The 7 Biggest College Football Rivalries

The 7 Biggest College Football Rivalries

There are few things in college football that compare to the heated rivalry games. The energy and excitement of these match-ups are unmatched and bring out the best (and sometimes worst) in fans.

From the storied history between Notre Dame and USC to the annual "Iron Bowl" battle between Auburn and Alabama, college football rivalries add an extra level of passion to the sport. Here's a look at some of the biggest and most intense college football rivalries.

College Football History

College football is one of the oldest and most beloved sports in the United States. It involves a team of 11 players playing on both offense and defense against another college-level team with the aim of scoring points to win the game. The main objective is to make advancement down the field by either moving one player from their current position with a run or by throwing forward a pass to another player.

College football has been around for over 150 years, starting in 1869 when Rutgers University played Princeton University in what was known as “the first intercollegiate football contest.” Today, thousands of universities compete annually, representing all sizes of schools and divisions. There are numerous events, both regional and national, including bowl games for postseason play throughout December and January, thus making college football an exciting part of American history and culture.


How the Fans Add to the Rivalry Atmosphere

The in-state rivalry between two teams brings out a unique energy in their loyal fanbases. These fans are loud, passionate, and very active in their support for the team they love. When the opposing sides meet, both sets of fans come together in one space and create an electric atmosphere at the games.

Through cheers and chants, moments of silence before kick-off in respect for one another, or “friendly” rivalries in tailgates or in the stands- fans add to the character and intensity of any in-state rivalry. It all comes down to loyalty and pride.

Some of the Most Memorable Moments from Past Games

For many gamers, some of the most memorable moments come from the games they have played. The nail-biting tension during a particularly challenging boss fight or achieving a first-time goal can be satisfying and thrilling experiences that stay with players long after they put down the controller. Furthermore, single-player narrative games often have narratives that draw players in and evoke strong emotions, making them perfectly suited for noteworthy moments. Adventure games such as Journey or Walking Dead further enhance this experience with emotive storylines that keep gamers attached until the very end. Each title offers its own unique set of unforgettable moments for the player to savor, reinforcing why gaming remains one of the most popular hobbies around.


Overview of College Football

Before we move on to the biggest and fiercest college football rivalries, let us first give you an overview of college football itself and the associations behind it.

BCS National Championship Games

The BCS National Championship game is one of the most iconic annual events in college football. It has been held every year since 1998 and pits the two best teams in college football against each other for a chance to win it all. But what exactly is the BCS National Championship game

What is the BCS? 

The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) was an organization that ran from 1998-2013 and used a combination of polls and computer rankings to decide which two teams would play in its annual championship game. The BCS was replaced in 2014 with the College Football Playoff (CFP) system, a four-team playoff format that uses a selection committee to determine which teams will compete for the national title. 

The game itself takes place after all the bowl games have been played during the bowl season. This usually happens in early January and is attended by hundreds of thousands of fans from all over the country who come to cheer on their favorite teams. It also attracts millions more viewers through its live television broadcast on ESPN, making it one of the most-watched sporting events each year.

The BCS National Championship game has become one of the most highly anticipated events on the college football calendar. It is an opportunity for two teams to showcase their abilities on an even playing field, as both teams have had to overcome many obstacles throughout their respective seasons to get there. For players, it can be a life-changing experience as they are given an opportunity to prove themselves on a national stage. For coaches, it’s often seen as proof of their ability to build successful programs over time. And for fans, it’s a chance to witness history being made in real time. 


College Football Playoff (CFP)

The College Football Playoff (CFP) is a postseason tournament in NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) college football. It began with the 2014 season and has continued to 2021. The CFP works by selecting four teams to compete in single-elimination semifinal games, followed by a national championship game. The selection committee evaluates each team’s performance over the course of the regular season before deciding which teams will be selected to participate in the playoff. Let’s take a closer look at how it works.

Once the four teams have been chosen for the playoffs, they are placed into two semifinal matchups that will determine which two teams will advance to the championship game. In order to ensure fairness, these matchups are rotated between six predetermined bowl games every year so that no one team has an unfair advantage due to home-field advantage or familiarity with a certain venue. This rotation also adds some extra excitement as fans get to see their favorite teams play in different locations every year.

The Selection Process

The CFP selection committee meets weekly throughout the fall to review data points on each team and evaluate their performances against other teams. These data points include each team's win-loss record, the strength of the schedule, quality wins, head-to-head results, and more. After evaluating all this information, the selection committee then ranks every team from 1-25 and ultimately selects four teams for the playoffs. This ranking system allows for different criteria to be taken into consideration when selecting teams for the playoffs rather than simply relying on traditional polls or rankings.

The College Football Playoff brings excitement and intensity like no other sporting event can match. From watching your favorite team battle its way through the regular season and make its case for inclusion in the playoffs all the way through to seeing them compete against three other elite programs with everything on the line – there’s nothing quite like it!

With millions of viewers tuning in each year, it’s easy to see why this event is so popular amongst college football fans across America! So whether you’re cheering on your favorite school or just rooting for a great game – make sure you catch this thrilling event when it comes around again next year!

NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS)

The NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) is the highest level of college football in the United States. It consists of 131 teams from all over the country, divided into 10 (previously 11) conferences.

While not all teams in the FBS have a chance to play in the bowl games every year, they are still considered among the best teams in college football. Here’s what you need to know about this important division of college football.


The 11 conferences that make up the FBS are:

  1. American Athletic Conference (AAC) - The American Athletic Conference (The American or AAC) is a collegiate athletic conference that was established in 2013. It is composed of 11 member universities and one associate member, centered mostly in the Southern United States. It operates in 10 sports for men and 12 sports for women. 
  1. Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) - Founded in 1953, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) is one of the oldest and most successful athletic conferences in the United States. The ACC currently consists of fifteen universities that compete in various sports including basketball, football, swimming, lacrosse, and baseball. Home to some of the nation's top college sports teams, the ACC is a perennial powerhouse in NCAA athletics and has produced multiple national champions over its long history. 
  1. Big 12 Conference - The Big 12 Conference is a collegiate athletic conference with ten member universities, located mostly in the midwestern United States. This powerhouse of a conference packs an impressive punch athletically, featuring championship-winning teams in basketball, football, swimming & diving, and golf. With this level of excellence, it's not surprising that 23 different programs from the Big 12 Conference have won more than 200 NCAA national championships.
  1. Big Ten Conference - The Big Ten Conference, formerly known as the Western Conference, is one of the premier collegiate athletic conferences in the United States. Established in 1896, this conference currently comprises 14 member schools from the midwestern and eastern regions of the country, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, and Penn State. All members of the Big Ten are highly-regarded institutions with top-ranked academic programs and successful varsity sports teams that compete for major championships every year.
  2. Conference USA (C-USA) - Conference USA (C-USA) is a collegiate athletic conference founded in 1995 and consisting of 11 universities located primarily in the Southern United States. C-USA has two divisions: East and West. Since its formation in 1995, C-USA has sponsored championship competitions in football, basketball, soccer, and other popular sports. With regular season games taking place, tournaments hosted online as well as at campus sites and championship games played at neutral venues, Conference USA creates an engaging roster of sporting events over the course of an academic year.
  1. FBS Independents - Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) Independents are schools that play football in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision but don't participate in a conference. There are currently 7 such universities, and all of them have notable football programs. Some of those schools join independent conferences for other sports while maintaining their independence in football. FBS Independents tend to have access to strong financial resources which provides them with advantages over many of the other teams they play, including larger recruiting budgets and higher paying coaching salaries. Other advantages include better access to facility improvements and access to more bowl games as there is no conference restriction or scheduling conflict. Despite these advantages, all FBS Independents must also meet certain criteria established by the NCAA to ensure a certain level of performance on and off the field.
  1. Mid-American Conference (MAC) - The Mid-American Conference, commonly referred to as the MAC, is a collegiate athletic conference based in the greater Midwest region of the United States. Since its establishment in 1946, it has grown to include twelve member institutions throughout Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Upstate New York. The MAC is known for its vibrant athletics program spanning both men’s and women’s sports including football, basketball, and cross country.
  1. Mountain West Conference (MWC) - The Mountain West Conference is one of the most prominent athletic conferences in the United States. It consists of 11 member institutions, located primarily in the western states of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Texas, and Utah. The conference was founded in 1998 and sponsors one of the strongest collegiate competitions in football, basketball, baseball, and other sports.
  1. Pac-12 Conference - The Pac-12 Conference is a collegiate athletic conference comprising 12 schools, mostly located in the western United States. Founded in 1915, it continues to be one of the most prominent college sports leagues in America. The members from each division compete against each other for the Pac-12 championship title. Aside from hosting regular season play for football, basketball, and other certified sports, it also sponsors academic programs across its institutions that promote success off the playing field. With its commitment to student-athletes educational development and health and wellness, the Pac-12 Conference has become a powerful force among university athletics nationwide.
  1. Southeastern Conference (SEC) - The Southeastern Conference, or SEC, is an American college sports league composed of 14 universities found in the southeast United States. Established in 1932, the SEC became one of the most successful intercollegiate athletic conferences, having competed and won more national championships than any other collegiate athletic association. The chartered sports conference boasts divisions across multiple sports leagues: Eastern and Western for basketball and football, East and West for soccer, softball, baseball, and all other standard student athletics.
  1. Sun Belt Conference - The Sun Belt Conference is a collegiate athletics conference composed of 14 universities located along the Southern coast of the United States. It is one of two conferences located in Division I’s Football Bowl Subdivision that includes teams from both East and West of the Mississippi River. The Sun Belt Conference was founded in 1976 and, since then, has grown to become one of the most prolific collegiate athletic conferences in terms of membership size, championship wins, and total scholarship funds available to its student-athletes. 

Bowl Games

Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) bowl games are a major part of college sports. They provide an exciting opportunity for college teams to compete against each other and showcase their skills. FBS bowl games are played at the end of the regular season, usually in late December and early January. These games also determine which teams will make it to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. So, what exactly are FBS bowl games? Let's take a closer look. 

Types of FBS Bowl Games 

There are currently 40 different bowls associated with the FBS, including popular bowls such as the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Peach Bowl. Each team is allowed to participate in up to four post-season bowl games per season. The most prestigious bowl game is typically considered to be either the Rose or Sugar bowls—the two oldest bowls that have been played since 1902 and 1935 respectively—although this designation can vary from year to year depending on which teams qualify for them each year. 

The NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision is one of college football's most important divisions. With 130 teams spread across 11 conferences plus four independents competing against each other on a regular basis, it provides fans with plenty of great matchups throughout each season leading up to 40 bowl games at season's end where we find out who will come out on top! Whether you love cheering on your favorite team or just enjoy watching competitive college football this is definitely one division everyone should keep an eye on!

New Year's Six

The New Year's Six consists of six major bowl games played each year. They include four traditional bowl games—the Rose Bowl Game, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, and Cotton Bowl—as well as two College Football Playoff semifinal bowls—the Fiesta Bowl and Peach Bowl. The winners of these six games will compete in a championship game to decide on the national champion. 

These six bowl games are known as the "New Year's Six" because they are typically played on or around New Year's Day. Each year, millions of people from all over the world tune in to watch these exciting matchups that feature some of the best teams in college football. Additionally, the players on these teams have a chance to showcase their talents on a national stage and make a name for themselves in front of NFL scouts across the country. 


Biggest Rivalries in College Football

Rivalries in college football have been a part of American culture for decades. Most rivalries build up over the years, often becoming heated and dominated by intense emotions. Some of the most played rivalry games take place between Michigan and Ohio State, Auburn and Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas, and USC and UCLA. These games draw in immense crowds due to their long-standing feuds which usually provide plenty of anticipation for both teams' respective fanbases. It is this level of competition that makes college football rivalries so engaging.

1. Red River Showdown: Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners

Every year, two of the country’s oldest and most storied college football programs face off in one of college football’s biggest rivalries. It’s the Red River Showdown when the University of Texas Longhorns battle it out with the Oklahoma Sooners. This rivalry between two teams from neighboring states has been going on for more than a century, and it has become one of the most iconic rivalries in all of sports.


The first Red River Showdown took place in 1900. Texas won that first game 28-2, but since then, the competition has become much more intense. Through the years Texas holds a 63–50–5 all-time edge over Oklahoma in this rivalry. While both teams have had their ups and downs throughout history, they have stayed among the top programs in college football—making them natural rivals as they battle for supremacy both within their own states and across the nation.

The Red River Showdown takes place annually at Cotton Bowl Stadium during the State Fair of Texas in October each year (starting 1929). The game itself plays out like no other matchup: half of Cotton Bowl Stadium is decorated burnt orange with Longhorn fans occupying one side while Sooner fans fill the other half wearing crimson and cream. Even though both teams may not always be playing for national championships or conference titles, every player knows what this game means to their respective schools—and they are ready to do whatever it takes to bring home a victory.

No matter what happens each season on the field, one thing remains constant: when Texas and Oklahoma meet up for their annual showdown at Cotton Bowl Stadium during The State Fair of Texas, anything can happen! For more than 100 years now these two great programs have been locked in an epic battle for pride and bragging rights — and there is no sign that this rivalry will be ending anytime soon!

The Iron Bowl Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers

2. The Iron Bowl: Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers

The Iron Bowl is one of the most storied rivalries in college football. Every year, fans of the Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers gather to watch their teams battle it out on the field. It's an intense rivalry that dates back more than 100 years and has captured the attention of sports fans all over the world.

History of The Iron Bowl

The Alabama-Auburn rivalry began all the way back in 1897 with Michigan holding, 60–51–6[ advantage in the series. . Over time, the rivalry has gained steam and become one of the most iconic games in college football.

The intensity of this rivalry cannot be understated. In addition to regular season matchups, these two teams also face off in high-stakes bowl games such as the recent Iron Bowl Showdown in 2018. In addition, there are television shows dedicated to analyzing and discussing each team's strategies leading up to each game—adding even more fuel to an already passionate fire between fans from both sides.

Tailgating Culture

A major part of any college football rivalry is tailgating culture before each game—and this is certainly true for The Iron Bowl as well! Fans from both sides come together hours before kickoff to enjoy food and drinks while trading quips about which team will win that day’s battle. It’s a fantastic way for fans from both sides to show their spirit without actually competing on the field themselves!

The Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn is not only one of the oldest rivalries in college football but also one of its fiercest as well! From its storied history dating back over 125 years ago to its intense matchups today, there’s no denying that The Iron Bowl is truly one of a kind when it comes to sporting rivalries around the world.


3. The Game: Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes

Football rivalries are a long-standing tradition in college sports. One of the most famous and intense rivalries is between two of the biggest football schools in the country, Michigan and Ohio State. This rivalry has gone on for over a century, with both teams fiercely competing against each other year after year. Currently, Michigan leads with 60–51–6.

History of the Rivalry

The Michigan-Ohio State rivalry began in 1897 when the two teams first faced off on the field. Over time, their rivalry has grown so intense that it has earned its own nickname "The Game" which refers to their annual showdown as much as it does to football itself. Both universities also have special traditions associated with The Game that further emphasize its importance in their respective histories.

This rivalry is renowned not only for its longevity but also for its intensity. Every fan base goes all out for The Game, wearing school colors and chanting team songs throughout the duration of the match. In addition to these traditional displays of enthusiasm, some fans also bring props or costumes to add an extra layer of excitement to their viewing experience. For instance, some Wolverines fans will dress up as famous figures from Michigan’s history while others will bring signs or banners expressing their support for their team. Similarly, Buckeyes fans often wear scarlet and gray while waving flags or cheering wildly during key plays by their team.

Impact on College Football

The Michigan-Ohio State rivalry has had an impact on college football far beyond just this game itself; it is considered one of the most important matchups in all of college football for it forces both teams to step up their games every single season if they want to come out victorious. This pressure inspires players from both squads to train harder and compete even more fiercely than usual which helps them better prepare for other big games down the line throughout the season.

Additionally, this competition serves as an example for other rivalries within college sports; many teams have modeled their own rivalries after Michigan vs Ohio State over time because it sets such a high standard for them to reach when playing against one another tactically and emotionally alike.

4. The Civil War - Oregon Ducks and Oregon Beavers

One of the most heated rivalries in college football is the rivalry between the University of Oregon and Oregon State University, known as "The Civil War". This rivalry dates back to 1894 when both teams first met and has been a staple in college football ever since. Currently, Oregon leads, 67–49–10.


The Civil War is unique because it is one of just a few rivalries that have maintained their intensity despite both teams having widely varying levels of success over time. No matter how well either team is doing, they always come into this game with an intensity that can’t be found in other rivalries. That intensity is fueled by decades of pride, passion, and tradition.

In addition to being one of the most intense rivalries in college football, it also has some unique traditions that make watching this game even more exciting. Every year before kickoff, fans from both sides gather together on opposite sides of midfield for a flag ceremony where flags representing both schools are presented simultaneously. This ceremony symbolizes unity between both teams despite their differences on the field and serves as a reminder that no matter how heated things get during game time, there’s still respect between them off the field.

The Name Change

The match was rebranded from “The Civil War” to “The Name Change,” a move which removed all wartime connotations from the game and refocused attention on the change that had been made. It seems to have been an effort by both parties to recognize that competition between two world-class universities can still remain strong without needing to draw attention to divisions created by history.


5. The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry - Georgia Bulldogs and the Auburn Tigers

The Deep South's oldest rivalry goes back to 1892—when the Georgia Bulldogs and the Auburn Tigers. first met on the football field. The two teams have faced each other every year since, with only a few notable exceptions. To this day, the rivalry between these two powerhouse teams is still one of the most heated in college sports. Currently, Georgia leads 63–56–8.

The intensity between these two teams has also translated into some memorable moments throughout its history. In 2013, Auburn defeated Georgia when Ricardo Louis caught a Hail Mary pass from Nick Marshall for an improbable 73-yard touchdown that sealed the victory for Auburn. This moment would later be referred to as “Prayer at Jordan–Hare” by fans from both sides and cemented this rivalry's place among other storied rivalries across collegiate athletics.  

The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry between Georgia and Auburn is one of the most exciting matchups every year in college football due to its long history, passionate fan bases, and intense atmosphere surrounding it. Whether you're a fan of either school or not, watching these two teams compete against each other is always something special and something that should not be missed by any fan of college football.

6. The Egg Bowl: Mississippi State Bulldogs and Ole Miss Rebels

If you’re a fan of college football, chances are you’ve heard of the Egg Bowl. This rivalry between Mississippi State and Ole Miss pits two teams from the same state against each other for bragging rights over who is the best team in Mississippi. Currently, Ole Miss leads with 64–46–6.

Previously named "Battle for the Golden Egg", another reason why this rivalry is so special is that there's an actual trophy at stake - The Golden Egg Trophy! This trophy was first awarded in 1927 and since then has been presented annually to the winner of the game. It's become such an iconic part of this rivalry that fans from both sides have even been known to fight over who gets to keep it for another year! 

The Egg Bowl has been around for nearly a century now and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Fans on both sides get incredibly passionate about their team's performance, making every game between these two teams an intense affair full of energy and excitement.

7. Lone Star Showdown: Texas A&M Aggies and the Texas Longhorns

The Lone Star Showdown rivalry dates back to 1894 and has been a tradition ever since. While the series is often used to decide who will take home the State of Texas championship, it also serves as an opportunity for both schools to show off their school pride.

History of the Rivalry 

The Lone Star Showdown began in 1894 when Texas A&M first played UT Austin in football. Both teams have competed in various sports over the years, including basketball, baseball, track & field, and soccer. The two teams have met on the field nearly every year since then, typically with one team taking home bragging rights as champions of the State of Texas. Over the years, UT Austin has had more success than Texas A&M with an all-time record of 76–37–5 against its rival.

Both schools are also renowned for their athletic programs particularly football which has led to heated battles on the field and off over who will come out on top each year during their annual showdown game. UT historically holds an edge over TAMU when it comes to football wins but TAMU has won several times more recently than their rivals from Austin.

The Lone Star Showdown between Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin is one of the oldest rivalries in college sports today and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon! From academics to athletics, these two schools continue to go head-to-head each year vying for superiority across all areas—and it can be hard to tell who will come out on top!



College football rivalries are some of the most intense and exciting matchups in all of sports. The history between these teams, the passion of the fans, and the battle for bragging rights make these games must-see events.

While the intensity of college football rivalries may vary from state to state and region to region, one thing is for sure – they are all exciting! No rivalry should be taken lightly, as each has the potential to create lasting memories for players and fans alike. No matter which team you root for, there is always something on the line when these two teams go head-to-head. So grab a seat in the stands, put on your team colors, and get ready for some serious gridiron action. We hope you enjoy this list of the most intense college football rivalries in America!

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