If you are remotely aware that baseball season is going on, you might have seen the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees get into a few scrums this past week. Many are loudly declaring that this vaunted rivalry is finally back. Considered one of the best in all sports, it was a bit quiet for a few years.
Some rivalries never get quiet though, and ones in college are of those type. That’s why this week on Five Up, Five Down, we’ll be ranking our favorite rivalries in college athletics. Clayton will be covering college football rivalries, while Phil will take on hoops. Let’s get it.
Clayton’s Five Up
1. Georgia-Georgia Tech
“Clean, Old Fashioned Hate” is the best named rivalry in college football. It had a hold on the people of the Peach State that not even professional sports could break. On Thanksgiving Day 1966, the annual game between UGA and Tech’s freshman teams, the Bullpups and the Baby Jackets, drew more fans than any of the newly christened Atlanta Braves’ games that season. I think Georgia may be the state in which I am most qualified to live.
I love any rivalry game that is held at a specific venue every year. And what a venue the Cotton Bowl is; Dallas’ art deco jewel.
This is probably college football’s greatest rivalry. I am docking the “Iron Bowl” two spots for moving the game out of Birmingham’s Legion Field.
The Yale Bowl and Harvard Stadium evoke the antiquarian affections of college rivalries as well as any spaces on God’s green earth.
5. Oregon-Oregon State
I made the mistake of telling one of my colleagues, an Oregon State alum, that the “Civil War” wasn’t that big of a game. I have heard no fewer than 25 stories about the mutual enmity of this rivalry and grandeur of this game since I made this utterance. Scott, here’s proof that I believe you.
Clayton’s Five Down
1. Ohio State-Michigan
Anybody else watch that Amazon series about Michigan football yet? Is it just me or did John Harbaugh come off terribly? I found him indecisive, distracted and peevish. Not at all the alpha I envisioned behind closed doors. There were several instances in which his gasbag stump speeches appeared to have lost the room.
Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown makes you want to run through a brick wall for him. Assistant head coach Pep Hamilton is a calm, confident teacher-coach in the mold of Bill Walsh. Only Harbaugh comes off poorly among the Wolverines’ coaching staff. Has Harbaugh lost his edge? Is the pressure of coaching at his alma mater getting to him? Simply agreeing to have your team filmed for this series seems like a self-inflicted distraction. But the distraction of the Amazon film crews was nothing compared to the awful judgment Harbaugh displayed in having his team do spring practices in Rome. The purpose of the trip seemed to be primarily that Harbaugh felt like visiting Rome and the Vatican.
As a side note, the student-athletes come off incredibly well in this documentary. Anyone would be proud to have these young men represent their university.
Not sure this one is even a rivalry anymore, now that the Sconnies have won 14 straight. Even Goldy cheers for the Badgers in this one. “That’s where the smart money is,” she tells me.
Man, was this game a big deal in the 80s and 90s. Played on Black Friday, this game had national title implications every year. I had no connection with either school but I always loved this matchup as an objective battle of football powers. It makes me crying sad that these teams are no longer in the same conference. That conference should be called the Big 8 and that conference should be just north of the Southwestern Conference. The only glimmer of hope is that these school are renewing this once storied rivalry as a non-conference game this September.
4. Indiana-Michigan State
“The Old Brass Spittoon” is the Jerry Springer version of the “Old Oaken Bucket,” one of college football’s most storied trophies. It just struck me that most of my five down are Big Ten rivalries.
5. UCF-South Florida:
Placing “The War for I-4” on this list is a stand-in for any college rivalry named after a highway. Other notable examples of this naming convention include Bowling Green-Toledo (“The Battle of I-75”), UTEP-New Mexico State (“The Battle of I-10”) and Eastern Michigan-Ball State (“The Battle of ‘You Get on I-69, take it down to US-24, get on I-75 near Fort Wayne, stop for lunch at the travel plaza with the Dairy Queen just north of Muncie, and bang a right at the light near the Kroger’s when you can see those new 10-story freshman dorms in the distance’”)
Phil’s Five Up
1. Cincinnati Bearcats-Xavier Musketeers
Save me all your Tobacco Road, Big Five and whatever other nonsense. There is no greater hatred than that in the Crosstown Shootout.
2. Syracuse Orange-Georgetown Hoyas
Perhaps the worst casualty of the demise of the original Big East was losing this brawl. The Orange and Hoyas battle has been rekindled recently but in non-conference play. Still, ‘Cuse beat Georgetown 86-79 in overtime this past season and the history here is just too great.
3. North Carolina Tar Heels-Duke Blue Devils
These teams have played 248 times. Two hundred and forty eight! It has pretty much always been competitive and the winner always has a straight line to the ACC title. Plus, any game that causes fans to camp out for tickets must be worth it.
4. Louisville Cardinals-Kentucky Wildcats
This is Kentucky’s version of the Crosstown Shootout. The classic red versus blue matchup. Despite only 50 all-time meetings and a major edge for UK in the all-time series, this is usually a fun one.
5. UConn Huskies-Tennessee Volunteers
I’m not talking men’s hoops here. When Pat Summit and Geno Auriemma’s squads clashed in the late 90s and into the mid 2000s, it was always a treat. There were an incredible number of stars that took place in this one, from Candace Parker and Chamique Holdsclaw to Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi. Its rare that a rivalry game was so often an indication of who would win the national title, but this one always was, sometimes even literally, as these teams squared off in the NCAA tournament seven times from 1995-2007, including four times in the title game.
Phil’s Five Down
In descending order.
1. Villanova Wildcats-St. Joseph’s Hawks
The Big Five is a very cool inter-city rivalry series that includes Villanova, Temple, La Salle, Penn and St. Joe’s. But the so-called “Holy War” isn’t much of a war. The Wildcats have beaten the Hawks 49 times in 74 all-time meetings and as you might have noticed, they’re national champions while the Hawks haven’t been past the second round in the dance since 2004. This, and any Big Five rivalry, could be in the top five, but the wild variance drops this one down.
2. Boston College Eagles-UMass Minutemen
UMass has one NCAA Tournament appearance in the last 20 years. Boston College just had its first winning record since 2010. Bay State basketball is not at its best right now.
3. Penn Quakers-Drexel Dragons
Drexel isn’t even in the Big Five. Even though the campuses of these two schools are pretty much on top of each other, this game wouldn’t make you flip over from a rerun of “Las Vegas” on USA.
4. Princeton Tigers-Rutgers Scarlet Knights
If Bay State basketball is bad, Garden State basketball is worse (except for you, Seton Hall) and that is entirely because of Rutgers. Princeton is actually pretty good sometimes.
5. North Carolina A&T Aggies-NC Central Eagles
If a rivalry happens and nobody is around to see it, does it still matter? Nope.
Disagree with us? Let us know in the comments, on Twitter or via a FanPost. Also, if you want us to rank something specific next week, let us know.