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10 Greatest College Football Rivalries

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Last Friday was the first official day of autumn, but the 2011-12 college football season is already in full swing. Watching college football on television is a way of life for some football fans, and if you’ve attempted to visit a sports bar or grab a bite to eat at a restaurant with big screen TVs on a Saturday, you’ve probably realized it might take forever to get a table.

Along with college football games comes college football rivalries. Some occur between colleges and universities that are geographically close to one another and others happen between schools with similar specialized areas of study. Whatever the reasons may be, most college officials love the resentment between teams because it helps sell more game tickets and merchandise.

10 Biggest College Football Rivalries

It would be tough to list them all, but we’ve compiled 10 of the greatest college football rivalries below.

1. Army vs. Navy Rivalry

The annual Army—Navy football game showcases one of the most enduring college football rivalries of all time. Since 1890, the game between the United States Military Academy at West Point (the Army) and the United States Naval Academy (the Navy) embodies not only college football rivalry but inter-service rivalry between the US Armed Forces. The yearly game between the fierce competitors is typically held in Philadelphia, which is roughly equal distance between West Point, New York and Annapolis, Maryland, home of the USNA.

2. Texas vs. Texas A&M Rivalry

Texas is definitely a state that loves football, and official sporting events between the University of Texas Longhorns and the Texas A&M Aggies are so intense they’re known as “The Lone Star Showdown,” a moniker that was trademarked in 1996. Sponsored by insurance giant State Farm, the term itself comes from the Lone Star State, the nickname for the state of Texas. The rivalry between Texas and Texas A&M began in 1895, and these two public universities that typically play each other on or just after Thanksgiving have been heated opponents ever since the first game—just ask students, alumni, or pretty much anyone who resides in the state.

3. Michigan vs. Ohio State Rivalry

Football rivalry between the University of Michigan Wolverines and the Ohio State Buckeyes is so intense it’s simply known as “The Game” by most of the fans that follow the two schools. The rivalry between the two Midwestern state schools first began in 1897, and the annual matches between U of M and OSU typically occur at the end of the regular college football season. As of September 2011, the pair has played each other 107 times and most of the games have determined the Big Ten Conference title. Several of the matches have even influenced the outcome of the NCAA Division I national championship, making it easy to—almost—understand the intensity of their competition.

4. Notre Dame vs. Michigan Rivalry

When a school is as popular as Michigan, it’s bound to have more than one fierce competitor. Both the University of Michigan Wolverines and the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish are considered to be among the most elite college football teams in the country, escalating the college football rivalry between the two popular schools from Michigan even more. Notre Dame and Michigan first played in 1887 and met annually through the 1940s. The teams did not meet again until 1978 and have been fierce football competitors since.

5. Florida vs. Florida State Rivalry

Even though the University of Florida Gators and the Florida State University Seminoles play each other in a wide range of sports, the rivalry between the two oldest public universities in Florida tends to focus on college football. The Gators and Seminoles have only been battling it out annually since 1958, but they’ve played some of the most memorable rivalry games in recent college football history, particularly the 1997 Sugar Bowl.

6. Virginia vs. Virginia Tech Rivalry

Rivalry exists between the University of Virginia Cavaliers and the Virginia Tech Hokies in multiple sports, particularly college football. Although located in the same state, Virginia students are often perceived as elitists while Virginia Tech is considered rather blue collar. Although the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre understandably diminished the rivalry’s intensity out of respect, the pair has been fighting for bragging rights since 1895.

7. Utah vs. BYU Rivalry

The University of Utah Utes and the Brigham Young University Cougars have such a longstanding college football rivalry that their annual game is referred to as “The Holy War,” poking fun at the fact that Utah is a state school while BYU is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Not only are the schools, which have been battling it out on the football field since 1896, located in the same state, their secular vs. religious school difference definitely throws something unique into the mix.

8. South Carolina vs. Clemson Rivalry

The University of South Carolina Gamecocks and the Clemson University Tigers are separated by just 132 miles, and their heated in-state competition is based on more than just geography. The pair has been bitter rivals since the 1880s, and the year-long bragging rights of their annual game’s outcome affect fans as well as students.

9. Georgia vs. Georgia Tech Rivalry

As if the struggle between other teams wasn’t bad enough, the college football rivalry between the University of Georgia Bulldogs and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets is so heated it’s been given the nickname “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.” The schools are located just 70 miles apart and have been in intense competition with one another since 1893.

10. Oregon vs. Oregon State Rivalry

One of the oldest college football rivalries in existence, the college rivalry between the University of Oregon Ducks and the Oregon State University Beavers has been given the nickname “The Civil War.” Dating back to 1894 when the football teams played for the first time, the Ducks and the Beavers have Civil War games in nearly every sport they play against one another, in addition to an intense academic rivalry.


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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