Ranking the 10 best college football rivalry games
Nothing says college football, quite like rivalry week. With the eve of the final week of regular season games, we rank the top 10 rivalries in college football.
The Iron Bowl, The Egg Bowl, The Holy War, Clean Old Fashioned Hate. Just a few of the names of the multitude of college football rivalry games throughout the country. What makes these rivalry games so special? It’s for bragging rights. It’s for the amount of dislike for the other team from the players, to the fans and everyone involved with the programs. It is for the fact that sometimes the rivalry game can decide who goes to a bowl game and who does not, and now can even decide the fate of who goes to the college football playoff, and who does not.
Some teams have one true rival and some teams have multiple rivals, but there are always those certain games that are memorable and lasting. The Iron Bowl, for instance, has many had many great games played but the most memorable might be one of their more recent matchups in 2013. The “kick six” game, in which Alabama missed a 57-yard field goal and the ball was returned by Auburn for a touchdown, giving the Tigers the victory. It is moments like that, that truly make a rivalry special and important (unless you’re on the wrong end of a play like that, then you probably just want to forget about the whole thing).
Here are the top 10 rivalries in college football, beginning with some honorable mentions:
Honorable mentions in no particular order:
- Colorado State vs Wyoming (The Border War): A game that each fan base circles every year, and is one of the oldest rivalries west of the Mississippi (played since 1899). Easily the best rivalry in the Mountain West.
- Ole Miss vs LSU (The Magnolia Bowl): This used to be a bigger game than it is in the present day, many older LSU and Ole Miss fans consider the other team to be the true rival of the their team.
- Alabama vs Tennessee: An SEC cross-division rivalry that never lacks for excitement from either fan base.
- Wisconsin vs Minnesota (Battle for Paul Bunyans Axe) Lets just be honest, this game has one of the best trophies in college football, and who doesn’t love a Big 10 slugfest?
- Texas vs Texas A&M (Lone Star Showdown) The Lone Star Showdown used to be one of the best games to watch on Thanksgiving weekend, sadly due to A&M moving to the SEC, we have not seen this game since 2011. If the game were still being played, it would be in the top 10.
10. Ole Miss vs Mississippi State (The Egg Bowl)
Ole Miss leads series, 63-43-6
This rivalry tends to be overlooked because both of these teams have been relegated to the SEC basement for decades. In recent years however the rivalry has intensified due to the successes of both teams and the fanbases hate for one another. The Egg Bowl always seems to set the tone for each teams season’s and how they and their fans will feel heading into postseason play or the offseason.
This year is no different; both teams dislike for one another will be on full display when the Bulldogs travel to Oxford to face the Rebels. Mississippi State, with seven losses, is out of bowl contention, but they will be looking to keep the 5-6 Rebels out of a bowl themselves.
9. Cal vs Stanford (The Big Game)
Stanford leads series, 62-46-11
If this game were never played again, it would still be remembered for one of the all time greatest plays/moments in college football history. In 1982, “the play” happened, in which Cal lateraled the ball down the field on the kickoff return and returned the ball all the way to the end zone, with the Stanford band waiting, for a touchdown that would win them the game. That single play defines this rivalry and helps put it in the top 10 for the country.
The Cal-Stanford game comes earlier than rivalry week, and has already played this season. Stanford won the game 45-31, for their seventh win in a row in the series against the Golden Bears.
8. Florida vs Georgia (World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party)
Georgia leads series, 50-43-2
The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is perhaps the longest name for a rivalry game, but the matchup between the Gators and the Bulldogs never fails to be a great game. The shear size of tailgate is enough to know how much this game means to fans of both schools. The game takes place in neutral site, Jacksonville, Florida and regularly helps decide who will win the SEC East and go to the SEC Championship Game.
This year was not as exciting a game for both teams, Florida won handily, 24-10. Partly due to their more experienced team, versus the youth of the Georgia Bulldogs. Make no mistake, the importance of this rivalry isn’r going anywhere anytime soon. It will help decide the Eastern division for years to come.
7. Alabama vs. LSU
Alabama leads series, 51-25-5
This is a game that has been played since the teams have been in the SEC, but has taken on a new level of magnitude due to the success of both teams. Practically since 2008, the winner of this game has gone on to win the SEC West, and go on to the national championship game and the college football playoff.
Alabama and LSU tends to be a low scoring affair, such as the “Game of the Century” in which the final score was 9-6 in overtime, an LSU victory. The two teams met again that year in the national championship game in which Alabama won, 21-0. The two teams met again this year, with Alabama coming out on top once again, 10-0.
6. Utah vs. BYU (The Holy War)
Utah leads series, 59-34-4
The Holy War is one of the best named rivalries in the country and is also one of the meanest rivalries that you will find. The game is very meaningful for both teams and they fan bases and their is no love lost between the two. The two teams normally play during the regular season, but the game was put on hiatus in 2014 and 2015, but then the two teams met in the 2015 Las Vegas Bowl in which Utah jumped out to a 35-0 lead, and never scored again, as BYU scored 28 unanswered points but couldn’t get the lead and Utah won.
The two teams battled once again in the 2016 regular season in another thrilling game in which Utah came out on top again, winning 20-19. The Holy War is underrated because BYU is not currently in a Power 5 conference, but if they ever do join, this game will be elevated in status. Until then, we can enjoy the fantastic games that come from it.
5. Florida State vs. Miami (FL)
Miami leads series, 31-30
No matter how many times these teams play, the ending of their matchups always seems to come down to a field goal, or lack thereof. There are seven memorable instances, including in 2016, in which the game has been decided by missed field goals. Florida State and Miami are the kings of the ACC in Florida, with the other major Florida program (Florida Gators, residing in the SEC), the two always battle for state supremacy in their conference.
This rivalry remains an intense one, but was on a whole other level in the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s, when the winner of the game tended to be in the national championship game, not to mention the numerous first round draft picks that have been produced by the colleges. The 2016 edition of the rivalry resulted in a 20-19, Florida State victory.
4. Texas vs. Oklahoma (Red River Showdown)
Texas leads series, 61-45-5
You would be hard pressed to find two teams and fanbases that dislike each other more than Texas and Oklahoma. These teams have played each other 111 times, and the games never disappoint, nor do they fail to be meaningful in deciding a conference champion. The game takes place annually in Dallas, at the Texas State Fair.
While this rivalry has fallen from national relevance due to the struggles of the Texas Longhorns in recent years, as well as Oklahoma’s struggles on a national stage, it will remain to be one of the most watched and most meaningful games. Sometimes regardless of how good or bad teams can be, some games just have to be seen and the Red River Showdown is one of those games. The 2016 edition of the rivalry resulted in a thrilling win for Oklahoma, who defeated the Longhorns 45-40.
3. Army vs. Navy
Navy leads series, 60-49-7
If you’re looking for a rivalry game that is intensely competitive and about as traditionalist as it gets in college football, you’ve found it. The Army Navy game is not only one of the best rivalries in college football, but it is one of those games that helped shape the history of college football. While the game doesn’t mean much anymore in terms of national championships and Heisman contenders, the game is still a tradition of sorts for the sport and is one of the more impressive displays of patriotism in sports.
Navy is currently riding a 14 game win streak against Army. The Midshipman won a close matchup in 2015 by a score of 21-17. The two teams will face off once again this season for the 117th time on December 10th. Also, there is nothing better than watching a game between two teams whose players have dedicated this time in their lives to their country and the defense of it, if that doesn’t get you fired up, I don’t know what will.
2. Michigan vs. Ohio State
Michigan leads series, 58-47-6
There is only one other rivalry that can top this one, but the sheer magnitude of the game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Ohio State Buckeyes can never be underestimated and can never be down played. These teams do not like each other, and it is always a game to be watched. Ohio State even goes as far as to cover up any words on campus that have an “M” in the word.
The magnitude of this rivalry game will be on full display this Saturday when the second ranked Buckeyes face off against the third ranked Wolverines. The game will decide who goes to the Big Ten Championship Game, as well as which team will likely stay in the hunt for one of the four available spots in the college football playoffs. Did I mention that Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh are the coaches of Ohio State and Michigan respectively? They are worth watching just by themselves.
1. Alabama vs. Auburn (The Iron Bowl)
Alabama leads series, 44-35-1
I’ll make this simple, these teams, and especially their fan bases, do not like each other. Not at all. The Iron Bowl has intensified in recent years mostly due to how good both teams tend to be and the championships that they have both played for in recent years. But also because of memorable players and plays such as Cam Newton, Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry. The play that now defines this rivalry is the “kick six” game, which resulted in an Auburn win. And then there are the crazy fans who take this rivalry to a whole other level, such as Harvey Updyke, an Alabama fan who poisoned the famous Toomer’s Corner trees at Auburn after his Crimson Tide lost to the Tigers.
This game continues to be one of the most anticipated games in the SEC, and this season is no different as Alabama has a chance to close out their regular season undefeated, while Auburn, who has been better than expected this year, could play the role of spoiler, and potentially knock the Crimson Tide out of the college football playoff and their current number one ranking. Stay tuned on Saturday, the Iron Bowl is never a game to miss.
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