It's not rivalry week, but these matchups mean something

It isn’t rivalry week just yet, but there are some games being played this weekend with rekindled pasts and rivalry aspirations. They’re important games, just not as big as the main rivalries we see closer to the end of the season.

Some of these matchups have long, storied pasts that have either dwindled or fallen off throughout the years, but they’ll be on full showcase this weekend. Pitt and Penn State, for example, have played 97 times, going all the way back to 1893.

The two took a 16-year break after the 2000 game (which Pitt won 12-0), but they are now back on and better than ever.

The programs have a history with each other, naturally, since they’re in the same state, but this game used to have so much meaning that it almost impacted a player’s wedding.

Tray Crayton, a defensive back for Pitt in 1998, decided that since his family was coming to Pittsburgh for the first time to see him play in this important rivalry game, he and his girlfriend should get married after the game.

“I put it on that day because the team was confident we were going to win,” Crayton said. “There would have been no better feeling than to beat Penn State and get married to my high school sweetheart after the game.”

Crayton ended up deciding a little less than two days before the big game that they should wait to get married. He and his girlfriend moved the wedding date, and Penn State eventually won 20-13. While the couple did not ultimately get married, they did have a son together, who is now 22 years old.

While no one is getting married this time around, this year’s game still has some importance because Pitt won last season, 42-39. Had Penn State won, the Nittany Lions would have had a very good argument to get into the College Football Playoff. This season, No. 4 Penn State is hoping for a different result on both accounts, and it all starts with this game.

They might have some stats in their favor too, as the last three winners have been the home team and the team with the most rushing yards. The game is being played in Happy Valley, and Saquon Barkley is in the backfield, ready to run.

Another rivalry that got lost for a while is Clemson and Auburn. If you’re betting on this one, take the Tigers. You’re welcome.

No. 3-ranked Clemson is looking to win four straight against No. 13 Auburn for the first time since the series started more than 118 years ago. Auburn has had win streaks of 12 and three and dominated the past 50 years, with 14 straight wins from 1952 to 2010.

These two have been playing forever, but not every game this weekend has such storied history between opponents. That doesn’t mean there aren’t big implications for bragging rights, though, because a lot is still on the line despite the history.

Oklahoma vs. Ohio State, for instance, has some big ramifications. These two teams have met only four times, but every time they have played against each other, both programs have been ranked in the AP top 15.

That’s the case this year as well, as Ohio State is No. 2 and Oklahoma sits at No. 5. The loser of this game is going to have a much tougher path to the playoff, and the winner will be able to add a great win to its résumé.

Georgia and Notre Dame don’t have the same playoff outlook right now, but this game is building hype and intrigue as Saturday creeps closer. They have only played twice, so there isn’t really on-field history there as much as context for this season.

Both fan bases are hoping to make that jump forward, and this game could be the first step for whoever comes out on top. Plus, there is a little anxious excitement heading into the game from some of the offensive performances in week 1.

Georgia had 221 rush yards and three touchdowns in its game against Appalachian State, while Notre Dame had three players rush for at least 100 yards. That was the first time that has happened for the Irish in at least 60 seasons.

However you slice it, these are some exciting games taking place this weekend.

New rivalries forming, past rivalries rekindling the hatred — either way, there are some big implications and big rewards on the line for the winners.

Mini-rivalry stats quiz (click to flip)

Last-minute learning

Don’t just take our word for it that the games this week matter. Let the players, coaches and fans tell you themselves.

All along the 969 miles down Route 66 that separate Columbus, Ohio, from Norman, Oklahoma, Ryan McGee stops to talk to fans of both teams to try to figure out how two top-10 all-time programs can have a rivalry that barely plays out on the field.

When Auburn and Clemson meet this weekend, the quaterback will be the main focus, no matter which team has the ball. Chris Low ponders how Kelly Bryant and Jarrett Stidham might handle the spotlight.

Since conferences grew their geographic footprints and took control of the postseason, Ivan Maisel writes that Notre Dame has become just another face in the crowd.

Oregon will be wearing sweet new uniforms, custom-designed by three talented, young cancer overcomers. Edward Aschoff explains how their ideas came to life .

Kyle Bonagura looks 10 years into the past to the time a Jim Harbaugh-coached Stanford team upset mighty USC.

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