It's amazing what the combination of boredom and the internet can yield. Dreading the upcoming offseason "strength and conditioning" period, I did a little homework on college football rivalries in the current century (2000-2009).
My formula for rivalry "success" was relatively simple, and the following criteria come in no particular order of importance: number of BCS championships won by the participating teams, average point spread per series game, and series wins-losses. I considered rivalry series that were suggested to me by fellow college football fans from across the country. When all was said and done, the following rivalries caught my eye.
Best on-field rivalry: Florida State vs Miami
The only major rivalry to average less than a 10 point spread and still yield at least one BCS championship is FSU-Miami (average spread over this period is 6.22 points per game). Although Miami has an upper hand in wins/losses at 7-3, the closeness of the games and national title implications (past few years excepted) make this one the best on-field rivalry. This is also the only rivalry to produce a same-season rematch in a bowl game (2003) during the period.
Best championship rivalry: Florida vs LSU
No one can contest the success these teams have had this decade. Four BCS titles between them, and though the average point spread when they meet is a lofty 17.56 per game, they've nearly split their series at 5-4 since 2000.
Best rivalry for drama: Ohio State vs Michigan
Though the Buckeyes have won seven meetings since the turn of the century, the average point spread for these games is a mere 11.78. Take away last year's 35 point debacle and it's 8.87. Lump these close match-ups together with one BCS title and a TON of people watching and you've got a classic rivalry year in, year out.
Best rivalry for homers: Oregon vs Oregon State
With the exception of the past two years, these teams have taken turns pounding each other at home to the tune of 17.44 points per game. That makes for a lot of happy alumni.
Best rivalry to leave at halftime: Kansas vs Kansas State
This one's not even close. The average massacre in this series is 26.78 points, but the series is close at 5-4. Might as well head for the exits after the first half ends (unless you've got a kid in the band).
Best one-sided rivalry with no national title implications: Army vs Navy
Seriously, since 2000 no rivalry has been more lopsided than this one. Navy holds an 8-1 edge to the tune of 23.78 points per game. Players rarely go on to NFL careers. And both teams tend to run antiquated option offenses. So why do we watch? We're Americans! We're proud that these guys play hard with no pro future in their sights. We're proud that they wear unit patches on their uniforms in tribute to those in harm's way. And we're proud that at the end of each game both teams stand in silent tribute to the other's Alma mater.
Best rivalry for a state fair: Oklahoma vs Texas
This one gets a ton of hype, but this decade's statistics don't lie. Although it's produced two BCS championships, Oklahoma has taken 6-of-9 and the beatings haven't been close. With the exception of a seven point spread in 2007 there has not been a spread in single digits. The average for this high-visibility rivalry? 22.56 points per game.
Best rivalry for "We hate the BCS" talk: BYU vs Utah
The "Holy War" that doesn't disappoint. An even record of 5-4 with an average spread of 10.11 (second only to FSU-UM). That and the winner gets to look from the outside in at a National Championship. Take it from me...when I blogged "Hate Bowl 2008" this year one thing was apparent. Utah fans hate BYU. BYU fans generally wonder why they are so hated. If this rivalry had the fire that Clemson-South Carolina has it would get huge ratings.
Oh, and just so I don't upset my Irish relatives...
Best rivalry for false "throw the records out the window" talk: Southern Cal vs Notre Dame
Really. This one used to mean something, what with those gold helmets and that marching band in skirts. Now it's just another excuse to get the Trojans on national TV. USC holds a 7-2 upper hand with an average spread of 24.11 points per game. Sure, USC has ponied up two BCS championships, but did I ever think that I'd see Notre Dame pull a PAC-10 team's strength of schedule DOWN? No. But that's where this one is now.
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