The 11 Best Rivalries in College Football

With a bunch of huge college football rivalry games set to take place this weekend, we’re running down the best rivalries ever.

By Lyle Zimskind

College football rivalries: Kansas vs Missouri

Red Sox fans hate the Yankees. Lakers fans hate the Celtics. Eagles fans hate the Cowboys (and the Eagles). If you’re a fan of pretty much any professional sports team, chances are you absolutely loathe at least one other.

But the best rivalries in American sports are those generated by the once-a-year gridiron clashes between longstanding college football rivals. Think about it: If you cheer on the Tigers, you’re a Tigers fan. But if you went to the University of Michigan, you are a Wolverine.

And even if you never made it out of the 10th grade, it’s still a blast to watch rival college football teams go after each other. Sometimes there’s a national ranking or a spot in the BCS championship game at stake, but most of the time the only thing at stake is the opportunity for one school’s students and alumni to demean the essential human worth of the other school’s students and alumni. Which we’re pretty sure is why the NCAA invented sports in the first place.


First Game: 1896
Series Standings: Tied 55-55-9
The “Border War” between these two schools is personal. Former KU football coach Don Fambrough once reportedly refused to see a specialist in Missouri to treat a serious medical condition. Former Missouri basketball coach Norm Stewart would not let his team spend the night or even buy gasoline for the bus in Kansas during road trips so that they would not contribute a cent to the state’s economy. The intensity of these schools’ mutual hatred is fueled by still-recalled Civil War massacres and raids that their respective forces inflicted on each other. (Four years ago, when the teams were in the unusual position of playing for the nation’s #1 ranking, their respective fans wore t-shirts to the game featuring historic photos of the bloody consequences of their states’ Civil War battles.) And the games also take on special meaning these days because the series standings are so close (though Missouri claims one more victory in the series than Kansas acknowledges).

TAGS: college, college football, football, NCAA, rivalries, sports


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Mark Jaffe (Sat, 26 Nov 2011 21:01:35 +0000): Mich vs OSU - another entertaining battle today. Go blue!
Doug Barry (Sun, 27 Nov 2011 17:37:29 +0000): I call BS. USC v Notre Dame? No way! UCLA v USC is the rivalry. Sport Illustrated said it was one of the top 10 rivalries in all of sports. Right up there with Dodgers v Giants and Yankees v Red Sox.
Harrison Hoss (Sun, 27 Nov 2011 17:56:28 +0000): No red river rivalry? The only rivalry to split the tickets up 50/50 to both sides, an article about rivalries that doesn't include ou/texas is a joke..
Jarrett Gateley (Sun, 27 Nov 2011 22:49:55 +0000): Hey Lyle, You should spend less time at the opera house and more time watching college football. You clearly should not be writing on this subject. Best, Jarrett
Josh Yochem (Mon, 28 Nov 2011 02:39:07 +0000): Minnesota and Wisconsin. Oldest rivalry in sports.
Jonathan Carpenter (Mon, 28 Nov 2011 02:40:22 +0000): How can you leave off Williams / Amherst? First game played in 1881. It's probably the biggest rivalry in division III.
Mike Adrihan (Mon, 28 Nov 2011 03:02:18 +0000): I was surprised I didn't see this one in there because of it being the longest. Fail list is fail
Michael Poessnecker (Mon, 28 Nov 2011 03:54:18 +0000): Where is Oklahoma v. Nebraska, Oklahoma v. Texas, UCLA v USC? How can you leave those off this list?
David Jean (Mon, 28 Nov 2011 17:17:07 +0000): Michigan vs Ohio - will always be #1.
Modern Man (Mon, 28 Nov 2011 20:09:14 +0000): We love the Badgers (our editor-in-chief grew up in Wisconsin), but we couldn't forgive the schools for what happened in the 1940s: The uptight Gophers' coach refused the trophy one year, and Wisconsin then "lost" the trophy. That trophy happened to be the coolest trophy in all of college sports: The Slab of Bacon. (Seriously.)
Ralph Brooks (Tue, 29 Nov 2011 14:45:14 +0000): This top 10 rivalry list is a joke just like the BCS National title we all seen the LSU vs Alabama match up why see it again! The game worth watching would be Les Miles LSU vs Les Miles past college team Oklahoma State.
Dennis Scanlan (Thu, 01 Dec 2011 21:34:56 +0000): Minnesota/Wisconsin? Oh sure..
Lyle Zimskind (Sun, 11 Dec 2011 05:17:41 +0000): I'd put WV-Pitt in the top 15 for sure.
Lyle Zimskind (Sun, 11 Dec 2011 05:29:46 +0000): I'd take the Bedlam series over the other two Sooner rivalries these days. UCLA-USC isn't in its prime right now.
Joey De St Aubin (Tue, 13 Dec 2011 03:57:12 +0000): To Hell With Georgia.
Rodney Lowery (Tue, 27 Dec 2011 15:38:21 +0000): Guess you've never paid attention to the Georgia/Florida rivalry. Every game played in Florida, but an even number of tickets on both sides. Plenty of info out there about it. I think you definitely missed this one?
Rodney Lowery (Tue, 27 Dec 2011 16:07:07 +0000): ga/fl splits half-sies too
Matt Richardson (Thu, 10 May 2012 00:20:32 +0000): Lyle Zimskind 21-0? if anything OKST should be playing us, it would have been a better game
Lyle Zimskind (Tue, 13 Nov 2012 09:32:45 +0000): Agreed, I wrote that one up. Editor didn't include it in the post.
Lyle Zimskind (Tue, 13 Nov 2012 09:41:57 +0000): A cocktail party isn't a rivalry.
Lyle Zimskind (Tue, 13 Nov 2012 09:46:08 +0000): OU-Texas is a mutual party. OU-Okla State is a hate-fueled *rivalry.*
Lyle Zimskind (Tue, 13 Nov 2012 09:49:15 +0000): I'm guessing, RB, that you're wondering why no Okla vs. Okla St. "bedlam" game. I wrote it up, I assure you, but the eds left it out.
Lyle Zimskind (Tue, 13 Nov 2012 09:50:34 +0000): Presumably you're just annoyed there aren't any OU rivalries here. As it happens, though, I did write up Sooners vs. Okla State, but the editors left it out.
Rodney Lowery (Tue, 13 Nov 2012 13:24:12 +0000): Anywhere else, it called tailgating....give the south some respect Look it up on Wikipedia
Joshua Pittman (Sun, 08 Sep 2013 08:27:00 +0000): how is ucla and usc not on here? The most unique rivalry in college sports and the fact that both in the top 3 for national championships in general?
Eric Klausmeyer (Thu, 19 Sep 2013 18:43:56 +0000): How in the world did FSU - Miami not make this list? What rock do you live under?


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