Collegiate Combat: 12 Intense College Football Rivalries

on October 2, 2015

Dynamic Duels

There's nothing like a little friendly competition, but, in the spirit of high-intensity sports, friendliness often gets thrown out the window the minute the initial buzzer sounds. Game faces on and stakes through the roof, most players only have one goal in mind: victory.

In college football culture, this do-or-die mentality extends way past the field, beyond the sidelines-thus, the rivalry is born. As we merge into our own respective alliances and continue smack talking lovers of the enemy (formally known as our friends and family on any other day), we've rounded up the 12 greatest rivalries just in time to gear you up for game day.

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Michigan vs. Ohio State

Perhaps one of the most fun-to-follow rivalries historically, Michigan and Ohio State owe the fanfare surrounding their competitive edge to former coaches Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes, whose competitive streaks between 1969 and 1978 resulted in what's now known as the Ten Year War. One of the most humorous things about this rivalry? The fact that Woody Hayes once coached Schembechler when he played for Miami University-Schembechler even served as Hayes' assistant coach for a time at Ohio State! No wonder Hayes can only ever bitterly refer to Michigan in interviews as "that school up north."

Alabama vs. Auburn

The Crimson Tide and Auburn Tiger dynamic is one of fire and brimstone when the two teams clash head-to-head. And the palpable hatred extends beyond the padded players-who could forget the nearly $800,000 fine charged to Alabama fan Harvey Updike after he poisoned two iconic oak trees of Toomer's Corner?

Army vs. Navy

During the last week of the college season each year, the United States Military Academy Black Knights and the United States Naval Academy Midshipmen duke it out in one of the most exciting games of the season, patriotically in pursuit of the Commander-in-Chief's trophy (and, of course, indubitable bragging rights within the military circuit).

Oklahoma vs. Texas

Whoever thought it was a good idea to give these southwestern competitors one tunnel to run through during the Dallas Cotton Bowl had another thing coming. Most times before the big game, officials have to aggressively hold back members of the opposing team as the other emerges onto the field for game time.

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Notre Dame vs. USC

Known as college football's greatest intersectional rivalry, the green-top combat between the Fighting Irish and the Trojans has been going strong for nearly 100 years. Each year, the cross-country rivals continue the tradition of competing for the Jeweled Shillelagh, which is a foot-long club made from Irish tree wood to commemorate the tradition and competition of the game. When Notre Dame wins, an emerald-coated shamrock is attached to the club; when USC comes out on top, a ruby-encrusted Trojan head is added. If they tie? A hybrid shamrock-Trojan head, naturally.

Oregon vs. Oregon State

A true battle of brothers, the rivalry between both schools, only around 50 miles apart, has been historically deemed the (not so brutally antagonistic) Civil War-and, like any war, this one has had its ugly moments. One of the craziest fan-fueled incidents happened in 1957, when members of Oregon's Theta Xi fraternity pretended to be reporters to kidnap the women on Oregon State's homecoming court. In the ultimate spirit of fighting fair, all women were returned safely and unharmed the next day.

South Carolina vs. Clemson

These long-time sports rivals really solidified what it means to go out with a bang when, after the 2004 Palmetto Bowl, both teams collided in a huge on-field fight known simply as "The Brawl."

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Stanford vs. Cal

One hilarious rivalry anecdote comes at the expense of prestigious universities Stanford and UC Berkeley during a big Bay Area game in 1982. The score was 20-19 with Stanford up by one and Cal wielding the ball down the field in one final play against a ticking clock. In the game's last seconds, a moment of confusion led to several of Cal's players, honing in on the end zone, stumbling into Stanford's band as they rushed the field, thinking the game was over. Spoiler: the Bears ended up winning in a hilarious plot twist.

Florida vs. Florida State

Exhibit A: As illustrated above, Gator quarterback Tim Tebow (15) holds off Korey Mangum (22) and the Seminole defense in the second half of the annual Florida vs Florida State. When you're positioned in such close proximity, the possibilities for passionate rivalries are endless, and when you add enthusiastic coaches, neck-in-neck games and merciless pursuits toward the same national title into the mix, you get the not-so-friendly dynamic of the Seminoles and Gators.

Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State

There might not be a lot of nationally ranked victory in this particular region south of the Mason-Dixon line, but when it comes to the Egg Bowl, the pinnacle of Magnolia state football fare, the stakes are high and the competition on and off the field astronomically higher. In an area where football is considered a religion, identifying with the wrong team is akin to sacrilege.

Alabama vs. LSU

It's no surprise that Alabama made the list twice, just as much as it's no surprise that both teams Nick Saban is known for coaching and drafting into success are totally bent against each other.

Harvard vs. Yale

These esteemed ivy leaguers have not simply reserved their rivalries to academic programs-the natural opponents also bring their brains and savvy to the turf each year, drawing in massive amounts of swanky tailgating and enough historical school spirit to electrify the entire stadium.