This weekend marked “rivalry week” in college football, as many schools faced one of their more hated opponents in the final turn of the regular season.

I guess the Big 12 Conference didn’t get the memo.

By my count, there were more than two dozen rivalry games played Thursday through Saturday, a glorious and perfect ending to the best regular season of all organized sports. Of those, however, only two took place in the Big 12: Texas v. Texas Tech and Iowa State v. Kansas State (which, despite the awesome sobriquet of “Farmageddon,” actually pales in comparison to Kansas’ rivalry history with Kansas State and — sigh — Missouri).

Otherwise, most fans in the realignment-wrecked Big 12 Conference were left eating Thanksgiving leftovers while watching their schools face opponents that were lucky to reside in the same time zone, much less the same state.

Of course, I suppose I shouldn’t be real surprised. From its very inception, the Big 12 Conference has thumbed its nose at traditional rivalries. OU v. Nebraska was, arguably, the top college football rivalry in the country in the 1980s, but when the Big 12 formed in 1996, the series went dormant for two years out of every four. When other conferences expanded, all effort was made to keep rivalries intact. It’s why you saw Alabama v. Tennessee and Florida State v. Miami played every year, despite the schools leading different divisions within their respective conferences.

Yet, the Big 12 chose to ignore decades of history and staunchly stick to a schedule that put the OU/Nebraska rivalry on ice for two years following the 1997 game — the first break in the series in 60 years. Eventually, Nebraska punted — more like shanked a punt — on the conference, and other rivalries faded away when Missouri and Texas A&M left.

When OU fans looked around for a rival on Friday — and similar to how Wanda in the song Goodbye Earl looked around and only found Earl — the Sooners only found TCU, a private school they’ve played less than a couple dozen times. Oklahoma State, meanwhile, welcomed in BYU on Saturday for only the second meeting between the two, and the first since the 1970s.

Elsewhere in the Big 12, Houston played UCF, Kansas faced Cincinnati, and Baylor hosted West Virginia — all solid games, but none that gets the blood boiling for any of those teams’ fans. I can’t say for sure, but I suspect it wouldn’t take a scheduling genius — bring in the computers — to have set Baylor v. TCU, Kansas v. Kansas State, West Virginia v. Cincinnati and OU v. OSU on the season’s final weekend. Added to Texas v. Texas Tech, those matchups would have given 10 of the 14 schools legitimate rivalry games on the final weekend and would have mirrored the rest of the country.

As its history shows, however, the Big 12 has always been far more concerned with hand gestures than grand gestures when it comes to the schools within its stable. And the rivalry future for the conference looks even more confusing with the exit of Texas and OU, even if Bedlam did conclude on a high note for OSU.

So, I hope everyone from Big 12 country recovered from their Thanksgiving tryptophan coma long enough to watch their alma maters take on some middling foe, while the Egg Bowl, The Game, the Sunshine Showdown, the Iron Bowl, the Heroes Game, the Battle Line Rivalry, the Civil War, the Battle on the Bayou, the Commonwealth Clash, the Apple Cup, the Battle for the Oil Can, and Clean Old Fashioned Hate were played, for trophies such as Paul Bunyan’s Axe, the Old Oaken Bucket, the Legends Trophy, the Land of Lincoln Trophy, the Territorial Cup, the Governor’s Cup and the Chancellor’s Spurs.

Oh well, on to the Hangover Highlights!

  • Oklahoma State punched its ticket to the Big 12 championship game with a harder-than-expected 40-34 double-overtime slog against BYU in rainy conditions. Despite being more than two touchdown favorites, the Cowboys fiddled but didn’t quite let Rome burn, as they came back from an 18-point halftime deficit.
  • OSU has to be one of the more befuddling teams ever to make the conference title game, with blowout losses to UCF and South Alabama on its resume, as well as wins over Kansas, Kansas State and Oklahoma. A double-overtime, skin-of-its-teeth win against an out-manned BYU team playing with its backup quarterback only continued to spotlight the conundrum that is the Cowboys.
  • OSU’s opponent in Arlington, Texas, next weekend will be a University of Texas team that has also been a bit confounding, but usually only in doses of a quarter or less. After fooling around with Texas Tech for much of the first half on Thursday night, the Longhorns opened the second half with a kickoff return for a touchdown and never looked back, annihilating the Red Raiders 57-7.
  • Much credit also should go to the Longhorns’ multimedia team for pulling a downright gangster move after the game by trolling Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark, who was in attendance.
  • I think Texas is a terrible matchup for Oklahoma State since the Cowboys absolutely live-and-die on the back of their workhorse running back, Ollie Gordon. Texas has a pair of behemoth defensive tackles — Byron Murphy and T’Vondre Sweat combine to weigh 670 pounds — who figuratively and literally anchor the center of the Longhorn defense. It’s hard for me to imagine a way OSU can offensively camp out between the tackles, as it is wont to do with Gordon, when said camp is being raided by the likes of Murphy and Sweat.
  • Oklahoma had a flashback to 2018 in its 69-45 win against TCU on Saturday. The Sooners absolutely goosed the Horned Frogs with an unstoppable offense, but the OU defense allowed yards like shit through the same goose.
  • The 2018 season saw OU go 12-2, but winning scores ended up at 66-33, 52-27, 51-46, 48-47, 55-40, and 59-56. Saturday’s victory over TCU was a throwback of sorts to that season. Late in the third quarter, the television announcers, without a trace of irony, said one of the teams would have to score 50 to win.
  • It can’t be denied the OU defense has regressed in the second half of this season. After giving up three touchdowns in the first four games of the year, the Sooners gave up three touchdowns in just the third quarter alone against TCU. The 45 points were the most points OU has allowed this season, and they were the most TCU has scored.
  • As for the Sooner offense, Saturday was a banner day for Jeff Lebby, who may be on his way out the door right as he finds his play-calling groove at OU. Late Saturday, it was reported that Lebby is likely to quit playing footsie with the open Mississippi State head coach position and consummate the relationship sooner than later. If Lebby does indeed leave, I can’t imagine OU fans will be too tied up in knots about it. Lebby has helped curate a really good offense, but his weird play calling from time to time, his heavy personal baggage and his inability to shave his neck beard have kept Sooner backers from fully embracing him. Lest we forget, the OU offensive coaching staff was mostly left intact from the record-breaking Lincoln Riley years, so Lebby was far from a one-man show. Still, collateral damage in the form of losing other coaches, current players and targeted recruits could be the real damage if Lebby leaves. So that’s something to keep an eye on.
  • In the biggest game of the weekend, if not the season, Michigan outlasted Ohio State 30-24. Both teams entered unbeaten — and with only Iowa and its woebegone offense awaiting the winner in the Big 10 championship — it seemed a foregone conclusion that either the Wolverines or the Buckeyes would end up in the College Football Playoff by prevailing Saturday.
  • In stretches, it appeared Michigan might run away from the Buckeyes, as it built leads of 14-3 and 27-17 at different points. Each time, however, Ohio State responded and stayed in the game. In the end, however, Michigan was simply too well-rounded. The Wolverines’ offense, while not in the same league as their defense, is much better than previous versions. The only question from here on is what happens when they play a team in the College Football Playoff they likely haven’t had the chance to illegally scout? Last time it occurred, it wasn’t pretty for the Michigan Men.
  • Washington survived Washington State, 24-20, to win the Apple Cup. Considering how much Wazzu had been struggling, the last-minute win by the Huskies makes one wonder if they’re leaking too much oil to pull off another win over Oregon next week in the Pac-12 championship.
  • Speaking of the Pac-12, Oregon crushed Oregon State 31-7 in the Civil War. Adding insult to injury, Oregon State then lost its head coach — a former record-breaking quarterback with the Beavers — to Michigan State a day later.
  • Kentucky ended rival Louisville’s hopes for a long-shot College Football Playoff bid, downing the Cardinals 38-31. While it was doubtful Louisville could have leapfrogged enough teams to slide into the CFP discussion, the question is now entirely moot, as the Cardinals will carry a second loss into the ACC title game.
  • Florida State withstood Florida, 24-15, in Gainesville to join Louisville in the conference title game. While winning in The Swamp is never an easy thing to do, especially against a major rival, FSU quarterback Tate Rodemaker looked pedestrian in relief of injured starter Jordan Travis. Although Louisville is licking its own wounds after Saturday’s loss, Florida State and its College Football Playoff hopes might be in dire straits against the Cardinals in the ACC championship game next weekend.
  • The Clemson and South Carolina rivalry game briefly turned political Saturday, and the football gods punished the programs with terrible offense. With Clemson prevailing 16-7, the teams combined for only 212 yards passing.
  • It sure didn’t seem like Auburn had much going for it Saturday against hated cross-state rival Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Even though the Tigers were at home, they were fresh from a 31-10 pasting at the hands of New Mexico State. Alabama, meanwhile, had righted the ship after an early loss to Texas and is headed to the SEC championship game. Still, there Auburn stood with a 24-20 lead with less than a minute remaining and Alabama facing 4th and goal from the 31 yard line.
  • In shades of the 2018 National Championship game against Georgia, Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe calmly waited in the pocket and hit receiver Isaiah Bond in the back corner of the end zone for a game-winning, 31-yard touchdown pass.
  • There’s a scene in Good Will Hunting where the counselor, Sean Maguire — played by Robin Williams — simply keeps telling the titular Will Hunting — played by Matt Damon — that it’s not his fault. “It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.” After initially being defensive and combative, Damon’s character eventually breaks down into the counselor’s arms, sobbing uncontrollably.
  • I bring it up simply because Will Hunting is all Auburn fans right now. If you see one during the next few weeks, just allow him or her cry on your shoulder. In a world of Professor Gerald Lambeaus, be a Sean Maguire for these poor scarred bastards.