Top 10 College Football Rivalries

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Last month, I compiled a top ten list of the best college football traditions. In that article, I mentioned how traditions are what make college football great, but what may make the collegiate game even more unique are the rivalries. Yeah, I know, the Ravens and the Steelers hate each other and so do the Packers and the Bears. But college rivalries are more deeply rooted than those of the NFL. They stir up more passion and, in many cases, lead to more controversy. So, without further ado, here is my list of the ten greatest rivalries in the history of college football:


10) Miami – Florida State

Although these two teams have fallen off a bit in the last few years, this is still one of the fiercest rivalries in the South. Year after year, the winner of this game used to be one of the favorites to win it all. Even though that may not be the case these days, each year’s game is critical for recruiting within the state of Florida. FSU fans will not like to relive the following:


9) Harvard – Yale

You know you have a long-standing rivalry when the game is called, well, “The Game.” These days, this rivalry has no national implications, but that was not always the case. In fact, this game decided many national championships … in the late 1800’s. But that still shows the longevity of this rivalry, which not only stands the test of time, but the test of one of the greatest pranks ever pulled:



In a football town without a professional football team, this rivalry means everything. Even though USC has had the upper hand in recent memory, this rivalry is not an absolute blowout, with USC leading the all-time series 43-28-7. Students from both schools are as passionate as they come, and this leads to vandalism and fights, two signs of a great rivalry. Oh yeah, the players fight, too:


7) Georgia – Georgia Tech

They call this rivalry, “Clean Old-Fashioned Hate,” and that is exactly what it is. This is one of the great inter-conference battles held each year, and the week leading up to the game is nothing short of crazy. In fact, Georgia Tech gives a brief (and not so friendly) shout out to their rival in their fight song:


6) Notre Dame – USC

USC’s second installment on the list pairs them up with the team that everyone loves to hate, Notre Dame; but USC may just hate them more than any other school. The battle for the “Jeweled Shillelagh” (don’t ask me what that is) takes place each and every year, and it too has had many national championship implications. The origins of the rivalry go all the way back to Knute Rockne and his days at Notre Dame, but the rivalry lives on today. Here we have Reggie Bush’s infamous “push” (at 2:10):


5) Notre Dame – Michigan

The Irish appear for the second time on the list against a team that considers them to be their secondary rival. Yet, this rivalry cracks the top five. How is that so? It is all about history. As the story goes, students from Michigan traveled down to South Bend to teach Notre Dame how to play football. At first, the games were lopsided in Michigan’s favor, but Notre Dame eventually narrowed the gap. In 1947, the two schools disputed over who was the rightful champion, and that rift continues to this day. Here are some highlights from this year’s game, which ended up being a thriller:


4) Oklahoma – Texas

Some people may be angry about position of this series, but in my opinion it is hard to have the best rivalry when both teams share other rivalries that equal this one. Oklahoma has its annual “Bedlam” game with Oklahoma State, and Texas and Texas A&M share a similar hatred. But still, it is impossible to overlook the “Red River Rivalry.” This game is played at a neutral site every year, and not one rivalry has had the implications on a national landscape that this one has had in the past decade. Here we have legendary coach Barry Switzer and his memories of coaching against the ‘Horns:


3) Michigan – Ohio State

If I had made this list five years ago, this one may have topped it. Even though it has been bumped down the ladder, it is still clearly one of the most intense rivalries in all of sports. Michigan has had their on-the-field problems, and OSU has carried their problems off the field, but the essence of any rivalry is the hatred that is engrained in the hearts of the fans, and for that reason, this has to be in the top three. The last truly great game between these two was in 2006 when it was number one versus number two. Enjoy:


2) Alabama – Auburn

The “Iron Bowl” comes in at number two on my list because it has all of the hatred and history that Michigan-Ohio State has, but it has produced the last two national champions. From the days of Bear Bryant, to Bo Jackson to the present day, this game is always close. It has decided regional bragging rights, conference championships and the occasional national championship. Even when one of these two teams has a down year, this game is still guaranteed to be close, kind of like last year’s installment:


1) Army – Navy

I may take the flak for this being number one, but I will stand by my decision. Not only is this game about as old as football itself, it is a slice of America. It combines two teams that downright hate each other and, at the same time, have the utmost respect for each other. I am all for trash talk and the occasional altercation, and those sorts of things often make a rivalry, but not this one. This game embodies college football. If both teams go 3-8 this year, I don’t care. I am going to watch. Neither team has won a national championship since the 1940s, but frankly, they don’t need to for this rivalry to be compelling. Ladies and gentleman, the best rivalry in the history of college football:

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