Braggin’ rights, and maybe more, on the line across the SEC (Nov 23, 2016) – FOXSports.com

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Marlon Humphrey would eat lunch with the other Alabama fans in elementary school, proudly sporting his red wig and his father’s old crimson letterman’s jacket. The kids who rooted for Auburn sat elsewhere, of course.

It’s rivalry week around the Southeastern Conference. States – and school cafeterias, in some cases – are divided, as was the case at Gwin Elementary when it came Iron Bowl time.

”It’s crazy. It’s a really big deal,” said Humphrey, now a cornerback for the top-ranked Crimson Tide, where his father Bobby once starred.

So are a half-dozen other games between traditional rivals. Not all of them have high national stakes involved, but they’re all big for the respective fans every single time.

No. 13 Florida plays No. 15 Florida State before heading to the SEC championship game against Alabama. Georgia hopes for a strong finish to Kirby Smart’s first season against Georgia Tech. Mississippi and Mississippi State hope to put a satisfying ending to disappointing seasons, with the Rebels trying to secure bowl eligibility with a sixth win.

Like Auburn, Kentucky and South Carolina are trying to pull off huge road upsets. Kentucky faces No. 11 Louisville and the Gamecocks go against No. 4 Clemson.

Vanderbilt’s also seeking a sixth win against Tennessee, the preseason East Division favorite.

Whatever kind of season they’ve had, it just feels better with a closing win over that hated rival.

”These games are always quite interesting regardless of record and are always highly competitive,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. ”I know this one will be no different.”

Not every SEC matchup this week has that same history and magnitude but Arkansas-Missouri Friday and Texas A&M-LSU Thursday night are border games for teams with no active in-state rivalries.

Here’s a look at this week’s traditional rivalries involving SEC teams:

ALABAMA-AUBURN

Series began: 1893.

Series record: Alabama leads 44-35-1.

Trophy: James E. Foy V-ODK Sportsmanship Trophy.

Why it’s a big deal: The Iron Bowl largely consumes a state year-round partly because there are no major pro teams in Alabama. For folks in Alabama, and probably the region, at least, it’s regarded as college football’s greatest rivalry.

Best game: No. 4 Auburn 34, No. 1 Alabama 28, 2013. Forever known as the “Kick-Six” game , it was a back-and-forth game featuring key defensive stops and big plays. Then, of course, Chris Davis returned a missed field goal 109 yards on the final play. Plus a trip to the SEC championship game and national title shot was on the line for both.

This year: Alabama has already secured a spot in the SEC title game against No. 13 Florida, and is assured of a playoff berth with wins. Auburn could turn this from a solid season to a really good one in the eyes of most fans.

GEORGIA-GEORGIA TECH

Series began: 1893

Series record: Georgia leads 65-38-5 according to its records and 65-40-5 according to Georgia Tech, including two wins during World War II which Georgia doesn’t count.

Trophy: Governor’s Cup

Why it’s a big deal: Each team is aiming for a strong regular-season finish to cast a positive shine on mostly disappointing records. Georgia is looking to give first-year coach Kirby Smart a win in his debut in the series, which Georgia Tech is looking for its second win in three years.

Best game: Georgia Tech 51, Georgia 48, OT, 1999. The teams combined for 1,102 total yards in the highest scoring game in the series. Georgia blocked the Yellow Jackets’ first field goal attempt in overtime, but Georgia Tech recovered to set up Luke Manget’s game-winning 38-yarder.

This year: There are many similarities. Each team is 7-4 overall and 4-4 in its conference. Georgia has won three straight, including a 13-7 upset of then-No. 8 Auburn. Georgia Tech has won four of five, including a 30-20 upset of then-No. 18 Virginia Tech. Each team features strong running games. A major difference is the Yellow Jackets are led by senior quarterback Justin Thomas, while freshman Jacob Eason starts for the Bulldogs.

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KENTUCKY-LOUISVILLE

Series began: 1912 (resumed in 1994 after a 70-year hiatus).

Series record: Tied, 14-14.

Trophy: Governor’s Cup.

Why it’s a big deal: The schools’ longtime basketball rivalry is obviously bigger but getting a head start on Bluegrass bragging rights never hurts. Kentucky dominated Louisville 220-0 in the series’ first six games before the Cardinals responded to win 14 of 22 since then with five straight wins. The programs’ opposite fortunes in recent years have helped fuel its intensity resulting in close games and short tempers, boiling over two years ago in Louisville with a pregame brawl at midfield.

Best game: Louisville 44, Kentucky 40, 2014. That contest was the series’ first as the season finale and the Cardinals trailed 13-0 before reserve quarterback Kyle Bolin entered to throw for 381 yards and three touchdowns in a shootout that denied the Wildcats bowl eligibility. (Note: Louisville did it again last fall with a 38-24 win after trailing 21-0.)

This year: Having ended a six-year postseason drought, Kentucky aims to enhance its profile for one of several bowls. No. 11 Louisville had its College Football Playoff hopes dashed with last week’s loss at Houston but remains in the mix for several bowls, including the Orange.

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