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The Red River Rivalry at the Cotton Bowl

TOP 10: College Football Rivalries

The Horn continues its Top 10 series with a look at the best rivalries in College Football.
The Red River Rivalry at the Cotton

After diving into the many college football rivalries, we have narrowed down the list to 10. In order to make the top 10, we took into account history, geography, tradition, and most of all, pure, flat out hatred between the schools. Here they are, the Top 10 college football rivalries.

10) Pittsburgh vs. West Virginia

Pittsburgh and West Virginia are obviously in two different states, but don’t let that fool you. It’s called the “Backyard Brawl” for a reason. Only 70 miles separate the two schools, but with conference realignment, the Mountaineers bolted for the Big 12 for TV revenue and conference stability. A lot more than 70 miles separates the schools now, and that’s why this rivalry is at No. 10 and not No. 7.

9) Texas vs. Texas A&M

The Lone Star Showdown is easily one of the most intense rivalries in college sports. The Aggies and Longhorns are the two most known football teams in a state known for football.

Simply, Texas and Texas A&M don’t like each other. Longhorn fans believe the Aggies have an inferiority complex and see them as a little brother while Aggie fans see the Longhorns as stuck up “T-sips” who are nothing but arrogant. Even the fight songs say so…

Texas A&M:

“Goodbye to Texas University
So long to the orange and the white”


“Saw varsity’s horns off!”


“And it’s Goodbye to A&M”

If the fight songs don’t tell you enough about the tradition of this rivalry, the mascots will do the trick. Bevo, the Longhorns mascot, gained its name from a 1917 meeting between the Aggies and Longhorns. Texas A&M defeated the Longhorns 13-0 and branded the Longhorns mascot, Bo, with the final score. Texas turned the “13” into a “B”, made an “E” from the dash, slipped in a “V” and the “0” stood as an “O” that renamed “Bo” to “Bevo.” Though the Aggies won that round, the Longhorns hold the all-time series 76-37-5.

Despite the tradition of this rivalry, the Aggies are jumping ship to the SEC starting this upcoming football season. While this rivalry could be in the top 6 on this list, the end of their series knocks it down to No. 9. Additionally, there is no date in sight when this series could continue.

Side Note: A Texas vs. Texas A&M out-of-conference game is a no brainer and a lucrative money maker. Just saying, there is this extremely nice stadium in Dallas where an extremely rich man resides. Make something happen (cough, Jerry Jones, cough).

8) Harvard vs. Yale

You know it’s a historic rivalry when the nickname for this series is simply known as “The Game.” It’s the third most-played game in the history of college football that started back in 1885.

In 1968, Harvard needed a miracle down 16 points with under a minute to go. In the final 42 seconds, Harvard managed to score exactly 16 points and tie the game at 29-29. The next day, the headline for the Harvard school newspaper (The Harvard Crimson) read “Harvard beats Yale 29-29.”

In 2004, Yale played one of the most memorable pranks on Harvard. Yale students, dressed up as the Harvard Pep Squad, handed out placards to approximately 2,000 Harvard fans. The Harvard fans were told the placards would read “Go Harvard” when held up. “We Suck” is what they actually read.

7) Miami vs. Florida State

The Hurricanes and the Seminoles don’t have the history that many of the other rivalries on this list have. However, these two teams have produced some of the best finishes in a rivalry series over the last 50 plus years.

In 1987, Jimmy Johnson’s Hurricanes conjured an incredible comeback to take a 26-19 lead with just over two minutes left in the game. The Seminoles scored a touchdown with 42 seconds left and decided to go for a two-point conversion and the win. The Miami defense held, and the No. 3 Hurricanes defeated the No. 4 Seminoles 26-25 in Tallahassee.

Since then, this series gained its reputation for botched end-of-game field goals. Wide Right I in 1991 (No. 2 Miami beat No. 1 Florida State 17-16 after Florida State missed a field goal wide right), Wide Right II in 1992 (Seminoles lost 19-16 after missing a field goal wide right), Wide Right III in 2000 (same story, different score - 27-24 in Miami’s favor), and Wide Left in 2002 (Florida State failed to upset the No.1 Hurricanes and lost 28-27). Either way, if you’re a Seminoles fan, you hate to see the end of this game come down to a field goal attempt by your team.

6) USC vs. Notre Dame

One school is in Indiana known for its Midwest tradition and many classic games played in the snow. The other has just as rich of a football tradition but is known for its warm weather, flashy, Hollywood appearance.

Even with their vast differences in personality and geography, USC vs. Notre Dame has always generated great games and an enormous amount of talent (14 Heisman trophy winners – seven for each school). Every meeting, USC and Notre Dame play for an Irish war club known as the “jeweled shillelagh.” Based on the victor, a shamrock or Trojan helmet jewel is added.

5) Florida vs. Georgia

There are only two things these two fan bases agree on: 1) football and 2) tailgating. That’s why this historic rivalry is known as “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” That’s probably the best nickname for a rivalry in college sports, yet both schools believe it holds a negative connotation and decided to change the name to the “Florida-Georgia Classic.” While both schools are trying to get rid of the rivalry’s nickname, and though they have technically succeeded, the fans know its true title.

The name was originally created by the Sports Editor of The Florida Times Union in 1950. The story says that he saw an inebriated fan stumble up to a police officer to offer him a beer. Since then, it has stuck (despite technicalities).

Despite the great history of the rivalry, a trophy for the game had not existed until 2009 when the Okefenokee Oar was introduced. The Okefenokee Oar is 10-foot tall oar made from cypress trees in the Okefenokee Swamp located at the Georgia-Florida border.

4) Army vs. Navy

Army vs. Navy doesn’t have potential National Championship Game implications (at least not since the late 1940s when Army won two back-to-back). However, no particular game demands as much respect as the Army-Navy Game. They have played every year for the last 82 years. On top of that, they have played this game 111 times with only six of them played on campus at one of the schools. Usually played in Philadelphia, this game has seen Washington D.C (RFK Stadium), Soldier Field in Chicago, and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

The stands are filled with cadets and midshipmen in full uniform, the chants yelled by both sides are incredible, and not to mention…the president shows up to this game every year. Not too shabby.

3) Auburn vs. Alabama

First off, I’d like to say that the top three on this list can easily be toss-ups. With that, we move on to No. 3 and give you the Yellowhammer state’s pride: Auburn vs. Alabama.

These two teams play for the Foy-ODK Sportsmanship Trophy after James E. Foy who graduated from Alabama and later became the dean at Auburn. However, “Sportsmanship” is the last thing you think of when Auburn and Alabama face off every year.

No shortage of animosity here. Alabama and Auburn HATE each other. Ever listen to the Paul Fienbaum show? Paul does talk on his show, but there’s no need to say anything. Alabama fans call in to slam Auburn, Auburn fans call in to slam Alabama, they to go commercial break and they do the whole thing over again. You’d think that track on repeat gets old, but it’s everything to these fans.

In fact, the Iron Bowl carries so much hate that an Alabama fan drove to Auburn to poison the infamous and historic Toomer’s Corner trees that many people identify with Auburn University. Now, they are dying because that Alabama fan injected the trees with a pesticide called Spike 80DF (or Tebuthiuron) the weekend after Cam Newton and Auburn came back from down 24-0 in the first half to win the game 28-27 and eventually the national championship in 2010. I can’t speak for everyone, but in my opinion, that’s just unhealthy hate…

2) Ohio State vs. Michigan

These two schools don’t just dislike each other; it’s a dislike that carries plenty of tradition. Like Missouri and Kansas (one of the rivalries that just missed our list), Ohio State and Michigan’s disgust with one another goes back to a war between the two respected states. In summary, the Toledo War (1835-36) began with a dispute over a small piece of land in Northern Ohio. It was announced the land belonged to Ohio and Michigan refused to accept the fact. That’s where the rivalry, and subsequent hatred for one another all began.

Former great Ohio State coach Woody Hayes, famously known for his detestation for the state of Michigan, referred to the Wolverines as “that team up north” because he refused to say the word “Michigan.” Running out of gas on a recruiting trip through Michigan, Hayes refused to stop and buy gas until the car crossed the Ohio border. He informed his assistant coach driving the car that they would get out in the pouring rain to push the car into Ohio if they had to.

In 1968, Woody Hayes led Michigan 48-14 after scoring a touchdown late in the game. Instead of kicking the extra point, he elected to go for a two-point conversion and was successful. After the 50-14 win, Hayes was asked why he went for the two-point conversion. He replied “because I couldn’t go for three!” That haunted him one year later when new Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler arrived in Ann Arbor. Schembechler, in his first year, upset the Buckeyes to end their national championship run. To add more fuel to the fire, Schembechler played for Hayes at Miami (Ohio) and was an assistant coach at Ohio State before taking the coaching job at Miami (Ohio) and later Michigan. The hiring of Schembechler started what is known as “The 10-year War” for the 10 years Hayes faced Schembechler. During this time, Michigan and Ohio State shared the Big Ten title six times. Michigan leads the all-time series 58-43-6.

1) Texas vs. Oklahoma

Topping our list is the Red River Rivalry (once known as the Red River Shootout). Texas is a hot bed for football and football recruiting. The kids who play in this game mostly come from Texas. With that, most of these players played high school football in Texas. For those who don’t know, high school football is KING in the state of Texas. One can only dream of playing in the Texas-OU game and every single person from Ponca City, OK to Brownsville, TX knows exactly what it means. Throw out the records, throw out the talent, this is the type of rivalry game that anyone can win just because an entire season can be validated with a victory.

The rivalry gets its name from the river that separates the Texas-Oklahoma border. The best feature about this rivalry is the location and atmosphere. The Cotton Bowl is basically right in the middle of Norman, OK and Austin, TX (it’s actually five miles closer to Norman). The stadium is located at the center of the fairgrounds in Dallas, and they play the game during the State Fair of Texas (where the corn dog was invented). Half of the stadium is burnt orange while the other half is crimson red. The atmosphere at this game is arguably the best in college football every single season despite both schools rankings. In addition, these two schools have played each other since before Oklahoma was officially a state.

Lastly, the tradition of dominance by both schools has helped the rivalry tremendously. Six of the last 12 meetings produced a representative in the BCS National Championship Game. Texas holds the all-time series 59-42-5.

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