College Football's Best Rivalries Past and Present
Over the next few weeks, college football will provide its fans with a plethora of rivalries for our viewing enjoyment. No other sport comes close to the emotion, pageantry, and competitiveness that college football provides.
Here is my take on the best college football rivalries, both past and present. Some may not have anything to do with conference or national championships as of late, but they are entertaining nevertheless.
10. The Game: Harvard vs. Yale
The oldest rivalry in college football, Harvard and Yale have gone head-to-head every year since 1875 and have met 125 times. As of 2008, Yale leads the series 65-52-8. This season's game takes place on Nov. 21.
Since Ivy League schools do not compete in post-season bowl games, the alumni of Harvard and Yale consider this a very important annual event. Also, neither school offers scholarships for athletics, so very few players ever make their way to the NFL. Harvard has won eight National Championships, the last one in 1919, and Yale has won 18 with the last one in 1927.
9. Paul Bunyan's Axe: Minnesota vs. Wisconsin
These two teams started playing each other back in 1890, and the Golden Gophers lead the all-time series 59-52-8, but the Badgers lead the "Axe" series 35-24-3.
Before the "Axe", these two teams played for the "Slab of Bacon," which was a piece of wood with an M or a W, depending on the angle you viewed it. But, the Axe took over in 1948, and the original axe was retired in 2003.
When the game ends, if the team holding the trophy wins, they run to their own sideline, take the "Axe", and carry it around the field. If the team not holding the trophy wins, they are allowed to steal the "Axe" from the other team's sideline.
8.The Backyard Brawl: Pittsburgh vs. West Virginia
The famous Pittsburgh and West Virginia annual football game gets its name from the close proximity of the two schools; they are separated by some 75 miles alone Interstate 79.
This series was first played in 1895, and PITT leads the all-time series with a record of 61-37-3. Also, the 1921 game was the first college football game to be broadcast on the radio when Harold W. Arlin called the PITT victory on KDKA.
These two schools have produced over 400 NFL football players, in which 27 were first-round draft picks.
7. The Victory Bell: USC vs. UCLA
Also known as the "The Los Angeles City Championship," "The Crosstown Showdown," "The Battle of L.A.," or simply the "crosstown rivalry." The USC/UCLA rivalry is unique since both schools are in the same city and separated by only 10 miles.
USC has recently returned to prominence with two national championships in the past decade, but UCLA is still a formidable foe and provides a great matchup year in and year out.
6. World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party: Florida vs. Georgia
The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is no longer politically correct, but for the fans and alumni of the University of Florida and University of Georgia it will always be fitting.
The game has been held annually since 1915, and Georgia holds the overall record at 46-39-2. However, Florida has won 17 of the last 20 games leading many to feel that this rivalry is losing it's luster. It is also one of the few remaining neutral-site annual games.
With the exception of the 1994 and 1995 seasons, during the renovation of Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, the game has been held in Jacksonville, Fla since 1933.
5. Michigan vs. Ohio State
This annual meeting has been scheduled at the end of the regular season since 1935 (with exceptions in 1942, 1986, and 1998), and has rotated between Ann Arbor, MI and Columbus, OH since 1918.
This rivalry has determined the Big Ten championship 46 times, in which the game sent either school to the Rose Bowl on 22 different occasions.
Even though this rivalry does not have an official name or nickname, the Toledo War of 1835-36 may be the catalyst for the tension between the two schools.
4. Miami vs. FSU
This rivalry may also not have a name, but you must not own a television if you have not witnessed this annual event at least once in your life. Starting in 1951, they have played each other annually with the exception of six games. Miami leads the series 31-23.
How popular and famous is this rivalry? The 2006 game is the most watched game in the history of ESPN, and the 2009 and 1994 meetings being the second and fifth-most watched, respectively.
With four separate "Wide Right" occurrences, FSU finally ended the curse with the "Miami Muff" in 2005.
3. The Red River Shootout: Texas vs. Oklahoma
This annual meeting between Texas and Oklahoma will always be known as the Red River Shootout, but due to Corporate American influence and a desire to not convey gun violence, it is now known as the AT&T Red River Rivalry.
Texas leads the series 59-40-5, and the series got its start in 1900 while Oklahoma was still a territory and not a state.
Since 1945, one or both schools have entered into the game in the top 25 teams in the country coming into 60 of 65 games.
Between 2000-2004, Oklahoma has prevented Texas from competing in the Big-12 Championship game four times. Five of the last nine winners of this annual game has prevented one of the participants in the Bowl Championship Series National Championship game.
2. The Iron Bowl: Alabama vs. Auburn
This is the annual game that makes football a religion. This is the annual games that have prevented marriages and caused divorces. The Iron Bowl is the annual game between the University of Alabama and Auburn University.
The name "Iron Bowl" comes from Birmingham's involvement in the iron and steel industry (with its only competitor being Pittsburgh), and the place where the game was played annually for most of the 20th century at Legion Field.
Alabama leads the all-time series 39-33-1. The first game was played on Feb. 22, 1893 in Lakeview Park in Birmingham. Auburn, then known as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama), won the game 32-22 in front of an estimated crowd of 2,000 fans.
One of the most memorable games in the series is known as "Bo Over The Top" in 1982. Bo Jackson led Auburn to victory, and it was Bear Bryant's last Iron Bowl.
1. Army vs. Navy
The USMA of West Point, NY (Army) and the USNA of Annapolis, MD (Navy) meet annually in what is the most intense, spirited, and meaningful college football game of the year.
The annual meeting started in 1890, and currently Navy leads the series 53-49-7. The game was historically played on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving, it is now played on the first Saturday in December.
Once upon a time, these two institutions were national powers in the college football world, but now due to high academic standards, height and weight limitations, and commitments to serve their country after graduation, these players simply compete for the love of the game.
The game is especially emotional for the First Classmen (Seniors), since it is most likely the last competitive football game they will ever play. During wartime, it is very emotional since some seniors may never return once deployed.
At the conclusion of the game, the alma maters are played and sung. The winning team stands beside the losing team and faces the losing academy's students, and then the losing team joins the winning team and faces their students. This is done to show mutual respect and solidarity.
There is no other rivalry as intense, but friendly. The motto's "Beat Army" and "Beat Navy" are the rallying cries of the respective academies, but the respect and honor of each are never forgotten.