Best Games I've Ever Been To

Miami and Notre Dame had one of the top rivalries in college football in the 1980s when both schools were at the top of the mountain and each season’s meeting was crucial in determining the national championship. Dramatic games, star players, cultural contradictions (Catholics vs. Convicts) and great atmosphere made the Irish and Hurricanes must-see TV for all sports fans. Then they stopped playing. Reports now have them closing in on a three match series with home-and-home contests as well as a game at Chicago’s Soldier Field. As a fan, I hope it gets worked out. What’s good for college football is good for me and Miami vs. Notre Dame on the marquee is good for college football. With this in mind, I began to think about the other great rivalries in college football that are no longer played…

• Oklahoma vs. Nebraska. The Sooners and Huskers still square off regularly in Big 12 conference play, but when the Big 8 merged with the Southwest Conference and these two were placed in different divisions, the yearly rivalry went away. Criminal. For this game which was one of the top-5 rivalries in the sport and decided numerous conference and national championships and featured a galaxy of hall-of-fame players and countless indelible moments to be mothballed was unconscionable. Imagine if the Big 10 expands and as a part of the fallout, Ohio State and Michigan stop playing annually. Losing OU and UN was no less dramatic. A plague on both their houses as well as the Big 12 for not finding a way to keep this game a yearly event for fans everywhere.

• Clemson vs. Georgia. These next-door neighbors (79 miles separate Death Valley and Sanford Stadium) first played in 1897 and met almost yearly from 1944 through 1995, but have faced each other only twice since. With Florida, Tennessee, Auburn and South Carolina already on its yearly league schedule and Georgia Tech on the non-conference, I understand why UGA would shy away from an annual meeting with another power program. It’s a shame though because these two teams and fan bases legitimately dislike the other and have a history of memorable encounters, not to mention a Clemson roster yearly stocked with players from Georgia.

• Georgia Tech vs. Auburn. Recent converts to college football have no idea how HUGE a rivalry this used to be. The Tigers and Jackets first played in 1892! Benjamin Harrison in the (White) House! The teams met annually through the 1987 season and have only played twice since. This series was rich in tradition, drama, ranked teams and high jinks (Auburn students once greased the train tracks in town causing the Tech train to roll far past the station with the visitors having to walk back to Auburn – if you believe the legends). The campuses are divided by merely 110 miles and the city of Atlanta contains the largest number of Auburn grads outside of the state of Alabama. Tech also had feisty rivalries with Tennessee and Alabama through the mid-80s that Southern college football fans would love to see renewed.

• Penn State vs. Pittsburgh. Pitt wants the game, Penn State is chicken. They met for years before PSU joined the Big 10 and now the plain ones play a laughable non-conference schedule that the Panthers would walk to Happy Valley to get on, but as the alpha program in Pennsylvania, the Nittany Lions write the rules and their rules say they don’t play little brother. Too bad.

• Florida vs. Miami. The Gators and Canes played yearly from the 30s through the 80s, didn’t play at all in the 90s and picked their rivalry back up sporadically in the 00s. With their proximity, history and relevance to the sport these two missing one another robs fans of a dynamic potential donnybrook. They both have loaded schedules already so I understand why they shy away from an annual meeting, but these two need to play yearly to join with Florida State in determining a true state champion.

• Ohio State vs. Notre Dame. These two have met only a handful of times during their glorious histories and that’s a shame. The Bucks and Irish comprise two-thirds of the three Midwestern football crown jewels (ND, OSU, Michigan) and a meeting between them seems like a no-brainer. Their home states border each other, their fans are culturally opposite (snotty, intellectual ND vs. casual, blue-collar OSU), both have a great deal of schedule flexibility, Ohio State only has one rivalry game a year and needs another, their brands are preeminent in the sport – I may never understand why these two don’t go at it. Hopefully Big 10 expansion will change that.

• Arkansas vs. Texas. This rivalry was a casualty of the breakup of the Southwest Conference; when they did play, the outcomes were almost always close and the teams were often great. Arkansas-Texas, doesn’t that just sound like college football? Texas already plays eight rivalry games a year and I’d love to see them add back this one.

• Syracuse vs. Miami. Through the 1990s and early 00s these two began to develop a heated rivalry that the Hurricanes defection to the ACC derailed.

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