July 2, 2007

Rivalry Week: The best of the best

Last week, Rivals.com took a look at the best rivalries in college football - new and old, fading and imagined.

Now we ask the fans to select the ultimate rivalry, the one that no college football fanatic wants to miss.

Throw the records out the window. Anything can happen.

Those phrases are associated with rivalry games. These are the games that separate college football from all other sports.

Bragging rights are established and crushed on this single Saturday. Coaches and players can cement their legacies. Others can have theirs tarnished.

Many contests have nicknames or trophies associated with them.

Impartial fans across the country would have a hard time turning down tickets to these games.

Here are what we feel are college football's best rivalries listed by date of inception. Click here to vote on which of these you believe is the best rivalry in the game.

Alabama vs Auburn
First meeting: 1893
Series record: Alabama, 38-32-1
This is the South's most heated rivalry. Ask Mike Shula how much pressure this annual matchup brings. The biggest contributor to Shula's downfall as head coach of the Crimson Tide was a 0-4 record against Auburn. Alabama and Auburn fans relish holding Iron Bowl bragging rights perhaps more than any other rivalry. The teams have never played each other when both had a losing record. Alabama has 12 national championships, but Auburn has had the upper hand recently. The Tigers have won the last five meetings.
Michigan vs. Ohio State
First meeting: 1897
Series record: Michigan 57-40-6
One hundred and nine years since their first meeting, Michigan and Ohio State continue to play games with high stakes. No. 1 Ohio State clinched its spot in the national championship game by defeating No. 2 Michigan in 2006. It's a rivalry that enjoys chapters from the 1950 Snow Bowl to the Ten Year War between Ohio State's Woody Hayes and Michigan's Bo Schembechler, a former Hayes assistant. This series was the downfall of former OSU coach John Cooper, who brought three undefeated teams into Ann Arbor and left with losses. Lately, Ohio State has been the bane of Lloyd Carr's existence. The Big Blue has lost five of six to the Buckeyes' Jim Tressel.
Oklahoma vs. Texas
First meeting: 1900
Series record: Texas 57-39-5
These teams have been playing for more than 100 years, and the game has often decided which team would contend for a national championship. The teams and their fans despise each other. Oklahoma recruits heavily in the state of Texas, so the annual matchup is pivotal in getting top talent. Adrian Peterson opted for Oklahoma after the Sooners routed the Longhorns in 2003. Scorned Texas fans often refer to the Sooners as the best Texans money can buy. But Sooners will retort that Texas' greatest college football legend coach Darrell Royal was an All-American quarterback at OU. Coaches Mack Brown and Bob Stoops have forged maybe the best modern-day coaching rivalry in the game. During the 11 years since the inception of the Big 12, either Texas or Oklahoma has won the South Division nine times.
Notre Dame vs. Southern California
First meeting: 1926
Series record: Notre Dame 42-31-5
No rivalry matches two teams with more long-standing success. USC and Notre Dame have combined for 23 national championships and 14 Heisman Trophy winners over their histories, and little has changed since the two teams began play. The most dramatic game was "The Comeback" in 1974 when USC erased a 24-0 deficit to No. 1 Notre Dame with a 35-point third quarter on the way to a 55-24 win. The two teams have traded dominance in the series in recent decades, with Notre Dame going 12-0-1 from 1983-95. USC won the next three games, Notre Dame the three after. USC is riding a five-game winning streak, including the infamous "Bush Push" game in 2005. With Pete Carroll and Charlie Weis coaching the teams, there's little chance for this rivalry to fade on the national stage anytime soon.
Florida State vs. Miami
First meeting: 1951
Series record: Miami 29-22
This rivalry in the Sunshine State is just a baby compared to the others, especially since the volume didn't get turned up until the 1980s - when both programs were entering their primes. From 1983 through 2001, the Hurricanes and Seminoles combined for seven national championships. That clearly shows that this rivalry was an important one on a national scale. Adding fuel to the rivalry has been Florida State's tendency to botch field goals. Many of the games have been known simply as Wide Right (Nos. 1-4) and one Wide Left. The rivalry has fallen off in recent years, with neither school fielding a top-10 team in the last three years.

Cast your vote here for the best rivalry in college football

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.


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