Power Ranking the Top 25 College Football Rivalries
Rivalries. They are one of the biggest reasons why we love college football. Circling the date of the next matchup with one's biggest rival is often the most anticipated Saturday of the season.
It can also be the day that defines the season for your favorite team. They add the annual story and the lifelong tradition of two programs. Rivals are partners in history.
College football rivalries come in all shapes and sizes. From small programs to football powers, rivalries shape the landscape of the sport. Some play for trophies, others simply play for bragging rights. Either way, here is a look at the Top 25 rivalries in college football.
Let the debate and the rage for your rivalry begin!
25. Washington vs. Washington State
The shine has come off the Apple Cup over the last decades as both Washington and Washington State have slipped into various levels of mediocrity—or worse. It has been over a decade since both programs were nationally competitive and now these two programs often fight to stay out of the cellar of the Pac-10.
24. Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State
The Egg Bowl is the 10th longest uninterrupted rivalry game in college football. The two sides have traded off victories every season since 2004. The rivalry began in 1901 with Ole Miss leading the all-time series 60-46-6.
23. Clemson vs. South Carolina
South Carolina won the first meeting in 1896 (12-6) and the last meeting in 2009 (34-17). In between, there have been 105 meetings for this in-state rivalry that is led by Clemson with a mark of 65-38-4. The two sides play for Hardee's Trophy.
22. Georgia vs. Georgia Tech
With straight to the point nickname, "Clean Old-Fashioned Hate," the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech have done battle on the gridiron since 1893 with the Bulldogs leading the all-time series 60-39-5.
21. Virginia vs. Virginia Tech
Nicknamed "The Commonwealth Cup," UVA and Virginia Tech have played for a trophy only since 1996 but the series goes back much further. These in-state rivals have lined up against each other since 1895 in a rivalry that has come to define the clash of cultures between the two schools.
The elitism of Virginia versus the perceived (in state that is) blue collar Virginia Tech. Charlottesville versus Blacksburg.
However, the Wahoos have been subjected to recent Tech dominance as the Hokies have won 10 of 11 in this matchup and opened a 49-37-5 series lead.
20. Minnesota vs. Wisconsin
It is the game for, in my opinion, the best trophy in the game-Paul Bunyan's Axe but trophy's alone can't make the series. Before the Axe, the two sides played for the "Slab of Bacon."
The rivalry between Wisconsin and Minnesota significant regional consequences and is the longest running rivalry in Division I college football dating back to 1890.
However, the lack of national significant has put on a cap on the rivalry's stature among the nation's best.
19. Kansas vs. Missouri
"The Border War" is the closest rivalry of them all. It's so close in fact that the series record is disputed depending on which sideline you find yourself. Both sides lay claim to a 55-54-9 series margin.
Kansas and Missouri own the second-longest running on-field rivalry having first met on Halloween 1891.
18. Auburn vs. Georgia
"The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry" is right up there with the most even matchups in all of college football's rivalries. Georgia has won four in a row in the series, bringing Auburn's series lead to a paper thin 53-52-8 margin. These two schools, looking over the boarder at each other, first played in 1892 which went to Auburn with a 10-0 victory.
17. Utah vs. BYU
"The Holy War" pits another pair of in-state rivalries with two of the best mid-major football programs in the nation. The state-owned, secular Utes v. Mormon Cougars have added a level cultural differences to a rivalry that stretches back to 1896. Utah currently leads the rivalry 53-34-4.
16. Oregon vs. Oregon State
The seventh oldest rivalry in college football goes back to 1894. The two sides played for the Platypus Trophy until 1961 before it was lost and recovered in 2005. From 1997 to 2006, the winner alternated by who wore the home uniforms. The Ducks lead the all-time series 57-46-10.
15. Notre Dame vs. Michigan
Michigan and Notre Dame have not played as many games as other rivalries on this list, but they are two of the nation's most historic programs who have rejuvenated a game that started in 1887.
The series took a 35-year break from World War II until 1978, but since then the two rediscovered ancient tensions. The rivalry gets added juice from Notre Dame's continuous flirtations regarding Big Ten expansion.
Currently, Michigan leads the all-time series 21-15-1.
14. California vs. Stanford
The Big Game has been played since 1892 in an battle for bragging rights of Northern California. The two sides have played for the Stanford Axe since 1933 with Stanford leading the all-time series 55-46-11. Of course, the rivalry was made famous nationwide for "The Play" during the 1982 edition.
13. Florida vs. Florida State
The Gators of Seminoles have played some of the most memorable rivalry games in recent college football history. However, the duration of the rivalry's intensity does not go back far enough to move it up the list.
Only starting with the rise of Florida State in the late-1980s and Steve Spurrier's return to Gainesville in 1990 did this rivalry really take shape. The pair played unforgettable games in the 1990s including "The Choke at Doak", the 1996 edition of No. 1 Florida v. No. 2 Florida State and of course the 1997 Sugar Bowl.
Florida's current six-game winning streak over the Seminoles kicked open a 33-19-2 margin.
12. Alabama vs. Tennessee
"The Third Saturday in October" is possibly one of the most under-appreciated rivalries in the country. The Crimson Tide and the Volunteers have met on the appropriately named rivalry date every year since 1928 though the first game took place in 1901.
The teams have split the last ten editions of the game though Tennessee has won 10 of the last 15. However, Alabama won all but four meetings between 1961 and 1981.
11. Florida vs. Georgia
"The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" (I don't care what they call it now, the name remains) has been played since 1915 and in Jacksonville, Fla. since 1933. It remains one of the most hotly contested rivalries, but Florida has dominated the "Party" since 1990 winning all but three of the matchups ('97, '04, '07).
10. Harvard vs. Yale
Harvard and Yale. They are two names that undoubtedly pop up when one thinks about the origins of college football. "The Game" is the second-longest continuing rivalry (behind Lehigh-Lafayette) and the third most played all-time (behind Princeton-Yale).
The lack of bowl games for these Ivy League institutions and the fact the game is held as the regular season finale only up the stakes.
Harvard has dominated the rivalry in recent years by winning every matchup since 2001 except one (2006).
9. Lehigh vs. Lafayette
Simply dubbed "The Rivalry," Lehigh and Lafayette have duked it on in eastern Pennsylvania a record 145 times since 1884. "The Rivalry" is also one of the closest geographic rivals as they stand just 17 miles apart. The two sides also own the longest, uninterrupted series having played every year since 1897. Lafayette leads the all-time series by a 76-64-5 margin.
8. Florida State vs. Miami
For over a decade, the feud between the Hurricanes and Seminoles exemplified a shift in college football powers. Out from the northern states and the traditional southern powers, this Florida-based rivalry possessed some of the most tightly contested games, determined national championships and featured countless All-Americans and future NFL stars.
One could break down each edition for a good 15-year span from the mid-1980s through the early 2000s, but if you don't know about the rivalry you must have been living under a rock.
The teams have split the last six meetings with Miami leading the all-time series 31-23.
7. Southern Cal vs. Notre Dame
Talk about loading the field with talent, no rivalry has done that more than USC and Notre Dame which have combined for 22 national championships, 14 Heisman Trophy winners, and 21 NFL Hall of Famers.
For decades, the rivalry pitted a clash of styles and worlds with the Midwestern Irish taking on the Southern Cal Trojans.
The teams have traded decades of dominance since 1960 with the Irish winning through 1966 before the Trojans ran the show through 1982. Notre Dame then dominated the series through 2001 before USC's current eight-game winning streak.
Notre Dame leads the series for the "Jeweled Shillelagh" 42-34-5.
6.Texas vs. Texas A&M
Another under-appreciated rivalry, "The Lone Star Showdown" between the Longhorns and the Aggies are the two biggest and oldest public universities in the state of Texas. The rivalry has a special uniqueness to it considering Texas was the general, open public university in the state while Texas A&M is still very much aligned to its military-based roots.
The line between Longhorn and Aggie is a clear marker in the state reaching back to 1894 with the Longhorns leading the all-time series 75-36-5.
5. Nebraska vs. Oklahoma
The two programs dominated the heartland of America for decades. Though the rivalry may have lost some cachet in recent years, they are still two of the sports' most storied programs whose rivalry had regular national implications for decades.
The game's former placement on Thanksgiving brought it national recognition for many years.
Oklahoma and Nebraska first met in 1912 with Oklahoma leading the series 44-38-3.
4. Alabama vs. Auburn
It is undoubtedly one of the game's marquee rivalries. "The Iron Bowl" stretches to 1893 and the teams and their fans have been in-state blood rivals ever since. Once a neutral site game, "The Iron Bowl" became a home-and-home series for good in 1995.
Alabama regained its footing in the rivalry with wins in each of the last two seasons following a six-game winning streak by Auburn. Alabama leads the all-time series 40-33-1.
3. Army vs. Navy
No matter the success in the standings, the Army-Navy rivalry lives on as one of the game's best because of its endearing spirit, message and greater cause of the participants.
There are no scholarships and rarely is there a future in making football a profession for the players. This is about pure effort, guile and bragging rights. The Army-Navy Game drips in Americana.
Unfortunately for Army, once a national powerhouse in the mid-1940s, the Black Knights have watched their series lead slip away as Navy as built a consistent winner this decade. The Midshipmen have won nine of the last 10 meetings and now claim a 54-49-7 lead.
2. Oklahoma vs. Texas
Texas and Oklahoma have long been national powers. The schools proximity, battles for recruits and the game's effects in the polls make this one of the country's best rivalries.
One or both of the teams have been ranked in the Top 25 in 60 of the last 65 meetings. The rivalry raised the bar even further over the last decade as either Texas or Oklahoma have played for the national championship in six of the last ten years.
1. Ohio State vs. Michigan
The legend of the Toledo War. Michigan's early dominance and national powerhouse. Ohio State's rise under Woody Hayes. Bo Schembechler. The Ten Years War. 18 National Titles. 80 Bowl appearances. 256 All-Americans. 1,696 combined victories. The Horseshoe. The Big House. Gold Pants. Archie. 50-14. Redemption of '69. "Heisman Pose." Charles Woodson.
All ingredients into making Ohio State v. Michigan the greatest rivalry in the sport.
Michigan leads the all-time series 57-43-6, but Ohio State has won eight of the last nine.