There is nothing better to ring in the holiday season than college football rivalries. This past weekend saw no exception to the action-packed and drama-filled games that characterize college football. The SEC stage specifically saw No. 9 Alabama fall to longtime rival Auburn while Mississippi State soared past Ole Miss in a surprising ending on Thanksgiving Day.
In the most memorable Auburn-Alabama matchup since the kick-six in 2013, Auburn took home the Iron Bowl trophy in dramatic fashion. Both offenses were firing on all cylinders, exchanging points with possessions and making the winner likely to be the team with the ball as the clock hit zero.
As expected, Alabama secured the last possession with the game on the line and victory within sight, driving down the field to move into scoring position as the clock wound down. Then the Crimson Tide did what no one expected: It failed to find the endzone and was forced to kick a field goal to tie the game.
Nick Saban’s Achilles’ heel has long been kicking as the Alabama team, under his coaching since 2007, had tallied 100 missed field kicks going into Saturday’s game. In the final minutes of the Auburn game, Alabama kicker Joseph Bulovas recorded the Crimson Tide’s 101st missed field goal under the direction of Saban, losing the Iron Bowl and with that their postseason aspirations.
The missed kick seems all too reminiscent of Auburn’s defeat of Alabama six years ago, as a missed attempt by then-kicker Adam Griffith fell just short of the posts and was caught by Auburn’s Chris Davis, who returned the kick for the 108-yard touchdown and the victory.
It bears repeating that, for the first time since the College Football Playoff’s inception in 2014, Alabama will not make the playoffs. It is a first that will bring joy to the hearts of every other teams’ fans and drive ’Bama fans to wonder where the team went wrong as their playoff dreams end abruptly.
However, as long as Nick Saban remains the head coach for the Crimson Tide, they will never be down for long and are surely plotting a revenge tour next season.
Auburn, on the other hand, is riding high and hopes to carry the momentum with them to a New Year’s Six bowl. While Auburn’s fate remains in the air, it has a strong shot at representing the SEC. Some fans may feel conflicted that this win will keep Coach Gus Malzahn around for another year. He has kept the Tigers competitive during his seven-year career as their head coach but has yet to win the championship, bringing into question whether he is capable of bringing home a title.
In another rivalry matchup, Mississippi State defeated Ole Miss 21-20 in perhaps one of the most bizarre endings to a college football game. Down by seven, Ole Miss wide receiver Elijah Moore scored with one second left on the game clock, got on his hands and knees and lifted up his leg like a dog alongside a fire hydrant. The referees quickly called unsportsmanlike conduct and moved the extra point attempt back by 15 yards. It was still a routine kick to tie the game, but kicker Luke Logan choked, handing the victory to Mississippi State.
The missed kick gave Mississippi State the win it needed to make a bowl game and assert its dominance in the in-state rivalry for yet another year. It also got Ole Miss Head Coach Matt Luke fired and made Ole Miss desperately apologize in an attempt to claim a semblance of morality. This incident was quickly dubbed the “Piss and Miss” and will likely go down in rivalry history and infamy.
The No. 4 Georgia Bulldogs and No. 1 LSU Tigers both dominated their much inferior opponents as they look toward the SEC Championship this weekend. On Nov. 30, the Bulldogs toppled Georgia Tech by a score of 52-7 while the Tigers defeated Texas A&M 50-7.
The LSU squad has the best offense in the country and is led by Heisman favorite Joe Burrow, although the Tigers field an inferior defense compared to their opponents. Conversely, Georgia has the nation’s best defense but an offense more lacking than Georgetown’s economic diversity. The Bulldogs’ offensive woes are further troubled by the first-half suspension of leading wide receiver George Pickens, who got into a fight with a Georgia Tech player Saturday. This suspension could become an important factor in what promises to be a closely-contested championship game between LSU and Georgia on Dec. 7.
While these teams remain closely matched, the Tigers’ superior offensive firepower makes them the clear favorite. If the Bulldogs hope to win, their offense must have an impressive showing against an admittedly weak LSU defense to compete with LSU’s formidable offense.
With this weekend’s games, the SEC regular season comes to a close as the teams now await the announcement of the New Year’s Six bowls schedules. LSU and Georgia still seek the playoffs as this weekend’s game is crucial in determining either’s place in the postseason. The Bulldogs need to defeat the Tigers if they want to make it, but LSU still has a chance even with a loss.
If there is anything to take away from this past week filled with football rivalries, it is that we can only expect more astounding games in the coming weeks as the playoffs near.