Welcome to "Rivalry Week" in the SEC! A reason to watch each of the nine games.

Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn, here with quarterback Bo Nix, is trying to win his second game in three seasons against Alabama.John Reed/USA Today

Tony Barnhart

Once upon a time there was no “Rivalry Week” in the SEC. Teams like Florida, Auburn, Alabama, and South Carolina would choose to play their rivalry games on the Saturday before Thanksgiving instead of the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

This wasn’t a problem until 1992 when the SEC split into divisions and played a championship game on the first Saturday in December. Then the prospect of one team having an open date the week before the SEC championship game while the other had to play had to be addressed.

Example: In 1993, 1994, and 1996 Florida played Florida State on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and a week before the SEC championship game. In those same years, Alabama had a week off before the SEC championship game. Florida won all three games.

Thus Rivalry Week was created. By conference decree every SEC team would play its designated “rivalry” game on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Some would be long-established state non-conference rivalries (Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, Florida vs. Florida State, South Carolina vs. Clemson, Kentucky vs. Louisville) while others would be longstanding conference games (Alabama vs. Auburn, Tennessee vs. Vanderbilt, Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State). And if you didn’t have a rivalry game one would be assigned to you (Texas A&M vs. LSU, Arkansas vs. Missouri).

The SEC’s Rivalry Week begins Thursday night with the annual Egg Bowl between Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Here is a tasty nugget on each game and why you should watch.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Ole Miss (4-7) at Miss. State (5-6), 7:30 p.m., ESPN.

Why you should watch: The Egg Bowl remains one of the most intense rivalries in all of college football. These two teams REALLY don’t like each other. Mississippi State, which has struggled under second-year head coach Joe Moorhead, can qualify for a bowl. Ole Miss (4-7) has lost four straight SEC games and would love to deny the Bulldogs that chance. The two teams have split the last four games.


Missouri (5-6) vs. Arkansas (2-9) at Little Rock, 2:30 p.m., CBS.

Why you should watch: Arkansas, under interim head coach Barry Lunney, Jr., is trying to avoid going 0-8 in the SEC for the second straight year. Missouri has lost five straight since a 5-1 start. And on Monday Mizzou learned that its bowl ban for this season had been upheld by the NCAA. How Missouri responds will be interesting to watch. This has been a very disappointing season for Mizzou and a loss in Little Rock would be just brutal.


Clemson (11-0) at South Carolina (4-7), Noon, ESPN.

Why you should watch: It’s been a tough finish for South Carolina since upsetting No. 3 (at the time) Georgia on Oct. 12 in Athens. Clemson is headed to the ACC championship game where a win would put the defending national champions back into the playoffs. Clemson has won five straight in the series. South Carolina coach Will Muschamp, who will be back next season, could sure use another huge upset going into the offseason.

Georgia (10-1) at Georgia Tech (3-8), Noon, ABC

Why you should watch: They call it “Clean Old-Fashioned Hate” but these are two teams in very different places. No. 4 Georgia is headed to the SEC championship game to meet No. 2 LSU where a win would give the Bulldogs a spot in the College Football Playoffs. Georgia Tech is rebuilding under new coach Geoff Collins. Georgia has won three of the last four meetings. Georgia wants to get through this game as quickly as possible and start getting ready for LSU.

Louisville (7-4) at Kentucky (6-5), Noon, SEC Network.

Why you should watch: This wasn’t what Kentucky hoped this season would be but a win over Louisville would give the Wildcats four wins in their last five games and a bowl trip. Louisville, which dominated Syracuse 56-34 last Saturday is rebuilding under new coach Scott Satterfield. A chance to win eight games would be a significant step for Kentucky after winning 10 games last season.

Alabama (10-1) at Auburn (8-3), 3:30 p.m., CBS.

Why you should watch: It doesn’t get any better than the Iron Bowl. Auburn is going for its second win against Alabama in the past three seasons. Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn will be going for his third win over Nick Saban and no other SEC coach can say that. An Alabama win keeps the No. 5 Crimson Tide in the playoff discussion while a loss would end their streak of five straight appearances in college football’s final four. Can Alabama go to Jordan-Hare and win with its backup quarterback (Mac Jones)? Auburn has one of the best defensive fronts in college football. Tune in.

Vanderbilt (3-8) at Tennessee (6-5), 4 p.m., SEC Network.

Why you should watch: Vanderbilt has beaten Tennessee for three straight seasons a fourth victory over the Volunteers would salvage an otherwise difficult season for the Commodores. Tennessee has done a massive turnaround since starting 1-4. Its only loss since Oct. 5 was 35-13 to Alabama. A 7-5 finish in Jeremy Pruitt’s second year would be a major step for Tennessee.

Texas A&M (7-4) at LSU (11-0), 7 p.m., ESPN.

Why you should watch: The Aggies took No. 4 Georgia to the limit before falling 19-13 in Athens on Saturday. Texas A&M is playing its best football of the season as it goes to Tiger Stadium to play the nation’s No. 2 team. A year ago these two teams played seven overtimes before Texas A&M prevailed 74-72. LSU plays No. 4 Georgia in the SEC championship game next week.

Florida State (6-5) at Florida (9-2), 7:30 p.m., SEC Network

Why you should watch: Florida can nail down its second straight 10-win season under Dan Mullen. The Gators have lost only to No. 2 LSU (on the road) and No. 4 Georgia (in Jacksonville). The Seminoles, who fired Willie Taggart earlier this season, are being coached by Odell Haggins, Jr. With a win the No. 11 Gators can move up the CFP rankings and possibly get into a New Year’s Six bowl.


Tony Barnhart