College Football's Realignment Will Continue to Create New Rivalries

Zach Dirlam@Zach_DirlamSenior Analyst IIApril 17, 2013

Rivalries are part of what defines college football. It is what's separating the Football Bowl Subdivision from the NFL.

Pure hatred, taunting and even the occasional scuffle at midfield are all customary between archrivals. Rivalries also have the power to turn best friends into sworn enemies for four quarters of football.

Even if a team fails to win a single game, as long as it beats its top rival, the season can be considered a success. Nothing brings more pride to a program than beating the one team it despises more than any other.

Fans circle their calendars and plan parties for the one day out of the year they can refer to an opposing team with obscenities rather than the actual university name.

A politician in South Carolina proposed a bill that would make it mandatory for the South Carolina Gamecocks and Clemson Tigers to play every year. A state representative in Texas attempted to revive the Lone Star Showdown with a similar proposal.

Do you see what I am saying about how meaningful these long-standing rivalries are? 

Plain and simple, there is nothing better—or downright nastier—than a good, old-fashioned rivalry.   

Some will argue rivalries are a thing of the past and that the current realignment in college football is killing them off one at a time. I cannot disagree with anyone who says that, but change and evolution are inevitable. Nothing stays the same for too long in today's world anymore.

Evolution is something we have to accept whether we like it or not. Look no further than the spread offense as an example of how much college football has evolved and grown over the past several years.  

For better or worse, lucrative television contracts have been the driving force behind several college football conferences choosing to expand. In turn, some of the oldest and most prestigious football rivalries have been lost; however, several others have been created.

The cycle will not be ending anytime soon either.

Football purists may never come to grips with the new landscape of the game, but anyone approaching this with an open mind should be thrilled. 

As a longtime follower of the Michigan Wolverines, I have been privileged to be associated with arguably the biggest rivalry in sports. Losing the Michigan vs. Ohio State Buckeyes rivalry to realignment would be unfathomable to me. So I can only imagine what Texas fans are going through right now.

I would be willing to accept whatever new rivalry replaced it, though nothing would ever be able to duplicate "The Game."

One of the biggest casualties of the latest college football movement is the annual meeting between the Texas A&M Aggies and the Texas Longhorns known as the Lone Star Showdown. The 119-year old rivalry came to an end in 2011 after the Aggies left the Big 12 Conference and joined the SEC.

To make matters worse for the Big 12, two other historic rivalries were brought to a halt as a result of conference defections. The Missouri Tigers and Kansas Jayhawks ended the historic Border War once the former headed to the SEC with Texas A&M.

Not even the legendary Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Oklahoma Sooners rivalry could be spared from a less-than-ceremonious ending. Nebraska brought things to a halt once it moved to the Big Ten Conference three years ago.

None of the six power conferences have been hit harder than the Big East, though. The West Virginia Mountaineers, Pittsburgh Panthers, Syracuse Orange and Louisville Cardinals all bolted for other leagues.

There may never be another Backyard Brawl, thanks to West Virginia’s move to the Big 12 and Pittsburgh’s upcoming membership in the ACC.

Recent defections do not even tell the whole story of what the Big East has lost over the years. Back in 2003, the Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes and Virginia Tech Hokies took their bitter rivalry to the ACC. The Boston College Eagles tagged along for the ride.

To make matters worse for the Big East, two of the rising mid-major programs, the Boise State Broncos and San Diego State Aztecs, turned down an invitation to join the league.

Instead, the conference was forced to raid Conference USA for East Carolina, Tulane, Houston, SMU, Memphis, Tulsa and Central Florida. Those teams are not bringing any high-profile rivalries with them. About the only thing the Big East will have to boast about is the Navy-Army game once the Midshipmen join as a football-only member in 2015.

Even the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are going to be putting some of their rivalries on hold. The Fighting Irish have made a deal to play five games against ACC teams annually, which will temporarily end their series with Michigan.

The scary thing is, all of the expansion and realignment may not be over. With additional revenue pouring in for conference title games, the Big 12 is targeting the Florida State Seminoles, Clemson and Louisville in order to split into divisions once again.

Although the Big Ten appears to be set at 14 teams with the recent additions of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and Maryland Terrapins, the league may expand again if a 16-member conference is formed elsewhere.

For the time being, we will all have to make due with some of the new rivalries all of these changes have created. Here are a few everyone can get excited about for the near future:


Michigan Wolverines vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers

These are two programs with plenty of history, and a controversial split national championship in 1997 only adds fuel to the fire of this newborn rivalry. Michigan got the better of Nebraska in 2011, but the Cornhuskers defended home turf last season, which wound up earning them a spot in the Big Ten title game.

Even though these teams will likely be separated once the conference realigns its divisions, the two will still have plenty of heated crossover matchups. With both teams likely to be competing for divisional crowns for the foreseeable future, these games will be pivotal to say the least. The intensity and emotions will undoubtedly be high whenever these two historic programs share the gridiron.


TCU Horned Frogs vs. Texas Longhorns

The Lone Star State has a new rivalry. Well, it is actually an old rivalry, seeing as TCU and Texas used to battle it out together in the Southwestern Conference up until 1995. The Longhorns have dominated the overall series by winning 60 of the 82 contests, but things should be much more competitive with Gary Patterson coaching the Horned Frogs.

In fact, TCU's 20-13 victory over Texas a year ago may be just the thing this renewed rivalry needed to really get going again. This game will never match the intensity of Texas vs. Texas A&M, though it will serve as an adequate replacement for years to come. 


Oklahoma Sooners vs. West Virginia Mountaineers

If you love to watch two teams score a ton of points, this is going to be one of your favorite modern-day rivalries. Oklahoma and West Virginia piled up 99 points in a 50-49 victory for the Sooners in their first clash as Big 12 foes last season.

A blowout loss at the hands of the Mountaineers in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl undoubtedly sent Oklahoma into Mountaineer Stadium a little more fired up than usual in 2012. It remains to be seen if these two teams will become full-blown rivals, but there is plenty of potential with the offenses both of them will put on the field every year. Fans will constantly be on the edge of their seats for this contest.


Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Florida State Seminoles

Another pair of programs with a significant amount of history are Notre Dame and Florida State. While this may not be a rivalry yet, there is a chance for one to begin brewing in 2014 when the Fighting Irish travel to Tallahassee. 

Florida State holds a 5-2 edge in the overall series, though it bowed to Notre Dame in the 1993 "Game of the Century" meeting. All of the historic roots have been laid for these two to become hated rivals. It remains to be seen whether or not it will come to fruition. I have high hopes as to what this game could become on an annual basis. 


Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Texas A&M Aggies

Raise your hand if you are already waiting to see the Alabama-Texas A&M rematch in College Station this season. If your hand is not up, it is probably because you missed last year's epic clash at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Johnny "Football" Manziel amassed 345 yards and two touchdowns in the Aggies' 29-24 upset of the Crimson Tide in 2012.

The game started with Texas A&M taking top-ranked Alabama by storm and racing out to a 20-0 lead. The Crimson Tide battled back and had four plays inside the 10-yard line to steal the victory. An A.J. McCarron interception ended the game, and sparked an SEC West rivalry that could be talked about for years to come. Mark your calendars for Sept. 14 everyone because it is going to be a thriller. 


Nothing lasts forever. College football rivalries are just another piece of evidence to support that statement. Some of the game's greatest rivals may never share the same field again, though two others will start a hate-fueled annual meeting of their own.

I am saddened to see some of the most legendary series come to a screeching halt just so the power conferences can make a quick million dollars. 

There may not ever be another rivalry as great as some of those we have already lost, however, I am excited to see what the future holds. Rivalries will evolve like everything else.

It will just take some getting used to the changes before we fully embrace the new ones.


Follow me on Twitter: @Zach_Dirlam.  


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