A bigger rivalry than OSU-Michigan?

BY foxsports • September 27, 2013

That Ohio State vs. Michigan is the greatest rivalry in American sports generally isn't debated. It's simply taken as fact, at least by those of us in the Midwest, and we move on to more important topics, such as whether LeBron James will give a pre-game speech before the Wisconsin game

The notion that the SEC might have a bigger rivalry is, at least to these Ohio-based ears, absolute heresy.

But that's exactly what a study by noted research firm, um, TicketCity.com offered last week.

Using a variety of criteria, such as "attendance", "ticket demand", and "Heisman Trophy recipients", TicketCity proclaimed Alabama vs. LSU to be (just barely) a more prominent rivalry than Michigan vs. Ohio State. Alabama/LSU received a rating of 100 and OSU/Michigan received a rating of 99.5.

This, of course, is ludicrous. 

Naturally, we know enough about surveys of this type to know that one can basically make them say whatever one wants. The key is what formula is used, and what factors comprise that formula. 

We would offer some alternative factors that might make TicketCity's results more accurate:

-- Number of times an opponent has ruined their rivals previously undefeated season,

-- Inverse of the number of times that opposing coach refers to rival by their actual name (since this is zero for OSU/Michigan, this would factor would be infinity),

-- Number of times that rival is mentioned, in an appropriately insulting way, by coaching staff before the season even starts,

-- Inverse probability of wearing team's colors into opponent's stadium and emerging without deep psychological scarring (again, close to infinity). 

Alabama's legacy in college football is a long-standing one. Bear Bryant's name is legendary and his teams were always feared. Give the Tide their due. But LSU's mark on college football is small and recent. Their relevance to college football dates back a decade at best. From 1974-2000, they finished the season unranked in the AP poll 18 times. That's a far cry from relevance.

SEC rivalries are, I would argue, different than those in the Big Ten. Since that division has been more balanced over the years, there has never been a situation like the Big Two / Little Eight phenomenon experienced by the Big Ten for decades. 

And how many times has Ohio State or That-School-Up-North derailed the other's championship dreams? Between 1970 and 1975, Ohio State ruined perfect Michigan seasons FOUR times. In 1993, 1995, and 1996, Michigan returned the favor.

In no other division is one team's focus so unrelentingly on the other.  

History, and some basic observational skills, confirms that Ohio State vs. Michigan is the pre-eminent rivalry in sports. To argue otherwise is an exercise in delusion.

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