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Commentary: College football ‘Rivalry Weekend’ again proves every week matters

Auburn junior quarterback Nick Marshall (14) breaks a tackle during a game against Georgia Nov. 16 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn won, 43-38. Credit: Courtesy of MCT

Auburn junior quarterback Nick Marshall (14) breaks a tackle during a game against Georgia Nov. 16 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn won, 43-38.
Credit: Courtesy of MCT

College football is funny.

A sport that brings joy and despair to people across the country week in and week out, the game is particularly dubious on the final weekend of the regular season.

Known as “Rivalry Weekend,” the final Saturday before the 2013 postseason did not disappoint either.

From an Ohio State’s fan perspective, emotional highs and lows ensued from defeating archrival Michigan in Ann Arbor in thrilling fashion — picking off redshirt-junior Wolverine quarterback Devin Gardner in the end zone to deny Michigan the necessary two points that would give them the victory.

Fans, players and the like were proud because the Buckeyes had just recorded their 24th straight win under coach Urban Meyer, but also turned their attention quickly to another rivalry game — The Iron Bowl.

The same could be said for both myself and my colleagues at The Lantern, who had just left Michigan Stadium with the knowledge that No. 1 Alabama held a touchdown advantage over No. 4 Auburn. Upon tuning into the game on the radio and hearing that the Tigers had tied it up with 32 seconds to go, we made the correct decision to U-turn into the closest restaurant with a TV (Red Robin) because seeing if the unthinkable could happen — The Crimson Tide no longer rolling — was something we could not miss.

All year, OSU has been slotted behind the top-ranked Tide and No. 2 Florida State, who had already taken care of business against rival Florida earlier in the day to finish regular season play unbeaten. So, if the Buckeyes were to even get a chance to compete for the final BCS National Championship, ‘Bama was going to need to either fall Saturday or next week in the SEC Title game. It seems unthinkable that an undefeated OSU would be left out of the national championship game, but because of the national perspective of the Big Ten as second tier to other conferences like the SEC, the possibility was at its highest point.

Then lightning struck.

While we were waiting to order our food, the referees put one second back on the clock, giving Alabama a chance to save its unbeaten season in regulation. Alabama coach Nick Saban turned to redshirt-freshman kicker Adam Griffith to attempt a 57-yard field goal for the win. Griffith’s attempt was short, Auburn senior cornerback Chris Davis retrieved it, and returned it 100 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

Red Robin, filled with members of Buckeye Nation, exploded — and I couldn’t help myself but join in on the excitement.

With a win against Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship game, the Buckeyes — barring any sort of BCS catastrophe that will allow a one-loss Auburn team to jump them in the rankings — will be heading to Pasadena, Calif., in early 2014 in search of the program’s eighth national championship.

In a mere four hours, Buckeye fans went from holding their breath when Gardner took the snap on the two-point play, to extreme jubilation when Alabama’s undefeated season was no more. Suddenly, seeing OSU back at the top of the sport is a very real possibility.

As a journalist writing on deadline for the OSU-Michigan game, the last half of The Game’s fourth quarter brought stress to both my fingers and head.

But as a college football fan, rivalry weekend proved once again why the sport is tough to be topped.

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