10 College Football Rivalries We Would Love to See Started
College football has a ton of rivalries. Some are still hot, some are cold, and some are merely in the refrigerator, waiting to be heated up as soon as the weaker team gets strong again.
While proximity plays a major role in college football rivalries, the quality of the teams involved has changed since the inception of many of them. (That's certainly the case with Boston College and Notre Dame.)
As we examine the 10 rivalries we all wish would start as soon as possible, the major criterion is the quality of the teams involved. Some will be conference rivalries, and others will be cross-conference matches that we wish would replace games like Oregon State vs. Nicholls State.
Phase one consists of specific teams whose rivalries would provide high entertainment value, and phase two will be introduced later in the show.
Here are 10 rivalries that we wish would start, regardless of conference affiliation or distance between schools.
10. Michigan State Spartans vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Michigan State and Mississippi State continually finish in the middle of their respective divisions, but they are capable of winning their conferences.
Mississippi State is on the way back up the SEC, but was at least in the conference title game against Tennessee in 1998. Mississippi State is equally as good as Michigan State right now, and starting this rivalry would help both teams.
It's difficult to recruit when you're constantly getting beaten by the top teams in your conference. A nationally televised cross-conference rivalry in Week 4 (around the end of September) would do both programs a lot of good.
Furthermore, it would give college football fans a great football game as most other teams would be involved in mediocre football games, whether conference or out-of-conference.
9. Stanford Cardinal vs. Oklahoma Sooners
Stanford is a physical football team that is capable of competing defensively in any other conference, even the SEC. While the offense took a dive this past season, that was expected because of Andrew Luck's departure to the NFL after the 2011 season.
Oklahoma is also a big-time football team that doesn't just compete in a tough conference—it wins. Oklahoma is one of the best teams in the Big 12, and would match well hat-on-hat with the Stanford Cardinal.
The two teams should meet in mid-November to provide the country with a great out-of-conference matchup while other conferences are handling conference matches that will reveal their true contenders.
As the nation figures out who is going to win each conference title, this game would be a brilliant matchup with nothing but national implications. The winner would have a stellar victory over a strong opponent.
That would launch the victor up the rankings as rivalry weekend approached, and give fans a headline that doesn't have to do with which team will be in the driver's seat for its conference.
The clash of the two deep shades of red would be epic, and the clash would stay competitive for years to come. The schools have two completely different recruiting footprints (h/t Dylan Buell for fanbase map of the U.S.), thus the winner would not directly take prospects from the loser's turf.
8. Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Michigan Wolverines
Alabama and Michigan opened the 2012 season against each other, and the final score was a bit lopsided. Michigan had not yet figured out that it had a running back under center, plus the Wolverines were missing tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint at the time.
As the Wolverines grew throughout the season, Devin Gardner emerged as a serious passing threat for them. Michigan will return to true form as long as it keeps a pocket-passer or a legitimate dual-threat under center.
Nick Saban and Brady Hoke would put on quite a show, and it would be a great game to kick off the month of November. Saban's Alabama squad leads off with marquee games, and has ended the last four seasons with marquee games against Texas, Michigan State, LSU and Notre Dame.
It would be fun to see Saban play a major non-conference opponent without having more than 30 days to prepare.
7. Texas A&M Aggies vs. South Carolina Gamecocks
The last game of the season is against Missouri, and that seems to be the permanent cross-division rival for the Aggies. That's a lopsided match for at least the duration of Johnny Manziel's career.
A much better matchup would be Texas A&M vs. South Carolina, as the original rumors claimed. As long as Kevin Sumlin and Steve Spurrier were at the two schools, this game would be a stellar battle that would put the winner in the driver's seat for the conference and a potential national title.
South Carolina's defense vs. the Aggies offense would be a great match, and it would be one of the best cross-divisional battles in the SEC.
South Carolina and Texas A&M performed comparably to each other in 2012, and pitting two similar teams against each other permanently would be awesome.
6. Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Florida Gators
Ohio State is under new management, and Urban Meyer took his Buckeyes to an undefeated season in 2012. The Buckeyes were the only undefeated squad standing at the end of the season, since Notre Dame lost the national championship to one-loss Alabama.
Meyer's previous success came when he was at the head of the Florida Gators, and he won the 2006 and 2008 National Championships while there. (Incidentally, 2006 was the beginning of the SEC's ridiculous streak of national titles.)
On the Florida side of the ball, Will Muschamp has taken a Florida team that was heading into the toilet and turned it into a championship contender. Florida was ranked as highly as No. 2 in the BCS standings last season.
Meyer made his name at Florida. Seeing him battle it out against them every year would be exciting, at least as long Meyer's at Ohio State and Muschamp's at Florida.
5. LSU Tigers vs. Oregon Ducks
The country got a glimpse of what this rivalry could mean back in 2011. If not for a couple of key turnovers, Oregon could have won the game.
In 2012, LSU lost games to Florida, Alabama and Clemson. Common sense says that Oregon could have beaten the Tigers this past season.
Oregon vs. LSU would be a much better game than the LSU vs. Washington match that took place in Week 2 of 2012. Sure, it's a high-risk game, but so are many of the great rivalries in college football.
Oregon vs. LSU gave the country a match that almost decided the national championship in Week 1. Had Oregon not lost any more games throughout the season, the Ducks might have gotten into the title bout over one-loss Alabama.
Give the fans games like that every season, and watch what happens. That brings us to the next part of the article: phase two.
Phase 2 Introduction
The game of college football has changed over the past century. There is no longer a vast difference between the "have's" and the "have-not's" in the college football world.
Michigan and Ohio State used to stand out far above the rest of the Big Ten (no matter what name the conference had back then), and the rest of the conference was simply trying to pick up the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table.
Now, there are bitter rivalries that go through cycles. Sometimes, the Michigan vs. Ohio State game is a nail-biter worth watching. Other times, it's simply a blowout that is only interesting to the winning team's fans.
The solution is to adopt a semi-bowl-style approach to the slate of Week 1 games. The Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games are a good example of this. Those games are between SEC teams and out-of-conference foes who are usually similar in strength.
What if we applied a similar philosophy to the season openers? We would end up with rivalries that would always mean something, and they would primarily be good football games.
The final four slides cover the rivalries that would get college football fans' mouths watering for multiple kickoffs every season.
4. BCS National Champion vs. Final AP No. 2 or 3
Since this scenario would only occur once, it comes in ranked last in this portion of the list. The Alabama vs. Notre Dame national championship game was not a game that people needed to watch all 60 minutes of in order to see who won.
Alabama won 42-14 after being up 35-0 at one point in the third quarter. This caused Notre Dame to fall to fourth place in the Final AP Poll. Oregon ended up at No. 2 after blasting Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Nobody is stupid enough to risk a national championship they've already won by playing an extra game afterward. Therefore, Alabama was not going to play Oregon to make sure that it really deserved the rings.
The solution would have been to have the national champion and the AP No. 2 team play a season opener the next year. At least the fans would get to see that wonderful game.
Even with both teams losing seniors and some underclassmen to the draft and graduation, the game would still be entertaining in the vast majority of seasons.
*In the event that the final edition of the AP poll lists the national championship game's loser at No. 2, then the AP No. 3 would fill its spot in the next season opener.
*After the BCS goes away, the same setup could be used with the national champion facing the highest-ranked team that missed out on the playoffs.
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. ACC or Big East Champion
Notre Dame missed out on a lot of development in 2012 that would have been provided by better competition. Stanford and Oklahoma turned out to be Notre Dame's only real competition through the season.
The beatdown that Alabama handed the Irish in the title game was proof of that. Notre Dame could seriously benefit from starting the season off against the previous year's ACC champion.
It would provide a great game that would serve two purposes:
1. It would give Notre Dame a huge game to lead off the season, and a win would carry a lot more weight than the season opener against Navy did in 2012.
2. Notre Dame would have a better idea of where it stood nationally before things got nasty in a title match.
Notre Dame earned its spot in the national championship game this past season, but the Irish were just not ready for that game at the time. It would be better for the Irish to win a great bowl game rather than get clocked at the end of a dream season.
Solution: Pit the Irish against a good conference champion at the beginning of the season. They will get the experience necessary to build an elite squad, which is something they didn't get against the 2012 slate of teams. (Again, with the exception of Stanford and Oklahoma.)
2. Big 12 Champion vs. Big Ten Champion
The Big Ten and Pac-12 champions already meet in the Rose Bowl, and there's no legitimate reason to discontinue that.
There's no possible meeting of the Big 12 and Big Ten champions outside of the national championship. The Big 12 champion is tied to the Fiesta Bowl, and the Big Ten champion is tied to the Rose Bowl.
This would allow these two champions to compete well against the aforementioned Notre Dame vs. ACC/Big East champion season opener.
The advantage of this type of game is that the teams aren't preselected as with other rivalries. Old-school rivalries were set by the teams involved. Whether they are good, bad or ugly doesn't matter.
Oregon and Oregon State are playing at the end of the season, regardless of whether it's a predicted tie or Oregon is favored by 132 points.
This setup gives fans a legitimate rivalry that will always matter: champion vs. champion. The team names could change, but the series would always matter.
Who wouldn't love to see Ohio State take on Oklahoma to start out the season?
1. SEC Champion vs. Pac-12 Champion
At the beginning of 2012, this game would have been LSU vs. Oregon (which was already listed as a potential awesome rivalry). The 2013 edition would be Alabama vs. Stanford under this model.
The game would be played at the higher-ranked team's venue first, and then it would alternate any time the same two teams met again any time in the future.
Games like Florida vs. USC, Georgia vs. UCLA and Texas A&M vs. Oregon would kick off new seasons regularly. The fans wouldn't be relegated to watching a couple of Alabama vs. Virginia Tech or Ole Miss vs. Boise State games every season.
Sure, the Ole Miss vs. Boise State game might be an adrenaline-inducing hair-raiser, but nobody can claim that it has national implications at this time.
Major conference champions will always be a big part of college football. Why not start the season off on just as high a note as it's ended every year?
There is a valid way to have a true national champion, and the playoff is a good start. Why not also kick the season off with a one-weekend mini-tournament that helps establish strength of schedule not through computer analysis, but with on-field results?
Instead of avoiding elite competition, embrace it and accept the fact that nobody is likely to finish the season undefeated. Make the undefeated season nearly impossible, and it will mean even more when somebody attains it.