marriage of SEC convenience, with nothing tangible on the line other than avoiding sixth place in the SEC West.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET Thursday.

Hate meter: The increased interaction between the two schools in divisional play and on the recruiting trail has gotten the juices flowing. When Kevin Sumlin went into Louisiana last year and got star wide receiver Speedy Noil, that upped the ante.

Prestige meter: Texas A&M is 68th in the U.S. News rankings. LSU is tied for 129th.

Upper hand lately: The Tigers have won the last three meetings. Prior to that, the two had not played since 1995.

Upper hand historically: LSU leads the all-time series 29-20-3. From 1960-75, the two played annually – and played in Baton Rouge every year. Which is weird.

Trinket: None to The Dash’s knowledge. Perhaps an LSU win would require Kevin Sumlin to eat Tiger Stadium grass, while an A&M win would necessitate Les Miles turning in his trademark high hat for a Sumlin visor.

Pick: LSU 25, Texas A&M 21. Then Miles cannot leave for Michigan again.

Nebraska at Iowa (27). Both teams are out of the Big Ten West race, and both fan bases are grumbling about their coach. One of them will quiet the crabbing for the time being; the other will not.

Ameer Abdullah and Nebraska are looking to rebound after consecutive losses. (USAT)
Ameer Abdullah and Nebraska are looking to rebound after consecutive losses. (USAT)

When: Noon ET Friday.

Hate meter: Fourth straight year for the border state teams to close the regular season against each other, so there are some natural building blocks there. But the hate hasn’t taken hold yet.

Prestige meter: Iowa is No. 71 in the U.S. News rankings. Nebraska is tied for 99th.

Upper hand lately: Iowa won last year for the first time since Nebraska joined the Big Ten, the first time in any meeting between the two since 1981 and the first time in Lincoln since 1943.

Upper hand historically: Nebraska leads the all-time series 28-13-3. The first 10 meetings all were played either in Omaha or across the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Trinket: Winner gets the Heroes Trophy, one of the Big Ten’s new wave of generic trinkets that evoke nothing particular to either participating school.

Pick: Iowa 30, Nebraska 28. The Cornhuskers look done.

Rutgers at Maryland (28). Both teams are bowl-eligible and trying to squeeze every drop of positive out of their maiden Big Ten voyage.

When: 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

Hate meter: Both would rather consider Penn State a rival, but the challenge is to get the Nittany Lions to care. Maybe this will turn into the fall-back grudge match.

Prestige meter: Maryland is tied for No. 62 in the U.S. News rankings. Rutgers is No. 70.

Upper hand lately: The two have met twice since 1942 and split the meetings. So call it dead even.

Upper hand historically: Maryland leads the all-time series 5-4. The tradition is overpowering.

Trinket: None. Though a mounted and bronzed sub sandwich in honor of Ralph Friedgen might be appropriate. The former Terrapins head coach is the offensive coordinator at Rutgers.

Pick: Maryland 28, Rutgers 21. Say this much for the Terrapins: they haven’t lost two in a row in their last 16 games.

Utah at Colorado (29), aka the Rumble in the Rockies. The Utes have had a good season that re-secured Kyle Whittingham’s job. The Buffaloes still haven’t had a winning season since firing Gary Barnett in 2005.

When: 1 p.m. ET Saturday.

Hate meter: Not much, unless you want to instigate talk over which state has the better skiing.

Prestige meter: Colorado is tied for 88th in the U.S. News rankings. Utah is tied for 129th.

Upper hand lately: Utah has won two out of three since the two became Pac-12 bunkmates.

Upper hand historically: Colorado leads the all-time series 31-26-3. The schools played regularly from the early 1900s through 1962, spending most of that time in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. Worth noting that future Supreme Court Justice Byron “Whizzer” White had two epic performances for the Buffaloes against Utah in the 1930s.

Trinket: None yet. Dash suggestion: snowballs.

Pick: Utah 23, Colorado 20. Close, but no Whizzer White to pull the Buffs through.

Michigan State at Penn State (30). The Spartans would like to remain in consideration for a New Year’s Six bowl bid. The Nittany Lions have secured their bowl bid – and may be the worst bowl-eligible team among the power-five conferences.

When: 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

Hate meter: Needle not moving. Penn Staters invested in nostalgic hate for Pittsburgh or unproductive hate for Mark Emmert. Spartans consumed with Michigan.

Prestige meter: Penn State is tied for 48th in the U.S. News rankings. Michigan State is No. 85.

Upper hand lately: The Spartans have won the last five meetings that were not vacated by the NCAA.

Upper hand historically: Michigan State leads the all-time series 13-5-1.The teams haven’t played since 2010.

Trinket: The Land Grant Trophy. Big, clunky, lacking whimsy. Fitting title for the award, since these are America’s first two land-grant universities, but the trophy itself is a zero.

Pick: Michigan State 24, Penn State 0. Not sure the Nittany Lions will cross midfield without benefit of a turnover or big play on special teams.

Vanessa Huppenkothen. (Getty)
Vanessa Huppenkothen. (Getty)

Dashette Vanessa Huppenkothen (31) is unrivaled.

#COLLEGEKICKERS – NOT AS BAD AS WE THINK

After watching Missouri (32) imperil what should have been an easy victory at Tennessee with two missed extra points, and watching Louisville (33) and Notre Dame (34) trade missed field goals of 37 and 33 yards with the game in the balance late in the fourth quarter, it’s easy to believe that college kicking has somehow gotten even shakier than it’s always been. But the numbers don’t back up that perception.

Fact is, 48 FBS schools have made all their PATs this season. If that stands the rest of the season it would be the most (by far) in at least seven seasons. Also, 120 schools have made at least 90 percent of their PATs, which would tie last year’s mark and be higher than the preceding six seasons.

Field goals? Those are going through more often than you may think, too. Thirty-four teams have made 80 percent of their field goals, and 77 teams have made 70 percent. Those are in line with recent seasons, and higher than most of them.

We simply may remember the big misses more now. Especially after being spoiled by NFL kickers that rarely miss.

THE AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE IS ANGRY … IS ANYONE LISTENING?

Commissioner Mike Aresco (35) has come out with not one, but two statements in the last week supporting/lauding/campaigning for East Carolina wide receiver Justin Hardy (36). First Aresco excoriated Biletnikoff Award voters for excluding Hardy from its list of semifinalists – a rather extraordinary move from a commissioner pertaining to an individual award. Then he issued a statement Monday praising Hardy for becoming the all-time FBS leader in receptions.

That’s a great record to have, and by all accounts Hardy is an exemplary student-athlete. But it’s hard to make a case for him here and now to win the Biletnikoff Award. It’s not a lifetime achievement award; it’s a seasonal award. And there are a few guys who have had a better season.

A total of 32 players have more touchdown receptions than Hardy’s seven. Two players on the semifinalist ballot (Vince Mayle of Washington State and Nelson Spruce of Colorado) are averaging more catches per game, and another semifinalist (Kevin White of West Virginia) is averaging the same number. Rashard Higgins of Colorado State is averaging 34 more yards per game on a non-power-five team that is having more success.

On the season, Hardy has zero receptions of 40 yards or more and one touchdown against an FBS team with a winning record (Cincinnati).

The commish might be better served picking bigger battles for his league. Of which there are many.

COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK

Jerry Kill (37), Minnesota. How often are the Gophers playing for a shot at a Big Ten title at this point in the season? Last time they won even a share of the league championship? Try 1967. Yet Minnesota goes to Wisconsin on Saturday with a spot in the Big Ten title game on the line. Kill has been amazing in four years on the job.

COACH WHO SHOULD TAKE THE BUS TO WORK

Frank Beamer (38), Virginia Tech. When a guy who used to win 10 games every year is thrusting both fists in the air because his team managed to take 2-8 Wake Forest into overtime tied at zero, it’s a pretty sad sight. It’s even worse when Beamer and the Hokies lose that game in double overtime and fail to score a touchdown. It’s probably time for Beamer to hang it up, but who can tell that to the guy who built the program? (Probably not the first-year athletic director, Whit Babcock.)

You hate to be on the losing end of a game that winning coach Dave Clawson (39) said, “set offensive football back 100 years.” But Beamer was, and the state of his program is bleak.

POINT AFTER

When hungry and thirsty in Indianapolis late night – say, after the Big Ten championship game Dec. 6 – The Dash recommends a stop at Bourbon Street (40). It is unvarnished and unpretentious, but the kitchen is open late and the bar is open later. And the service is friendly as can be. Have a Sierra Nevada and thank The Dash later.