Washington vs Washington State

Washington vs Washington State : Two top-16 teams will fight to claim the state of Washington and maybe even a College Football Playoff invitation. So it’s fair to ask; is this the most important Apple Cup of all time?

Washington vs Washington State Livestream

No. 7 Washington State will play host to No. 16 Washington in Friday’s most important rivalry game. For the Cougars, it’s not just a chance to snap the Huskies’ five-game winning streak against their in-state rival, but also an opportunity to prove they belong when the CFP unveils its final four teams in two weeks. A three-loss Washington squad doesn’t have the same stakes at hand, but ruining Mike Leach’s title aspirations would serve to make nearly everyone in Seattle’s holidays a bit brighter.

Oh, and the winner claims the Pac-12 North title and a spot in the conference championship game, too.

In the annals of all-time great Apple Cups, 2018 could be the biggest. But will it live up to the hype?

The S&P+ ratings see Washington State as the nation’s No. 20 team. But they clock the underdog Huskies at No. 10. Factor in the universe’s cold indifference to Mike Leach’s happiness and achievement, and you’ve got all the makings of a Washington win Saturday evening.

Time, TV channel, and streaming info

Time: 8:30 p.m. ET

Location: Martin Stadium, Pullman, WA


Streaming: FOXSportsGO, fuboTV

Odds: Washington State is favored by 2.5 points.

One major point of concern for Washington; State throws the hell out of the ball, but has the nation’s lowest sack rate.

Of course Gardner Minshew’s got his own, mustache-glorifying song now.

Friday’s winner gets Utah for the Pac-12 title. Yeah, it’s been a weird year on the west coast.

Minshew had as many touchdown passes as incompletions in the first half last week against Arizona. He’s OK I guess.

Minshew is an extremely Mike Leach quarterback, and as such he’s absolutely lit up the skies with his passing this fall. He leads the FBS in passing yards (by nearly 500 yards!) and is tied for the national lead in passing touchdowns thanks to a cannon arm that’s averaged nearly 400 yards per game. But he’s not just a volume thrower — he’s completed a career-high 70.4% of his passes for an efficient 7.5 yards per attempt along the way.

He’s probably not going to win the Heisman — Tua Tagovailoa has that award pretty much wrapped up — but he can earn a spot among the finalists with another big game Friday night.

Oklahoma vs West Virginia

Oklahoma vs West Virginia : Three things to know before betting on Oklahoma-West Virginia: If the Monday Night Football shootout between the Rams and Chiefs didn’t feature enough scoring to sate your Thanksgiving week football appetite, have no fear—Friday night’s Big 12 showdown between Oklahoma and West Virginia should leave you stuffed. With a total set at an astronomical 84 (with the potential to still climb), there’s little doubt that this game will feature heaps and heaps of offense. And Oklahoma will be looking for a decisive victory to keep its College Football Playoff hopes alive.

Oklahoma vs West Virginia Livestream

This game is getting tons of action at sportsbooks. Oklahoma opened as a 2.5-point favorite, was bet down all the way to a one-point underdog by Monday afternoon, and then stabilized back as a current 2.5-point favorite a day later.

It’s understandable why some bettors have little faith in the Sooners. Their defense is absolutely porous. But when playing tougher road competition, Riley’s Sooners have impressed. Oklahoma beat Ohio State 31-16 as a seven-point underdog last September, and took down Oklahoma State 62-52 as a one-point underdog later in the year. In recent seasons, Oklahoma has also had West Virginia’s number, winning four straight against the Mountaineers both straight up and against the spread.

West Virginia features one of the best offenses in the country, ranking ninth in scoring offense (40.9 points per game) and seventh in yards per play (7.11). Quarterback Will Grier is third in FBS in yards per attempt (9.6) and has thrown the fifth-most touchdown passes in the country (33). With two touchdown targets in receivers David Sills V (13 TDs) and Gary Jennings Jr. (11), Grier and the Mountaineers should be able to put up points against the Sooners defense, which is allowing 5.8 yards per play (78th in FBS). The Sooners have also been torched for 40 points in three straight weeks.

West Virginia’s offense just needs to make sure it doesn’t shoot itself in the foot as it’s done in the past. Grier has two multi-interception games this season and completed a season-low 56.3% of his passes against a bad Oklahoma State defense in last week’s loss. In the Mountaineers’ other loss this season, to Iowa State, they managed only 14 points on 152 yards of total offense.

 As good as West Virginia’s offense is, Oklahoma’s is even better. The Sooners average 8.8 yards per play, tops in the nation by a significant margin. They also lead the country in scoring offense (49.5 PPG) and have been held to less than 37 points just once this season. Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray is the lone legitimate Heisman challenger to Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa. Murray has thrown 34 touchdowns (third in FBS) and is running for 67.2 yards per game. Star running back Rodney Anderson’s early-season injury was once a concern, but backs Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks have combined for over 1,600 yards on the ground.

While it’s better than Oklahoma’s, West Virginia’s defense doesn’t have much to boast about, either, especially in recent weeks. The Mountaineers have allowed 40-plus points in two of their last three games. If that’s what West Virginia is surrendering to Texas and Oklahoma State, it has little hope of slowing down an Oklahoma team that is one of the best college football offenses in recent memory.

This game figures to be a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair. But keep this in mind when making your bet: Riley’s Sooners are 17-1 in games where the total was set at 62 or higher entering the contest. Against a spread as tight as this one, a win for Oklahoma would almost certainly mean covering.

Confidence Level: Very High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)

UCF vs South Florida

UCF vs South Florida : The War on I-4 was one of the very best games of 2017. With the AAC East championship on the line, 10-0 UCF hosted 9-1 South Florida before a national television audience and a packed Spectrum Stadium crowd. It was a game the visiting Bulls led 34-28 entering the fourth quarter, UCF rocketed forward to take a 42-34 lead with 2:21 to play, South Florida tied with 1:41 remaining on an 83-yard touchdown pass and a 2-point conversion, and then UCF immediately wrestled the lead back with game-winning 95-yard kickoff return.

UCF vs South Florida Livestream

Regardless of classification, conference, what have you, it was one of the most intense and entertaining games of the entire season.

Fast forward a year with the scene shifting to Tampa and it’s safe to say the atmosphere will not be the. UCF is controls its fate to win the American, but South Florida does not. The Bulls are 7-4 overall and 3-4 in conference play.

With their rivals traveling southeast on Interstate 4 (hence the rivalry’s name) South Florida’s powers-that-be were apparently nervous about black-and-gold taking over the green-and-gold in their own stadium, so they decided to give out some free tickets.

The Horns Up Takeover continues today at the Dunkin’ on 1911 E. Fowler! Stop by, say ‘Go Bulls’ and throw your #HornsUp and receive two tickets to the #WarOnI4 while supplies last.

It’s not exactly fair to say USF has worse fans than UCF. USF shares its home with a pro team while UCF does not. Thus, USF has to fill a larger stadium (65,890) than UCF (45,031). Knights fans also get to root for a better team than Bulls fans, at least over those past two seasons.

Even given those caveats, it still may be more embarrassing to give out free tickets to your rivalry game rather than just selling them to your rivals.

South Florida hosts No. 11 UCF at 4:15 p.m. ET on ESPN on Friday.

Virginia vs Virginia Tech

Virginia vs Virginia Tech : Virginia Tech is hoping its Senior Day isn’t the last day of its football season. The Hokies (4-6, 3-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) will honour 12 players before Friday’s game against Virginia (7-4, 4-3), and they will be seeking their 15th consecutive victory against the Cavaliers. If they can manage that, they will play Marshall at Lane Stadium on Dec. 1 trying to qualify for their 26th consecutive bowl game.

Virginia vs Virginia Tech Live

The first part doesn’t figure to be as easy as history might suggest.

“They’re both extremely important, without a doubt,” Hokies defensive co-ordinator Bud Foster said of the two long streaks, “and obviously, you’ve got to take care of the first one to get to the next one.”

Virginia Tech brings a four-game losing streak into the game, and has lost the games by an average of 21 points. They’ve also had difficulty stopping the run, which could make Virginia an especially challenging opponent.

The Cavaliers are led by dual-threat quarterback Bryce Perkins, who leads the ACC and ranks 17th nationally by being responsible for 170 points (19 passing touchdowns, nine rushing TDs and one 2-point conversion pass).

He’s certainly caught the attention of the Hokies coaching staff.

“The thing that jumps off the film to me about Bryce is he does not ever look like he’s trying very hard,” coach Justin Fuente said this week. “He’s such a smooth athlete, he never looks like he’s straining.”

The Hokies quarterback is Ryan Willis, and he’s put up good numbers, too. Since replacing the injured Josh Jackson in the third game, he’s thrown for almost 2,000 yards with 17 touchdown passes and just five interceptions.

Willis, a Kansas native, has been well informed of the importance of the rivalry.

“Beating UVA is something we have to do year in and year out. It’s expected,” he said. “This rivalry is huge. We get how serious it is. I want to win more than anything in the world. I think all of our guys do.”

Virginia, in its third season under Bronco Mendenhall, lost 10-0 to the Hokies last season, and Mendenhall has made winning this game a priority from the start of the season. He recommended that his players spend their time preparing for the game rather than talking to the media this week, and has made it clear the stakes are high.

“I think I’ve been really clear and fairly outspoken going into the third year of how important the game is,” he said Monday. “That simple stance I don’t think shields anybody. It’s made it clear to anyone that’s been around our program that it’s more impactful and important and will do more for our program and generate more momentum.” Here are some other things to watch when Virginia plays at Virginia Tech:

Teams that have not allowed Perkins to get much done in the running game have had the most success against Virginia, and the Hokies plan to try to keep him contained. The Cavaliers, meanwhile, while try to get receptions leader Olamide Zaccheaus involved early because his productivity opens things up for everyone else.

The Hokies have outscored their opponents by 25 in the first half but have been outscored by 60 after halftime. Included in that is a 63-0 disadvantage in the third quarter of their four home losses. Virginia has outscored its foes by 56 in the first half and by 28 in the second half and overtime.

For all its struggles, Virginia Tech remains one of the nation’s most efficient teams when driving inside its opponent’s 20 yard-line. The Hokies have scored on 27 of 30 such trips (90 per cent) with 22 touchdowns (73 per cent). Virginia has not been nearly as efficient, scoring on 34 of 45 trips (76 per cent) with 23 touchdowns (51 per cent).

He missed a field goal in overtime last week in a loss to Georgia Tech, but Virginia’s Brian Delaney has given the Cavaliers a reliable field goal kicker for the first time in Mendenhall’s tenure. He’s made 11 of 14 attempts while the Hokies Brian Johnson has been a little less reliable, missing five times in his 12 attempts.

Oregon vs Oregon State

Oregon vs Oregon State : The 122nd “Civil War” will take place between Oregon and Oregon State, as the Ducks try to surpasses its win total from 2017.

Oregon vs Oregon State Live

Oregon is coming off a 31–29 victory over Arizona State, a win that helped clinch the Pac–12 South for Utah. Justin Herbert, a potential first-round NFL draft pick, threw for 262 yards and two touchdowns, his 26th straight game with a touchdown pass.

The Beavers continue their rough 2018 season and are looking to snap a three-game losing streak, where they have been outscored by an average of 22 points.

Oregon has won nine of the last 10 meetings in the series, including the last four of five in Corvallis.


Time: Friday, Nov. 23, 4 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FS1

Live Stream: Watch the game live on fuboTV. Sign up now for a free seven-day trial.

Ohio vs Akron

Ohio vs Akron : The Ohio Bobcats (7-4) host the Akron Zips (4-6) on Friday afternoon in the final game of the Mid-American Conference season.  Kickoff is set for 12:00 PM EST at Peden Stadium and the game will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network.

Ohio vs Akron Live

Taking a look at the Week 13 college football odds, Ohio opened as a 22-point home favorite earlier this week. That line has shifted by half of a point after early betting, as the Bobcats are currently listed at -21.5. The total for the game is sitting at 54 points.

Vegas Betting Preview & Game Odds: Ohio vs Akron

Akron lost their third straight game last week, falling 21-6 to Bowling Green at home despite being a touchdown favorite. The Zips gave up almost 400 yards of total offense, although they did also force two turnovers. QB Kato Nelson didn’t play all that well, throwing for only 148 yards and completing less than 50% of his passing attempts. Things didn’t go much better on the ground, as Akron could only muster 2.8 yards per carry against a tough Falcons defense. The Zips have now scored seven or less points in consecutive games and have been outgained by opponents in total yardage by almost 100 yards per game since Week 1. Overall, Akron is currently averaging just 19.6 points per game on 288.5 yards of total offense.

The Zips have been mediocre at best on the other side of the ball this year, as opponents are currently averaging 24.9 points per game (53rd overall). Akron has really struggled against the run, giving up an average of 179.8 yards per game on the ground (85th overall).

Ohio has now won four out of their last five games after crushing Buffalo 52-17 at home in Week 12. The Bobcats looked dominant against a solid Bulls team that had a 9-1 record overall heading into the game. There was little doubt who the better team was, as Ohio racked up 437 rushing yards while limiting Buffalo to just 277 yards of total offense. QB Nathan Rourke was fantastic, throwing for 209 yards and three touchdowns while adding another 77 yards and a score on the ground. Rourke has now passed for 2,138 yards and 22 touchdowns in just 11 games. The star of the game on offense last week was clearly RB A.J. Oullette, who ran for 196 yards and two touchdowns. RB Maleek Irons also had a good game, rushing for 92 yards and a touchdown on just 12 carries. As a whole, the offense is averaging a very impressive 40.5 points per game on 470.8 total yards.

The Bobcats have looked average defensively, giving up 26.5 points per game to opponents. However, they have struggled to defend against the pass, allowing 255.5 yards per game through the air  (102nd overall).

NCAA Football Betting Predictions & Free Pick: Ohio -21.5

Ohio still has a lot to play for, as they currently have an outside shot at winning the MAC East. Akron is basically done for the season after this game, as they would need to beat Ohio and South Carolina back to back in order to become bowl-eligible. My biggest concern for the Zips in this particular spot is their lackluster play on offense. The Bobcats are currently averaging over 40 points per game and I just don’t think Akron has the firepower to keep pace with Rourke and Co. It is also worth noting that Ohio is racking up over 250 rushing yards per game and now gets to face a brutal run defense that is ranked just 85th in the entire country.

Click on the link for more free college football picks from our experts on staff.

The Zips are just 1-6 ATS in their last seven conference games. They are also only 0-7 ATS over their last seven games following a straight up loss and 1-6 ATS in their last seven games overall. Ohio is a solid 13-4 ATS in their last 17 games on Friday. They are also a very impressive 6-0 ATS over their last six home games against teams with a losing home record and 5-1 ATS in their last six games overall.

The Bobcats are simply too well-balanced on offense to allow Akron to stay within striking distance for more then a couple of quarters. The Zips have only scored 13 total points in their last two games combined while Ohio has racked up 80 points in the same time frame. The high scoring output wasn’t a fluke either, as the Bobcats have actually scored 49, 52, 59, 28, and 52 points over their last five games overall. While Akron is giving up around two points less per game defensively, that still won’t propel them to a tough cover on the road in this spot. I’m laying the 3+ touchdowns and rolling with the home favorite here in Week 13 – give me Ohio.

Nebraska vs Iowa

Nebraska vs Iowa : The Heroes Trophy might only be seven years old, datingback to when Nebraskajoined the Big Ten in 2011 and began playing Iowa again annually. However, the Iowa vs. Nebraska rivalry dates all the way back to 1891 and it will only gain steam as Scott Frost looks to make the Cornhuskers perennial contenders in the Big Ten West.

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For this year’s tilt, the Hawkeyes are 8.5-point favorites, up one from the opening line. The over-under, or total number of points Vegas thinks will be scored, is 53 in the current Iowa vs. Nebraska odds. Both teams won outright and against the spread last time out, so before you lock in any selections, you’ll want to see the Iowa vs. Nebraska picks from SportsLine data scientist Stephen Oh.

Nebraska vs Iowa Live

The renowned co-founder of AccuScore, Oh simulates each game 10,000 times using the SportsLine Projection Model. He has built a sizable profit picking college football in 2018 and he has had an especially keen eye for the tendencies of Nebraska football, boasting a nearly perfect 6-1 mark in games involving the Cornhuskers. Anyone who has followed him is way up.

Now, he has locked in a strong against the spread pick for Iowa vs. Nebraska. You can only see it at SportsLine.

Oh knows Iowa has an uncharacteristically dangerous passing attack in 2018. If you take away Iowa’s win over Maryland where high winds limited them to 86 yards passing, the Hawkeyes are averaging almost 264 yards per game through the air.

Quarterback Nathan Stanley has benefited from a number of receiving options. Tight end T.J. Hockenson is one of the best in the nation, with 41 catches for 663 yards and six touchdowns. Meanwhile, wideouts Noah Fant, Nick Easley, Brandon Smith and Ihmir Smith-Marsette all have at least 292 yards receiving.

Nebraska’s secondary will be taxed to cover all those options, meaning a strong day from Stanley could spell doom for Cornhuskers’ backers.

However, Oh also knows that this is a much different Nebraska team than the one that opened up the season with six straight losses, making a cover for Iowa anything but guaranteed.

In the past five games, Nebraska has four wins, with their only loss coming at Ohio State by just five points. One of the big reasons Scott Frost’s team is turning things around is that the Cornhuskers are running the football a lot more effectively.

They’re averaging nearly 50 yards more on the ground in their past five games (242.4) versus their first six games (192.7). Nebraska is also averaging 6.4 yards per carry in those five games versus 4.8 in its first six. That’s a 33 percent uptick, and if the Cornhuskers can run the ball that efficiently against a tough Iowa defense, they’ll have a chance to cover.

We can tell you Oh is leaning toward the under, but his much stronger play is on the side. He has crunched the numbers and discovered a crucial x-factor makes one side of the spread a must-back. He’s sharing what it is only at SportsLine.

Texas vs Kansas

Texas vs Kansas : Texas linebacker Gary Johnson won’t play in Friday’s regular-season finale against Kansas.  You know the joke. A guy walks into a bar, he’s wearing burnt orange, of course, and before he has a chance to sit down someone has already verbally bludgeoned him with taunts and trash talk about the fact the Texas Longhorns lost in overtime to the Kansas football Jayhawks.

Texas vs Kansas Live

Texas football is the punchline. Texas football is the joke. Get it?

Sadly, that game, the most embarrassing moment in Texas football history, turned two years old on Monday, the jokes and laughs still plenty.

I thought about sharing my experience in Lawrence on that day. Oh, yes, I was there. I was standing there in the cold bleachers, one of the, maybe, 10,000 people in attendance, in full-blown Surrender Cobra as the Longhorns walked off the field. Well, I don’t know if they walked off the field. It looked more like their sad, miserable souls were being dragged to their final resting place, inside the locker room at Kansas where reality — an absolutely unfathomable reality — was waiting for them.

Per Yahoo Sports, Texas announced Johnson has been suspended for the game due to an unspecified violation of team rules.

Now in his second season at Texas, Johnson has become one of the most important defensive players for head coach Tom Herman in 2018. The senior leads the team with 74 total tackles and 14 tackles for loss.

Johnson’s absence stands to benefit Kansas’ rushing offense. Jayhawks running back Pooka Williams ranks joint-13th in the nation with 7.1 yards per carry as a freshman.

The Longhorns enter Friday’s game ranked 37th in run defense after allowing 136.5 yards per game.

Texas (8-3) can clinch a berth in the Big 12 Championship Game on Dec. 1 with a win over Kansas.

Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints

Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints : Betting Preview – Thanksgiving 2018 The Atlanta Falcons are in pure desperation mode as they travel to New Orleans to take on the first place and consensus #1 power ranked Saints.

Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints Live

Atlanta has dropped two in a row to the Dallas Cowboys and Cleveland Browns, putting them at 4-6 and a longshot for the NFC Playoffs after ten games. The New Orleans Saints are coming off of a historic 48-7 win over the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. The Saints are -13 point favorites in this nightcap of the Thanksgiving day triple header.

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The Falcons have suffered two bad defeats in a row after they appeared to have things together and making a push for a playoff bid. In the two losses, the Falcons high powered offense could only muster a combined 35 points. It is hard to put a finger on just what is plaguing the Falcons, but it appears to be a combination of things, most importantly their inability to make a big play when it is most needed. Going into New Orleans, there is little doubt that this is a must-win game for the Falcons and their players know it.

Many quotes have come out of the Falcons locker room this weak stressing the importance of this game to their season as a whole. New Orleans will no doubt want to push this game to a shootout and Atlanta has the quarterback and receiving corps to counter that. The biggest question for the Falcons, and really anyone preparing for the Saints, is what can their defense do to slow down the juggernaut. Atlanta sits at 27th in the league in points against and have been unable to pressure opposing quarterbacks. In other words, if the Falcons want to win this game, Matt Ryan better be have a career day throwing the football.

New Orleans is a machine right now. In their past two contests, the Saints have put 99 points against two decent teams in Philadelphia and Cincinnati. If the season ended right now, Drew Brees should be the MVP of the league. He has a ridiculous 126.9 quarterback rating with 26 touchdowns and just 1 interception. The offense has been getting all of the press, rightfully so, but what has separated the Saints has been their defense. Despite a slow start to the season, the Saints defense is playing as good as anyone right now. In the last two victories, they have given up just 21 points against offenses who are throwing the whole play book at them in a desperate attempt to keep pace with the Saints offense.

Ever since the Week 3 battle in Atlanta, the trajectory of the season has taken different paths for each team. The Saints are riding high and the Falcons are stumbling. However, the Falcons are very familiar with the Saints and what they want to do, so they may have an advantage that recent Saints opponents have not. Right now though, I do not think it matters. I am taking the Saints -13 and will take the Saints the rest of the way until someone proves they can compete with them. Saints win 43-24.

Saints vs Falcons

Saints vs Falcons : The 100th edition of the NFL’s most underrated rivalry takes place tonight, when the New Orleans Saints host the despised Atlanta Falcons to cap a Thanksgiving triple header. The two franchises share a number of similarities. The Falcons began play in 1966, just one year before their southern rivals. Both teams have gone to the postseason 14 times, with 6 division titles each.

Saints vs Falcons Live

Atlanta holds the edge in the series, 52-47, and have a 25-24 record in New Orleans. The NFL version of the Hatfields and McCoys, Coke vs. Pepsi, Darth vs. Luke, Duke vs. Carolina, Alabama vs. Auburn is deep in bitterness, hate, and ridicule. It started innocently enough, with their first meeting in New Orleans on November 26, 1967, held in Tulane Stadium.


The Saints overcame 21 second quarter points from Atlanta, holding the Falcons to just 86 passing yards for the game. A fourth quarter touchdown pass from Billy Kilmer to Kent Kramer led the expansion Saints to a 27-24 victory, just the second win in their history. The Saints would lose to Atlanta the next nine times they’d face, four of those at their Tulane stadium home, including a 62-7 embarrassment at home in the 1973 season opener. That streak was finally ended with a 14-3 New Orleans victory in the 1974 season, the final year before entering a new chapter in the franchise, The Superdome.

The Louisiana Superdome became home to the New Orleans Saints in the 1975 season, and they would host the Falcons for the first time on November 2nd, the seventh game of the season. The Saints defense forced 6 turnovers and sacked Falcons quarterbacks five times, allowing them to complete just 39% of their passes. New Orleans quarterback Archie Manning overcame three interceptions of his own and completed a 71-yd. scoring strike to Larry Burton, who caught 4 passes for 159 yards on the day, in a 23-7 Saints victory. That would be the first of four consecutive home victories by New Orleans in the series, and would dominate their rivals again at home the following year.

On October 10th, 1976, the Saints would record their only home shutout win of this series, with a 30-0 blanking of Atlanta. The defense would have another outstanding performance, holding the Falcons to only 168 total yards while recording 5 sacks and forcing 7 turnovers, including an 83 yard interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Jim Merlo. Both teams would struggle during the early 1970’s, but each would put together playoff contending squads by later in the decade. They would meet twice down the stretch of the 1978 season with potential postseason berths on the line, only to end in heartbreak for the Saints fanbase.

On November 12th, 1978, the Saints would host their rivals in perhaps the most important meeting between the two up to that point. New Orleans would carry a 17-6 lead into the fourth quarter, but a defensive letdown and some questionable play calling by the Saints would set them up for disaster. Atlanta quarterback Steve Bartkowski would complete a miraculous 57 yard touchdown pass to Alfred Jackson on the final play of the game to pull out an improbable 20-17 Falcon victory. The play, Jackson’s only catch of the game , was nicknamed “Big Ben”, and would live in infamy in Saints history.

After defeating New Orleans again in the final moments later in the ’78 season, the stage was set for a grudge match to open 1979. On September 2, 1979, the season opener, Saints-Falcons would turn into a thrilling shootout that would become a trademark of the rivalry. New Orleans would wind up with 512 total yards, led by Chuck Muncie’s 161 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and Wes Chandler’s 205 receiving yards, a team record that would stand until broken by Michael Thomas this season.

That was countered by 552 yards from the Falcons, led by 312 passing yards and three scores from Bartkowski, 167 rushing yards from William Andrews, and 131 receiving yards from Alfred Jenkins. Atlanta put their rival down to another infuriating defeat, this time by a 40-34 overtime margin. It was the first overtime game in the series between the two, but there would be seven more to come, with the Saints coming out on the losing end six of the eight times.

The 1980’s were evenly matched as far as victories between the two, but games were rarely close. Atlanta began the decade by winning five straight against the Saints, but New Orleans would close out the 80’s with a 10-9 edge in wins, primarily due to the ferocity of their Dome Patrol linebacking corps and a rugged defense. Both teams had again built themselves into playoff contenders by the late 1980’s and into the early 90’s, and would begin the 1990’s by adding another feisty chapter in their growing novel of bitterness.

d wind up on a collision course during the 1991 season, culminating in two showdowns in the Superdome late in the year. On November 24, 1991 in New Orleans, the Falcons would overcome 138 yards rushing by Saints back Fred McAfee, 115 yards receiving by Floyd Turner, and a 10-pt. Saints lead in the 4th quarter. The hero of the Atlanta comeback would be wide receiver Michael Haynes, a New Orleans native who would go on to play for the Saints a few years later. Haynes caught six passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns, the first an 80-yd. explosion, and the second an 18-yd. score that would tie the game late in regulation.

The Falcons would go on to win, 23-20 in overtime, but the Saints would still manage to win the NFC West that year, setting up an epic rematch just 34 days later. The sequel took place again in New Orleans, in the wild card round of the playoffs, the only postseason meeting between the two in the series. Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert would throw two critical interceptions, but it was once again Haynes that crushed the hearts of his hometown. He would again catch six passes, this time for 144 yards and another two touchdowns. His second score was a 61-yd. catch and run late in the fourth quarter that would break a tie game and clinch Atlanta’s 27-20 victory. The Dome Patrol Saints would slowly break up after the following year, then have to completely rebuild their team later in the 1990’s. They would lose 10 games in a row to their Georgia counterparts from 1995-99, and 8 of 10 home games to the Falcons between 1993-2002. New Orleans would finally take control of this rivalry in the mid-2000’s, with a couple personnel moves that would alter their history.

Sean Payton was given his first head coaching job with the Saints in 2006, and among his first moves was to sign a free agent quarterback named Drew Brees. The two men would become perhaps the most reviled Saints if you were on the Atlanta side of the rivalry, but they first had to help New Orleans rebuild not only a football team, but in some ways an entire region. The Saints entered the 2006 season after being displaced much of the previous year because of the tragic damage to the area from Hurricane Katrina. Their first game back in the Dome in over a year would come on a Monday night, September 25, 2006, against the Atlanta Falcons.

Early in the game, Saints defensive back Steve Gleason would block a Falcons punt that teammate Curtis DeLoatch would recover in the end zone, sending the home crowd into an emotional frenzy. The Saints defense would sack Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick five times on the night, allowing him to complete only 38% of his passes on their way to a resounding 23-3 victory. Payton’s Saints would win the next 11 out of 13 games in this rivalry, including 7 of 8 victories at home between 2006-13.

One of the most dominant figures in this rivalry is quarterback Drew Brees. He has a 17-8 record against Atlanta as the Saints starting quarterback, including a 9-3 record in home games. Brees has averaged 310 yards passing per game against Atlanta, and has thrown for at least 295 yards in 19 of his 25 games against them, while throwing 48 touchdown passes.

One of his finest moments came on December 26, 2011, during a Monday night home game against the Falcons. The Saints had one of NFL history’s most productive passing offenses that season, and would set numerous league records throughout the year. With just under three minutes remaining in the game and his team leading 38-16, Brees would complete a 9-yd. scoring pass to running back Darren Sproles to finalize a convincing 45-16 victory. The pass would move Brees past Dan Marino in breaking an NFL single season record for passing yards in a season, a hallowed record that had stood for 27 years.

Another holiday get together that these two hated foes had took place just last year on December 24, the last meeting between the two in New Orleans. Defensive end Cam Jordan, who has 10 sacks and 25 quarterback hits in fifteen career meetings against the Falcons, had two of his team’s five sacks of Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan in a 23-13 Christmas Eve win. The last meeting between the Falcons and Saints was earlier this year in a week three showdown in Atlanta. Brees had one of his most brilliant games in a brilliant career against Atlanta, completing 39 of 49 passes for 396 yards, 3 touchdowns, no interceptions, and two more rushing touchdowns where he bulldozed his way through defenders for scores. His team needed every bit of it, as Ryan countered with 374 passing yards and five touchdowns. Falcons receivers Calvin Ridleyand Julio Jones embarrassed Saints coverage that day, catching 12 passes for a combined 242 yards and 3 touchdowns from Ridley. New Orleans answered with 10 catches and 129 receiving yards from wideout Michael Thomas, and 190 yards from scrimmage from Alvin Kamara, which included 15 receptions for 124 yards. The Saints prevailed in a classic 43-37 overtime victory, possibly setting the stage for yet another entertaining but very physical shootout.

The 9-1 Saints have not lost since the season opener, and are the hottest team in the NFL. They average 38 points per game, and rank near the top of the league in both rushing and passing yardage. Their defense is one of the best at stopping the run, and can create big plays in the passing game with a strong rush up front and playmakers in the secondary. Atlanta comes into the game with a 4-6 record and clinging to fading playoff chances. Although they can rack up passing yardage with Ryan, Jones, Ridley,

and a number of other targets, they have been unable to establish a running attack without injured running back Devonta Freeman. Defensively they rank in the bottom third of the league in most categories. They have some talented pass rushers up front with Grady Jarrett, Vic Beasley, and Takkarist McKinley, but are missing their best defender in linebacker Deion Jones. Although they have some talent at cornerback with Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant, they have been hit hard by injuries at safety and unable to contain Saints wideout Michael Thomas in previous meetings.

New Orleans should be able to get to Ryan with their pass rush, and if coverage holds up in the secondary can likely force a few key turnovers. Thomas has at least 10 receptions and over 115 yards receiving in three of five games against the Falcons, and is re-setting team records on a weekly basis with his production this season. Look for backs Kamara and Mark Ingram to be heavily involved in the passing game with the absence of Deion Jones.

Brees is having one of his finest seasons, and should be a league M.V.P. favorite. The team’s offensive line has dominated every opponent they’ve faced, and even without injured left tackle Terron Armstead may do the same against the Falcons front, allowing their quarterback time to throw and possible big production from their running game. Atlanta may be the desperate team, but the Saints are a focused, talented, and confident team on a roll in a prime time stage. They will give their fans a Thanksgiving dessert by sticking a fork in these Dirty Birds.