A couple weeks back, I wrote how rivalries are important to the fabric of college football. The rivalries, along with the passion of the fans and the overall pageantry of sport, are what make College Football the best competitive sport in the world.
Nationally, there are some great rivalry games-both historic and newer ones. The Red River Shootout (political correctness be damned), Michigan-Ohio State are traditional big games, and newer rivalry games like Florida State-Clemson and Stanford-Oregon are fun to watch and are appointment television for any college football fan.
Since it is the preseason and there ain’t much else to talk about, I decided to quickly run through the best rivalries in the SEC. This might be different depending on your allegiance (a Mississippi State fan is going to put more emphasis on the Egg Bowl than me). I tried to look at it from a wide perspective-historical importance, level of hate, competitiveness, and how much attention is given to it (is it appointment television?).
Like all of these arbitrary lists, this one is just my opinion and is certainly up for debate. Each one I offer my reason why it is ranked where it is, and something that sticks out in the rivalry to me. If you have a different interpretation, please share.
10. THE MAGNOLIA BOWL
Why ranked here: I initially had another LSU rivalry listed (The Battle for the Golden Boot), but Granite suggest that I move the LSU-Ole Miss game in its place. This is a big one for the Rebels, as they hate LSU as much as anyone else on their schedule. LSU has won most of these games, but in recent years it has provided some excitement.
Big moment: No matter how old you are, you’ve seen the famous replay of Billy Cannon’s punt return. The 2009 Ole Miss win was one of the most fun games I’ve watched on TV. I watched it with Uchee at his house, and he had small wager with Granite he ended up losing. There have been other close, exciting games here.
Why ranked here: If blogs existed back in the 1990s, this one would probably be near the top of the list. Not a lot of historical merit here, as these teams played intermittent until the SEC went to division play in 1992. When Georgia was down in the 1990s, this was the premier match-up in the SEC East, if not the SEC or the entire country. We all know Spurrier’s famous quips, and if he wasn’t gigging at UGA or FSU, he was gigging at Tennessee. But in recent years with Tennessee’s decline, this hasn’t been much of a game.
Big Moment: Fulmer only got the best of Spurrier 4 times, and the biggest was the final time when these two teams faced off to end the regular season in 2001. Each team had one loss, and the winner went to the SEC Championship game (with a potential BCS title game). In Spurrier’s last game as Florida’s head coach in the Swamp, Tennessee pulled off the big upset and went on to the SEC Championship game (only to lose to LSU).
8. EGG BOWL
Why ranked here: This is a long standing, interstate rivalry between two fan bases who hate each other. It is the 10th longest uninterrupted series in college football. Also, you have the beauty of Ole Miss and the Grove contrasted perfectly with the trashiness and Cedartown-esque feel of Starkville. It is a fun game to traditionally watch on Thanksgiving night when you get tired of watching the Lions lose during the day.
Big moment: This is one where I enjoy watching the game and respect the rivalry, but I mean, come on. It’s Mississippi State and Ole Miss. I’d say the big moment I remember was watching in 2003 after Jackie Sherrill’s last game.
7. ARKANSAS-TEXAS AM
Why ranked here: This is an old Southwest Conference rivalry game that was played annually from 1934-1991. Played at Jerry’s Dome before TAMU moved to the SEC, and you got to think the ties to Arkansas was a major factor in their decision to jump ship (aside from all the cash money and their ability to give the finger to the Longhorns).
Big moment: Not really in tune to this rivalry game, but the recent renewal at Jerry’s Dome has produced some exciting games in 2010 and 2011.
Why ranked here: Despite what Les Miles wants you to believe, this is a big deal. These two teams played every year from 1953-1967 and annually since 1971. When the SEC split into two divisions, this game was permanent cross divisional game. Funny, Les didn’t complain about playing the Gators in 2010 and 2011? Always a classic SEC game, and you can expect hard hitting action.
Big moment: The 2007 game was classic Les Miles football. The Tigers went for it on 4th down 5 times. They converted 5 times. The brass balls of Les Miles strikes again.
5. THIRD SATURDAY IN OCTOBER
Why ranked here: From a historical perspective, probably should be ranked a little higher. The last time this game was really competitive was in 2009 when Lane Kiffin almost pulled the rabbit out of the hat. Had it not been for Terrance Cody’s massive hand, the Vols could have very well beaten the Crimson Tide. Still, as far as historic SEC rivalries go, this one is still one of the best.
Big moment: Phillip Fulmer being served a subpoena while attending SEC media days tells you the sheer hatred this rivalry still has.
4. DEEP SOUTH’S OLDEST RIVALRY
Why ranked here: I think I’ve covered this adequately enough in previous posts.
Big moment: Two of the best football games I have ever been to in person are the 2006 and 2007 Auburn games. Both were special for a variety of reasons.
3. WORLD’S LARGEST OUTDOOR COCKTAIL PARTY
Why ranked here: Florida’s dominance in the 1990s took some of the luster off, but UGA has won 3/6 and 4/9 to help turn the tide. I refuse to dignify the swamp boat paddle that is used now. If When Georgia wins in 2013, it will be 5 wins in 10 attempts. I think the ship has been turned around there, don’t you?
Big moment: I have been to 8 WLOCP since 2003. I was so pissed after 2008’s debacle that I flat refused to go in 2009, and 2010 hurt my heart so bad, and other things kept me from going in 2011. The wins in 2012 and 2004 I was there to witness in person were sweet, but nothing compared to the 2007 ass whipping we put on the Gators. Nothing.
Why ranked here: A newer rivalry game, this one has extra emphasis since Nick Saban’s arrival to Alabama. This might be the most controversial ranking on my list, but I contend that no other SEC game has received as much national attention the last few years than this one-3 times! It may be recent, but these two teams have played annually since 1964. Since the Bear left, LSU is close in the all-time series.
Big Moment: My dad grew up in Alabama and is huge fan of the Crimson Tide. He naturally doesn’t care for Auburn, but one team he HATES is LSU. He came down to my house to watch the 2011 classic and we had a great time grilling out and watching football all day, and this instant classic capped off a wonderful day. He cursed Nick Saban’s name after that game.
1. IRON BOWL
Why ranked here: When Bear Bryant took over Alabama in 1958, the series was in Auburn’s favor 13-9-1. The Bear knew how important it was to beat the Tigers, going 19-6 in the rivalry. Interestingly enough, 2 of the losses came in his first and last season. Recent history has helped Auburn make up ground, as they won 6 in a row in the middle 2000s. Saban is 4-2 against Auburn. You can’t really make a case for any other SEC rivalry. The entire state of Alabama is focused on this one, and the likes of Harvey Updyke and Paul Finebuam have just added unnecessary fuel to the fire.
Big moment: Auburn’s comeback one point win over Alabama en route to an undefeated 2010 season in Tuscaloosa.