“Unless his leg is cut off, I am pretty sure he will be out there.”
Go on, read that again. What a line. And how perfect — thank you, Arizona State defensive back Damarious Randall — for this time of the season. Randall was referring to Friday’s better-than-ever Territorial Cup rivalry game against Arizona and terrific quarterback Anu Solomon, who was seen earlier this week in a walking boot.
When the No. 13 Sun Devils visit the No. 11 Wildcats (2:30 p.m., Fox-32), a spot in the Pac-12 championship game will — make that might — be on the line. Both teams are tied with UCLA at 6-2 in the conference standings, but the Bruins own the tiebreaker. Oh, and did we mention Stanford at No. 8 UCLA (2:30 p.m., Ch. 7) will be unfolding at the very same time? Yes, there will be scoreboard watching. And if Arizona chooses to keep the Bruins score off the board, there’ll still be plenty of fans in the seats checking their phones.
But back to what makes this Territorial Cup contest such a good one: It’s the first time since 1986 — 1986! — that both the Sun Devils and Wildcats are ranked heading into their game. Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez is 0-2 against Todd Graham since both set up operations in the state prior to the 2012 season. UA gets RichRod on the board, 27-24.
The Bruins, meanwhile, have lost to Stanford three times over the last two seasons. They simply haven’t been able to block the Cardinal, who are strong again defensively, ranked seventh in the nation in average points (16.5) and yards (290.2) allowed. But it’s Stanford’s offense that’ll go nowhere, especially without its most talented player, wideout Ty Montgomery. UCLA makes its date with Oregon, 30-13.
One other important Friday game: Arkansas at No. 17 Missouri (1:30 p.m., Ch. 2). A Tigers victory puts them into the Southeastern Conference title game, but how to explain why a 9-2 team is an underdog at home against a 6-5 team? Vegas knows what anyone who has watched the Razorbacks of late knows — Bret Bielema’s team has come alive in a gigantic way. Woo Pig, 28-20.
On to Saturday’s games and a rivalry unlike any other, No. 15 Auburn at No. 1 Alabama (6:45 p.m., ESPN). For the sixth straight year, the Iron Bowl has national title implications; the winner has claimed four of the last five national titles. The whole world remembers Auburn’s Chris Davis streaking 109 yards with 2013’s “Kick Six.”
“In one second,” Alabama’s Landon Collins said, “they took our whole chance away of winning anything.”
Revenge? Oh, yeah. Roll Tide, 41-20.
Arguably even more widely anticipated than the Iron Bowl this season has been then Egg Bowl: No. 4 Mississippi State at No. 19 Ole Miss (2:30 p.m., Ch. 2). Unfortunately, the Rebels have fallen out of the College Football Playoff picture and pretty much fallen apart on the field down the stretch. Can they hang with the Bulldogs?
“We won’t lose to them again,” MSU’s Christian Holmes said.
Agreed: Hail State, 38-24.
Which matchup of playoff contender vs. down-and-out rival is likelier to result in an upset, No. 2 Oregon at Oregon State (7 p.m., Ch. 7) or Florida at No. 3 Florida State (2:30 p.m., ESPN)? Given the Seminoles’ close shaves all season long, the answer would seem to be obvious.
Just can’t forget last year’s Civil War, though. On their home field, the Ducks needed a touchdown in the final minute to squeeze past the Beavers 36-35. It’ll be close between these teams again. If Florida plays its usual strong defense and gets its running game going, it’ll be close in Tallahassee, too. We smell at least one upset and wouldn’t be shocked to see two of them. For the record, call it Ducks by a touchdown and Gators — this one’s for you, Will Muschamp — by a field goal.
Let’s close with the Big Ten, where it’s never a good thing if Michigan at No. 6 Ohio State (11 a.m., Ch. 7) is an afterthought. Those who can’t help but romanticize “The Game” will tell you Buckeyes-Wolverines couldn’t possibly ever be an afterthought, but don’t you believe them — several rivalries around college football have passed this one by. That’s what happens when only one program holds up its end of the bargain. OSU wins for the 10th time in 11 years, 45-10.
No. 18 Minnesota at No. 14 Wisconsin (2:30 p.m., BTN) is for the league’s West Division crown, but it’s hard to see the Gophers staying in the fight for long against the Badgers’ peerless running game and dominant defense. All Bucky, 35-17.