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November 21, 2012

Rivalry Week recruiting battles to watch

Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.



The end of the college football season is upon us, meaning it's time for rivalry week. Battle lines are drawn even as the Thanksgiving feast is being prepared in a show of goodwill.

The names are familiar and colorful: The Iron Bowl. The Civil War. Bedlam. Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.

But beyond the field warfare, the coaches are not nave to the impact on recruiting.

Since 1896, Clemson and South Carolina have fought for superiority in the Palmetto State and Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier knows that having the edge in the state can help land the best players.

"Of course, you've got to recruit your in-state players to start with," Spurrier said. "And then branch out from there.

"Winning breeds more winning and unfortunately, losing does the same thing."

Clemson leads the all-time series 65-40-4 but South Carolina won the last three contests, including last year, 34-13.

While the two programs are sharing the spotlight, there is not much of an edge in recruiting. South Carolina is the No. 13 team in the Rivals.com team rankings while Clemson sits at No. 14. Each has four players from the state committed and of the six uncommitted players inside the Top 20 in the state, neither program has a significant recruiting advantage entering play Saturday.

That could all change with a fourth straight victory from South Carolina.

Here is a look at other nationally relevant rivalry games taking place this week and the impact each could have on recruiting:

ARIZONA AT ARIZONA STATE
Rivalry details: The Territorial Cup is awarded to the winner of The Duel in the Desert. The rivalry originated in 1899 and has been played 85 times, with Arizona holding a 47-37-1 advantage.
Recruiting battles: The state of Arizona is steadily improving its high school football product, but many of the top players have not been inclined to stay in state. While each program is making concerted attempts to change that, the battle for players has yet to really heat up and few players are overlapping. The biggest may be over Devon Allen, who is being recruited by both programs but appears to be favoring UCLA or Stanford at the moment. Grant Martinez is an ASU commit who is torn, and DeAndre Miller is an Arizona commit who could be swayed.
AUBURN AT ALABAMA
Rivalry details: The Iron Bowl is one of the most heated and storied rivalry games in college football and is played between the two largest public schools in the state of Alabama. The game has been played 76 times and Alabama holds a 41-34-1 advantage. The majority of the games have been played at Legion Field in Birmingham, with Alabama leading that series 31-15, but the game has been moved to alternating sites. Moving the games on campus has favored Auburn, as the Tigers are 7-4 when playing at Jordan-Hare and 5-1 at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Recruiting battles: For such a storied rivalry there are remarkably few recruiting battles. Part of that is the superiority that Alabama has shown, winning multiple national championships in recruiting and generally being the preferred school for in-state prospects. This season, the fight has been centered around two players, Reuben Foster and Dee Liner. Foster was originally committed to Alabama but then flipped to Auburn -- he followed that up with an AU tattoo -- but is again in play with the turmoil at Auburn. Liner is another commit who has been rumored to be looking at Alabama.
FLORIDA AT FLORIDA STATE
Rivalry details: Starting in 1958, the rivalry between Florida and Florida State has been as heated as any in the South. The game has no name and there's no trophy, other than bragging rights. The all-time record favors Florida, 33-21-1. However the last 40 meetings have been remarkably even, with the record favoring Florida, 20-19-1. With a win this week, Florida State can extend its winning streak to three in the series.
Recruiting battles: There are two heated contests right now between the two schools, with the most fierce possibly being between running back Alex Collins. Collins recently de-committed from Miami and was presumed to be a Florida State lean, but he has said recently that Florida has been recruiting him very hard. Leon McQuay III has already taken an official to Florida and he will be on an official as a guest of Florida State this week. Many speculate that McQuay may actually be a Vanderbilt lean, but the two in-state powers will battle to keep him home.
GEORGIA TECH AT GEORGIA
Rivalry details: The Governor's Cup is awarded to the winner of the rivalry that has been dubbed Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate. Georgia holds a 69-39-5 record over Georgia Tech in the series and has won the past three games. Off the field, the schools couldn't be more different: Georgia Tech is in Atlanta and an engineering research school, while Georgia is a liberal arts college in Athens.
Recruiting battles: With Georgia already having a class of 27 recruits, there are few spots left to fill and while Georgia Tech has 15 commitments on its list, very few targets overlap. The differences in the schools' demographics are apparent. Georgia Tech runs a triple-option offense, while Georgia is more of a pro-style offense that borders on being labeled a soft spread. Of the Top 25 players in the state, Montravius Adams doesn't hold a Georgia Tech offer; Alvin Kamara is between Alabama and Georgia; Vonn Bell lists a top seven which includes Georgia but not Georgia Tech; and Juwaan Williams has been on two visits but not to either in-state program, and he doesn't have a Georgia offer.
MICHIGAN AT OHIO STATE
Rivalry details: Known as The Game, this is one of the most heated rivalries in all of sports. Michigan leads the all-time series 58-43-6 and won the last contest. There is no trophy awarded but that does not mean there is no prize. Coaches have been fired for losing this game or retained for winning it. John Cooper was 2-10-1 at Ohio State against Michigan and lost his job while Jim Tressel went 6-1 against Lloyd Carr, which helped cost Carr his job.
Recruiting battles: The two programs have dealt with issues the last few seasons with a failed Rich Rodriguez tenure at Michigan, while the sanctions levied against Ohio State cost Tressel his job. Now with Brady Hoke and Urban Meyer at the helm, respectively, the recruiting battles have picked up. This year there are three kids who appear to be on the dividing line. Gareon Conley is committed to Michigan but was just offered and plans to visit Ohio State. David Dawson de-committed from Michigan last month and currently lists Ohio State in his Top 3. Mike McCray was offered by Ohio State after he committed to Michigan -- his father played for Ohio State but that has not swayed his decision to date.
OLE MISS AT MISSISSIPPI STATE
Rivalry details: The Battle for the Golden Egg is the 10th-longest uninterrupted series in the country and is led by Ole Miss, 60-42-6. Mississippi State has been slowly chipping away at the overall record by winning the last three contests and enters this game as the favorite. The game had alternated from on-campus to neutral sites for most of its history, but in 1991 the teams agreed to move the game back on campus. Mississippi State has won 12 of the past 21.
Recruiting battles: There are a lot of talented football players in Mississippi and the two schools are battling hard for many of them. The highest rated is Antonio Conner, who is wide open and both schools want him. There may be an inside edge for Mississippi State as it is rumored that his high school, Batesville (Miss.) South Panola, is not happy with how Ole Miss handled the eligibility of Nickolas Brassell. Ashton Shumpert is another talented player who is looking at both schools and could use this game as a measuring stick. Mississippi State commit Kailo Moore has been rumored to be giving Ole Miss a hard look right now as well.
OKLAHOMA STATE AT OKLAHOMA
Rivalry details: The history of this rivalry reads like a sad tale for Oklahoma State. Oklahoma has dominated to the tune of 82-17-7 and Oklahoma State has won consecutive games just three times since World War II. The nickname Bedlam actually began with the programs' wrestling teams, but with sponsorship opportunities, it moved to football. The national interest in this game has increased over the past 15 years as Oklahoma State has dramatically improved its football product.
Recruiting battles: Like the product on the field, the recruiting was dominated historically by Oklahoma. But in recent years, Oklahoma State has been able to win a couple of battles and make it interesting on the recruiting trail. This year there are three players in the crossfire. Each team is looking to flip a commit and there is also a major battle over a top national receiver. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo is committed to Oklahoma State, but was a guest of Oklahoma for the Red River Rivalry and took a visit to Norman last week. Dalton Rodriguez is committed to Oklahoma as an offensive lineman, but is having second thoughts about the position and may re-consider Oklahoma State to play defense. Laquon Treadwell seems to change his list of top schools daily but Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are constants for the Illinois receiver.
OREGON AT OREGON STATE
Rivalry details: The Civil War is the seventh-oldest rivalry game in college football and the winner gets the Platypus Trophy. Oregon holds a 59-46-10 advantage and has won the past four contests. From 1997-2006, the home team won every contest, but since then Oregon State has yet to defend its home turf in Corvallis.
Recruiting battles: Despite the rankings success of both programs, it appears the Oregon has left Oregon State at the gates when it comes to recruiting. The best players in the state, not to mention the country, want to go to Oregon. Oregon State has done a masterful job playing to its strengths and recruiting under the radar, but the two rarely meet for a player. This season it is down to just Long Beach (Calif.) Jordan's John Ross. The three-star receiver recently listed a top five without Oregon State involved. The two are in totally different realms right now with recruiting.
NOTRE DAME AT USC
Rivalry details: One of the best rivalries between teams that are not sharing state borders or neighboring states. Notre Dame leads the series, 43-35-5. The teams play for the Jeweled Shillelagh but the real trophy has been that the victor is often in consideration for a national championship - and that will be the case this season.
Recruiting battles: Many of the battles on the recruiting front will be from USC players looking at Notre Dame; A disaster of a season for USC and an epic turnaround for Notre Dame will do that. Recent USC de-commitment Max Redfield is considering Notre Dame but is also looking at Oregon or a return to the Trojan class. Sebastian LaRue is a current USC commit, but is considering a Notre Dame visit, and Chris Hawkins already took a visit to Notre Dame but then elected to stay with USC. Priest Willis has flirted with both teams but has not been viewed as a major player for either.
VIRGINIA AT VIRGINIA TECH
Rivalry details: The Commonwealth Cup is awarded annually to the victor of this intense rivalry. Virginia Tech leads the all-time series 57-37-5 and is undefeated since the two teams began playing as ACC rivals eight seasons ago. As bitter as the rivals are on the field, the two schools have a history of pleasantries including Virginia lobbying for Virginia Tech to be added to the conference as well as defending the program when the NCAA tried to shut it down in the 1950s.
Recruiting battles: The two programs have each done well with forming pipelines within the state that continue to feed each school, but that does not mean the two do not battle for recruits this and every year. DaeSean Hamilton is considering both programs and will likely take officials to each. The same story can be written for Jonathan McLaughlin. The battles could really heat up with the class of 2014, and this game may make an early impression on two of the top players in the country, Da'Shawn Hand and Quin Blanding. The 2014 class may be the best ever to come from the state, and those two are at the front of the line. Virginia Tech appears to be an early leader for Hand, while Virginia has positioned itself well with Blanding.
WASHINGTON AT WASHINGTON STATE
Rivalry details: The Apple Cup is awarded annually to the team which wins the battle between the two largest schools in Washington. The 104-year rivalry has been won 67 times by Washington with State winning 31 and six ties. Washington has won the past three games.
Recruiting battles: With Steve Sarkisian at Washington and Mike Leach at Washington State, the two could cross paths more often as the profile of both schools has been elevated. John Ross, a receiver from Long Beach (Calif.) Jordan, has offers from both schools and named each to his final five. Chris Borrayo has offers from both. Daquawn Brown has high interest in Washington and has already visited Washington State. Olito Thompson is a Washington State commit, but has Washington coming after him hard and could be a flip.



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