Top 10 College Football Rivalries

As college football approaches the heart of its season, teams will start to play rivalry games. College football rivalries are arguably unmatched to any rivalries in any of the major four sports in the U.S. They are some of the most anticipated and highly decorated games in the season, and the outcome can define one team’s season by holding the year’s bragging rights.

Here are my all-time top 10 college football rivalries…

10. Battle for the Axe: Minnesota vs Wisconsin

Trophy: Paul Bunyan’s Axe and Slap of Bacon

Annual Meeting Date: Varies on conference schedule

First Meeting: 1890 – MIN 63, WIS 0 (Note – first meeting for the Axe wasn’t until 1948)

Series Record: Minnesota 59-54-8

The Battle for the Axe is tied for college football’s oldest rivalry. The Paul Bunyan Axe is not to be confused with the Paul Bunyan Trophy, which is used for the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry. The Badgers have dominated the series for the last two decades with the Golden Gophers winning just five times since 1990.

9. “Wide Right”: Florida State vs Miami

First Meeting: Oct. 15, 1951 – Miami 35, FSU 13

Annual Meeting Date: Varies on conference schedule

Series Record: Miami 31-25

In the 1980s and 1990s, this matchup was THE game to watch thanks to Miami’s dominance. The rivalry is mostly known for its “Wide Right” and “Wide Left” games as the “Wide Right” finish occurred four times between 1991 and 2004. Miami’s move to the ACC in 2004 made this game an annual conference matchup, bringing the rivalry to a whole new level.

8. Civil War: Oregon vs Oregon State

Trophy: Platypus Trophy

Annual Meeting Date: Varies on conference schedule

First Meeting: 1894 – OSU 16, Oregon 0

Series Record: Oregon 59-46-10

The Civil War is one of the most overlooked rivalries in college football because of it being played in the Pacific Northwest. The game has often decided the Pac-10 champion and a Rose Bowl berth including 2009’s “War of Roses” game which Oregon won 37-33.

7. Big Game: California vs Stanford

Trophy: Stanford Axe

Annual Meeting Date: Late November

First Meeting: 1892 – Stanford 14, Cal 10

Series Record: Stanford 57-46-1

“The Big Game” produced one of college football’s most memorable moments during the 1985 game. Cal used several lateral passes on their game-winning kickoff return during which the Stanford band had already come onto the field. In 2000, Stanford scored on the final play of regulation to send it into the series’ first-ever overtime game.

6. Florida vs Georgia

Annual Meeting Date: Late October

First Meeting: Nov. 6, 1915 – Georgia 37, Florida 0

Series Record: Georgia 48-40-2

The rivalry formerly known as the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” has produced the SEC East champion on numerous occasions. Jacksonville, Florida has hosted the game since 1933. The rivalry is now known as the Georgia-Florida game or Florida-Georgia game depending on the home team.

5. Battle for Jeweled Shillelagh: Notre Dame vs USC

Trophy: Jeweled Shillelagh

Annual Meeting Date: October (@ Notre Dame) or November (@ USC)

First Meeting: 1926 – ND 13, USC 12

Series Record: Notre Dame 43-34-5

Last Meeting: Oct. 22, 2011 – USC 31, ND 17

Between the two historic programs are 22 National Championships and 14 Heisman winners. The series of games from the 1960s to 1982 is considered the “Golden” era of the rivalry with each school winning multiple titles. Many cannot forget about the controversial “Bush Push” in 2005.

4. Iron Bowl: Alabama vs Auburn

Annual Meeting Date: Thanksgiving Weekend

First Meeting: 1983 – Auburn 33, Alabama 22 (@ Birmingham, AL)

Series Record: Alabama 41-34-1

Last Meeting: Nov. 26, 2011 – ‘Bama 42, Auburn 14

Recently, the winner of the Iron Bowl has gone on to win the National Championship. Over the 76 total meetings, Birmingham, Alabama has played host to the rivalry numerous times with each campus now rotating hosting duties. The rivalry has had plenty of memorable moments including 1972’s “Punt Bama Punt,” Bo Jackson’s 256 yards in 1983 and down-to-the-wire games in 2009 & 2010.

3. Army vs Navy

Trophy: Thompson Cup

Annual Meeting Date: December (Officially last game of season)

First Meeting: 1890 (annually since 1930) – Navy 24, Army 0

Series Record: Navy 56-49-7

Last Meeting: Dec. 10, 2011 – Navy 27, Army 21 (@ Landover, MD)

Nothing gets more patriotic than an Army-Navy football game. In the 1925 meeting at Soldier Field, Army and Navy played in front of 110,000 fans to a tie which allowed Navy to claim its share of the National Championship. The Army-Navy game has been played at a neutral site since 1899 with Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York/New Jersey frequently hosting. 

2. The Game: Ohio State vs Michigan

Annual Meeting Date: Last game of conference schedule

First Meeting: Oct. 17, 1897 – UM 43, OSU 0

Series Record: Michigan 58-43-6

Last Meeting: Nov. 26, 2011 – UM 40, OSU 34

Bo vs Woody alone defines this rivalry. From 1969 to 1978, these two historic coaching icons battled each other for Big Ten titles/Rose Bowl berth and National Championships numerous times. The hatred these two schools have for each other is intense. The new era of Brady vs Urban looks to keep this rivalry as heated as ever.

1. Red River Rivalry: Texas vs Oklahoma

Trophy: Golden Hat

Annual Meeting Date: Early October

First Meeting: Oct. 10, 1900 – Texas 28, OU 2

Series Record: Texas 59-42-5

Last Meeting: Oct. 8, 2011 – OU 55, Texas 17 (@ Dallas)

“There’s no rivalry like it.” This historic rivalry is separated by the Red River which forms part of the boundary between states of Texas and Oklahoma. The Red River Rivalry has been played at the Dallas Cotton Bowl since 1932 with the Texas State Fair in the background. In the 2000s, six of their 10 meetings determined a spot in the BCS.

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