Top Ten College Football Rivalries

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University of Alabama vs. Auburn University

When the two teams play, it’s known as the Iron Bowl.

The Iron Bowl started in 1893. The two teams avoided playing each other from 1896-1900 and 1907-1948.

In 1947 the Alabama House of Representatives passed a resolution encouraging the two schools to play. They both refused. The State Legislature threatened to withhold state funding from the two schools unless they resumed the rivalry.

It’s known as the Iron Bowl due to Birmingham’s iron and steel production.

Alabama leads the series at 42-35-1.

Notable Players from University of Alabama

  • Shaun Alexander – Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins
  • Julio Jones – Atlanta Falcons

Notable Players from Auburn University

  • Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers
  • Bo Jackson – Played both NFL and MLB: Los Angeles Raiders, Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox, and California Angels.


“In this state, you’re either for Alabama or Auburn, and people start choosing sides when they’re in the third and fourth grades.”

—Siran Stacy, Former Tailback, University of Alabama

University of Texas vs. University of Oklahoma

The rivalry game is known as the Red River Showdown. The two teams first played each other in 1900. It’s called the Red River Showdown because the Red River runs through the border of Texas and Oklahoma.

The winner of the rivalry game takes home three trophies:

  • The Golden Hat – a bronzed, ten-gallon hat given to the athletic department of the winning school.
  • The Red River Showdown trophy – given to the student government of the winning school.
  • The Governor’s Trophy – exchanged between the two governors of each state.

Texas leads the series 60-43-5.

Notable Players from University of Texas

  • Earl Campbell – Houston Oilers, New Orleans Saints
  • Jamaal Charles – Kansas City Chiefs
  • Notable Players from University of Oklahoma

  • Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings
  • Roy Williams – Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals


“Generations of Sooners and Longhorns will proudly attest that the Red River Showdown is played amidst the most unique atmosphere in all of college football.”

—Joe Castiglione, Director of Athletics, University of Oklahoma

University of Michigan vs. Ohio State University

The two teams first went head-to-head in 1897.

When the two teams play, it is simply known as “The Game.”

The rivalry has its roots in The Toledo War – a disagreement between Michigan and Ohio over their states’ respective boundaries.

The rivalry has become so heated, that last year, each school’s coach refused to refer to the other school by name. Urban Meyer adopted the tradition of referring to Michigan as “the school up north” and Brady Hoke refers to OSU only as “Ohio.”

Michigan leads the series 58-45-6.

Notable Players from University of Michigan

  • Tom Brady – New England Patriots
  • Charles Woodson – Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers

Notable Players from Ohio State University

  • Cris Carter – Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins
  • Eddie George – Houston Oilers, Dallas Cowboys


“This is one of the most embarrassing games I’ve ever been involved with… If you’d told me we would come up here and get beat 28-0, I’d have probably stayed home.”

—John Cooper, Former Coach, Ohio State University

University of Southern California vs. University of Notre Dame

One of the longest-running intersectional rivalries in the nation. The two teams first met in 1926. They have played every year excluding 1943-1945 when the series was halted for WWII.

The two teams have won 22 National Championships – 11 for Notre Dame, 11 for USC.

The winner of the game takes home the Jeweled Shillelagh, an Irish club made of oak or blackthorn saplings.

The two schools lead in all-time NFL draft picks – USC with 479 and Notre Dame with 476.

Notre Dame leads the series 45-35-5.

Notable Players from University of Southern California

  • OJ Simpson – Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers
  • Junior Seau – San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots

Notable Players from University of Notre Dame

  • Joe Montana – San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs
  • Joe Theismann – Washington Redskins


“It is the greatest intersectional rivalry in college football.”

—Tim Tessalone, Sports Information Director, USC

United States Military Academy vs. United States Naval Academy

The two teams first played in 1890.

This rivalry is probably one of the friendliest ones. Each team has nothing but respect for the other because they know they will someday have to work together off the field in a more serious capacity.

Army/Navy football games have little bearing on bowl games or championships. Very rarely does a Navy or Army football player enter the NFL due to the obligation they have to serve their country. They simply play for the love of the game. Trash talk is minimal. The most you’ll get is a simple. “Go Navy, Beat Army” or “Go Army, Beat Navy.”

Instead of fights breaking out between the teams, they pull innocent pranks such as stealing the other team’s mascot and returning it unharmed after the game.

When the game is over, players embrace each other to show respect. Games are usually played in Philadelphia, the halfway point between West Point, NY (Army) and Annapolis, MD (Navy). The Navy, Army and Air Force Academy all compete for the Commander-in-Chief trophy each year.

Navy currently leads the series 58-49-7.

Notable Players from United States Military Academy

  • Doc Blanchard – First junior to win Heisman Trophy. Drafted by Pittsburgh Steelers, but could not get military furlough to play.
  • Glenn Davis – Los Angeles Rams (played after completing military service).

Notable Players from United States Naval Academy

  • Roger Staubach – Dallas Cowboys
  • Joe Bellino –Boston Patriots


“Army-Navy is recognized as one of the most intense rivalries in all of college sports… There is only one day a year out of the 365 when we are bitter rivals… that is during the Army-Navy game.”

—Brigadier General Timothy Trainor, Former Dean of the Academic Board, U.S. Military Academy

University of Utah vs. Brigham Young University

When the two teams meet it’s known as The Holy War.

The two teams first met in 1896. While the University of Utah counts this as the start of the rivalry, BYU claims the start of it was in 1922 when the two teams began playing in the same conference.

The two schools are only 50 miles apart.

Both schools were founded by former Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) President Brigham Young. The University of Utah eventually became state-owned while BYU is still owned and operated by the LDS church.

Besides proximity, religion is a major contributor to the rivalry.

It’s not uncommon for University of Utah fans to accuse BYU fans of being self-righteous, and for BYU fans to accuse Utah fans of being antagonistic towards the school’s religious values, despite the fact that both universities have a large population of active members of the LDS church.

The University of Utah leads the series 54-34-4.

Notable Players from University of Utah

  • Alex Smith – San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs
  • Eric Weddle – San Diego Chargers
  • Notable Players from Brigham Young University

  • Steve Young – Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco 49ers
  • Jim McMahon – Chicago Bears, San Diego Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers


“The hatred between BYU and Utah is nothing compared to what it will be. It will be a crusade to beat BYU from now on.”

—Wayne Howard, Former Coach, University of Utah

University of Miami vs. Florida State University

Florida State and Miami first met in 1951. There are very few traditions when it comes to this rivalry – no name, no trophy, etc.

Two of the top five highest-rated regular season college football games ever broadcast on ESPN were when Miami and Florida State played.

A lot of times, the Miami/FSU game has national championship implications. Both teams have caused the other to miss out on their chance at the national championship title.

In fact, it’s estimated that between the two schools, five kicks (and one “wide left”) have shaped four national championships and decided one BCS bowl.

Generally, Miami wins the close games while Florida State delivers more blowouts.

Miami currently leads the series 31-27.

Notable Players from University of Miami

  • Ray Lewis – Baltimore Ravens
  • Andre Johnson – Houston Texans
  • Notable Players from Florida State University

  • Deion Sanders – Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, Baltimore Ravens
  • Warrick Dunn – Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons


“How are you supposed to like somebody when they’re sitting in the stands and you’re on the field and they’re chucking oranges at you. The crowd was beyond anything that I had ever seen.”

—Don Bailey, Former Player, University of Miami

Harvard University vs. Yale University

Like Michigan/Ohio State, when Harvard and Yale play each other in football, it is known as “The Game.”

The two schools first faced off on Nov. 13, 1875.

The Game is the second-oldest ongoing rivalry in college football.

The two teams have been playing football for more than a century; however, it looked very different back then than it does today. Prior to 1875, Yale had been playing soccer and calling it “football,” while Harvard’s version of football was closer to rugby. Yale eventually adopted Harvard’s version, and over the years, both teams have been influential in shaping the way the sport is played today.

Built in 1903, Harvard has the oldest sports stadium in the country. Yale was the first college team to introduce cheerleaders in 1890.

The Game invites a lot of pranks between the two schools. However, one of the best pranks was played on Harvard by Yale. In 2004, Yale students dressed up as the “Harvard Pep Squad” and handed out signs to Harvard Crimson fans. They told them that when the signs were raised, the cards would spell out “Go Harvard.” They actually spelled out “We Suck.”

Yale currently leads the rivalry series at 65-57-8.

Notable Players from Harvard University

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick – St. Louis Rams, Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans
  • William Henry Lewis – first African-American college football player.
  • Notable Players from Yale University

  • Walter Camp aka. The “Father of Football” – played for Yale from 1876 to 1882 and coached from 1888 to 1892. Credited with pioneering the transition from Rugby to American Football.
  • William “Pudge” Walter Heffelfinger – Considered the first person to play football professionally.


“Beating Yale and winning (The Game) are the top priorities for our team each season.”

—Tim Williamson, Associate Director of Athletics, Harvard University

Stanford University vs. University of California, Berkeley

The rivalry football game is known as “The Big Game.” Stanford and Berkeley first played each other in 1892.

Before he was President, Herbert Hoover was Stanford’s football manager during the first rivalry game.

In 2006, The NFL attempted to trademark the phrase “The Big Game.” Berkeley and Stanford objected, and the NFL withdrew its application.

From 1906-1914, due to concerns about violence, Stanford and Berkeley both suspended their football programs and opted to play rugby instead. The two schools continued The Big Game tradition, playing rugby instead of football. The rugby wins and losses are still included in the series record.

The two schools compete for The Stanford Axe during The Big Game.

The Stanford Axe first made its appearance in 1899 and was used to destroy a blue and gold (Berkeley’s colors) man made out of straw. Shortly thereafter, a few Cal students stole it. It remained in Berkeley for 31 years before Stanford was able to steal it back. After Stanford stole the axe back, university officials decided to make The Axe the trophy awarded after The Big Game.

The Big Game has been decided by a touchdown or less 52 times.

Stanford currently leads the series 59-46-11.

Notable Players from Stanford University

  • Andrew Luck – Indianapolis Colts
  • John Elway – Denver Broncos
  • Notable Players from University of California, Berkeley

  • Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers
  • Marshawn Lynch – Buffalo Bills, Seattle Seahawks


“The Big Game embodies much about what the Bay Area and Silicon Valley are about – excellence at every turn.”

—Kurt Svoboda, Senior Assistant Athletic Director, Stanford University

Baylor University vs. Texas Christian University

The two teams first met on Oct. 27, 1899. It is one of the most played rivalries in all of college football.

Back in 1899, Baylor and TCU both called Waco, Texas their home. However, TCU relocated to Fort Worth in 1910 after its Waco facility burned down.

Both schools are private, religious universities. The Disciples of Christ founded TCU and Baylor was established by the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

The rivalry was put on hold when the Southwest Conference disbanded after the 1995 season. The two teams didn’t play each other again until 2006. Baylor University joined the Big 12 conference in 1996 and TCU joined the Big 12 conference in 2012.

The series is currently tied at 51-51-7.

Notable Players from Baylor University

  • Robert Griffin III – Washington Redskins
  • Mike Singletary – Chicago Bears
  • Notable Players from Texas Christian University

  • Andy Dalton – Cincinnati Bengals
  • LaDainian Tomlinson – San Diego Chargers, New York Jets


“The series can’t get any closer with each team winning 51 times and there being seven ties.”

—Mark Cohen, Assistant Athletics Director/Media Relations, TCU

Honorable Mentions

  • University of Texas/Texas A&M – University of Texas leads series 76-37-5
  • USC/UCLA – USC leads the series 46-30-7
  • University of Georgia/University of Florida – Georgia leads the series 49 (or 50 depending on who you ask)-40-2
  • University of Oregon/Oregon State University – University of Oregon leads 61-46-10
  • University of Oklahoma/Oklahoma State University – University of Oklahoma leads the series 84-17-7.


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