J.T. Barrett and the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes (10-1, 7-1 Big Ten) host Jabrill Peppers and the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines (10-1, 7-1) with a ton at stake. The bitter rivals are battling for a share of the Big Ten East Division title, the right to go to the conference championship game and an anticipated berth in the College Football Playoff.
Ohio State has dominated the series in recent years, winning 11 of the last 12 meetings, including last year in Jim Harbaugh’s first as head coach in The Game.
The Buckeyes are led by Barrett at quarterback who could be the difference-maker in this game because of his ability to run and pass with a school-record 99 career touchdowns accounted for.
Every year, the weekend after Thanksgiving, the city of New Orleans is packed with fans of the Southern University Jaguars and Grambling University Tigers from all over, and this year was no exception. Two amazing HBCUs compete for the championship inside of Caesar’s Superdome. In addition to the game, there were a plethora of events that led up to this highly anticipated matchup – here’s a look back at some of the highlights from a week filled with tradition and football.
Monday – Press Conference
Bayou Classic week began with a press conference held at the Superdome. Spectators got a chance to hear from both head coaches, both university presidents, New Orleans mayor Latoya Cantrell, a few of the sponsors and the director of facilities of the Superdome. According to attendee Mel Cordier, a public relations professional, the university presidents spoke on “student and alumni engagement on and off campus and what’s to come for the betterment of the universities.” Mayor Cantrell enlightened the room when she mentioned that New Orleans is one of the top ten growing cities since the COVID-19 pandemic. The sponsors discussed how they show their support with not just dollars but also by providing scholarships to students and supporting various university departments, such as the marching bands. The director of facilities mentioned that his staff has been working around the clock to have the Superdome ready before fans take their seats.
Friday – Battle of the Bands and Greek Show highlight busy schedule
Fast forward to Friday: The morning began with representatives from NBC Universal conducting a seminar to give students insight from NBCU Academy and NBC Sports leaders about careers in media and sports broadcasting. This enlightening event took place at the Hyatt Regency hotel.
At noon, there was a coaches’ luncheon where athletic staff from each university talked about the significance of this Bayou Classic.
On Friday afternoon, the Superdome opened its doors for the annual Battle of The Bands and Greek show. Seven National Pan-Hellenic Council fraternity and sorority chapters competed for a significant check that would go towards funding for the winning chapter. Each team took the stage and performed a stepping routine. Procter and Gamble, the lead sponsor for the last six years, presented the Alpha Tau chapter of Delta Sigma Theta and the Delta Sigma chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha with the grand prize.
“It’s about creating the resources that young people need to go to school and have future opportunity to join the ranks of a Fortune 500 company,” said Damon Jones, Chief Communications Officer of Procter and Gamble. Proctor and Gamble is responsible for creating everyday household goods such as Crest Toothpaste and Tide Laundry Detergent, to name a few.
How does it feel to win the Greek show? “We had big shoes to fill being that past shows have been nothing but immaculate,” said Amariya Jackson, a member of Delta Sigma Theta. “Being able to show the ones that came before us that we are just as dedicated as them means everything.”
Right after the Greek Show was the Battle of the Bands. Southern University’s Human Jukebox went against the Grambling “World Famed” Tiger Marching Band. Zion Williams, a tenor drummer from Grambling University, described performing in the Battle of the Bands as a learning experience. “Bayou Classic is the battle of the best bands in Louisiana. The football game is the battle of a never-ending lifelong rivalry,” Williams said.
The bands performed various R&B and soul hits and the crowd loved hearing the instrumental versions of their favorite songs.
What is so significant about this Bayou Classic? It was the tiebreaker – headed into kickoff, the series was tied all-time 24-24. With a win, the Jaguars would be playing in the SWAC championship. This game had fans on the edges of their seats. Grambling University wide receiver Lyndon Rash scored the first touchdown on a four-yard pass from Julian Calvez. Southern freshman running back Karl Ligon ran it in two yards to score the Jaguar’s first touchdown. RB Kendric Rhymes made it 14-7 with a five-yard run into the endzone at the end of the second half.
By the 3rd quarter, after an amazing halftime show, Grambling led 17-14. That soon changed when Southern quarterback BeSean McCray kept it himself and ran it in 22 yards, putting Southern ahead 21-17.
Senior defensive back Kriston Davis intercepted the Grambling QB in the final minutes of the game and returned it 42 yards for the score, bringing the Jaguars to victory at 34-17.
After the game the SWAC Western Division trophy was presented to Jaguar’s coach Eric Dooley. The Jaguars officially hold the title of the SWAC West champions and will face SWAC East champions Jackson State for the conference title.
Southern running back Kendric Rhymes, who hails from Houston Texas, described playing in the Bayou Classic as different from any other game: “The whole city comes out and we put on a show.”
Impact of the Bayou Classic
A Classic football game is unlike normal bowl games because they include events such as the ones mentioned above. Tailgate parties, social events, and business expos all took place throughout the weekend.
This stadium was filled with die-hard fans of each team. There were people that have been attending the Bayou Classic each year for decades. Former Southern University student body president and Baton Rouge native Anthony Kenney spoke to the significance. “Bayou Classic is the epitome of HBCU pride and tradition in Louisiana,” Kenney said. “It has always been seen as a huge event, almost bigger than Thanksgiving itself. It’s a family rivalry but it is all about unity when it is said and done. I’m so glad I went to Southern U.”
After the Bayou Classic, no one is going straight home. Bourbon Street was filled with people enjoying themselves and hanging out. All of the after parties have the clubs packed! Celebrities even attend the nightlife festivities.
Author’s Note: Lealer Sims is a graduating senior from Southern University. She is an aspiring multimedia journalist, with an interest in entertainment reporting. She has worked at a television station and for different publications. You can keep up with her on all platforms @lealerimani. You can read some of her work at Southerndigest.com
Big Ten Week 13: Best Bets, Predictions, and Previews for Michigan-Ohio State and Nebraska-Iowa
Week 12 in the Big Ten included surprising scares for the two best teams in the conference, as No. 2 Ohio State (11-0) escaped a close one at Maryland (6-5) and No. 3 Michigan (11-0) needed a last-minute field goal to survive against Illinois (7-4) at home.
A possible explanation is that both teams were already looking ahead to Week 13, when they’ll go head-to-head in one of the biggest regular-season matchups of 2022. Ohio State will host the rivalry game this season, a year after its playoff hopes were dashed by the Wolverines in an Ann Arbor upset.
Before the showdown for the Big Ten East title, though, Iowa (7-4) controls its own destiny in the West on Friday afternoon against Nebraska (3-8). A win will send the Hawkeyes to their second straight Big Ten Championship game (they lost to Michigan 42-3 in 2021). A loss by Iowa would put Purdue (7-4) in the driver’s seat in the Big Ten West, giving the Boilermakers a chance to clinch the division with a win Saturday at Indiana (4-7).
No. 2 Ohio State seeks redemption in ‘winner takes all’ against No. 3 Michigan (OSU -7.5, o/u 56)
Best Bets: Ohio State -7.5, Over 56
A year ago, the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes traveled to Ann Arbor to take on No. 5 Michigan for The Game, the name ascribed to the 125-year-old rivalry between the two schools. On a snowy afternoon at the Big House, the Wolverines combined strong defense and ground game to win The Game for the first time in 10 years, earning a spot in the Big Ten title game and ultimately their first trip to the College Football Playoff.
If you ask Ohio State, everything the team has done in the last year has been a reaction to that result.
“We have scars,” head coach Ryan Day said Tuesday. “It motivated us all offseason.”
Junior offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr. was more specific about his feelings. “Looking up at the scoreboard, I felt like not only did we fail at our number one goal, but all the past people who kept the tradition of beating [Michigan]… I felt like I let them down,” he said Tuesday. “I’ve been holding onto that.”
Buckeyes tight end Cade Stover called it the “greatest rivalry in all of sports” during his media time on Tuesday, adding how personal it feels for players like him who grew up in Ohio.
The energy in Columbus this week stood in contrast to what emanated from Ann Arbor. “We’re very grateful to be in this position, to be playing this game,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday. “We’ve got a great group of players who are happy warriors. They’re on a happy mission.”
Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy seemed to embody that description on Tuesday, remarking that “the stars are aligning and it’s finally here, and we couldn’t be more excited.”
Harbaugh likened the game to “two superheroes going against each other,” which is not far off from what the statistics suggest: Ohio State (sitting at No. 2 in CFP rankings) is the second-most efficient passing offense in the country, led by Heisman favorite C.J. Stroud at quarterback. Michigan (No. 3 in CFP rankings) is the fifth-best passing defense in the nation, and the fourth-best rushing offense.
That rush game has been highlighted by junior running back Blake Corum, who’s fourth in the FBS with 1,457 rush yards and second in FBS with 18 rushing touchdowns this year. But Corum’s status for this Saturday is unknown after he left the Illinois game last week with an undisclosed injury to his left knee.
Harbaugh offered that Corum’s knee is “structurally good, which is good news,” but hasn’t commented on his ability to play against Ohio State. Day says his team is preparing as though Corum will play.
Even if Corum plays, he may not be at 100% health, likely increasing the workload for J.J. McCarthy in the passing game. Harbaugh says McCarthy “has the ability to turn water into wine” and that his message to his quarterback on Saturday will be to “have at it.”
While McCarthy’s accuracy has left some to be desired (his completion percentage hasn’t risen above 53% in November), he’s become a reliable steward of the ball this month with no turnovers since October 15. Fumbles have been an issue for McCarthy – he has five this season, all recovered by his teammates – and he can’t afford them against the Buckeyes’ defensive front.
Both teams looked like they had work to do in their Week 12 tilts: Ohio State was losing to Maryland at halftime and the Terrapins were within 3 points of the Buckeyes for most of the fourth quarter, while Michigan needed a last-minute field goal to survive Illinois.
“Some people call it a character builder, I called it a character revealer,” Harbaugh said of the close call.
Day reminded reporters that their number one goal is “to win and move on” in his postgame comments on Saturday. “There’s been times this year when we’ve had style points… And there’s going to be games we don’t jump out as fast as we would like to.”
With all the talk about gratitude at Michigan and of last year’s motivation at Ohio State, both sides know the stakes of this game. The winner takes the Big Ten East and should be a heavy favorite in the conference title game with an easy path to the playoff. There is a path for both teams to get into the playoff if this weekend’s game is close, but it’s narrow.
“There’s nothing quite like The Game,” Day told reporters. “This is our number one goal every season.”
“Winner takes all,” Harbaugh said.
Prediction: It feels tough to take Michigan in this one, on the road with their best player banged up at best, out at worst. The Wolverines defense should be able to slow down the Buckeyes’ offense, and the Michigan ground game should be able to wear down the Buckeyes defense, but ultimately Stroud and the OSU receivers break this open enough to win by 10, and to put the Over in play.
Iowa looks for second straight Big Ten West title in home game against Nebraska (Iowa -10.5, o/u 38.5)
Best Bets: Iowa -10.5, Under 38.5
The Iowa Hawkeyes are currently atop the Big Ten West standings, winning a tiebreaker against Purdue. A win against the Nebraska Cornhuskers this weekend will send the Hawkeyes to Indianapolis to play for the Big Ten title against the winner of Ohio State-Michigan.
The rivalry game between Iowa and Nebraska has been played on Black Friday since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2012. The game is known as the Heroes Game, with the Heroes Trophy up for grabs each season. Fans of each school are encouraged to nominate everyday citizens of Iowa and Nebraska who have performed extraordinary acts of heroism; one nominee from each state is invited to attend the game to receive on-field recognition, and their names are inscribed on the game trophy.
This is the final hurdle – and should be the lowest hurdle – for Iowa to clear in November. They’re on a four-game winning streak, including last weekend’s close 13-10 win on the road at Minnesota.
“We haven’t had many easy games and Saturday was an example of that,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday.
Nebraska, meanwhile, comes to Iowa City on a five-game losing streak and hasn’t scored more than two touchdowns in a game since October 15.
Iowa’s offense is even more unproductive – Nebraska ranks 11th in the conference in scoring offense while Iowa ranks 13th. The difference will come on the other side of the ball, where Iowa is fourth in the conference in scoring defense and Nebraska is 12th.
The Cornhuskers are coming off a particularly painful loss to Wisconsin, who scored a go-ahead touchdown with 35 seconds remaining after trailing the entire game.
“This one hurts,” Nebraska interim head coach Mickey Joseph said immediately after that loss.
Scoring woes or not, recent history says this game should be close. Iowa has won the last seven Heroes Trophies, but in the last four editions of the game, their margin of victory has been a touchdown or less.
That’s among the reasons Ferentz says he’s encouraged his players to focus on this week, rather than getting caught up in what’s at stake. “The worst thing that we could do is start thinking about stuff from the outside.”
With nothing but pride at stake for Nebraska, Joseph says his team is similarly single-minded. “We’ve got one mission left,” he said Tuesday, in what could be his last week in his post. “I expect and I know our boys will come out and give full effort this last game.”
Prediction: Iowa’s offense is far from standing out nationally (or even in the conference), but it has shown improvement in the last month, especially against teams with weak defenses like Nebraska. Iowa covers at home and the Under is in play, as it nearly always is when Iowa is involved.
More Week 13 Predictions
The team at NBC Sports EDGE has taken a deep dive on this week’s Big Ten slate and are serving up their favorite plays for the week. Here’s a preview:
Michigan State @ Penn State: Game Spread Michigan State +18 (-110)
Vaughn Dalzell (@VmoneySports)
I hate this bet, but Michigan State would hate to lose out on Bowl Eligibility, and this is the last chance after losing in double overtime to Indiana last week (39-31).
Penn State is 9-2 and has its bowl eligibility secured. MSU covered six of the past nine meetings with Penn State including a 30-27 win last year in East Lansing. The Spartans have won outright just once in their last three trips to Happy Valley – 21-17 in 2018. However, we just need Michigan State to cover.
MSU has been bowl-eligible for the past four seasons (excluding the Covid season). They will want to continue that tradition or Mel Tucker could start to hear footsteps even though he signed that massive extension late last season.
This is the final Big Ten regular-season game of the season, so expect some weird things to happen, like an MSU backdoor cover or potential win. Penn State has covered five-straight spreads entering this game, but the past three have come versus Rutgers, Maryland and Indiana. MSU is a step up and has motivation to pull off the upset.
For more Big Ten analysis and Week 13 advice from the EDGE team, click here. And if you’re looking for a deeper dive into Week 13 in College Football from a Bettor’s Perspective, join NBC’s team of college analysts at 11am Eastern on Friday and Saturday for an NCAA College Football Betting Preview Q&Aon the NBC Sports YouTube page.
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