Power Ranking the Best Permanent Rivalries in SEC Football
Which of the SEC’s cross-divisional, permanent rivalries are worth protecting?
While it’s easy to understand LSU AD Joe Alleva’s argument that the Tigers' forced game with Florida is a competitive disadvantage compared to Ole Miss drawing Vanderbilt, is that enough reason to cancel the 117-year old Auburn-Georgia series?
The question is impossible to answer because making one element of the scheduling question right means that another party, and perhaps an entire football nation, loses out.
One thing we do know is that the SEC’s so-called permanent rivalries aren’t created equally. That’s true in fairness, quality, competitiveness and attractiveness to the viewer.
Here are the seven forced marriages power ranked by age, competitiveness, appeal and meaningfulness, gauged by the combined number of championships each pair has produced.
Series Began: 1906
All-Time: Missouri leads 3-2
Arkansas and Missouri have only met five times in football, and three of these games were played before 1970.
The last two meetings came in the postseason, the 2003 Independence Bowl (Arkansas won 27-14) and the 2008 Cotton Bowl (Missouri won 38-7).
Despite Missouri’s impressive run in 2013, the stiff competition in both SEC divisions make it difficult to think that this series will be meaningful for a conference title in the near future.
Due to the lack of history, this is a rivalry that will take time to mature.
6. Texas A&M-South Carolina
Series Begins: 2014
The Aggies and Gamecocks have never met in football; their first-ever meeting is slated for the 2014 season opener on Thursday, Aug. 28 in Columbia, S.C.
What gives this rivalry the edge over Arkansas-Missouri—which also lacks history—is that Texas A&M and South Carolina are legitimate title teams, at least for now.
If the two programs continue on an upward track, this will be a blockbuster matchup, allowing a true sense of rivalry to flourish sooner.
5. Mississippi State-Kentucky
Series Began: 1914
All-Time: Kentucky leads 21-20
Past 10: Mississippi State leads 7-3
Mississippi State and Kentucky have met 41 times in history, and though the Wildcats have a slight lead in what’s a closely contested overall series, the Bulldogs have dominated in recent years.
Kentucky’s last win came in 2008 in Starkville, and it hasn’t won at home against Mississippi State since 2005.
What hurts this matchup relative to the others is that the two teams combine for the least number of championships. Not only has neither school ever captured a national title, but the two also share a mere three conference crowns between them.
This is a serious hit to how meaningful and attractive this game is on a yearly basis.
4. Ole Miss-Vanderbilt
Series Began: 1894
All-Time: Ole Miss leads 48-38-2
Past 10: Vanderbilt leads 6-4
Though Ole Miss-Vandy may not excite like LSU-Florida, it is the third-longest running series among the SEC permanent cross-divisional rivalries.
The Rebels and Commodores have met 88 times in history, and amazingly, only 60 total points have separated the two in scoring.
The other attractive bit is that these are two up-and-coming programs that have competed well over the past 10 years without one team dominating the other.
To illustrate, a total of five points separated the two teams in their last two meetings, with Vandy winning 27-26 in 2012 and Ole Miss triumphing 39-35 last season.
Series Began: 1937
All-Time: Florida leads 31-26-3
Past 10: LSU leads 6-4
Though a top-two matchup in attractiveness, LSU-Florida just doesn’t have the history of the other big-time rivalries on our list.
The Tigers and Gators have met 60 times in history, an impressive number until you consider that they’ve squared off 36 times fewer than Alabama-Tennessee and 57 times fewer than Auburn-Georgia.
And though this is a game that generally means a lot, LSU-Florida combine for fewer conference titles than the other two big dogs.
Series Began: 1901
All-Time: Alabama leads 51-38-7
Past 10: Alabama leads 8-2
Alabama and Tennessee have met 96 times since they first played over 100 years ago, and between them, they share more combined championships than any other duo.
What hurts this rivalry, at least in the short term, is that while the Crimson Tide have experienced a football renaissance, the Volunteers have been out in the wilderness trying to find themselves.
Where Alabama hasn’t dipped below the 10-win mark since 2007, Tennessee hasn’t managed more than nine wins since 2007.
The game simply hasn’t meant much to the SEC title picture in recent years, resulting in a reduction in appeal.
Series Began: 1892
All-Time: Auburn 55-54-2
Past 10: Georgia 6-4
It would be difficult to argue that Auburn-Georgia isn’t the best cross-division rivalry in the SEC; it’s the matchup that has it all.
First, it’s the oldest, longest-running affair, spanning 117 games and dating back to 1892, just 27 years after the end of the Civil War.
Next, it’s the most competitive rivalry, with Auburn holding a paper-thin one-game advantage all time and the two splitting the last four games.
These are programs that definitely have had their down years, but for the most part, both have stayed competitive enough to make this game meaningful year in and year out. In most years, at least one of the two will be competing for a division or conference title.
Combined, Auburn and Georgia have won 31 conference titles, second only to Alabama and Tennessee, which have 45, a number that is bolstered by the Tide’s 27 league crowns.
Statistics and historical data courtesy of College Football Data Warehouse.