Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) makes a catch against Kentucky defensive back Brandin Echols (26) during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (Mickey Welsh/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP)
Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) makes a catch against Kentucky defensive back Brandin Echols (26) during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (Mickey Welsh/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP)
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The Thanksgiving weekend football feast will be missing a few of the dishes that have become mainstays.

Schedules altered and seasons delayed by the pandemic have taken off the table a bunch of rivalry games that have become a staple of the last weekend in November, including Michigan-Ohio State and all those in-state matchups of ACC and SEC schools such as Clemson-South Carolina.

The Apple Cup between Washington and Washington State is canceled. Same with Minnesota and Wisconsin's long-running rivalry for Paul Bunyan's Axe; it's the first time since 1906 the Gophers and Badgers won't play.

The three-day college football weekend is still quite a spread, with the Iron Bowl between No. 22 Auburn and No. 1 Alabama as the main event Saturday and two games matching ranked teams Friday with both playoff and conference title ramifications.

No. 2 Notre Dame (CFP No. 2) plays at No. 25 North Carolina in a game that could mess up the Atlantic Coast Conference's hopes of putting two teams in the College Football Playoff.

In the Big 12, No. 15 Iowa State faces No. 20 Texas. The Cyclones clinch a spot in the conference title game with a victory. A victory by the Longhorns makes things complicated, leaving all the contenders with at least two league losses heading down the stretch and head-to-head tiebreakers all over the place.

The football feeding frenzy might not have everything you want, but there is still plenty to choose from this weekend.

The picks:


No. 2 Notre Dame (minus 4) at No. 25 North Carolina

A couple of bad losses have made the Tar Heels long shots to reach the ACC title game, but QB Sam Howell and crew have a formidable offense ... NORTH CAROLINA 35-31.

No. 15 Iowa State (plus 1 1/2) at No. 20 Texas

Cyclones are 3-17 against the Longhorns and will try to beat Texas in consecutive seasons for the first time ... IOWA STATE 27-23.


No. 22 Auburn (plus 25) at No. 1 Alabama

In last six meetings when both teams are ranked, the Tigers are 4-2, including last year. But the Tide haven't lost consecutive Iron Bowls with Nick Saban as coach ... ALABAMA 42-21.

No. 3 Ohio State (minus 28) at Illinois

Illini are allowing quarterbacks to complete 71% of their passes. They've been better the last three weeks, but here comes Justin Fields ... OHIO STATE 52-21.

Pittsburgh (plus 24) at No. 4 Clemson

Will the Tigers take their FSU frustrations out on the Panthers? ... CLEMSON 45-17.

LSU (plus 14 1/2) at No. 5 Texas A&M

Tigers have won eight of nine since the Aggies joined the SEC but seem ripe for some A&M payback ... TEXAS A&M 38-28.

Kentucky (plus 23) at No. 6 Florida

Wildcats go from 60-point loss with a shorthanded roster against Alabama to facing the nation's hottest quarterback in Kyle Trask ... FLORIDA 45-20.

No. 9 Oregon (minus 13 1/2) at Oregon State

Ducks have won 11 of 12 in the rivalry that's looking for a new name since the Civil War was dumped ... OREGON 31-21.

No. 11 Northwestern (minus 13 1/2) at Michigan State

Since gaining 537 yards in the opener against Maryand, the unbeaten Wildcats have been held under 300 yards in three of four games ... NORTHWESTERN 23-14.

Maryland (plus 11 1/2) at No. 12 Indiana

QB Taulia Tagovailoa and the Terrapins were rolling before a two-week COVID-19 pause ... INDIANA 35-27.

No. 13 Georgia (minus 21 1/2) at South Carolina

After a rousing debut, what can Bulldogs QB J.T. Daniels do for an encore against one of the SEC's worst pass defenses? ... GEORGIA 45-17.

No. 14 Oklahoma (minus 10 1/2) at West Virginia

Sooners have won all eight meetings since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12 ... OKLAHOMA 31-17.

No. 16 Coastal Carolina (minus 17) at Texas State

Let's hear it for the Texas State Bobcats, who are about play their 12th game of the season without a postponement ... COASTAL CAROLINA 42-21.

Colorado (plus 13 1/12) at No. 19 USC

Trojans will try to make it 15-0 all-time against the Buffs, if they can get past some COVID-19 issues ... USC 34-26.

Texas Tech (plus 11) at No. 21 Oklahoma State

Red Raiders come in with a two-game winning streak against the Cowboys ... OKLAHOMA STATE 35-20.

No. 23 Louisiana-Lafayette (minus 28 1/2) at Louisiana-Monroe

Six of the last seven meetings have been decided by seven points or fewer, with the Ragin' Cajuns winning four of those close games ... LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE 38-17.


Colorado State (plus 5) at Air Force, Thursday — @scott_callihan

Falcons have won four straight in the in-state rivalry ... AIR FORCE 27-20.

Kent State (plus 7) at Buffalo — @mattsarz

Maybe the MAC's game of the year: Golden Flashes have put up 131 points in their last two games and the Bulls have scored at least 42 in each game during a 3-0 start ... BUFFALO 45-41.

Memphis (minus 13 1/2) at Navy — @travelbyjohnm

Been a ragged season for both teams, but the winner is still alive for a spot in the AAC championship game ... MEMPHIS 35-18.

Penn State (plus 2) at Michigan — @flaveydavie

Winless Nittany Lions and the Wolverines coming off a big victory against Rutgers. Yeesh ... PENN STATE 26-24.

Stanford (plus 1 1/2) at California — @adam_evarts19

Big Game rivals have combined for four losses, two canceled games and no victories ... STANFORD 24-21.

Mississippi State (plus 9 1/2) at Mississippi — @Brett_Hudson

First Egg Bowl with Mike Leach coaching the Bulldogs and Lane Kiffin leading the Rebels. Let the fun begin ... OLE MISS 45-38.



Last week: 14-4 straight; 11-7 against the spread.

Season: 122-48 straight; 82-86-1 against the spread.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at and listen at


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