The Five Most Heated Rivalries In College Football

Kristofer GreenSenior Writer INovember 17, 2008

College football is full of heated and hated rivals.  More than any other sport, college football fans embrace the tradition and pageantry involved with the typical college football game day. 
But during Rivalry Week, that passion is palpable.  The games are more stressful, the hits are harder, the victories more sweet, and the losses harder to swallow.  For many teams, their season hinges on how they perform against their rival. 
While there are many great rivalries in college football, there are a handful of teams that truly hate each other.  And for them this one game, above all else, is the most important on their schedule every season.
With Rivalry Week upon us, let's take a closer look at the five greatest college football rivalries.  For these ten teams, loving thy neighbor is not an option.


Honorable Mentions
All-time record:  Miami leads 30-23
The series originated in 1951 and neither school has really dominated.  Both the Seminoles and the Hurricanes have gone on streaks of five plus victories against their opponent. Wins are usually traded away year in and year out with the home team usually falling to the visitors.
Since the late 1980s, one or both squads have often been highly ranked coming into the game, adding national championship implications to an already heated rivalry. Kicks have played an important role in the series with many wide right, wide left, blocks, and muffs that would have won the game for the fallen.


THE CIVIL WAR   Oregon vs. Oregon State
All-time record:  Oregon leads 55-46-10
The first game between these in-state rivals was played in 1894.  Though the game doesn't usually carry national implications, the rivalry divides the state and is hotly contested.

From 1997 through 2006 the winner of the game was the home team. The streak was snapped in 2007, when Oregon State University beat the University of Oregon at Autzen Stadium 38-31 in double overtime.

From 1959 to 1961, the Platypus Trophy was awarded to the winning school. The trophy was lost for 40 years and found in 2005, and beginning with the 2007 game, is to be awarded to the winning school's alumni association.

The 2008 meeting has Pac-10 championship and Rose bowl implications.


THE BORDER WAR   Kansas vs. Missouri
All-time record:  Missouri leads 54-53-9
The intense rivalry between the two universities can be traced to the open violence involving anti-slavery and pro-slavery elements that took place in the Kansas Territory and the western frontier towns of Missouri throughout the 1850s. These incidents were attempts by Missouri (a slave state) to influence whether Kansas would enter the Union as a free or slave state.
Often referred to as one of the bitterest and most hateful rivalries in college sports, the 2007 football season brought the origins of the rivalry between the two states back into the spotlight. A t-shirt created by a Missouri alumnus gained national attention with its reference to Quantrill's Raid of 1863.
The shirt depicted the burning of Lawrence in 1863 following the raid of William Quantrill and his Bushwhackers against the Jayhawkers of Kansas. The image of Lawrence burning was paired with the word “Scoreboard” and a Mizzou logo. On the back of the shirts, William Quantrill was quoted, "Our cause is just."
Some Kansas fans interpreted these shirts as supporting slavery. KU supporters returned fire with a shirt depicting abolitionist John Brown with the words, “Kansas: Protecting America from Missouri since 1854.”


All-time record:  Notre Dame leads 42-32-5
The Irish and the Trojans rivalry is widely regarded as the best inter-sectional rivalry in college football.  The two teams first met in 1926.
Quite often, the winner of this series has gone on to win or play for the college football national title. Both schools combined have produced the most national titles (22), Heisman trophy winners (14), All-Americans, College Football Hall of Famers and future NFL Hall of Famers (21) than any other collegiate series. Also of note is that ND and USC games count for five of the ten most-watched college football games in television history.
All-time record:  Georgia leads 46-38-2

For nearly a century, Bulldogs and Gators have been battling in one of the SEC’s most bitter rivalries. It is a series that has produced signature plays (“Run Lindsay Run!”), stretches of dominance by each school and, most recently, one of the most controversial “motivational tactics” any coach has ever dreamed up.

Florida and Georgia first met in 1914 and the game is traditionally played at the neutral site of Jacksonville, Florida. Georgia and Florida first played there 1915 and have met in that city each year since 1933, with tickets split evenly between the two fan bases.

Georgia fans have been known to complain about the actual “neutrality” of Jacksonville. And it’s hard to blame them.  While Jacksonville is only about an hour’s drive from Gainesville, home of the University of Florida, the city is nearly 350 miles from Georgia’s campus in Athens, Georgia.

Memorable Moments
-In 1966, the Gators entered the game 7-0 and quarterback Steve Spurrier had locked up the Heisman Trophy the week earlier and Spurrier seemed set to beat the Dawgs for the first time in his career.  Instead, he threw three interceptions and Georgia handed the Gators their first loss of the season in a 27-10 game.
-In 1980, Georgia trailed Florida 21-20 and time was running out.  Facing a third and long from their own eight yard line, Georgia quarterback Buck Belue found receiver Lindsay Scott open in the middle of the field near the Georgia 25-yard line.  Scott darted through Florida's secondary and outran everyone down the sideline, scoring the game-winning touchdown with only seconds left on the clock.  The improbable victory kept alive Georgia's successful quest for the National Championship.
-In a move that served to rally the underdog Bulldogs and add fuel to the rivalry, the 2007 game will be remembered for "The Gator Stomp," in which the entire Georgia team left the sideline for a mass-celebration in the Gator endzone after their first touchdown.


4.  THE ARMY-NAVY GAME   Army vs. Navy
All-time record:  Navy leads 52-49-7
The first meeting between the two Service Academies was in 1900 and the game has historically been played on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  The game is now played on the first Saturday in December and is traditionally the last game of the season for both teams.
Despite the fact that Army and Navy are no longer nationally competitive on a regular basis, the tradition of the game has ensured that it remains nationally televised to this day.
Arguably, one of the great appeals of this game to many fans is that since few, if any, of the participants will ever play in the NFL, they're playing solely for the love of the game. Due to commitments to serve in their respective branches of the armed services after graduation, many players are simply deemed too old and or out of "playing shape" to even consider playing competitively again, much less in the professional ranks.
Fun Facts
-The game has been played in nine different locations: Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, East Rutherford, Annapolis, West Point, Chicago, Pasadena, and Princeton.
-The 1944 game was played during World War II and Army was transported to Baltimore from New York on a ship guarded by Navy warships.  Army would go on to win the game and the National Championship that season.
-The 1963 game was the first ever game to feature the use of instant replay.
Memorable Moments
-In 1952, Navy would pull off the win in a defensive battle.  Phil McNahan scored from two yards out in the first quarter for the only score of the game.
-In 1971, Navy passed up a short field goal attempt in favor of a going for a touchdown.  Navy would lose the game 24-23.


3.  RED RIVER RIVALRY   Oklahoma vs. Texas
All-time record:  Texas leads 58-40-5
Texas has intrastate rival Texas A&M.  Oklahoma has intrastate rival Oklahoma State.  But to fans of Texas and Oklahoma, the game that matters most is their annual tussle.
First played in 1900, the showdown between the Longhorns and Sooners—known far and wide as the Red River Rivalry—has become one of college football's best and most bitter rivalries.

Though the Texas-Oklahoma series officially began in 1900, the game truly arrived in 1929—the year it was first played at the neural-site city of Dallas. The city is located about halfway between Norman, Oklahoma (home of the Sooners) and Austin, Texas (home of the Longhorns).

The storied old Cotton Bowl has played host to the game since 1937. On gameday—which is always scheduled in early October, during the Texas State Fair—the stadium is split in half, with Texas fans on one side of the 50-yard-line and Sooners fans on the other.

Fun Facts
-In 1948, future Texas coach Darryl Royal was the quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners.  Ten years later he would beat the Sooners and put an end to a decade of dominance by Oklahoma.
-In 1976, the game was overshadowed by allegations by Texas coach Darrell Royal that Oklahoma had been "spying on his practices." Royal and OU Coach Barry Switzer were involved in a serious feud at the time. The game was attended by then U.S. President Gerald Ford who made an appearance with Royal and Switzer before the game. Switzer and Royal both spoke to Ford but not to each other. The game ended in a 6–6 tie.
-During the 1984 game Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer wore a baseball cap that read "Beat Texas."  Future Texas coach Mack Brown was an assistant to Switzer during the 1984 season marking the only time Brown would appear in the Crimson and Cream during the rivalry.
Memorable Moments
-Stoney Clark's Stone Cold Stop:  In 1994, Oklahoma drove into the red zone at the end of the game, looking to tie the score. Texas defensive lineman Stoney Clark stopped Oklahoma running back James Allen at the one-yard line on fourth down to end the game.
-In 1996, Oklahoma beat Texas in the Big XII's first overtime game 30-27.
-In a defensive struggle during the 2001 game, Oklahoma safety Roy Williams blitzed and leaped over the blocker to collide with Texas quarterback Chris Simms right as he released the ball.  The pass landed in Oklahoma linebacker Teddy Lehman's hands and he waltzed into the endzone to secure the 14-3 victory for the Sooners.  The play would become known simply as "The Play."
2.  THE IRON BOWL   Alabama vs. Auburn
All-time record:  Alabama leads 38-33-1

When it comes to good old-fashioned football hatred, there may be no rivalry in college football that can match Alabama-Auburn.

It is called the Iron Bowl, and for more than a century, it has been tearing the state of Alabama in two. These two teams hate each other. The fans hate each other. And probably more than any other rivalry in college football, Alabama-Auburn is truly a 365-day-a-year obsession.

Alabama currently leads the series though Auburn fans might tell you that's partially because the Crimson Tide enjoyed home-field advantage for four decades.

Auburn and Alabama first met on Feb. 22, 1893, in Birmingham, Alabama.  Auburn won 32-22. That much could be agreed upon. But the schools ended up getting into a spat—the first of many to come—over whether the game should be counted toward the 1892 season or the 1893 season. The nastiness continued from there, eventually leading to the temporary suspension in the series after the schools’ 1907 meeting, which ended in a 6-6 tie.

Auburn and Alabama didn’t meet again until 1948 and it literally took an act of the state government to make that happen.

Fun Facts

-The winner is awarded the Foy-ODK Sportsmanship Award.  The trophy is presented at halftime of the Auburn–Alabama basketball game later in the same academic year at the winner's arena. After the trophy presentation, the SGA President of the losing school must recite his or her adversary's fight song.

-Joe Namath led Alabama to a 21-14 victory in the first nationally televised game in the series in 1964.

-The game has been played in four cities: Auburn, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa.

Memorable Moments

-The Run in the Mud:  On a stormy night in 1967, Alabama quarterback Kenny Stabler ran for a 53 yard touchdown to give Bama a 7–3 win.

-Punt Bama Punt:  In the 1972 game, trailing 16–3 with 6 minutes left, Auburn blocked and scored on two Alabama punts to win the game 17–16.

-In 1981, Alabama coach Paul "Bear" Bryant got his 315th career victory to become the all-time winningest coach against Auburn.

-In 1982 Auburn defeated No. 2 Alabama in the first ever game played at Jordan Hare Stadium.


1.  THE GAME   Ohio State vs. Michigan

All-time Record: Michigan leads 57-41-6
Widely considered the greatest rivalry in all of sports, the Ohio State-Michigan game has been played since 1897 and has been the regular season finale for both schools since 1935.
The early years of this rivalry were dominated by Michigan, who went 12-0-2 in the first 14 meetings.  The Buckeyes, led by Chic Harley, won their first game in the series in 1919 and would go on to win the next two games as well.
Between 1930 and 1933, Michigan won three of four contests, claiming the National Championship twice during that span.  Ohio State would then run off four straight shutout victories from 1934-1937 in which the Buckeyes outscored the Wolverines 112-0.
In 1950, perhaps the most famous game in the series took place.  No. 8 Ohio State, coached by Wes Fesler, was scheduled to host the game amidst one of the worst blizzards on Ohio record.  The Buckeye's, who led the Big Ten, were granted the option of canceling the game, which would have given them the Big Ten title and a trip to the Rose Bowl.  Ohio State refused to cancel, so amid howling snow and wind, the two teams played.
During the game the teams exchanged 45 punts, often on first down in hopes that the other team would fumble.  Despite gaining a first down Michigan would prevail in a 9-3 victory.  The victory gave Michigan the Big Ten title and Rose Bowl appearance.  The game has become known as "The Snow Bowl".  Heavy criticism of Fesler's play calling led to his resignation and the hiring of Woody Hayes.
Between 1951 and 1968, under Hayes, the Buckeyes won 12 of 18 contests, including a 1957 victory in Michigan Stadium that was the first game attended by more than 100,000 fans.
The 1969 game, the first for Michigan coach Bo Schembechler, marked the beginning of the most competitive period in the series.  "The Ten-Year War" pitted some of the most successful teams in both school's histories.  Four times between, 1970 and 1975, both schools were ranked in the AP top 5 and Michigan entered every game during that period undefeated, but won only once.
From 1988-2000, Michigan dominated the series going 10-2-1.  The John Cooper led Buckeyes would enter the game three time during that span undefeated only to lose the Michigan game each time.  Though Cooper consistently fielded top 25 teams and was an excellent recruiter he was fired in 2000.  Though the University cited he was fired because of "disciplinary control of the team" and a losing record in bowl games, it is widely speculated that the true reason for his firing was his record (2-10-1) versus Michigan.
The Jim Tressel era began in 2001 and was introduced to the Buckeye faithful during halftime of an Ohio State-Michigan basketball game.  Tressel told the crowd,  "I can assure you that you will be proud of these young gentlemen, in the classroom, in the community, and most especially in 310 days in Ann Arbor, Michigan on the football field."
Tressel delivered on his promise, when the Buckeyes beat the Wolverines for the first time in Ann Arbor in 14 years.  The Buckeyes won the following year as well en route to a National Championship and the first and only 14-0 record in college football history.  Since 2001, the series has been dominated by the Buckeyes who are 6-1 against Michigan during that span.
Fun Facts
-In 2000, ESPN ranked "The Game" as the greatest North American sports rivalry.
-Ohio State's Alma Mater Carmen Ohio was written on the train ride home to Columbus following the 1902 contest.  The lyrics and melody have remained unchanged since its conception.
-Both Ohio Stadium and Michigan Stadium were dedicated during the Ohio State-Michigan game.
-A first year Michigan coach has never lost to Ohio State.
-The 100th meeting in Ann Arbor had an official attendance of 112,118, which still stands as the largest crowd to ever watch a NCAA football game.
-A half-hour after the 2006 game in Columbus, the Ohio Lottery Pick 4 evening drawing was 4-2-3-9, which matched the game's final score.
-Since 1935, the Ohio State vs. Michigan game has decided the Big Ten Champion 46 times.
Memorable Moments
-In Earle Bruce's final game as Ohio State's head coach and inspired Buckeye team upset the heavily favored Wolverines.  After the game Bo Schembechler told Bruce at mid-field, "I always mind losing to Ohio State but I didn't mind so much today."
-Tim Biakabutuka's 313 rushing yards led the Wolverines to a 31-23 upset of the No. 2 Buckeyes in 1995.
-Charles Woodson's Heisman pose in the Ohio State endzone after a punt return for a touchdown in the 1997 game.
-Will Allen's interception in the end zone in the final minutes to secure a 14-9 victory and 12-0 record for the Buckeyes in 2002.
-The 2006 game was the first game in the series history in which both teams were ranked in the top two spots in the rankings.  The game was also special because legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler died the day before the game.


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