With the Pac-10 and Big Ten taking on new league partners through expansion the potential for positive change is endless. One of the most promising developments is the possibilities for burgeoning rivalries.
It’s unlikely any of these would replace some of the current, long-standing battles like Ohio State-Michigan, USC-UCLA , Stanford-California or Texas-Oklahoma.
But there is room for more and some that should be a bit more marketable than Indiana-Purdue or Minnesota-Michigan.
While not all of these teams have made the move, it’s not too early to speculate a little on the best new rivalries created by conference expansion.
Texas Tech leads all-time series: 26-4-2
Last meeting: Texas Tech 24-14 (Sept. 9, 1989)
The Red Raiders and Wildcats could play for the “We’ll Never Represent the Pac-10 in the Rose Bowl” Trophy. OK, a little harsh but the reality they both face.
It was a little surprising to learn these two have played 32 times, and even more shocking is Tech has owned Arizona since the series began in 1932.
It’s also a nice contrast in styles. Texas Tech, even without Mike Leach, still conveys a Rebel spirit, while Arizona seems more laid back with a lot of blonde hair, blue eyes.
No one leads all-time series: 0-0
Last meeting: None
This is the battle of red-headed step children. Neither program will ever get top billing in their home state. There is a little envy, though. Oklahoma State has T. Boone Pickens, while Oregon State would love to have Phil Knight’s money that has helped propel rival Oregon (of course the Beavers don’t have to try out every uniform concoction Knight and his Nike designers develop).
It may take some time before this one takes hold, but think of all that orange and black packed into Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater or Reser Stadium in Corvallis. Of course the game will have to be played on Halloween every year.
A secondary benefit of this rivalry is every game is likely to end on the last play of the game with score in the 40s.
Oklahoma leads all-time series: 3-1
Last meeting: UCLA 41-24 (Sept. 17, 2005)
It would be easy to pick USC as a rival, but the Trojans have a commanding 6-2-1 record against the Sooners, including five consecutive victories dating back to 1981. Plus, USC can only play so many rivalry games in a year anyway.
The Bruins history isn’t quite as rich as Oklahoma, but it’s still a matchup of big-time programs. The game would almost have a bowl atmosphere, especially when Rick Neuheisel starts talking at the first press conference of the week.
Bob Stoops will laugh it off and proceed to win more than he loses. It won’t replace the Red River Shootout, but Sooners fans will love this game.
Minnesota leads all-time series: 29-20-2
Last meeting: Nebraska 56-0 (Sept. 22, 1990)
Nebraska has won 14 in a row in this series that dates back to 1900, however the Gophers used to own this contest. Minnesota won 10 of the first 12. The Cornhuskers own the most embarrassing win with an 84-13 win in 1983.
The Cornhuskers will need to establish some new rivalries because their former Big 12 partners are likely to freeze Nebraska out, especially Oklahoma.
So bring on Minnesota. The two schools are close enough for fans to make the road trip (approximately 6 ½ hours).
No one leads all-time series: 2-2
Last meeting: California 31-17 (Sept. 11, 1982)
Boulder and Berkeley—both are quintessential, liberal campuses. They share a bond that can now be consummated on the field annually.
Of course any outsiders attending this game will have to adjust to the wafting smell of hemp floating around California Memorial Stadium or Folsom Field.
Colorado would probably prefer a rivalry with USC or UCLA to help with the Buffaloes recruiting in the LA market, but Cal will have to do.
Texas A&M leads all-time series: 2-1
Last meeting: Washington 19-6 (Sept. 9, 1989)
This is a chance for the Huskies to represent Seattle (especially the Seahawks) and try to settle the whole 12th Man debate.
Both programs have seen better days, but the Huskies are on the way up, while the Aggies are still undecided.
Geography is not kind to this rivalry, but both universities have outstanding fan bases and the stadiums can rock. Distance won’t matter. Cherish it all of you 12th men.
Oklahoma leads all-time series: 6-1
Last meeting: Oregon 34-33 (Sept. 16, 2006)
This potential matchup doesn’t have a long history, but the last two matchups have been great games.
The last time the two hooked up is one Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops will never forget. What he’ll recall most is the controversial finish to the 2006 game at Autzen Stadium. The Sooners had a 13-point lead with less than two minutes to play, but the Ducks scored twice and recovered a controversial onside kick for a 34-33 Oregon win.
In 2005 OU got the better of UO in the Holiday Bowl, 17-14. The Sooners’ biggest victory came in 1972 when they won 68-3 in Norman.
When one team (Oklahoma) has outscored the other 234-65 it may not seem like the makings of a rivalry, but this one would pit two great coaching minds in Stoops and Chip Kelly against each other.
Texas leads all-time series: 4-1
Last meeting: Oregon 35-30 (Dec. 29, 2000)
All right, Texas and Oregon have enough traditional rivalries that this may be unnecessary. But something just feels right about this one.
This series has the right mix of rambunctious fans, big-time donors and the potential for some nasty sniping. This game is dying for a good name that will likely get hijacked by a corporate sponsor.
What also makes a great rivalry? It starts with talented teams, and includes competitive games. Texas and Oregon attract many of the nation’s best recruits so talent is in big supply. Competitiveness shouldn’t be a problem either.
Like I said, something just feels right about this one.
USC leads all-time series: 4-1
Last meeting: Texas 41-38 (Jan. 4, 2006)
Who doesn’t remember that classic BCS Championship Game when Vince Young single-handedly gave the Longhorns their first-ever win against Southern Cal? OK, so we can’t expect that every time these two play, but this game could become bigger than USC-Notre Dame.
These are two football bluebloods that have been among the nation’s best over the past decade.
The Trojans recent NCAA sanctions would put a small damper on the series, but by the time these two start facing off for real USC should be back to normal—even with Lane Kiffin.
Nebraska leads all-time series: 26-12-3
Last meeting: Nebraska 42-13 (Sept. 23, 2000)
The western portion of Iowa is loaded with Nebraska fans, so this game has real potential of becoming an instant rivalry. It’s not Ohio State-Michigan, but both fan bases are passionate and proud. It also helps that both programs are on the rise.
Another interesting aspect of this matchup is the potential of the offenses resembling pre-World War II execution. Both the Hawkeyes and Cornhuskers are stacked defensively and they’ll bloody each other. This contest should be scheduled at the end of the season because neither team will be at full strength the following week.
I can already see the T-shirts in Iowa: “Huck the Cornfuskers.” And in Nebraska they’ll say, “What do you call an Iowa football player with a championship ring? A thief.”
Let the games begin.
Pittsburgh vs. Penn State (Nittany Lions lead series 44-41-4): Penn State fans like to get all high and mighty with this series, but they forget how close and competitive this one really is. Please, bring it back. Even if Pitt doesn’t get a Big Ten invite.
West Virginia vs. Virginia Tech (WVU leads 28-21-1): If the Big East gets raided again there’s a reasonable chance the Mountaineers could follow former conference foes Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech to the ACC. This was one of the better Big East rivalries and the fans of each program would embrace a renewal.
Syracuse vs. Boston College (Syracuse leads 28-17): The Orange could get an offer from the Big Ten, but the ACC is also a likely landing spot. The Eagles are dying for a real ACC rival and the Cuse would answer the call.
Notre Dame vs. Ohio State (Ohio State leads 3-2): Even if the Irish remain an independent there’s no excuse why these two top-level teams shouldn’t be playing annually.
Rutgers vs. Northwestern (Rutgers leads 3-0): OK, it’s a meaningless game, but so is every other contest Rutgers will play if it goes the Big Ten.