The first college football games on Saturday officially kicked off just after noon, November 19, but plenty of fireworks had already gone off to indicate the weekend would be full of surprises. The full slate of games did not disappoint. In the wake of everything we saw on a weekend many saw as a throwaway in the Great BCS Race of 2011, the expectations for Rivalry Weekend have changed… and ticket prices everywhere are dropping like Top 5 teams.
Neither of the undefeated teams lost as #1 LSU destroyed a decimated Ole Miss team in Oxford and then #11 Houston (now #8) beat cross-town rival Southern Methodist. However, a number of other highly-ranked squads did lose to shake up the rankings: #2 Oklahoma State, #4 Oregon, #5 Oklahoma and #7 Clemson all fell the week before facing their “real” rivals. So what’s it all mean?
Just a few days ago, December third's installment of Bedlam – Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, this year in Stillwater – represented the final hurdle for an impressive Cowboys squad on the precipice of its first BCS Championship game versus LSU. After all, the offseason’s Big XII defections left the conference without a meddlesome title game to get in the way. Torching the boys from Norman would set coach Mike Gundy (I’m over 40!), quarterback Brandon Weeden (older than all-everything NFL QB Aaron Rodgers, in case you were interested) and wide receiver Justin Blackmon (soon to be playing on Sundays) on a path to New Orleans.
Well, Iowa State had other plans Friday night. Although Oklahoma State looked strong through the early minutes of the second half, the Cyclones held on defense and staged an overtime-forcing comeback which they won in two extra frames. Goodbye, undefeated season. Not to be upstaged, the Sooners lost Saturday on a last second (ok, last eight seconds) touchdown pass from the dynamic RG3 (Robert Griffin III, if you’re still behind on the 2011 NCAA abbreviation book) as they attempted to play for OT by letting the clock bleed out. Guess what, Oklahoma, calling a timeout when a Heisman-worthy QB has the ball is probably a bad move if your whole intent is to not lose. Write that down. Griffin scrambled, stayed patient, and winged a 40-yard dart into the corner of the end zone to win the game.
In a matter of 24 hours, Bedlam 2011 fell from a #2 vs #5 BCS play-in (it’s possible Oklahoma would’ve finished at #2 overall this year with a win versus OSU and losses by Oregon and Alabama or LSU) to somewhat of an afterthought on the national scene, given the SEC West’s domination of the standings with #1 LSU, #2 Alabama, and #3 Arkansas. Now ranked fourth, Oklahoma State could still make it to the championship game if all three SEC West team implode during this weekend and in the subsequent SEC title game.
Ninth-ranked Oklahoma has two losses and now must fight for an at-large BCS berth. Anticipation of what was the hottest ticket in town has now fallen sharply. Ticket prices don’t lie. Prior to Friday’s loss, the average ticket for Bedlam was selling for $369; less than 48 hours later, that average had plummeted to $262. Sellers holding out for another price bump instead saw 28.9% of the average ticket value disappear overnight. What a nightmare.
In addition, Oklahoma’s game versus Iowa State for this weekend have fallen 50% from an $88 average to just $44. Perhaps that’s a perfect scenario for Cyclones fans interested in taking a road trip to see if their team can pull off the season sweep against Oklahoma schools!
The Civil War
Oregon, too, was a highly-ranked team with aspirations to make the BCS Championship and earn a rematch against LSU to avenge their week one loss. As they welcomed BCS-ineligible USC to Autzen Stadium and looked to build on the late-season momentum a thorough defeat of Stanford had just fed last week, the Ducks suited up in their championship uniforms. But what has become a theme this season for top 10 teams stuck Oregon at the last second: you need a kicker. Alabama suffered this fate. So did Boise State. This time, it was Oregon who couldn’t quite finish their strong second-half comeback because a kicker fell short (err… wide). So much for those “Who deserves a rematch more?!” discussions.
Now, Oregon is still playing for something this weekend. If they win, regardless of what the aforementioned Stanford Cardinal do, Oregon will claim a spot in the inaugural Pac 12 Championship game and a chance for a BCS Bowl berth. The absence of championship hopes, though, have taken the wind from beneath the wings of Ducks fans looking to sell their seats. On Friday, the average selling price for Civil War tickets was $181. Following Saturday’s late-night loss to USC, Civil War prices have fallen to $94 – a 48.4% drop in the average sale. Great value is still available in sections 33 and 28 where you can find lower-bowl seats for about $120, only 27% more than average.
This long-standing rivalry game doesn’t have quite the same luster as the other two featured games here because Oregon State has been such a disappointment this season. Prices were soaring before most likely because of the rowdy Oregon home crowd looking for their last chance to watch the Ducks first-hand during a second consecutive run at the title. Now, with that missing, some fair-weather fans may be looking to sell off their tickets and cut losses. Could this lead to more orange in the crowd, or will Oregon’s hangover be manageable enough to keep loyal home fans in the vacated seats?
What (unfortunately) stands as the surprise everyone saw coming over the weekend was the terrible performance by once high-powered Clemson. Oft-ridiculed for their annual collapse – to the point that “Clemsoned” became a verb in analyst circles for playing far-below potential – the Tigers turned in a doozy on the road in Raleigh, NC, versus North Carolina State. The team which had a top-five ranking as late as October 23 has now lost two of its last three games, with this latest defeat a 24-point thrashing by the just-now-bowl-eligible Wolfpack. Already locked in as one of the two teams in Charlotte’s ACC Championship game 12/3, this reeling Clemson squad must now travel to Columbia and face the SEC’s South Carolina Gamecocks. What once was seen as the biggest risk to Clemson’s undefeated season is now going to be a much more common chapter of this fierce in-state rivalry.
Part of the game’s problem lies with the home team, too, for Gamecock enthusiasm took a hit last weekend when SEC East foe Georgia defeated Kentucky and locked a spot of their own in the SEC title game. This denied South Carolina a second consecutive appearance even though the Gamecocks defeated the Bulldogs in week two. So now, in a game where the lower-ranked team often takes great delight in trying to spoil the foe’s BCS aspirations, both teams are already locked into (or out of) a postseason position and missing their most potent offensive weapons (sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore in Columbia and freshman wideout Sammy Watkins for Clemson).
This has expectedly cause a ticket price drop in South Carolina, too, but far less than what we’ve seen elsewhere. Even with all of the negative energy for Clemson the past few weeks, it is still a matchup of Top 20 BCS programs and the opportunity for a whole offseason of bragging rights, conference titles and bowl bids be damned. Since Saturday’s loss by the Tigers, average Carolina-Clemson ticket prices have fallen from $181 to $160, just an 11.6% drop. I guess these fans take more delight in playing spoiler than those in Oregon. You can get still get a great deal on seats in the upper deck for as low as $107 – 33% below average!
College Football Rivalry Week
The last full slate of regular season games always features some historic matchups with a great deal of upset potential. When players and programs that are so familiar with each other face off, just about anything can happen. It'll take some very unexpected shifting, though, to see a waterfall of ticket demand like this, though.
Chances are, though, you won’t see any pre-game surprises like Lee Corso's F-bomb on College Gameday. If you have any questions about getting tickets for any Rivalry Week matchup, contact us on twitter @SeatGeek or write email@example.com. Enjoy the games!