The Best Rivalry in College Football

Read College Football Rivalry Trophies to learn more about the trophies awarded after annual rivalry games in college football.

It’s about time for the football season to begin which means there are many topics up for debate. In an earlier article I tackled the topic of why College Football is better than NFL. Now that we’ve established that College Football is better than the NFL the next topic to talk about is which rivalry is the best in college football. A lot of people will have you believe its Michigan vs. Ohio State. Michigan and Ohio State is a huge game every year, I’ll give you that, but the best rivalry in college football isn’t Michigan-Ohio State, it’s Auburn-Alabama.

Ohio State and Michigan is a big rivalry, no doubt about it, but there are so many other options in Ohio and Michigan. There could be a Browns fan that could care less about Ohio State. Indians and Reds fans might not care about Ohio State. In Michigan it’s even worse. The Pistons and Red Wings are both really popular, even the Tigers have good fan support. Maybe Michigan’s football team is still the most popular but there are a whole lot of other options. In Alabama there are no pro teams. If you live in Alabama and you’re a sports fan then there is a 99% chance your favorite sport is college football, there is no other option. In Alabama sports talk radio shows talk about Alabama-Auburn for 365 days out of the year, there is no basketball or baseball season. When you meet somebody for the first time in Alabama they usually say hello, introduce themselves and then as “Auburn or Alabama”. The Alabama-Auburn game is so important in Alabama that when former Auburn player Fob James ran for governor in 1978, Alabama fans refused to vote for him because they didn’t want an Auburn Tiger as governor.

Some people will argue that Michigan-Ohio State is the best rivalry because of how important the game is every year. If you want to argue that year in and year out the Ohio State-Michigan game is the most important game of the year that’s fine (Although I think FSU-Miami would have something to say about that) but being the most important game doesn’t necessarily make it the best rivalry. It’s great that Michigan-Ohio State can fill up a stadium to watch two 10 – 0 teams, but that’s easy. For the annual Iron Bowl both teams could be 0 – 10 and it would still sell out. The fans would still act as if it was the biggest game of the season in all of college football.

Alabama and Auburn is also a better rivalry because the two schools are in the same state. What does that have to do with it? One of the key factors to a rivalry is how long you’ve known each, how well you’ve known each other, how many times you’ve battled each other. Since Alabama and Auburn are from the same state they recruit from the same state. This year’s Alabama team has seventy-one players from the state of Alabama and Auburn has forty-two players from Alabama. Together they have 113 players from the state of Alabama. So by the time these guys got to their college of choice, they had already been playing each other for four years in high school, by the time they’re done with college they will have been playing each other for eight years. Michigan on the other hand only has 9 players from Ohio and Ohio State only has one player from Michigan. So when their players meet in college they’re playing each other for the first time. The fact that Auburn and Alabama’s players knowing each other and playing each other for so long makes for a more passionate game and more compelling story.

Also take a look at the two team’s histories. Michigan and Ohio State have been playing each other since 1897 and have played each other 103 times. I admit that’s a great long rivalry. Alabama and Auburn’s first game against each other came even earlier than that in 1893, but they’ve only played each other 65 times. Why is that? They reason they haven’t played as many times is because of the rivalry. The 1907 match up between Alabama and Auburn was so heated that a fight broke out at the game. After the fight the two sides argued back and forth so much that they couldn’t agree on the conditions for the next game, or the next, or the next. They argued back and forth for FORTY seasons before finally agreeing to terms that both sides could live with. One of the conditions they finally agreed to was that they would play every year on a neutral field in Birmingham so that neither team would have a home field advantage. This stood all the way up to the 1989 season. While Michigan and Ohio State has been a great rivalry for a long time, their history doesn’t have the kind of hate that Auburn-Alabama game has produced.

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