When it comes to college sports, rivalries are the lifeblood of fans — especially for fans of college football. A solid rivalry can make an insignificant matchup one of the biggest games of the year. It can also push an already important game to intense heights that are, for the most part, unique to the college football landscape. Here are the seven rivalries in college football that are liable to tear apart families, ruin friendships, and end relationships.
7. USC Trojans-Notre Dame Fighting Irish
A bitter rivalry between private universities and football teams that have been historical powerhouses, the USC Trojans and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish first met in 1926 and have played each other 85 times. With each team playing to take home the Jeweled Shillelagh trophy, Notre Dame currently holds the overall record in the series at 45-35-5; 45-34-5 when USC’s 2005 vacated win is eliminated.
Fans who call the rivalry between USC and the Notre Dame one of the greatest in college football often look at the numbers to make their point. Combined, the two universities have accounted for 22 national titles, 14 Heisman Trophy winners, and 21 All-Americans, College Football Hall of Famers, and future National Football League Hall of Famers. When it comes to rivalry series in NCAA football, all of those numbers rank as No. 1.
6. Georgia Bulldogs-Florida Gators
Since 1915, the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs have played each other nearly every year in what has become one of the best college football rivalries. Starting in 1933, the annual matchup has been held in Jacksonville, Florida (except twice), making the rivalry game notable for being one of the few remaining neutral-site matchups.
Though the series record currently goes to Georgia in one of the closer overall tallies, the two schools do not agree on the count due to Florida’s insistence that the first game was not played in 1904 — when Georgia played one of the University of Florida’s predecessor institutions — but in 1915. This means that while Georgia officially lists the overall record as 50-40-2 while Florida lists the series record at 49-40-2.
Besides the rivalry itself, the annual game is also notable for the huge crowds it brings to Jacksonville, and the event has come to be known as the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Before the game, fans of both teams take part in huge tailgate events at Jacksonville Landing. While there’s no trophy involved in the rivalry game, since 2009, a 10-foot-tall oar called the Okefenokee Oar has been presented to the winning university’s student body president.
5. Army Black Knights-Navy Midshipmen
The storied rivalry between the Army and Navy is put to the test on the turf every year when the the Army Black Knights and the Navy Midshipmen duke it out for the Thompson Cup. Since 1890, the two teams have met a total of 114 times with games between the two being held annually starting in 1930. With players coming from the Army’s United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, and the Navy’s United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, the Navy currently leads in the series with a record of 58-49-7.
What makes the rivalry between the Army and the Navy fascinating is the fact that while the game hasn’t had much significance in actual rankings, the rivalry is still considered one of the greatest in NCAA football — in fact, some people consider it the greatest football rivalry out there. Nationally televised on CBS each year, the game is notable for its rivalry that extends beyond the sport to include the enduring but mostly friendly rivalry between two of the country’s armed forces.
4. LSU Tigers-Alabama Crimson Tide
The rivalry between the LSU Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide began in 1895, with LSU winning 12-6 over Alabama in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. But it wasn’t until 1964 that the two teams began to play on an annual basis, with Alabama home games played at Legion Field in Birmingham and LSU home games played at Tiger Stadium. With a total of 78 meetings, Alabama currently leads LSU, 48-25-5.
In 2007, the rivalry generated increased attention due to Alabama’s hiring of head coach Nick Saban, who had led LSU to a national championship in 2003. Since the hiring, some have referred to the game as the Saban Bowl, and the current Alabama coach leads the series 5-3 since taking over at ‘Bama.
3. Oklahoma Sooners-Texas Longhorns
The Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners meet each year in what is best known as the Red River Rivalry or Red River Shootout, names that come from Red River boundary between the two states and which has historically been the source of conflict — think the 1931 Red River Bridge War. Since 1900, the two teams have met a total of 108 times with Texas leading the series 60-43-5. The winner has received the Golden Hat since 1941.
While some college football fans consider the rivalry game between Texas and Texas A&M to be superior, Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds told Tulsa World in 2011 that the university’s rivalry with Oklahoma remains the most heated. ”The rivalry game for us has always been Oklahoma,” he said to the publication. “The A&M game’s been a great game and all of that. And we may play ‘em. But it’s not something that we have to do. I think the Oklahoma game is something we have to do.”
2. Auburn Tigers-Alabama Crimson Tide
The Auburn Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide have been going at it since 1893, although the teams have only met 78 times due to a suspension of the series from 1907 through 1948 due to escalating tensions between the two teams. The annual matchup, called the Iron Bowl, is traditionally played during Thanksgiving weekend and gets it name from the series’ early origins, when it was played in Birmingham, Alabama, each year. The town has a historic role in the early steel industry. Alabama currently leads the series, 42-35-1.
The rivalry between Alabama and Auburn received additional attention this year, when Auburn shocked then-No. 1 Alabama with a 100-yard touchdown return on a short field goal with seconds remaining on the clock and the game tied at 28. The event has already earned several different nicknames, including Kick Bama Kick, the Kick Six, and the Loveliest Return on the Plains. 2013?s matchup and shock result is sure to spark the bitter rivalry to new heights when the two teams meet again.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes-Michigan Wolverines
The rivalry between the Michigan Wolverines and the Ohio State Buckeyes is considered the greatest in college football by a number of fans. The annual matchup, held at the end of the regular season since 1935, is known by most as The Game and has received additional attention over the past four decades because the winner has often captured the Big Ten Conference title, punched a ticket to the resulting Rose Bowl matchup, and even played in the national championship game. Since 1897, the two teams have met a total of 110 times, with Michigan currently leading with a record of 58-45-6.
While the series has had no shortage of thrilling games, what has come to best define the rivalry is the so-called 10-Year War that occurred between 1969 and 1978. After Michigan hired Bo Schembechler to coach the Wolverines — he was previously an assistant under Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes — Michigan and Ohio battled back and forth for nearly a decade as each team brought top-ranked teams to the series year after year. During four of the seasons in the 10-Year War, OSU and UM were both ranked in the Top 5 AP poll, and in 1973, both teams arrived at the game undefeated for a chance to play in the Rose Bowl.
Of course, the 10-Year War ended unceremoniously when Hayes was fired for punching a player during the Gator Bowl in 1978, but the rivalry between the two teams continues to be one of the most famous in all of sports. In 2007, HBO released the documentary Michigan vs. Ohio State: The Rivalry, which focuses chiefly on the 10-Year War. In recent years, the game has continued to pit top-ranked football programs against each other.
Don’t Miss: 5 NFL Coaches With the Worst Start to 2014