June 28, 2007

Voice of the Fan: Which rivalry has fallen most?

The birth of Big 12 Conference football in 1996 apparently signaled the death of the one of the nation's most intense and interesting rivalries.

Two years after the Big 12 was created, Oklahoma and Nebraska did not play. That ended a streak of 70 consecutive years the Sooners and Cornhuskers had met on the field.

Which college football rivalry has fallen the farthest?
Placed in separate divisions, the OU-Nebraska series now is tabled every two years. They've played just seven times since the Big 12's inception and only once last season in the conference championship game.

The interruption of that once-great series is undoubtedly the primary reason why 31.58 percent of more than 3,600 voters chose OU-Nebraska as the college football rivalry which has most lost its luster.

The Egg Bowl matching state rivals Mississippi and Mississippi State received 22.83 percent of the vote, followed by Army-Navy with 19.33 percent and California-Stanford with 18.19 percent.

SEC East rivals Florida-Tennessee received 8.06 percent of the vote, but many readers argued that game should not have even been included on the ballot. Some readers suggested that instead the list should have included Penn State-Pittsburgh or Miami-Florida State.

But there is no argument that the fall of the OU-Nebraska rivalry has left a void in college football, especially for the fans of those teams.

"The death of the OU vs. Nebraska rivalry makes me want to cry and puke at the same time," wrote a Nebraska fan with the handle of Huskerlover.

HookedNeil, a Texas fan, agreed that rivalry has fallen most.

"I have to vote for Nebraka-OU," he wrote. "The question is which rivalry has fallen the farthest. Nebraska-OU was the game of the Big Eight every year. Since the formation of the Big 12 the game just doesn't mean much.

"Army-Navy fell a long time ago and has slowly dwindled since. Two of the others (California-Stanford and Ole Miss-Mississippi State) were never really that big on the national scene, thus they really didn't have far to fall. And while Tennessee-Florida was clearly as big as OU-Nebraska, it hasn't lost as much luster since they still play every year."

Ole Miss and Mississippi State also play every year, but neither has won an SEC championship since the Rebels reigned in 1963. They've both been in the bottom of the SEC West standings the last three years, so many readers felt the annual Egg Bowl is a shell of its former self.

"If they played the Egg Bowl in my back yard I would pull the blinds," said an Auburn fan with the handle BigT172324.

NDCorby said he would pull the blinds on Army-Navy, which was the nation's premier rivalry several decades ago.

"The Egg Bowl never had anything more than regional implications in the vast majority of seasons, so it hasn't fallen as far as Army-Navy, who used to own college football and now are entirely irrelevant," he wrote.

JPalmGator2 agreed.

"It's got to be Army vs. Navy," he said. "That game used to have nationwide interest. Now, it is no more than an afterthought. You can't blame them though. They, obviously, have higher priorities than college football."

Bay Area college football fans don't have higher priorities than "The Big Game" match-up between Stanford and California.

But some readers suggested that rivalry has steadily declined since Cal's final-play, five-lateral kickoff return through the Stanford band for a 25-20 victory in 1982.

Cal-Stanford hasn't been the same since, "The Band is on the Field!" said Hokie_Mo9.

Warchant.com subscriber Jgking 83 was even blunter, asking: "Stanford still plays football?

It does. So do Penn State and Pittsburgh. However, the Nittany Lions and Pitt haven't played each other since 2000 and have no plans to resume their rivalry.

"Pitt vs. PSU has fallen far enough that it is not even on the (voting) list," complained The Attorney, a Pittsburgh fan.

That's the difference between a fading rivalry and an abolished one.

But Tennessee fan CRVOL criticized the Rivals.com survey not because Pittsburgh-Penn State was left off, but because Tennessee-Florida was on it.

He might have a point. Either Tennessee or Florida has won the SEC East 12 times in the 15 years since the SEC split into two divisions.

"This might be the worst poll in history," he said. "Having Tennessee-Florida on the list with the others is pretty absurd. Usually the winner of this game has the inside track to Atlanta and sets itself up nicely for a run at the (national) title if everything else plays out. Sure it has fallen off a little bit, but where else could it go?"

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.


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