Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Big Games, Absurd Trophies: College Football Rivalries

The collegiate world provides the best setting for spirited competition and rivalry in all of sports. Debating rivalries is definitely a difficult task and brings you to points that steer the argument towards which is the biggest, which has the most tradition and of course which is the most relevant now. I looked into College Football’s rivalries to determine where I stand on these issues, and came up with some categorizations to help myself in future debates.

The Biggest:

The Ohio State University vs. Michigan
All Time Record: Since 1897: 57-41-6 (Michigan)
Trophy: N/A
Reasons Why:
1. All Time Wins: #1 Michigan 869 vs. #5 Ohio State 798
2. Annually played as both teams last game, the match up has decided the Big Ten Championship 23 different times and subsequently Rose Bowl bids (Michigan reactivated in the Big Ten in 1916, Ohio State Joined in 1912).
3. The game goes beyond the collegiate world, it is a phenomenon that is not seen in other parts of the country. The State of Ohio revolves around Buckeye Football, regardless of alma mater or collegiate affiliation, same can be said for Michigan on a slightly smaller scale.
4. Bo vs. Woody: Ten Year War, followed by friendship and show of class that is unrivaled in coaching before or since.
I could write a 100 articles on Ohio State Michigan Rivalry, but those are the top five to come to mind.

Honorable Mentions:

Alabama vs. Auburn: “Iron Bowl”
All Time Record: Since 1893: 38-33-1 (Bama)
Trophy: Foy-ODK Sportsmanship Award
Why: Rooted in deep southern tradition revolving around football, this game is always gritty. State bragging rights are on the line between two teams that have traditionally been very competitive.

Oklahoma vs. Texas “Red River Shootout”
All Time Record: Since 1900: 57-40-5 (Texas)
Trophy: Golden Hat (Exchanged between Teams)
Red River Shootout Trophy (Exchanged between Student Bodies)
Governors Trophy (Exchange between Governors)

Army vs. Navy
All Time Record: Since 1890: 52-49-7 (Navy)
Trophy: Commander in Chief’s Trophy (which is given to the winner of the series between Army, Navy, and Air Force)
Why: It is a patriotic thing. It has a long and storied tradition. Neither team has been relevant in terms of football, but those playing have never been so important. Most will never play after this game, but will join each other as brothers in arms and there is a
very emotional aspect of the game that comes along with that. It will continually be televised and watched by countless of Americans every year.

“First”, “Longest”, “Most” Rivalries:

“Lafayette vs. Lehigh: FCS: “The Rivalry”
“The Most Played Rivalry in College Football”: 143 Games
All Time Record: Since 1884: 76-62-5 (Lafayette)
Trophy: The Rivalry was established before trophies became a staple. Instead, the winning team receives the game ball which is painted with the teams colors and the score of the game. This is especially interesting because it gives a historical view of the evolution of the football that is enshrined at both schools.

Arizona vs. Arizona State: “Duel in the Dessert”
All Time Record: Since 1899: 44-36-1 (Arizona)
Trophy: Territorial Cup: The Oldest Rivalry Trophy in College Football
Harvard vs. Yale: “The Game”
“Oldest Rivalry in College Football”:
All Time Record: Since 1875: 65-51-8 (Yale)
Trophy: N/A

Best Name for a Rivalry Game:

Georgia vs. Georgia Tech: “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate”
All Time Record: Since 1893: 56-38-5 (Georgia)
Trophy: N/A
Why: There is something to be said for being blunt.

Honorable Mentions:

Arizona vs. Arizona State: “Duel in the Desert”
Why: Nothing is harder than a duel, especially in the Wild West.

Pittsburgh vs. West Virginia “Backyard Brawl”
All Time Record: Since 1895: 60-37-3 (W.Virginia)
Trophy: N/A
Why: There is something about the word Brawl. Add in the idea that its taking place in the Backyard and you get that rough no holds bar kind of love to hate situation.

Best Rivalry to Party at Regardless of Affiliation:

Florida vs. Georgia “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” or simply “The Cocktail Party”
All Time Record: Since 1912: 46-37-2 (Georgia)
Trophy: N/A
Why: Neutral Site. Two States. Tailgating that starts nearly a week in advance. Look it up, it is on my list of things to do before I die college football list.

Best Rivalry Trophies:

Wisconsin vs. Minnesota
All Time Record: Since 1890: 33-24-3 (Wisconsin)
Trophy: Paul Bunyan’s Axe
Why: When it comes to instruments of forest destruction, Bunyan’s Axe stands alone.

Purdue vs. Indiana
All Time Record: Since 1925: 68-36-6 (Indiana)
Trophy: Old Wooden Bucket
Why: Quite honestly, because it looks homemade. It resembles the 1920’s version of a fraternities trophy made from a keg shell.

Absurd Rivalry Trophies:

Fresno State vs. Boise State “Battle for the Milkcan”
All Time Record: Since 2005: 2-1 (Boise)
Trophy: Milk Can
Why: Milk Can? I understand you are two of the top dairy producing states in the nation. Idaho you are potatoes. California you are a lot of things, in the dairy world maybe you are cheese. Seriously, a Milkcan? If the trophy originated over 50 years ago I would have given you the tradition excuse, but in 2005 I think we can do a little bit better don’t you?

Bowling Green vs. Toldeo “Battle of 1-75”
All Time Record: Since 1980: 15-13 (Toledo)
Trophy: Peace Pipe
Why: If a rivalry is to be truly gritty, you can not hit the peace pipe after it is over knowing full well that it will happen again next year. The losing team should be fired up and wanting to take back something that was taken from them. The only thing worse than the peace pipe would be playing for an olive branch.

Oregon vs. Oregon State: “ Civil War”
All Time Record: Since 1894: 55-46-10 (Oregon)
Trophy: First awarded in 1959 Platypus Trophy
Why: As far as the state of Oregon is concerned the result of breading a Duck and a Beaver would produce a Platypus. That is really what is happening here, and I don’t think I need to add anything of my own.

Iowa State vs. Missouri
All Time Record: Since 1959: 58 -34-9 (Missouri)
Trophy: The Telephone Trophy
Why: The story goes something like this: The phones from the coaches box were wired so that that the teams could listen in on conversations happening on opposing sidelines. They fixed it before the game started. To immortalize their inability to wire the stadium correctly Northwestern Bell created the trophy.

I bet there was at least one of these that you didn't even know about....


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