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November 26, 2009

Roundtable: Which rivalry game to watch?

At the College Football Roundtable, we ask each member of the coverage staff for their opinion about a topic in the sport.

Today's question: Which rivalry game this weekend most has your attention?

Olin Buchanan's answer:
The Iron Bowl is without a doubt the most interesting rivalry game this week, especially with the game at Auburn. Alabama's national championship hopes and Mark Ingram's Heisman Trophy campaign are at stake. Auburn's offense can cause some problems. If the Tigers' defense can slow down Alabama's running game, Auburn has a chance to pull an upset.

Tom Dienhart's answer:
I will keep an eye on the Iron Bowl. There's no doubt Alabama is better than Auburn, but time and again over the course of history, we have seen the better team lose games like this supposed mismatch. Recent history has given us Pittsburgh over West Virginia in 2007 and Stanford over USC that same year. And who can forget Ole Miss over Florida last season? There are many examples. That Auburn-Alabama is a heated rivalry raises the probability of something crazy happening. Gene Chizik would love to trash the Crimson Tide's national championship hopes in his first game as coach in what is college football's greatest rivalry. And that this game will be played on the Plains gives us even greater pause to wonder if a gigantic upset may be brewing.

David Fox's answer:
Though it will have no bearing on a conference race, I'm intrigued to see what happens when Arkansas goes to LSU for the "Golden Boot" trophy. If the Tigers lose, will LSU fans completely turn on Les Miles, the coach who won the national title just two seasons ago? LSU is 7-8 in the SEC since the championship, including a 0-7 record against Florida, Alabama, Ole Miss and Arkansas -- three teams LSU must play every year. If the game turns out to be close at the end, I want to see how (or if) Miles can recover from the coaching disaster at the end of the Ole Miss game. This is huge for Arkansas, too. If the Razorbacks win, they will be 8-4 and likely heading to the Cotton Bowl in Bobby Petrino's second season.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
The "Bedlam Game" is huge this season -- but for Oklahoma State, not Oklahoma. Oklahoma State is 9-2 and has a great chance to get to the BCS as an at-large entrant if it can beat the hated Sooners. This has been the season from hell for Oklahoma, which has suffered numerous injuries and some bad losses. (A four-touchdown loss to Texas Tech? A three-point offensive performance against Nebraska?) Oklahoma has won 29 consecutive home games, the nation's longest current home winning streak, so the Sooners have something to play for. In addition, the Sooners already have lost to archrival Texas, and the Longhorns are expected to go on and play for the national title. A Sooners loss to their in-state rival, which also could play in a BCS game, would make this a truly lost season. An interesting aside: While Oklahoma is just 6-5, it is favored by 9.5 points.

Steve Megargee's answer:
I'm going to be paying closest attention to the Alabama-Auburn game just because of its potential impact on the national title chase and the Heisman Trophy race. Mark Ingram can give Alabama its first Heisman winner if he comes up big this week and against Florida in the SEC championship game. Of course, Alabama also will get to play for the national title if it wins its next two games. But can the Tide survive a loss at Auburn? I'm not so sure. I suppose there's an outside chance Alabama could lose to Auburn and still get to the national championship game by beating Florida, but I'm guessing the Tide would finish behind Texas and TCU under those circumstances. And even in the unlikely event Alabama lost to Auburn and still went on to win the national championship, that title would feel at least a little bittersweet without a win over its fiercest rival. I don't expect Auburn to win this game. The Tigers probably don't have enough offense to keep it close in the fourth quarter. That said, Auburn does have the home-field advantage, and I'm sure Ben Tate is going to be motivated to show that he -- not Ingram -- is the best running back in the state of Alabama. Those factors should be enough to keep this game interesting.

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