NCAA Football: The 10 Most Intense Rivalries
Among the many facets that make college football the greatest game in the land, the best attribute may be our passion-fueled love to hate.
Yes, the only thing better than the bottomless love we feel for our own team is the ironic ecstasy associated with hating another.
This all leads to one of the most confounding questions in the history of American sport. Is it more enjoyable to watch your college football team reign victorious, or is it more rewarding to pay witness to your biggest rival going down in flames?
And this is what the following slideshow is all about; loving, respecting and celebrating the hate.
The following presentation reels off the 10 most intense rivalries in college football; they’re not the oldest, the coolest, the most traditional, the most-well known or the most watched — they are the biggest hate fests in the land.
And this is why we love the game.
Oregon vs. Oregon State
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The Civil War has been pitting the Ducks against the Beavers on the gridiron since 1894 and, all in all, the two teams have met 115 times in history.
Highlights from the slew of wild incidents directly resulting from the rivalry are a 1960 incident involving the alleged kidnapping of the Oregon State homecoming queen by Oregon fans and then an all-out melee that broke out between opposing fans after the 1972 meeting.
Overall, Oregon leads Oregon State in the all-time series 59-46-10, and the matchup is made more intense due to both the in-state and in-conference nature of the game.
Texas vs. Texas A&M
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Though the Aggies' move to the SEC for the 2012 season effectively ends the 117-year-old hate fest between Texas and Texas A&M, it will likely always be regarded as one of the most intense rivalries in the history of the game.
Beyond the aspect of the big brother (played by the Longhorns) vs. the little brother (a role tailor-made for the Aggies) scenario, this grudge match has always awarded one team bragging rights for a full calendar year. In a state so obsessed with football, it’s a a matter of life or death to show up to the office, Christmas Day or a family reunion with a win tucked neatly under your belt.
If you have any questions about the Aggies vs. Longhorns rivalry being worthy of this list, check out the snippets from the school fight songs listed below.
From A&M’s War Hymn: “Good-bye to Texas University, So long to the Orange and the White” and “The Eyes of Texas are upon you…That is the song they sing so well, So good-bye to Texas University, We’re going to beat you all to…”
And, from the Longhorns’ Texas Fight, which was actually written as a lyrical rebuff to the A&M song: “Texas Fight! Texas Fight! And it’s goodbye to A&M.”
Texas leads the all-time series between the two 76-37-5.
Alabama vs. Auburn
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You would be hard-pressed to find a more intense modern college football rivalry than Alabama vs. Auburn.
This one has it all: history, current impact that is substantial on a national scale, an in-state, in-conference and in-division nature, and then fans that are simply prepared to do whatever it takes to keep the flame turned up.
The Iron Bowl has been a football headliner in the state of Alabama since 1893, but it’s interesting to note that the Tigers and Tide didn’t meet from 1908-47 so the meat of the rivalry didn’t kickoff until 1948.
This is the only grudge match on our list that can claim that its last three winners went on to become the BCS national champions.
Alabama leads the all-time series 41-34-1.
Missouri vs. Kansas
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Some folks will no doubt disagree with the Border War’s worthy presence on our list and will wonder why it supplanted a vast array of rivalries with more media punch and modern meaning.
If you want evidence that this selection belongs among the elite of the intense, let’s start with longevity. Up until Missouri’s split with the Big 12 after the 2011 campaign, the Border War was the longest continuously running rivalry in major college football, running for a healthy 120 years.
Next, you’ve got a state-to-state hate fest that stretches back to the Civil War when Missouri and Kansas participated in several rounds of brutal, inter-state guerrilla warfare based on the lingering question of whether the then-Territory of Kansas would ultimately become a slave state or an anti-slave state.
Then you’ve got one of the most closely contested grudge matches on our list with Missouri narrowly leading Kansas in the all-time series 57-54-9.
No, this is not Alabama vs. Auburn or Michigan vs. Ohio State, especially if you’re looking at things through a “national perspective” lens, but these two fanbases hate one another just as much (or more) than any other duo on our list.
Alabama State vs. Alabama A&M
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Dipping back into the depths of football greatness that is the state of Alabama, we honor an in-state, in-conference and in-division rivalry from the Yellowhammer State that is not Alabama vs. Auburn.
Yes, the FCS (formerly Division I-AA) Alabama State Hornets and Alabama A&M Hornets have met 76 times since 1924 in a little grudge match commonly referred to as the Magic City Classic.
The two schools are natural regional rivals, located a mere three hours apart via I-65, and split the difference every year when they meet halfway in Birmingham’s Legion field for a very closely contested rivalry.
What makes this meeting meaningful, and therefore intense, is the fact that both teams are SWAC East members who have won nine of the 13 divisional titles up for grabs since the league split in 1999. When these two close neighbors meet, they’re more than likely deciding who will represent their division in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship.
It’s long-standing, it’s meaningful, it’s regional and just because ESPN doesn’t cover it every year doesn’t mean that it isn’t one of the most intense matchups in the game.
Alabama A&M holds a paper thin advantage over Alabama State in the all-time series 37-36-3.
Florida vs. Georgia
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Though not the official name of the annual grudge match between Florida and Georgia, “The World’s Largest Cocktail Party” has been serving up its palatable wares since 1915. But the rivalry pitting Gator vs. Bulldog is much bigger than one of the best tailgates of the year; it’s also generally one of the most meaningful football games of any given season.
Both Florida and Georgia have been members of the SEC since it was first formed in 1933, and then both have been associated with the SEC’s Eastern division since the conference subdivided in 1992.
This means that that this rivalry has always had the “meaningful” factor working for it since it pits two traditional powerhouses against one another who are usually playing for something bigger than the game itself.
To illustrate, of the 20 SEC title games played since the split in 1992, 14 had either Florida or Georgia representing the East division, and nine times, one of the two ultimately won the conference championship. This hate fest has always had implications far beyond over served co-eds, crying while mascara streaks down their faces.
Georgia leads the all-time series between the two 47-40-2, and of the 89 meetings, the game has been played away from Jacksonville, Fla. only 10 times.
Army vs. Navy
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The pageantry and patriotism associated with what many consider as one of the greatest rivalries in all of sport sometimes overshadows the fact that Army vs. Navy is as intense as any matchup on our list.
True, maybe the majority of the viewing public doesn’t have a horse in the race and perhaps these guys aren’t playing for all the marbles, but I guarantee you this game means everything to the guys playing it and the student bodies and alumni bases watching it.
The Army/Navy rivalry is different not just because we’re dealing with kids who are ultimately going on to serve in the armed forces, it is a football game that represents a long-standing contention between two branches of the military who have both competed against one another and worked together since our country first began.
These guys have a “working relationship” or a “professional liaison” to deal with on top of the football one. It’s like the guys from sales playing the people from customer service in a hockey game; there is a built-in edge.
The other unique facet about this rivalry is that the student-athletes who are competing are young men who had to climb a steep slope to get into a service academy and then make a football team. It’s an entirely different experience than your general FBS recruitment process and so it’s logical that the result is distinctive.
Army and Navy have been lacing it up against one another since 1890 and Navy currently holds the all-time advantage 56-49-7.
It’s not a stretch to say that this game really is the contest that either makes or breaks these school’s football seasons on a yearly basis.
Oklahoma vs. Texas
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The Red River Rivalry is yet another matchup that has, over a long period of time, oozed with national significance. Even before the Sooners and Longhorns took the sacred vows that led to the painful birth of the Big 12, this game always mattered.
With 11 national titles and 73 conference crowns shared between the two, the annual contest between the two goes far beyond two bordering states coming together for an intense football game.
From a more recent perspective, of the 16 Big 12 titles awarded since 1996, the Sooners or Longhorns have won 10 of these, and they’ve combined to score seven of the last eight championships.
“OU-Texas” or “Texas-OU” (depending on which side of the fence you stand) is a weekend in Dallas where anything, and I mean anything, could happen on the field, off the field and at the State Fair.
An interesting sidebar about this rivalry, and one that makes it even more unique, is the fact that the festivities date back to 1900, seven years before Oklahoma was admitted as the 46th state in the union.
The Longhorns lead the all-time series 59-42-5.
Ohio State vs. Michigan
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Even though the Buckeyes and Wolverines don’t compete for the affections and bragging rights of an in-state fanbase, their shared hate fest has to be considered perhaps the most intense between two entire states.
You’d be hard-pressed to find two states who hate each other more from a purely college football standpoint than Michigan and Ohio do.
The festering disgust between the two is absolutely amped up by the fact that “the Game” has always meant so much in the Big Ten race, a fact that’s again made more substantial by the contest’s placement at the tail end of the season.
So with Ohio State and Michigan, you’ve got the two stalwarts of the oldest conference in major college football, you’ve got states that are so football obsessed that their nicknames (for the entire state) are the “Wolverine State” and the “Buckeye State” and you’ve got a regional closeness that means that the battle for recruits never, ever ends.
Combined, Michigan and Ohio State have won 77 of the 115 Big Ten titles ever awarded and then 18 of the 142 national titles in the history of college football.
But even without all these cold hard facts, the Buckeyes and Wolverines would hate on each other's guts.
It’s their destiny as a great football people, and it’s a beautiful thing.
Michigan leads the all-time series 58-44-6.
Florida vs. Florida State
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Though the Gators vs. Seminoles rivalry isn’t an in-conference affair and doesn’t have a history of ugliness that stretches back to the era before indoor plumbing, it is a major in-state conflict between two national powerhouses.
If you’re going to rank the 50 states by their football prowess, Florida is, hands-down, a top-three contender, which means that institutional gridiron bragging rights are serious business. Florida has a whopping six FBS representatives, but the game that most decides who is king of the Sunshine State for the golden period of a full calendar year is the winner of the Florida vs. Florida State game.
It’s “Chomp” vs. “Chop,” it’s a recruiting bonanza, and its placement late in the season generally means that not only will it have national implications (one or both are often highly ranked), but the outcome will more than likely have huge a impact on the end of the race in the SEC and/or ACC conferences.
The Gators and ‘Noles have hooked up 56 times since 1958, and Florida leads the all-time series 33-21-2.