Home-and-Home College Football Series That Need to Happen
Six weeks from now, the 2014 college football season will kick off, and with it, a number of marquee nonconference games.
Games such as Michigan State-Oregon, LSU-Wisconsin, Clemson-Georgia, Florida State-Notre Dame, Texas-UCLA, Auburn-Kansas State and Notre Dame-Arizona State will be fascinating intersectional confrontations along with traditional rivalries such as Clemson-South Carolina, Notre Dame-Southern California, Notre Dame-Michigan, Georgia-Georgia Tech and Army-Navy.
With the new College Football Playoff, strong schedules are as important as ever, but realignment and the advent of the nine-game schedule have changed college football scheduling, breaking up some classic rivalries and making others difficult to fit into the schedule, especially on a regular basis.
Here is a look at some college football home-and-home series that need to happen to make the game a more interesting and engrossing experience for fans.
Auburn-Georgia Tech was once one of college football’s most constant rivalries. The two schools sit less than two hours apart on Interstate 85 and met every year except two from 1902 to 1987. But the teams have met only twice since then, a home-and-home series that Georgia Tech swept in 2003 and 2005.
A series was set for 2017 and 2018, but it was cancelled in 2010 and has not been rescheduled.
The teams share a border and recruiting territory, and playing a home-and-home would be a natural for fans, an extension of both teams’ rivalry with the University of Georgia. With the push for improved nonconference schedules, the Tigers and Yellow Jackets hooking up would be a fantastic addition to the college football schedule.
Florida State and Georgia share a border. They share recruiting territory. Tallahassee sits only minutes from the Georgia state line.
But while Georgia’s rivalry with Florida is one of college football’s best, the Bulldogs have no on-field relationship with Florida State. The teams have met only 11 times in their history, with UGA holding a 6-4-1 lead. The teams have met only once since 1984, with Georgia taking a 26-13 win in the 2003 Sugar Bowl.
With the ACC and the SEC both trying to upgrade their nonconference schedules (both leagues have passed a mandate to play at least one “Power 5” school in nonconference play), a UGA-FSU rivalry would be great for college football.
Mark Richt spent 14 years as FSU’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach before taking the UGA job in 2000, and he hired Jeremy Pruitt away from FSU this past winter to become his new defensive coordinator. Playing in Doak Campbell or between the hedges at Sanford Stadium would be an electric environment for the fans in attendance and watching on television.
While better known for its basketball roots, Missouri-Kansas (also known as the Border War) is known as one of the most bitter rivalries in college football and college sports in general, with the bad feelings dating back to the Civil War and attacks on Missouri from Kansas and vice versa.
The two schools shared a league from 1907-2012, and have faced off 120 times on the gridiron, with Missouri leading 57-54-9. It is the second-most played rivalry in college football history. One of the biggest games came at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium in 2007, with No. 3 Missouri defeating No. 2 Kansas 36-28.
However, when Missouri left for the Southeastern Conference, Kansas was not interested in continuing the rivalry. Missouri athletic director Mike Alden told The Kansas City Star in June 2013 that he and Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton had tried to make overtures to KU that were not “invasive”:
I understand, absolutely, that we’re the institution that made the decision to go to the SEC; I got it, we understand that. But we also understand that this rivalry and these relationships have been built for over a century. And so, while at some moment in our history we made the decision to go to the SEC I just think that those types of decisions of a moment in time, you would hope that they wouldn’t affect generations.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel is also interested in renewing the rivalry, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune:
We might even be playing Kansas again someday, if they were willing to discuss and continue playing that great rivalry we had. Just bring in whomever. I think those are certainly possibilities. We look at those. Those have been very positive. We’ll just see the direction that we want to go.
Continuing the Border War seems only natural for both sides. Now it’s up to Kansas to make the next move.
LSU and Texas are two of college football’s most storied programs. They share a border. They recruit in each other’s states consistently and battle for prospects. You’d think a rivalry would be a natural fit.
The Longhorns and Tigers have met only 17 times in their history, with Texas holding a 9-7-1 edge in the series. The teams have met only once since 1963, with Texas taking a 35-20 win in the 2003 Cotton Bowl.
Neither team has a permanent nonconference rival, although Texas fans would probably rather see the Horns play Texas A&M before renewing their series with the Tigers. But a home-and-home series in Austin and Baton Rouge would be an instant needle-mover for television networks and a must-see for fans.
The Backyard Brawl was traditionally one of the most intense but underrated rivalries in college football. Separated by only 75 miles of Interstate 79 spanning Pennsylvania and West Virginia, Pitt and West Virginia played blue-collar, Eastern football that was traditionally hard-nosed and meaningful.
In 2007, 4-7 Pitt upset No. 2 West Virginia 13-9 in Morgantown, keeping the Mountaineers out of the BCS national title game. Two years later, WVU upset then-No. 9 Pitt 19-16 on a last-second field goal. The series ended when West Virginia left the Big East for the Big 12, with the Mountaineers winning the final game 21-20 in 2011. Pitt leads the rivalry 61-40-3, but WVU has won three consecutive meetings.
Both programs are interested in reviving the series in the near future. West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph last year that he and Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson had discussions about renewing the rivalry, which was complicated by Pitt also scheduling a series with long-dormant rival Penn State from 2016-2019:
We’ve talked to Pitt, but they’ve got a lot going on, because they’re trying to get Penn State back on their schedule. I think they have, so they’re trying to figure out when they can squeeze us in. Their AD and I just talked last week, so we’re trying to get that set up. It’s all about dates.
Pederson told ESPN that “we’re both in favor if it’s in the best interest of both schools.”
Such a series seems natural for both schools, who’ll be looking to bolster their schedules as the College Football Playoff era begins. Making it work would be great for Pitt, West Virginia and, most importantly, their fans.
North Carolina and Tennessee share a border and share recruiting territory, but the two programs haven’t met very often. Tennessee holds a 20-8-1 lead in the series, but college football fans surely remember the teams’ last meeting in 2010, the wildest Music City Bowl ever.
Tennessee thought it had a 27-24 victory when time ran out with the Tar Heels in Volunteers territory. But officials called a penalty on North Carolina for having too many men on the field, yet ruled that quarterback T.J. Yates had spiked the ball with one second left. Allowed a final play, the Tar Heels kicked a game-tying field goal and won in double overtime.
While both programs have their share of rivalries, this would be a natural pairing, if just for a home-and-home series. Tennessee has scheduled a neutral-site game against Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway, but getting the Tar Heels on the schedule would be a win for all involved.
Texas-Texas A&M was one of college football’s best rivalries. Pitting two in-state schools that, to put it mildly, just don’t like each other on Thanksgiving weekend was fantastic theater.
The teams played every year from 1915-2011, bringing their rivalry from the old Southwest Conference into the Big 12. But when A&M announced its decision to bolt for the Southeastern Conference, the rivalry died with it.
Texas was historically dominant, holding a 76-37-5 all-time lead in the series, and the Longhorns won nine of the last 12 meetings, including a 27-25 victory in 2011. But with A&M’s recent return to prominence under coach Kevin Sumlin and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel, a renewed Longhorns-Aggies rivalry would be must-see TV for college football fans.
New Texas coach Charlie Strong is open to the rivalry’s return on campus or at a neutral site like Dallas or Houston, he told CBSSports.com:
It’s all about the two ADs getting together and getting that figured out. When you look at it, it’s been such a huge rivalry game. ... I think at some point it will get worked out. When there’s been so much tradition there, you’d like to see it continue on. That’s my feeling on it. I’d love to play it.
If the two schools can get together and figure out a plan for the game’s return, college football would be the better for it.