Season 20 Rivalry Week Preview

LightningDragon · June 24, 2024

By: Cole Mantell (@lightningdragon)

The final week of Season 20 is already here. While the season may have felt like it just started yesterday, we are already at the final week of regular season action. For twelve teams, this week marks the final games they will play, and for many seniors the final games of their careers. For sixteen hopeful teams, this is just the final note in a season-long symphony that hopefully will conclude with a National Championship, starting with the first round of the playoffs next week. Of course, for many teams, the most important game of the season is this week for another reason. To get another chance to pummel their rivals into the turf. It’s going to be prime-time viewing, so let’s go through each matchup and what to watch for!


6:30 Twitch – Florida State (3-4) vs Miami (3-4)

The first game of the week might be the most impactful when it comes to the playoffs. Miami is in the playoffs automatically with a rivalry week win. If they lose, they enter a tie with half the conference (or more potentially) for the final two spots of the ACC open to automatic qualification. Florida State can enter this tie with a win. From the outside, while the records of these two powerhouses might seem like it is a down year for the ACC, the truth is that the conference has just become so much tighter. Both of these teams have some great wins on their resumes and some frustrating losses. Florida State in particular will be rueing a loss earlier this season to Syracuse if they lose this game. While both teams may get in anyhow via vote-in, this is likely an elimination game, especially for the Seminoles. What a way to kick off Week 8.

8:30 Twitch – Texas (5-2) vs Texas A&M (2-5)

For the first time since Season 15, these two storied programs will face off for the rebirth of one of the great rivalries in the CFSL. The Aggies have gone through the normal expansion growing pains as a program this season. Meanwhile, Texas has won the BIG XII for the second straight season. In terms of rivalry points, this might be the most exciting game of the week. It isn’t often to see a rivalry this important come back after a long hiatus. It’s the perfect game to cap off the first night of rivalry week. As for the playoffs? There are few implications for next week, unfortunately. Texas locked up a top-four seed. Texas A&M cannot grab an automatic bid, so winning here and getting voted in by the fans is their only hope. Everything is on the line for the Aggies, and a win here could be the statement they need to continue their season.


6:30 Twitch – Oregon (5-2) vs LSU (6-1)

While there are some great historic rivalries, the nature of the schedule in the CFSL means that we get a few rivalry week games that have less history or rivalry meaning. However, don’t sleep on this giant matchup. Both the Ducks and Tigers have already secured automatic spots, and there isn’t much wiggle room within their conference seeding available for either team here. Instead, this game will be all about overall playoff seeding. Both Oregon and LSU will not only want to finish the season on a strong note, but both teams could gain a huge resume boost with a win. Oregon in particular could gain a road SEC win heading into the playoffs against the SEC’s second-place team. This should be a fun one, where my only request is we get some colorful uniform combos to celebrate this rare matchup.

8:30 Twitch – USC (5-2) vs Notre Dame (2-5)

USC and Notre Dame have combined for some of the most entertaining rivalry week games in CFSL history. The two programs have combined for four National Championships and Conference Championships. This season, USC certainly has played better compared to Notre Dame. But never count out Dustin Hall and the Fighting Irish. USC has already clinched an automatic spot. The only things they are playing for are rivalry points and resume clinching. Notre Dame, however, still has an outside shot at an ACC automatic bid. They’ll need help from either Clemson or Miami losing while winning this game. Otherwise, they’ll be one of a few teams hoping to get in via the vote. Thus, Notre Dame’s playoff lives are on the line here. What better way to get in possibly than by beating hated rival USC?

8:30 YouTube – Florida (1-6) vs Georgia (3-4)

To finish off Tuesday’s action, we head to Jacksonville for another great rivalry matchup. There’s no denying Florida has struggled this season. The Gators are hoping to break a five-game losing streak and to play spoiler to a longshot automatic playoff bid hope from their rivals. That’s still a lot to play for, so expect Florida to give their best efforts. Speaking of that bid, Georgia is fighting for much more here. They need to win, and likely with the point differential tiebreaker against Alabama to win big. Ryan went over the whole scenario in his article about the SEC playoff picture after Week 7, but I’ll summarize. Georgia needs to win and to win by a lot. Alabama needs to lose by a lot. And they’ll need Kentucky to win by not as much as them. If all of that happens, Georgia is in automatically. Otherwise, they’ll have to be voted in. Lose to a 1 win Gators team? You can kiss Georgia’s playoff hopes goodbye, most likely. All of the pressure is on Georgia, with Florida looking to end their rival’s season.


6:30 Twitch – Clemson (3-4) vs North Carolina (5-2)

First off, congratulations to North Carolina. The Tar Heels enter this game having secured their first-ever ACC Conference Championship in program history. They’re only playing for seeding here in a chaotic ACC, with a side dish of a few fellow conference rivals cheering for them for seedling purposes. Clemson has put themselves in a good position here, but a lot more is on the line for the Tigers. Clemson, with a win, locks up the second-place automatic ACC bid. With a loss, however, they could be in trouble. They likely with the point differential tiebreaker stay in an automatic spot with a loss, but that makes everything more complicated for them. A big loss here could spell disaster, so you know Clemson will play their best against the best of the ACC this season.

6:30 YouTube – Baylor (3-4) vs West Virginia (5-2)

22. That’s the magic number for the Baylor Bears. For Baylor to guarantee an automatic spot no matter what happens to Cincinnati later on Wednesday, the Bears need to beat WVU by 22. On the flip side, a great season for the Mountaineers is almost assuredly going to lock up an automatic bid this week. As long as they don’t lose by a lot and Cincinnati doesn’t win by a lot, they should get an automatic bid. However, the Mountaineers aren’t going to sleep on an opponent such as Baylor. Not to mention, WVU might still make the playoffs with a loss, but it’ll be with a much tougher first-round opponent and overall path to the championship. There’s a lot on the line for both teams, but the best part is after the game both teams will still need to watch the third team and see if they crash the playoffs too. Talk about some drama waiting to happen.

8:30 Twitch – Penn State (4-3) vs Syracuse (2-5)

If I could make one change to this week’s schedule, I’d switch this game with Baylor vs WVU. Just so we could see the BIG XII decided in real-time. That shouldn’t distract from a great battle here, however. Both teams are out of the running for a playoff spot automatically. Penn State mathematically and Syracuse almost mathematically. Thus, this will be a resume battle for both teams. Penn State is possibly the #1 vote-in-team with a win here. They’ve competed well in maybe the toughest conference in the CFSL this season. Their only losses are quite literally to the three teams who got the automatic spots in the BIG 10. As long as they can avoid an upset on the road vs Syracuse, they’re likely in via the vote. For Syracuse, to have any chance of a vote-in spot, they’ll need to upset the Nittany Lions. They’ve lost three in a row, including last week to Tennessee (a loss that was so big it got its own article). However, a win here could be the perfect resume cleanser for the Orange. It’s a must-win for them to stay alive.

8:30 YouTube – Cincinnati (4-3) vs Colorado (2-5)

As discussed earlier, there are much more playoff implications here for Cincinnati compared to Colorado. Colorado has two objectives this week. Give themselves the best chance for a vote-in spot (as they cannot get in automatically) and play spoiler. Cincinnati’s objective is also simple: Win. They aren’t in for sure if they win, but a loss is almost guaranteed to leave them out of an automatic spot. The playoff picture will be a lot clearer for them after Baylor vs. WVU earlier in the evening. But the simple math is the same. Win, and things likely will tend to take care of themselves for the Bearcats. Especially if they win by a lot. With point differential coming into play, the bigger the win, the better.


6:30 Twitch – Alabama (5-2) vs Auburn (7-0)

Hello, Game of the Week material. Let’s start with the simple stuff. This game has little playoff implications for a game of this magnitude. Auburn is in and locked into their spot. If Alabama wins, they earn an automatic spot. If they lose, there is a chance they lose their automatic bid, but they’ll still likely be voted in. Instead, this is all about the rivalry here. Auburn has a bigger objective in this game. They are looking to break an eight-game losing streak to their hated rivals. It would be a huge message to send for the first-year AD Justin Duke to beat Alabama for the first time since Season 12. That’s what’s at stake here, and both teams know it. Prepare for a legendary showdown to kick off Thursday night.

6:30 YouTube – Illinois (2-5) vs Michigan State (1-6)

In another scheduling oddity, the Iron Bowl and The Game will not be playing standalone to finish the season as usual. Instead, we’ll also be getting some more rivalry action on Thursday night. To start, we will get a battle of master vs student on YouTube. Both Illinois and Michigan State are on the outside looking in when it comes to the overall playoff picture. For Will Stephens and Antonio McDaniel, however, this game will mean quite a bunch more. It’s going to be a fairly close battle of two teams looking to end their seasons on a high note, as well as claim supremacy. While both teams likely are not going to the playoffs, it will mark a great step forward to end the season and head into an offseason to recruit and regroup.

8:30 Twitch – Michigan (6-1) vs Ohio State (2-5)

The game is our other marquee end-of-season rivalry this week, and once again never count either team out. For Michigan, their playoff spot is already secured. Ohio State has an outside chance of getting in via the vote, but no chance for an automatic bid. They’ll need to win big here to convince voters. Again, what better way to end a season for Michigan than by beating their hated rivals out of playoff contention? Michigan has done well, but it is simply playing this game for rivalry reasons. A loss won’t hurt anything but pride for the Wolverines. For Ohio State, this is their season on the line. A win here would be another historic chapter in maybe the great rivalry in the CFSL. Talk about must-watch football for the outside CFSL fan. It all comes down to this game for the Buckeyes.

8:30 YouTube – Tennessee (1-6) vs Kentucky (4-3)

This game is complicated for Kentucky and simple for Tennessee. We’ll start with the visitors. The monkey is off the proverbial back for the Volunteers. The losing streak is over, and Tennessee could lose this game by 50, and I’d still call their season a mild success. With the losing streak over, Tennessee can go into the offseason and start to take the next steps forward without a cloud hanging over the program. However, how nice would it be for Tennessee to go into the offseason on a winning streak instead? To eliminate likely Kentucky from the playoffs (barring a vote-in campaign). This game means a lot for Tennessee, even if they are likely done after this game for Season 20. For Kentucky, there is a lot more involved. They need to win, likely by a lot for point differential purposes. Then, they’ll need both Alabama and Georgia to lose. If all three outcomes happen, Kentucky is automatically in. If they win, no matter what they’ll probably be voted in. It’s still a risk they cannot take, however, to lose. If they do, their season has a very real chance of being over. This should be a heck of a fun game to finish Season 20!


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