Welcome to Hate Week

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    the weekend when lots of FBS teams play their biggest rivals. This college football season hasn’t really been great, but there’s something in the big-name rivalry games every year. Regardless of how few teams are in Playoff http://www.falconsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-brandon-fusco-jersey contention, everybody has something to play for in rivalry weekend.While there’s plenty of debate on the best rivalries played each year over Thanksgiving weekend, here’s a question: which conference has the best overall group?Let’s run through how each Power 5 league does Hate Week, listing the most notable annual games.Big Ten Illinois vs. NorthwesternPurdue vs. IndianaMinnesota vs. WisconsinMichigan vs. Ohio StateI don’t have to sell you on Michigan-Ohio State. That game stands on its own, whether a fourth down spot is determining a Playoff berth or not. Illinois and Northwestern is a football game. Minnesota-Wisconsin has a damn axe. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty ImagesAnd talking about Purdue-Indiana is an excuse to bring up a game so petty that, besides being one of the most-played games in the history of the sport, also involves one of our blogs BOFAing another. SECMississippi State vs. Ole Miss Arkansas vs. Missouri?Auburn vs. AlabamaTennessee vs. VanderbiltIf you want Egg Bowl context, we made a TV show about how wild that got, and it has literally nothing to do with what’s happening on the field. The Iron Bowl has all the craziness of the Egg Bowl off the field, but with actual epic season-altering games recently on the field. Arkansas and Missouri is the SEC’s extremely desperate attempt to create a rivalry game where there isn’t one (there’s even a fun trophy), and Tennessee-Vanderbilt is a series defined by the fact that the Dores got most of their 32 wins by 1927. ACCVirginia vs. Virginia TechNC State vs. North CarolinaThe North Carolina-NC State game features one team that cares way more about another sport, and out Virginia Tech blog says this about the Commonwealth Cup:ACC and SEC gamesFlorida State vs. FloridaGeorgia Tech vs. GeorgiaKentucky vs. Louisville South Carolina vs. ClemsonWe can’t really attribute these games to either league. They hang in conference limbo. Louisville and Kentucky is a basketball-only hate fest, but the football game has enough hatred there make it fun. Florida-Florida State hasn’t had national stakes for both teams since the ‘90s, but there’s a bowl streak on the line for the Noles this year and Florida’s offense is actually watchable — sometimes. Clemson-South Carolina has been hilariously unbalanced through the years, but it’s an agrarian culture clash. Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate (between the Dawgs and the Jackets) often gives us horticultural animus, and that cannot be ignored. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty ImagesBig 12 炉\_(銉?_/炉At least the Baylor-Texas Tech Bu-TT Bowl’s here, because nothing else is any more, from a true rivalry standpoint. Bedlam got moved due to the new Big 12 Championship, and Texas-Texas A&M got moved due to conference realignment.Pac-12Oregon vs. Oregon StateWashington vs. Washington StateBYU vs. UtahArizona State vs. ArizonaNotre Dame vs. USCThank God the Holy War is on Hate Week because oh boy is it a spite-filled game. Who knows how many Holy Wars we’ll get in the future, so let’s treasure the 2018 version. It’s a rivalry game with real religious implications, and what could be better than that?The Civil War, Territorial Cup Logan Paulsen Jersey , and the Apple Cup are good in-state battles, and while Notre Dame-USC features tons of history, if you’re looking for actual hatred, it’s not exactly the place to go (and every other year it’s played in October because USC got too cold in the ‘60s).Rivalry Week really has something for everyone. If you’re looking for real good in-state wars, the SEC, ACC, or Pac-12 is probably your bag. The SEC has incredible off-field drama to spice its games up. The ACC has, well, some games outside of the ones it shares with the SEC. The Big Ten has tons of trophies, and the Pac-12 manages to have religion as a stake. And that’s before we even get into the annual rivalries in the Group of 5 conferences. Le’Veon Bell’s return was in question throughout the first nine weeks of the NFL season. And now that his Steelers have improved to 6-2-1 without him in the lineup, it appears he’s content with putting his time in Pittsburgh in his rear view. The latest report said that the team is not expecting him to show up by the Nov. 13 deadline. Multiple sources have reported Bell won’t rejoin the Steelers in 2018, opting instead to sit out the entire season as the result of a contract impasse with the only team he’s ever known.Bell was originally expected to report to the Pittsburgh Steelers during their Week 7 bye, but decided to continue his months-long holdout. Then, there was a chance he’d show up right after the trade deadline — but that didn’t come to fruition either. But as the Nov. 13 deadline to show up at practice or be forced to miss the entire season, Bell looked to be on his way to Pittsburgh.However, Adam Schefter reported that Bell still hasn’t had any contact with the Steelers. And Bell later tweeted a more puzzling (and upside down) message that “I’m not apologizing for what I believe is right.”But Steelers owner Art Rooney said the team knew Bell is back in Pittsburgh and they expected he’d report to the team before his Tuesday deadline. Instead, it appears the veteran tailback is set to prove him wrong.Why is Bell’s decision a big deal?Bell has been in a standoff with the reigning AFC North champions. He sat out through training camp and the entirety of the preseason in protest of his current contract, a one-year deal via the franchise tag that denies him the long-term guarantees for which he’s been seeking. While he was expected to return for the start of the regular season, he’s now missed more than half the year, forfeiting 10 weeks of paychecks in the process.The Steelers have fluctuated in his absence. Pittsburgh started its season at 1-2-1, but have since won four straight games to rise to the top of the AFC North. Bell’s replacement, James Conner, has been a big part of that revival. Conner had nearly identical rushing stats in the Steelers’ wins in Weeks 5 and 6. He had 21 carries for 110 yards and two touchdowns against the Falcons, and 19 carries for 111 yards and two touchdowns against the Bengals — something Bell took notice of:That was a nice bounce-back for the second-year player Youth Keanu Neal Jersey , who had an impressive Week 1 showing, but just 97 rushing yards the following three weeks combined. It continued in Weeks 8 and 9, where he pushed his 100+ yard rushing streak to four straight games. Could Bell have earned a smooth reunion in PGH?Bell’s holdout drew the ire of his teammates and coaches when Week 1 practices got underway and the running back still hadn’t shown up. The team’s offensive linemen were especially perturbed by the situation, upset that Bell hadn’t communicated with them:General manager Kevin Colbert was less pointed, but he still released a statement to say that he was “disappointed” Bell hadn’t shown up. Not everyone was with Bell, though. Antonio Brown showed his support for his teammate on Twitter:“No one wins when the family feuds,” Brown said, via ESPN. “At the end of the day, we’re family.”Bell has also received support from other players in the league who recognize that the running back fighting for a better contract is a good situation in the long run for players hoping to get a larger slice of the pie. When Earl Thomas’ public feud with the Seahawks ended with a broken leg in Week 4, Bell posted on Instagram that he’ll “continue to be the ‘bad guy’ for ALL of us.”Both Bell and Thomas are redefining the way players leverage their skills for money and it could be a monumental moment if the running back gets what he’s aiming for when the 2019 offseason comes.“It sucks having to sit out football,” Bell told ESPN. “I want to play. I want to win games and the playoffs.”But I’ve gotta take this stand. Knowing my worth and knowing I can tear a ligament or get surgery at any time, I knew I couldn’t play 16 games with 400 or more touches.”Bell didn’t expect much drama if he were to return in 2018, but it’s unclear how his teammates would respond to a potential comeback in 2019.“I’ve got a lot of good relationships with players on the team,” Bell told ESPN. “They probably think I backdoored them. But I think they understand the decision. At the end of the day, they said what they said in the media. I’m not really too upset about it. It was a little disappointing, but I understand their side. When I talk to them, I hope they get that side of it.”Another question, in the increasingly unlikely scenario where he does rejoin the team, is whether or not he’d be ready to contribute immediately.“When he gets here, the level of overall conditioning and readiness, those are equations that we’ll weigh,” Tomlin said of Bell at the beginning of September.Not coming back during the bye, cost Bell time to get reinvolved with the team. Plus, with Conner’s recent performances Youth Austin Hooper Jersey , the Steelers didn’t need Bell as much as they did a month ago.His teammates — and coach — have little desire to talk about Bell right now.“I don’t want to waste the energy,” Steelers guard David DeCastro told NFL.com after Week 9. “I have to block some of the best players on the best defense in the world. Do you think I’m going to worry about a guy who’s not here?”How did Bell and the Steelers get to this point?Bell was set to hit free agency in 2017 after playing out all four years of his rookie contract, but the Steelers have shown little interest in committing long-term salary to their top tailback. At least not with the numbers that Bell is looking to get.Pittsburgh retained Bell via the franchise tag last spring, signing him to a one-year, $12.12 million deal that kept him in black and gold through the season — a deal that came months after the club locked fellow offensive standout Antonio Brown into a four-year, $68 million deal.Bell wasn’t happy with his new short-term deal. He sat out the majority of training camp and the preseason, refusing to sign his franchise tender until Sept. 1. That gave him nine days to prepare for the team’s season opener in Cleveland — a game where he was held to just 32 yards on 10 carries.While he’d eventually find his footing in an All-Pro campaign, his performance wasn’t enough to convince the Steelers to pony up for Bell’s asking price. Pittsburgh once again tagged him; this time for $14.54 million. And once again, Bell held out — this time, perhaps the entire season — in order to avoid injury in advance of finally hitting the free agent market in 2019. For every game Bell sits out, it costs him a game check worth $853,000 each. But even though Bell will miss the entire year, he won’t be able to be retained at the same franchise tag price next season. It will cost the Steelers the average of the league’s top five salaries — an estimated $25-26 million — to franchise Bell again next spring.Where do the Steelers go from here?Pittsburgh has been insulating itself for Bell’s departure over the past 18 months, selecting Conner in the third round of last year’s draft.Tomlin has praised Conner’s progress, saying he had gone “from a rookie that missed time due to soft-tissue injuries and lack of general readiness to a guy that’s done the things that we’ve outlined.”Bell got exactly 10 times the carries Conner did last fall (320 to 32), but the then-rookie performed well in limited action, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Conner has shown he can be the team’s workhorse of the future, but Bell would be a welcomed addition to a Steelers team that finds itself right back atop the AFC North.If he shows up by Nov. 13, Bell will play under the tag for the second straight year. If not, he’ll miss the 2018 season and the Steelers could use the transition tag on him next season. If they choose not to, Bell will hit free agency in the spring.

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