The one week a year with the power to stir the soul of even the most apathetic college football fan is here—at long last, we’ve reached Rivalry Week. It’s thrilling when the matchups come with postseason implications, but the stakes feel high regardless. For the players, it’s a chance to perform in a way that will resonate for years to come. We’re highlighting the athletes whose names could very well be synonymous with their respective rivalries when we look back on 2018.
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
We’ll start with the obvious, cause heck, the Tide’s sophomore signal-caller seems to be defining the whole season. In a world where the Bama defense is typically the team’s calling card and the quarterback position is something of an afterthought (Jake Coker, anyone?), Tagovailoa has been busy rewriting the school record books and could become the first Alabama QB to win a Heisman trophy. Stranger things have happened in the Iron Bowl, but with an Auburn squad that’s essentially irrelevant this season, Tagovailoa appears poised to shine in his first rivalry game as starter.
TaQuon Marshall, QB, Georgia Tech
While we were all wondering what happened to Bryce Love and the Stanford ground game, the Yellow Jackets were quietly racking up enough rush yards per game to lead the nation. That’s largely thanks to the scrambling quarterback tandem of Marshall and fellow part-time starter Tobias Oliver, who are one and two, respectively, on the team in rushing. While Marshall is inconsistent as a passer, he should be able to take full advantage of Georgia’s rather porous run defense. After all, what’s a better motivator than spoiling Playoff dreams?