June 26, 2007

Rivalry Week: New grudge matches emerge

Which do you think is the best of the emerging rivalries in college football?
Louisville vs. West Virginia
Auburn vs. LSU
Texas A&M vs. Texas Tech
Florida vs. South Carolina
Nebraska vs. Kansas State

Rivals.com is taking a look at the best rivalries in college football - new and old.

We begin with a look at the best rivalries that have emerged in recent years. Cast your vote here for the best one and share your rationale. We may use your comments tomorrow when we reveal the results. Did we miss one? Tell us that, too.

The changing face of college football also has changed the way we look at some of the game's rivalries.

Although some of the sport's most anticipated annual series are traditional matchups that have stood the test of time, conference realignment and the rise of non-traditional powers have created some other interesting rivalries.

Today, we've put together a list of five emerging rivalries that seem much more intriguing now than they may have seemed a few years ago.

Maybe a legendary coach has taken another job and now has to face his former team. Perhaps a recruiting battle has added some intrigue that didn't previously exist.

The following list includes those examples.

1. Louisville vs. West Virginia
This series has developed into one of the nation's most anticipated games so rapidly that it's hard to imagine these two teams weren't playing annually until 2005 - when they emerged as the elite programs in the revamped Big East. Not since Florida State-Miami became a big rivalry in the 1980s has a "new" rivalry been created that means so much. This year, the game again could have national championship implications. These teams have helped the Big East gain respect because the winner of this game has gone on to win a BCS game each of the last two years. Along the way, they have developed a reputation for creating fan-friendly shootouts. Each team had only one loss two years ago when West Virginia rallied from 17 points down in the final 9 minutes of regulation to beat Louisville 46-44 in triple overtime. Last year, the teams were undefeated heading into a 44-34 Louisville triumph that featured more than 1,000 yards of total offense. This could also be called the "Thursday Night" rivalry. The conference has taken advantage of non-traditional game days to increase its exposure, and this game is the crown jewel of those contests.
2. Auburn vs. LSU
Ten of the last 17 games between the groups of Tigers have been decided by less than a touchdown. Obviously this series has had some barn burners and that's not just a figure of speech. The 1996 game is known as "The Night the Barn Burned," when the old Auburn Sports Arena burned down just outside of Jordan-Hare Stadium. LSU defeated Auburn 17-15, and the game was decided when LSU's Raion Hill intercepted a pass on a two-point conversion attempt and returned it for two points the other way. But that's status quo in this rivalry, where the bizarre is so much the norm that the games have names. There is the Earthquake Game (1988) when the crowd in Baton Rouge raised the noise level so high it registered on a campus seismograph. There's the Interception Game (1994) when Auburn got five picks in the fourth quarter and returned three for touchdowns to rally for a 30-26 win. LSU had the "Bring Back the Magic" game (1995) when it wore white jerseys at home for the first time in 13 years and upset No. 5 Auburn. There is also "The Comeback" (Auburn's rally to upset No. 10 LSU in 1997), "The Extra Point Game" (both teams missed extra points, but a penalty gave Auburn's John Vaughn a second chance to add the winning point in a 10-9 victory in 2004). In 2005, the game was decided in overtime - almost a mundane note in the series. The rivalry has intensified since the SEC went to divisions. Either Auburn or LSU has won the SEC West in five of the last seven seasons.
3. Texas A&M vs. Texas Tech
This Big 12 South matchup is one of the more intense - though overlooked - rivalries. Everyone knows the Aggies hate Texas, but their disdain for Texas Tech is just as intense. In some ways, it might be even more bitter. A&M seems to have a grudging respect for the Longhorns, but just resentment for Tech. A couple of years ago, a paragraph in the A&M media guide (uncorrected version) referred to the Red Raiders as "classless clowns." The Red Raiders have equal contempt for the Aggies. After a 12-0 victory in 2001 in Lubbock a game in which the Red Raiders were favored Tech fans tore down the goal posts and shoved them into the A&M cheering section. Coach Mike Leach has even referred to Texas A&M "playing army," which was an obvious taunt at A&M's Corps of Cadets. Overall, A&M leads the all-time series 34-30-1, but the Red Raiders have an 8-3 advantage* in Big 12 play. The Red Raiders have also won the last six meetings played in Lubbock.
4. Florida vs. South Carolina
We can only hope Nick Saban's move to Tuscaloosa makes the Alabama-LSU rivalry as interesting as the Florida-South Carolina series has become the last two years. This game was an annual Florida blowout until former Gators coach Steve Spurrier returned to the SEC. In Spurrier's first year at South Carolina, the Gamecocks knocked off Florida 30-22 to end the Gators' 14-game winning streak in this series. When Spurrier returned to Gainesville on the visitor's sideline last year, his Gamecocks nearly knocked the Gators out of national title contention. Jarvis Moss needed to block Ryan Succop's 48-yard field-goal attempt as time expired to preserve Florida's 17-16 victory. Florida coach Urban Meyer stepped out of the Ol' Ball Coach's shadow by leading the Gators to a national title, but a South Carolina victory over Florida this year could reignite the Spurrier-Meyer debate.
5. Kansas State vs. Nebraska
The rivalry began to get interesting when Bill Snyder and Michael Bishop were leading the resurrection of the K-State program. Prior to their arrivals, the Wildcats were a mere afterthought for the Cornhuskers. This Big 12 North showdown should continue to be intriguing as long as Josh Freeman is quarterbacking the Wildcats. Freeman, a former four-star prospect, signed with Kansas State after verbally committing to Nebraska in a move that didn't win him any fans in Lincoln. "If you're a prima donna or if you're a drama queen, there's no room for you at Nebraska," Huskers coach Bill Callahan reportedly said at a speaking engagement the following spring. "You can go to Kansas State." Freeman went on to become the first true freshman quarterback to start at Kansas State in 30 years and was 23 of 47 for 272 yards with a pair of interceptions in a 21-3 loss to Nebraska. As Freeman gets better, this rivalry should get fiercer.

Cast your vote here for the best emerging rivalry in college football

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.

* - corretion. When story was orginally posted it stated 9-2 advantage.


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