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Biggest College Football Rivalries: Top 10 CFB Rivalries

Written by: Jay Sanin
Published September 19, 2023
15 min read

One of the things that makes college football as beloved as it is today is the presence of rivalries. Whether those rivalries are regional due to geographic or conference ties, or national due to their championship implications, a good college football rivalry is hard to beat. Here, we take a look at the top-10 college football rivalries and what makes them so hard to replicate in professional sports.

CFB Biggest Rivalries

What Makes a Good College Football Rivalry?

Not all college football rivalries are created equally. There are criteria that must be met for the rivalries that are at the top of this list. Below are the most important things any rivalry must have in order to make our list of the best in this sport.

High Stakes

For a rivalry to be truly great in college football, it has to come with high stakes, meaning that there has to be conference championship and national championship implications on a consistent basis. While Harvard and Yale certainly have a rivalry in college football, for example,  that rivalry has no stakes in the larger college football landscape.

Teams That Play Regularly

Another factor that makes college football rivalries truly great is that rivalry game taking place on a regular basis. Teams do not have to play every year for a rivalry to be great, but renewing a rivalry once every four years does not exactly cultivate the kind of intrigue that is needed to make this list.

Electric Atmospheres

Finally, the atmosphere has to be electric for a rivalry game to be truly great. That does not mean a rivalry game is required to be played at the home field of one team or the other, as neutral site games can also feature a great atmosphere. But no matter where the games are played, the fans of a rivalry had better bring it in order to make this list.

Now, let’s take a look at the top 10 rivalries in college football.

1. Ohio State vs Michigan

CFB Rivalries Michigan State

Ohio State and Michigan have always had one of the better rivalries in college football. But that rivalry might be getting even better in recent years. These two teams are typically in the top 10 when they face one another, meaning that there are massive College Football Playoff implications when they do.

With the way that the Big Ten is currently constructed, the winner of this game usually goes on to represent their division in the Big Ten championship game. And with this game always being scheduled for the final day of regular season action in the conference, the stakes could not be higher when the Buckeyes and Wolverines take the field.

2. Alabama vs Auburn

In the SEC, it does not get any better than the Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn. Thanks to the regular presence of Alabama in the College Football Playoff, this game usually has some high stakes attached to it. And this rivalry has had plenty of incredible moments play out in front of some of the most incredible crowds in all of college football.

This matchup has benefited greatly from moving to the home stadiums of each team on an alternating basis. It had previously been played at Legion Field in Birmingham, until 1988, when each team has taken turns hosting the game on campus. The results have been incredible atmospheres that have served as the backdrop to some of the most meaningful games in the recent history of the sport.

3. Army vs Navy

What the Army-Navy Game lacks in high stakes, it more than makes up for in atmosphere. These two teams are never going to be in the national championship picture, but the combination of the uniformed cadets in the crowd and the presence of presidents and other key figures in the United States makes this an incredible spectacle every year.

Also helping this rivalry game is its scheduling, as this game is played in the week after conference championship games and the week before bowl games begin. It has its own time slot in the college football calendar, ensuring that fans will be watching it given that there are no other games on the schedule.

4. Texas vs Oklahoma

The Red River Rivalry game between Texas and Oklahoma is another rivalry game that almost always has implications in the national title race. Both Texas and Oklahoma have won this game en route to championship seasons in the past. While Texas has had the upper hand in this series all time, Oklahoma has done a nice job of closing that gap over the years.

Fortunately for college football fans, it does not look like this rivalry is going away anytime soon. Both of these teams are moving to the SEC in the near future, which means that they will remain in the same conference despite moving out of the Big 12. That should mean more Red River Rivalry games to come, and more reasons to get excited about one of the best rivalries in college football.

5. Florida vs Georgia

CFB Rivalries Florida State Seminoles

Florida and Georgia play each other at a neutral site, in what is known as the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. But do not let that name fool you, as the action on the field is nowhere near as cordial as a cocktail party. These teams are bitter rivals, and their games against one another have massive implications in the chase for the national title each year.

Both of these teams are in the SEC East, a division in the SEC that is not nearly as deep as the SEC West, which features Alabama, Auburn, and LSU. As a result, the winner of the Cocktail Party often has the inside track toward making the SEC Championship Game. Those high stakes make this game one of the biggest on the college football calendar each year.

6. USC vs Notre Dame

The USC Trojans and Notre Dame Fighting Irish do not play every year, as Notre Dame does not play in a conference, and therefore does not have regular conference matchups. But they do meet up as close to annually as possible, and the stakes are usually high, as USC and Notre Dame are both in the national title conversation regularly.

This rivalry has produced some of the biggest moments in the recent history of college football, including the “Bush Push” in 2005. While technically vacated by USC later on, Heisman winners Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart working together to get Leinart into the end zone and preserve the Trojans’ spot in the national championship game that year will always be one of the most memorable days in college football.

7. Florida vs Florida State

Billed as the Sunshine Showdown, the name for the rivalry between Florida and Florida State leaves a ton to be desired. But the on-field action itself has always been great between these two teams, as at least one of them is usually in championship contention when they play late in the season. This SEC vs ACC matchup is played during rivalry weekend in college football every year, even with these teams being in different conferences.

In addition to their regular season encounters, Florida and Florida State have met in the Sugar Bowl on two occasions. In 1995, the seventh-ranked Seminoles beat the fifth-ranked Gators in New Orleans. And in 1997, the third-ranked Gators toppled the top-ranked Seminoles in the Crescent City.

8. Utah vs BYU

When a rivalry is called The Holy War, it can’t possibly be a lackluster rivalry, can it? BYU and Utah have long had two of the better college football programs out West, and these two schools meet pretty regularly for supremacy in the state of Utah despite being in different conferences. This is not a matchup that plays out every year, but it plays out regularly enough to keep up the animosity between these two schools.

Utah has dominated this series historically, holding a 62-35-4 advantage over BYU after their last meeting in 2021. And college football fans will finally get to see this matchup play out more consistently going forward. With both the Utes and Cougars set to join the Big 12, this should become an annual game again, which is great for college football as a whole.

9. USC vs UCLA

If you can find a better uniform matchup in college football than USC vs UCLA, please show it to us. But beyond the incredible aesthetics of this matchup, the rivalry between these two Los Angeles schools is one of the best in the sport. Both of these programs tend to have explosive offenses, which makes this game a great watch, even if the atmosphere in Los Angeles is not as rabid as the other rivalries on this list.

Much like the Texas vs Oklahoma rivalry mentioned above, conference realignment is going to preserve this matchup for the foreseeable future. Both USC and UCLA are moving from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten, which will mean this rivalry will be preserved, even if it means some strange matchups between these West coast teams and Big Ten schools from the Midwest.

10. Mississippi State vs Ole Miss

CFB Rivalries Mississippi State Bulldogs

The Egg Bowl between Mississippi State and Ole Miss may not carry the highest stakes. After all, these teams are not exactly fixtures in the national championship discussion each season. But the scheduling of this game and the atmosphere that goes with it makes it a ca n’t-miss rivalry game in the modern era of college football.

The Egg Bowl has been played on Thanksgiving night in recent years, which is a night with limited action in the world of sports. That means a ton of eyes are on a game that would otherwise get lost in the shuffle of a college football Saturday under normal circumstances. With the fans from both of these Mississippi schools coming out in full force on Thanksgiving night, this rivalry has become a much bigger deal in the national landscape in recent seasons.

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Jay Sanin

186 Articles

Jay Sanin is a sports bettor and writer from New York. He has been handicapping since the moment he was old enough to gamble legally, with his specialties being niche sports like the WNBA and XFL. He’s been told he has a voice for radio. He also has a face for radio.

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