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Posted: November 26, 2011 6:46 p.m.

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College football rivalries are personal

College football rivalries aren’t so much defined by the results as they are feelings toward the rival. They're something obviously not everyone gets. Based on how some of the series have played out over the course of the rivalry, it's hard to imagine how fans can get up for games they know they probably have no shot at winning.

When you look at the results between some of the country’s fiercest college football rivals you see periods of one-seeded domination. That said college football rivalries are special. 

Unlike pro football, fans feel attached to college teams. In a sense, if you’re alumni, you are a part of the school. Even if you aren't, a college team is sometimes as close to a professional team a fan will get. You feel that personal connection. With that let’s look at what fuels five of the best college football rivalries.


The Iron Bowl 

(Auburn vs. Alabama)

Series history: Alabama leads 40-34-1. Teams have met 76 times. Winner in each the past two games has won the national championship.

The rivalry: Fans in the South will tell you this is the best rivalry in college football. Fans up north will tell you otherwise. Whether you agree or not, there’s no denying the Iron Bowl is a game between two schools who really don’t like each other. Let’s face it, what else is there to look forward to in Alabama if you’re a sports fan? With no professional teams, these two schools are as close as these Southern fans get. And speaking of sides, if you live in Alabama, you have to choose one. If it’s not the best college rivalry, it’s certainly the best instate one.

The rivalry recently: Heated. Auburn came from behind to stun Alabama with a 28-27 win in 2010 after the Crimson Tide led 24-0 in the first half. The win propelled Auburn to the national championship game and secured Cam Newton’s legacy.

Hate factor: 10. Some loon poisoned some trees after Auburn wins a national championship. Obviously there’s a lack of civility and genuine dislike amongst some fans.

Trending: Up. Even when one of the two teams stinks, the rivalry will always be the state's premiere sporting event.


USC vs. Notre Dame

Series history: First meeting, 1926. Notre Dame leads 43-34-1. USC has eight wins since 2002.

The rivalry: Once upon a time, the winner of this game often found itself in the running for the national championship. Not only that, these two teams are NFL factories. Over the years, 472 USC players have been taken in NFL drafts while 469 Fighting Irishmen have been drafted. That's good enough for No. 1 and No. 2 all time. And while that remains the case for USC (sort of), Notre Dame has fallen on hard times. Still, without a natural rival due to its status as an independent, Notre Dame has been known to bust out the green jerseys for this game only. 

The rivalry recently: Dormant. Notre Dame has been USC’s doormat for most of the 21st century. In fact, the Trojans have won the past eight matchups. Until Notre Dame starts being competitive again, this won’t change. This is a rivalry in need of a jumpstart. Right now it’s dormant and fast becoming more lore than reality.

Hate factor: 7. Notre Dame hasn’t been very good for a while now and USC is on sanctions.

Trending: Down. Both schools have lost their luster lately and the new breed of student doesn't quite get it.


Clean Old-Fashioned Hate (Georgia-Georgia Tech)

Series history: First meeting 1893. Georgia leads 61-39-5 (Georgia doesn’t list the 1943 and 44 games as losses where Georgia Tech includes them as wins). 

The rivalry: This was more a token inclusion since the game has no league implications but the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry is still one Georgian’s rally around. A lot of it has to do with proximity and duration. It’s similar in the Iron Bowl in that these rivals traditionally vie for state athletes and a family reunion could be filled with Tech and Georgia graduates. It’s also a rivalry that’s been around for a long time. For more than 100 years these two schools have faced each other. The rivalry isn’t as fierce as some of the others — no Tech fans are breaking into Sanford Stadium to do some landscaping, but it is an old-school tradition. It’d be better if Georgia Tech won more.

The rivalry recently: Decent. For whatever reason, Georgia Tech doesn’t fare too well in this one traditionally. Even though the Yellow Jackets have four national titles to Georgia’s two, the Bulldogs have had their way in the series. Since 2001, Georgia has won 11 of 12 games including Saturday’s 31-17 pasting. It needs some balance to be considered a great rivalry game.

Hate factor: 7. It might be called Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate but the reality is, it’s really just clean and old fashioned. The younger generation Georgia fan cares more about the Georgia-Florida game than this one.

Trending: Down. People in Georgia care. People outside of the Peach State don't.


Red River Shootout (Oklahoma vs. Texas)

Series history: First meeting, 1900. Texas leads 59-42-5. 

The rivalry: The Red River Shootout is as fierce as they come. It also might be the purest rivalry game in all of college football. It’s the only one here that splits game tickets 50/50. As a result, fans are separated by the 50-yard line. When one team scores, half the stadium is in ecstasy while the other half is stone quiet. Not only that, the game doesn’t travel between the school’s home stadium. It’s played on neutral ground. Perhaps more than any other college football rivalry game, this one comes down to the better team each year.

The rivalry recently: Good. Texas has slipped a little in the past couple of years but these two teams still come to play when they meet. It’s also been pretty balanced the past decade as both teams have been perennial BCS title contenders and each has won a national championship over that time. With the instability of the Big 12 and questions surrounding its future, this is a must-keep rivalry. Hopefully it doesn’t go away like the Kansas-Missouri game.

Hate factor: 9. These two teams really don’t like each. The same can be said for fans. That tends to happen when the loser is knocked out of the BCS title hunt.

Trending: Up. This will take a hit if the Big 12 is dissolved and the two teams go to separate conferences.


The Game 

(Ohio State vs. Michigan)

Series history: Michigan leads 58-44-6. Teams have met 108 times. Regular season finale since 1935. 

The rivalry: Many view the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry not just the best one in college football; but the best in all of sports. The rivalry pits the flagship schools of each state and transcends state borders like none other. The Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler era took an already bitter rivalry and made it impossible to ignore. You know it’s a fierce rivalry when a win in this game often makes for successful season regardless of how the winner did overall in the rest of its games.

The rivalry recently: Always heated. This has been ugly for Michigan fans lately but they got a jolt Saturday with Michigan’s 40-34 win.

Before yesterday’s win, the Buckeyes had won seven straight and nine of the past 10 games. But the rivalry may be seeing a revival. With all that’s happened at Ohio State and Michigan the past decade, it appears both schools are on the brink of some long-term stability. The season finales between the two could be key games with BCS bowl implications.

Hate factor: 10 (Hayes used to say he’d rather run out of gas on the way back to Columbus rather than fuel up in Michigan. If that doesn’t qualify as disdain, what does?)

Trending: Up. This one will always be fed by passion. Now that there's a Big 10 title game, it could be even bigger.

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