I began watching college football because of rivalries. Not for the College Football Playoff (formerly the BCS) or the Silly Season or recruiting or any of the number of nuances that drive this sport.
Like many, I was drawn in by those certain games where hate, respect and passion come together to form an overpowering cocktail that appeals to my senses.
In college football, there are plenty of games worthy of an outsider's time and appreciation. But there are a select few that seem to separate themselves from all others.
The process of trying to rank these games is impossible. However, that doesn't mean we won't try anyway.
What is the best rivalry in college football? We asked Bleacher Report readers to give us their picks as rivalry week begins.
The answers were passionate, which should surprise no one. Some were also weird, which should also surprise no one.
Let's dive in.
Let There Be Eggs
Suggestion: Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss when they are both good
Ah, the Egg Bowl. This is a glorious football delicacy, and I am so thankful it is back on Thanksgiving this year.
Let's not forget the last time this game was played on Thanksgiving, when the outcome was decided largely after a player—fantastic wideout Elijah Moore—pretended to urinate like a dog in the end zone as the game neared a conclusion.
If you saw it, you will never un-see it. If you didn't, please bask in the weirdness now and report back.
This rivalry is very personal. The hate is very real. It's also been very even in recent years, which is not something many other rivalries can say of late.
Since 2000, Ole Miss has 11 wins. Mississippi State has 10.
Strange things happen in this game, which makes it a quality recommendation for this piece. And with Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach going head-to-head with really solid teams, I am particularly thrilled about the 2021 installment.
It probably doesn't get the national attention it deserves or needs to be the biggest rivalry game. But I find it delightful and implore you to consume this year's edition (and every edition).
Response: OU-Texas, and it's not even close
At this exact moment, Oklahoma-Texas feels, well, different.
Oklahoma's had a weird year. Texas has had a disastrous year. And the game these two played earlier in the fall, as wild and exciting as it was, feels like a distant memory.
But the wonderful thing about rivalries is they aren't born overnight, and the animosity between these two teams has been built up over time. That said, it speaks to how much respect and appreciation there still is when you consider they jointly left the Big 12 for the SEC.
They did that together. Because the show between the two, regardless of conference, must go on.
The Red River Showdown—aka the Red River Shootout—features two enormous brands playing together in a venue that is filled with fried food and emotion. The setting is a huge part of what makes this game special, and it is indeed very special.
While Texas has a 62-50-5 advantage in the series, Oklahoma has been dominant of late. The Sooners have won six of the past seven. Most games have been spectacular in recent years, but Oklahoma has just been slightly more spectacular.
This is a wonderful game, and I think it's a top-four rivalry in the sport. The fact that it's played earlier in the year makes it unique; it also might take away some of the late-season steam other games get.
But don't change a thing unless you have to, Texas and Oklahoma. We like you just the way you are.
The Power of Iron
Response: AUBURN VS ALABAMA, y'all just don't know
Oh, I do.
I have spent more time in Tuscaloosa than any other college town over the past five years, and I can safely say this gentleman isn't wrong. I didn't grow up with the Iron Bowl, but I have witnessed its powers. And they are significant.
The Kick-Six is now closing in on being a decade old, and that play still feels so very fresh. I can still hear, "Auburn's gonna win the football game!" every time I think about how surreal this outcome was.
(Also, RIP to the late Rod Bramblett, who narrated this moment perfectly.)
It's one of the most unbelievable plays in college football history, and it's just a small piece of Iron Bowl lore. While Alabama has won nine of the last 13, largely because of Nick Saban's arrival, Auburn's victories in this stretch are all memorable.
There is so much history baked into these two programs, and I'm not sure there is a bigger feeling in the sport than when both teams are really good. Even when they're not, this rivalry feels almost infinite.
You are born into it, grow your love for your own team, and mold your hatred for the other. It is timeless.
When I think of college football, I think of rivalries just like this one. It is why we watch.
Let There be Bedlam
For whatever reason, I have always been engrossed in this series. (Well, I could watch Hawai'i play an FCS team at like 3 a.m. on a random weekday, so maybe I'm not the best barometer.)
But Bedlam is wonderful. It's a perfect name for a college football rivalry, and it features two programs that seem to genuinely not care for the other.
That goes for the fanbases as well. In fact, that especially goes for the fanbases.
The name of the rivalry was actually born out of wrestling, and the description outlines just how intense those matches were. In football, Bedlam has largely been one-sided. There is no other way to shape it.
The Sooners have a 90-18-7 edge. I suppose "edge" doesn't quite cut it. Also, Oklahoma has won six in a row.
You could make an argument that a team having that big of advantage over the other makes it less of a rivalry, and I can't really argue with that thesis. But the emotions, successes and disappointments attached are very real, and I can feel those even when those emotions are expected.
As for this year, Oklahoma State is favored over its rival. This is not something that has happened regularly. The Pokes have won this game only twice since 2003, which makes this year's installment that much more interesting.
Also of interest is what happens to this rivalry when Oklahoma leaves the Big 12. It sounds like they will attempt to keep this game alive—hopefully annually. This is a game that cannot and shouldn't get the Texas A&M-Texas treatment.
We need Bedlam.
I imagine Oklahoma State fans will voice their opinions on this matter, this individual game and this lopsided series come next weekend. Cannot wait.
Go Army. Go Navy.
Response: Army vs. Navy. Enough said.
Honestly, I'm good with this answer as is.
This game is where life and football intersect. And while we can talk about all of the emotion that goes into football games and rivalries, the emotions and responses that emerge when these two teams play is unrivaled.
It's not just the players. It's those in attendance in uniform. It's the anxiety that everyone feels when the football game begins—or when it's close at the end.
It's the respect that everyone playing, attending and watching has for what is taking place.
A little history lesson for some: Army and Navy have been playing since 1890. These two teams used to factor into national championship discussions. They were a significant part of the game's growth over an extended period of time.
While that is largely not the case now, this particular game now has its own weekend: Army-Navy play the Saturday after conference championships are decided, and I could not love this individual showcase any more.
This game is in its own category of brilliance. It's a rivalry by itself. We simply cannot compare it to another game, because there is nothing like it.
Response: Ohio State-Michigan because of the longevity and so many games with national championships on the line.
This is the answer. I'm going to remove Army-Navy from this discussion, because it's really its own genre of rivalry.
When I think of college football, I think of Michigan and Ohio State playing a game around lunchtime a few days after Thanksgiving. The weather, the teams, the history, the stakes, the animosity all hit me differently depending on the year.
Fall into a rabbit hole while exploring this series, and you'll come across legendary coaches, players and performances. It is almost overwhelming, and I mean this in the best possible way.
Granted, I come from Big Ten country. I need to put that bias out in the open, although I'd like to believe I maintain a neutral stance.
Most Saturdays are simply better the further South you travel for a football game. But this rivalry—a rivalry so big we know it as The Game—just plays the right notes. It was also the most popular answer in the comments (for whatever that is worth).
As for the game itself, it has not been kind to Michigan of late. That's probably putting it nicely.
Since returning to Ann Arbor, Jim Harbaugh has yet to beat Ohio State. The Wolverines have won this game just once since 2004. Woof.
Michigan still holds a 58-52-6 edge, although that gap has shrunk significantly. In a few years, if things don't change, Ohio State will be in front.
As for this year's version, well, the stakes couldn't be much greater. Ohio State and Michigan are both vying for a Big Ten Championship, and the winner will appear in the Big Ten title game.
That winner will also keep its College Football Playoff hopes alive. C.J. Stroud, after last weekend's brilliant performance, is also trying to win another Heisman for the Buckeyes.
Not every rivalry game impacts the national picture all too much. In fact, most don't. That is not the case this week.
Although even if that wasn't the case, I would still be consumed by everything this rivalry has to offer.