College Football's Greatest Traditional Rivalries

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College Football's Greatest Traditional Rivalries
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

These slides have not been arranged into any exact order of greatest-to-least or least-to-greatest. They have been selected as representatives of the most important rivalries in college football. There will undoubtedly be debate about what was left out. 

In these 10, there are too many great rivalries to subject them to a ranked score based on artistic merit. Besides, I do not have the East German judge or the French judge to cheat on someone's behalf and thus legitimize the results. 

I may be preaching to the choir here, as the saying goes, but I hope "outsiders" take notice. I think the virtues of college athletics bear repeating to the largest number possible, almost like a manifesto. 

College football is not professional football. And if it is merely the farm system for the professionals—as so many cynics and critics indict it for being—then it is the only under-league to put on a better show than the act above it. 

College football is not the blanket corporate product of the NFL, where the only thing discernible between the presentations around the country, television or in person, is the weather late in the season.

I have been around some, and the game day experience at an NFL stadium is nearly interchangeable with its next closest brethren, with few exceptions. Green Bay, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and New Orleans—rural teams, except for the latter, with immense pride and history, except for the latter—can claim something of the spirit of a Saturday at a college football game. 

New Orleans made the list because of the music of the place, and because the local color and food and culture of that ancient river settlement set it apart.  

This is because college football remains intensely regional. It looks and sounds and smells different everywhere you go. The game is different, the emphasis between offense and defense, the stakes each conferences plays for, change with the time zones and the points on the compass. 

No one would claim, for example, that having oysters, boiled lobster and crab with cold local beer on a boat floating on Lake Washington, Seattle, looking at the vaunted decks of Husky Stadium and waiting for the afternoon game to begin, was anything like having gumbo, suckling pig and fried alligator at Baton Rouge on the fields in front of Tiger Stadium waiting for the sun to set and the madness to begin.  

So there is also something in college athletics for the geography enthusiast, special places with unique ways of enjoying life that might go barely noticed otherwise. Towns and cities like Corvallis, Berkeley, Fayetteville,South Bend, Tuscaloosa,Gainesville, Chapel Hill, Happy Valley, to name but a few. 

And what person, once they've experienced it, prefers watching football without the pulsing back-beat of the bass drum and the sharp snap of the snare? The beat that carries a college football game through its courses.

And there is real kinship in the silver tongues of the trumpets and the big brass sound of the band paying the fight song as a stadium filled with say, 103,000 people, sings along. 

College football certainly is an almost primal gathering, primitive in its basic tribal aspect. An afternoon watching the ritualized cheers, listening to the rhythmic chants, seeing the strange moves will convince the outsider there is some kind of atavism to the game. But it is done out of pure enthusiasm, which is contagious.  

It is also an aspirational game, played by the young, who are still on their journey and not arrived at their destination, making it a romantic undertaking. It is played, mostly, with the special passion, enthusiasm and pure love of the game that people in their late teenage years and early 20s have. 

It is also played for pride in a university, its uniform, its traditions, its stadium and fans, and for one another—passions often passed down through a family over generations. It is played, most of all, for memories. 

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