Happy Thanksgiving everyone! We have reached the end of the 2022 college football regular season and for the final time this year, we’ll look at Anxiety Games across the country. For those new here, we’re keeping tabs on games where a bad outing could pivot things into a negative direction for a program. And with rivalries games, bowl berths, and potential playoff bids on the line this week, the anxiety will only get ratcheted up tenfold this weekend.
There’s plenty to dive into for this holiday weekend slate. Let’s take a look.
Florida at Florida State, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC (Friday)
The Sunshine State rivalry between UF and FSU will be renewed on Black Friday and while the Seminoles are on an upward trajectory, the Gators are in an interesting spot under first-year head coach Billy Napier.
Florida fell to 6-5 on the year last week, inexplicably falling to Vanderbilt in a 31-24 setback. While the Commodores have been showing signs of life under Clark Lea, losing to Vandy is never acceptable for Florida fans. Napier’s job is in no danger as he established before the season that Florida’s climb back to the top will be a long process. However, a blowout loss to Florida State in Tallahassee on Friday will leave a sour taste in the mouths of Gator fans heading into the offseason.
Michigan at Ohio State, Noon ET, Fox
I mean, c’mon, of course “The Game” is going to make an appearance here. Michigan and Ohio State will renew their bitter rivalry in Columbus, OH, and both teams are 11-0 heading into this matchup. It’s the first time since 2006 where both teams will be undefeated for this epic clash and a trip to the Big Ten Championship and potentially the College Football Playoff will be on the line.
Both squads had extremely close calls this past weekend with UM edging Illinois 19-17 and OSU eventually holding off Maryland in a 43-30 victory. Along with the pressure of the game itself, the Heisman Trophy could be determined by this contest as current frontrunner C.J. Stroud could wrap it up with a solid performance for the Buckeyes. Sitting not too far behind Stroud is Wolverines running back Blake Corum, but his status will be in question after suffering a knee injury against Illinois last Saturday.
Ohio State dominated this rivalry for several years before Michigan finally ended the drought one year ago in Ann Arbor. A second straight victory for Jim Harbuagh’s group could indicate a true turning of the tide in this historic clash. We’ll see who survives in the ‘Horseshoe’.
Western Kentucky at Florida Atlantic, Noon ET, CBS Sports Network
A 49-21 blowout loss to Middle Tennessee State last Saturday dropped FAU to 5-6 for the year and their hopes of a bowl game hinges on the regular season finale against WKU. Head coach Willie Taggart is 15-17 through three years with the program and his job may very well hinge on this one contest on Saturday. Win this game, and he may very well get to be part of the Owls’ transition to the AAC next season. Lose, and the brass in Boca Raton, FL, may opt to make a change.
On the other side, the Hilltoppers still have a shot at clinching a spot in the Conference USA Championship Game, but it needs a win and a North Texas loss on Saturday. We’ll see if WKU can keep its league title aspirations alive.
Memphis at SMU, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2 or ESPNU
As the AAC goes through a transition period, Saturday will feature a battle of two programs that could very well establish themselves as the new powers of the league when the smoke clears.
However, Memphis is in a peculiar position. The Tigers have had an up-and-down 2022 campaign at 6-5 and there’s speculation over whether head coach Ryan Silverfield will be the longterm answer for the program. He has failed to match the heights of his predecessors Justin Fuente and Mike Norvell through three years with the program and a second straight 6-6 season would be uninspiring for a program with aspirations for higher heights. A loss to SMU to close the season could force some uncomfortable conversations to be had around the program on Sunday.
Minnesota at Wisconsin, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
The most played rivalry in college football will take place this Saturday as Minnesota and Wisconsin battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe for a 132nd time.
Wisconsin got to bowl eligibility last Saturday when squeaking by Nebraska in a 15-14 victory and for interim head coach Jim Leonhard, he will have one final opportunity to prove that he should have the interim label taken off. Get the axe back from the Golden Gophers and the Badger brass may decide to keep the native son in the big chair. Lose and they may elect to look at the field for Paul Chryst’s replacement.