It’s time for a more light-hearted blog after that last headscratcher. Yesterday, ESPN had a segment on college football rivalries. Various talking heads, in sports, entertainment and politics, opined about what makes a rivalry special. So here it is, opinions from ESPN and The Athletic, about college FB rivalries.
Most intense rivalry you haven’t heard of (unless you live in Pennsylvania): Lehigh vs. Lafayette. It’s also one of the oldest, played since 1884.
Oldest rivalry: The very first American-style football game was played by Princeton and Rutgers on November 6, 1869. Rutgers is now the doormat of the Big 10, I’m sure they would love to stomp Princeton, but the Ivy League knows better than that.
Most famous same city rivalry, unless the city burns down: USC vs. UCLA, for the glory of Los Angeles. Trojans vs. Bruins it is, Hector vs. Achilles it ain’t.
Rivalries with the bitterest fans: Iron Bowl: Alabama vs. Auburn. Crimson Tide fans will never forgive the poisoner of Toomer’s corner Oak Trees, who went to jail for 3 years (the man, not the trees) in 2013. He was a former Alabama State trooper!
Most colorful name rivalry with wet animal mascots: Civil War: Oregon vs. Oregon St., or Ducks vs. Beavers. Hasn’t been much of a contest since Chip Kelly was Oregon coach and Phil Knight started pouring Nike $$$ into the Ducks’ beak.
Most boring rivalry name with mismatched animal mascots: Apple Cup: Washington vs. Washington St., or Huskies vs. Cougars. Ever since Chris Peterson arrived at Washington from the Boise St. Broncos, the Huskies have been eating the Cougars for lunch, but the Cougs Did give GARDNER MINSHEW II the chance for fame! Let’s hear it for Mike Leach you Jacksonville fans!
Same state rivalry that is not a contest: Boise St. vs. Idaho. They don’t even play each other since the Boise St. Broncos moved from the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) to the Mountain West Conference in 2011, but if they did, Idaho would be destroyed, since they aren’t good, while BSU has beaten every “power 5” team it’s played. First game, 1971, 42-14, BSU. Last game, 2010, 52-14, BSU.
Respect rather than hate rivalry: Nebraska vs. Oklahoma: This is the rare rivalry in which both sides harbor more respect than nastiness. Barry Switzer and Tom Osborne were great coaches and very good friends, and fans genuinely seemed to like each other during the rivalry’s heyday. Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, there was arguably no bigger annual series.
Hate rather than respect, The Backyard Brawl: There’s a healthy amount of hate between West Virginia and Pitt, which are separated by just 75 miles along Interstate 79 and played at the end of the regular season until they both left the Big East this decade for the Big 12 and the ACC, respectively. Like the Border War (Missouri vs. Kansas), the Mountaineers and Panthers now don’t play the same number of conference games, which temporarily put their annual meetings on hold.
In-state Goliath vs. David rivalry: Arkansas vs. Arkansas State: Many flagship universities schedule the smaller programs in their states regularly to keep the money handed out in paycheck games within state lines, overcoming the fact that the brand-name schools have little to gain from risking an embarrassing loss to a nearby neighbor. But those aren’t good enough reasons for certain schools, a prime example being Arkansas. Dating back to Frank Broyles’ tenure as coach and athletic director, the Razorbacks refuse to schedule in-state teams because it would, apparently, divide loyalties within the state. Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson has poked the bear a bit on this with a funny story that had a punchline aimed squarely at Fayetteville.
Rivalry with perennial national rankings: Red River Rivalry-Showdown-Shootout: Texas vs. Oklahoma. Some greats: Adrian Peterson, Rickie Williams, Billy Sims, Vince Young, Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, Earl Campbell, wow!
SEC vs. Big 12, defense vs. offense: Texas vs. Texas A&M: Most things involving these two programs devolve into pettiness, starting with the football series, which was played every year between 1915 and 2011 until the Aggies joined the SEC. Then-Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne assumed the rivalry would continue annually, even telling the SEC to keep the Aggies’ Thanksgiving weekend open when drawing up the new schedule. However, with A&M in the SEC and Texas in the Big 12, not likely.
“Moral victory” better than numbers: The Game: The 1968 Yale vs. Harvard football game was called “The Game”, ending in a 29–29 tie after Harvard made what is considered a miraculous last-moment comeback, scoring 16 points in the final 42 seconds to tie the game against a highly touted Yale squad. The significance of the moral victory for Harvard inspired the next day’s Harvard Crimson student newspaper to print the famous headline “Harvard Beats Yale, 29–29”. So much for Ivy League math skills!
In honor of our future troops rivalry: Army vs. Navy. The game marks the end of the college football regular season and the third and final game of the season’s Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy series, which also includes the Air Force Falcons of the United States Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs, Colorado.