Two great and storied programs now find themselves not only in the same conference, but the same division.
Michigan and Nebraska have been placed in the Big Ten's new Legends Division, and consequently, the Cornhuskers and Wolverines will tangle each year, not only in football, but in every Big Ten sport.
Not only do each of these programs have a proud history, but they have an intertwined history as well. There's probably not a single Michigan fan or Nebraska fan that doesn't discount the other's claim to the 1997 National Championship—Michigan won the AP National Championship, Nebraska won the Coaches Poll title. Not only do both teams claim the 1997 title as their own, but this dispute helped to give rise to the BCS, which began in 1998.
Michigan and Nebraska have met just six times, and Michigan holds the edge in the series 3-2-1.
It's easy to believe that the game between these two teams will soon become the perennial match-up that could decide who wins the Legends Division.
The next budding rivalry on our list is between the top two “non-AQ” programs in the nation over the past few years.
Boise State and TCU have met just three times in their history, but two of those games have come since 2008, and all three have been in bowl games.
The battles between Boise and TCU have been more than mere bowl games. They have been duals to decide which team is deserving of national recogniation. They are fights for supremacy over all non-AQ programs. And in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl, it was a chance for an undefeated season, and BCS bowl victory.
This season, we'll be treated to a conference match-up between TCU and Boise State, as the Broncos have joined the Mountain West Conference. Unfortunately, TCU has already announced plans to leave the MWC after the 2011 season for, curiously, the Big East.
While we're only going to see one season of Boise State and TCU together in the same conference, it's doubtful that this will be the last time we see these two teams tussle.
And with the way both programs are headed, it's possible we could seem them together again in a game with much more importance than a mere regular season conference clash.
Back to the Big Ten where we find two traditional teams thrust into a new relationship with each other.
Last season, Wisconsin and Ohio State shared the Big Ten championship (along with Michigan State) even though Wisconsin got the better of the Buckeyes in Madison. Now, there will be no sharing. The Big Ten has added a twelfth team, and thus are allowed a conference championship game.
For Wisconsin and Ohio State, who are both in the Leaders Division, that means an annual pitched battle to determine the divisional title. While there are others in the division capable of earning a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game, for the time being, Wisconsin and Ohio State are the two powerhouses in the division.
With the first year of divisional play set to get underway, you can bet that Ohio State will be out for revenge, and the Badgers are eager to prove that they are the true powerhouse of the Leaders Division.
This is one fight that probably won't be settled this season, but luckily for football fans, we'll be treated to this battle every season for the foreseeable future.
The two new members of the Pac-12 have found themselves in the same division, and these geographic neighbors will prove to be natural rivals in their new conference home.
Utah and Colorado are, geographically speaking, the eastern outliers for the conference, and each will be eager to prove that they are a force to be reckoned with in the new-look Pac-12. While Colorado has had some struggles over the past few seasons, it is a proud program with rich tradition and history. Utah has been one of the top non-AQ programs for years, and has had their fair share of big-game experience, including whipping Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl. Now, the Utes will have to face big game after big game, and Colorado will figure heavily into that equation.
Colorado and Utah have actually met 57 times, with Colorado holding a 30-24-3 edge. But these two teams haven't tussled since 1962—strange considering their relative geographical proximity.
No matter. The Pac-12 powers that be have seen fit to resolve that issue by placing both these two teams in the Pac-12-South, and beginning in 2011, we'll be treated to a new annual rivalry between the Buffaloes and Utes.
The Utes will have more to worry about than the Buffaloes, though.
When the divisional alignment for the new Pac-12 was announced, it was clear to most observers that USC, even with their current sanction-induced downturn, was going to be the beast of the South Division.
During any given season there may be others who will compete for the divisional title, but USC is one team you can count on being in the mix year in and year out.
For the time being, however, you can also count on Utah making some noise in the division. With it's recent successes, it's not a stretch to consider Utah a top-tier program. Now that the Utes are in a BCS-AQ conference, it's likely they'll retain that classification for some time.
Long story short, Utah and USC look to be the two teams that will be fighting it out annually for the South Division's berth in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Utah and USC haven't met since the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl, which Utah won, 10-6. USC holds a 6-3 advantage in the series, with Utah's other victories coming in 1915 and 1916.
Think about corn. Chances are, two states popped into your head: Nebraska and Iowa.
If for no other reason, this game should be a rivalry simply because of corn.
But other than that reason, the new annual meeting between these two Big Ten Legends Division foes will begin to take on conference championship implications as the years progress.
While Iowa may be staring the prospect of a “rebuilding year” in the face for 2011, it won't be long before the Hawkeyes are back in top form, and competing for a divisional championship. It's also likely that Nebraska will feature heavily in Iowa's quest for said divisional title.
The annual “Corn Bowl” will be more than a geograpical or agricultural rivalry—it will become a battle for Midwestern football supremacy, both on the field and in terms of recruiting. As these states border one another, they draw from the same talent pools. It doesn't matter who you are or where you're from, winning is a big draw for recruits.
A year ago, if you had placed Boise State in the Mountain West, the conference would have easily become one of the best in the nation, with Boise, BYU, Utah, and TCU all competing each season.
As it turns out, only one of those four teams will remain in the MWC after the 2011 season. So who will be Boise State's biggest conference rival once the Horned Frogs follow the Utes and Cougars out of the Mountain West?
Until things change in the MWC, Air Force looks to be the most likely candidate to challenge Boise State for conference supremacy.
Boise State and Air Force have never met in football, but the Falcons and Broncos will tangle for the first time on October 11 in Boise. It's also likely that these two teams will represent the top of the conference until the MWC expands or Boise State moves on in search of greener (or bluer) grass.
With all of the talk surrounding possible SEC expansion and the potential invitation of Texas A&M into the conference, the games between Arkansas and Texas A&M seem a little more important now.
While there probably won't be any decisions made by either the SEC or A&M about conference alignment until after the 2011 season, the scuttlebutt is sure to increase interest in the third game of the current series between the Razorbacks and the Aggies.
Arkansas and Texas A&M have met 67 times, with the Razorbacks leading 40-24-3. Arkansas has also won the last two meetings, both at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas—the same location the 2011 edition of the game will take place.
While the previous meetings weren't exactly meaningless, the 2011 installment could have massive implications for both teams.
Both the Aggies and Razorbacks are ranked to start the season, and both have lofty expectations for 2011. While a loss for either team wouldn't exactly disqualify them from BCS consideration (provided they still win their respective conference championships), it would be a major blow to any aspirations for a national championship.
Both teams—and fan bases—are acutely aware of this fact, and annual meetings in games with a lot of the line is exactly the ingredient necessary to set up what could eventually become a great in-conference rivalry.