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Alabama-Auburn features everything that makes college rivalries special

Chattanoogv Alabama

Chattanooga v Alabama

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Updated: December 27, 2013 6:22AM



Ask any successful college football program: Rivalries are the lifeblood of the sport. If you root for a school that can’t honestly claim any true football rivalries, chances are you’ve experienced more than your share of losing Saturdays.

Year after year, there’s no more special day than the last Saturday of November. Fans of Michigan and Ohio State will consider that a compliment to their teams, and it is: The Game always is a big deal. But No. 3 Ohio State at Michigan
(11 a.m., Ch. 7) is buried in the
shadows of No. 1 Alabama at No. 4
Auburn (2:30 p.m., Ch. 2) — and not merely because the latter matchup involves two teams that are in the hunt for the BCS title.

There are many who fancy The Game not only as the greatest rivalry in college football but in all of sports. Those folks are a wee bit ahead of their skis. The Iron Bowl has more of all the truly best stuff: anxiety, tension, resentment, unadulterated hatred.

Quite often, as will be the case this time, better football, too. The Crimson Tide is going for its fourth championship in five years. The Tigers are shooting for their second title during that period. Alabama — the state — pretty much owns college football right now.

‘‘If you’re a competitor,’’ Tide coach Nick Saban said at his weekly news conference Monday, ‘‘it’s a great opportunity to play in a game like this that means a lot to a lot of people on both sides.’’

Quite an understatement.

Hot-seat action

What’s better than a belly full of Thanksgiving fare and a mouthful of harsh declarations about football coaches who make a hundred times more than the average turkey watching from his living room? Mack Brown desperately needs a victory as Texas hosts Texas Tech (6:30 p.m. Thursday, FS1). Nebraska’s Bo Pelini might not be able to withstand a loss at home to Iowa (11 a.m. Friday, Ch. 7).

Can’t beat it

Make sure to get in some thumb stretches before Saturday evening, so you can flip back and forth between No. 6 Clemson at No. 10 South Carolina (6 p.m., ESPN2) and No. 19 Texas A&M at No. 5 Missouri (6:45 p.m., ESPN) without incident. Mizzou will win the SEC East if it knocks off the high-powered Aggies, while the Gamecocks need to take care of their own business and hope Mizzou goes down. All that and Johnny Manziel, Jadeveon Clowney and Sammy Watkins, too? Giddyup.

Land of bad college football

It’s still almost impossible to believe that Illinois (4-7, 1-6 Big Ten) might finish with a better record than Northwestern (4-7, 0-7). It’s even harder to imagine that the Land of Lincoln Trophy game ever will be a rivalry along the lines of those mentioned above. Regardless, any coach will tell you finishing a season — even a terrible one — with a victory is important. It makes Wildcats at Illini (2:30 p.m., BTN) worth keeping an eye on.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SLGreenberg



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