Florida and Florida State square off Saturday for pure bragging rights, plain and simple. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
STUDENT ATHLETES

Underrated College Football Rivalry Games of Thanksgiving Weekend

Sure, you should watch the Iron Bowl and The Game. But why stop there? Let’s talk about some deeper Rivalry Week games that could provide some serious fun.

Thanksgiving weekend is the time of year where most of college football’s storied rivalries are played. There are plenty, and you already know the coolest names and longest histories. But the Rivalry Week river runs deeper than just The Game or The Iron Bowl.

With that in mind, here are a few sneaky-fun games to look out for this weekend.

North Carolina vs. North Carolina State

Friday, Nov. 26, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Before the season, it would have made sense to assume that if there were only one ranked team in this matchup, it would be the Tar Heels. But the season’s destiny isn’t cemented at the beginning, and it’s the rival Wolfpack that find themselves ranked heading into this Black Friday regular season finale for both teams.

UNC probably still has the best player with the biggest name in quarterback Sam Howell. And the interest will be in if he can salvage some more positivity from an inconsistent season his team has had.

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Florida vs. Florida State

Saturday, Nov. 27, noon ET (ESPN)

Both teams have experienced major disappointments this season, sporting losing records that are well beneath the talent on their respective rosters. But one of the best parts of a heated annual rivalry is that bragging rights simply have the ability to cut deeper than win-loss records.

This is true for both teams, as both the Seminoles and the Gators need one more win even to become bowl-eligible. Neither team is anything close to elite this season, but there are superb athletes on both sides ready to leave it all out there in an early afternoon contest.

Oh, and this will be Florida’s first game since sacking head coach Dan Mullen. No pressure, interim coach Greg Knox.

Pitt vs. Syracuse

Saturday, Nov. 27, 7:30 p.m. ET (ACC Network)

There are a lot of interesting tidbits to this game that deserve a mention. Pitt has already secured a spot in the ACC Championship Game, but Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi has still not won 10 games in a single season since taking on the job. He has a chance to do so in what also is likely to be quarterback Kenny Pickett’s final regular season game.

Syracuse has been Pitt’s rival across two conferences now, and what better way to add to that history by spoiling what has been a stellar season for Pickett and the Panthers.

BEDLAM: Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State

Saturday, Nov. 27, 7:30 p.m. ET (ABC)

It’s difficult to call a matchup of two ranked teams with an amazing rivalry nickname “under-the-radar,” but when you’re on the same day as Michigan-Ohio State and the Iron Bowl, such is life.

But with one loss, Oklahoma has lowered the intensity of this year’s edition of Bedlam just a bit, even as Oklahoma State has been surging. Both teams still have an outside chance at the College Football Playoff, especially knowing that more highly-ranked teams will inevitably lose this weekend or in the conference championships to come.

Bedlam may, in fact, both be the name of this rivalry and the theme of a possible shakeup at the top of the CFP rankings in short order.

PALMETTO BOWL: Clemson vs. South Carolina

Saturday, Nov. 27, 7:30 p.m. ET (SEC Network)

Clemson is probably the most disappointing team in college football relative to preseason expectations. After losing to Georgia in their opener, the Tigers couldn’t seem to properly rebound to remain the national title contender they are expected to be year after year under Dabo Swinney.

It would seem, given their lack of national coverage, that they’ve fallen close to rock bottom by their incredible standards — but they come into this intrastate rivalry named after the state’s most iconic flora as winners of four straight, including a 21-point blowout of a top-10 Wake Forest team, and an 8-3 overall record.

The Gamecocks are near two-touchdown underdogs, but have six wins on the season. This game in Columbia could provide a serious late-season jolt — either for a South Carolina program searching for its SEC identity under Shane Beamer or for Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei to re-establish himself as one of the most impactful players in the nation — heading into 2022.

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