8 Must-See College Football Rivalries That Define the Sport

8 Must-See College Football Rivalries That Define the Sport

There are football games. And then there are college football rivalry games.

They are not the same.

These rivalries unite, divide and keep us coming back for more. Its epic theater played out across 100 yards of green grass on the storied college campuses of our nation. Allegiances are forged across generations, and the outcome of a single contest can alter the mood of an entire state.

Yet, the massive conference realignment taking place across the college football landscape threatens to change everything. Some rivalries may fade. Others may be born.

In the meantime, as we enter the peak of rivalry season, let’s take a moment to celebrate eight of the biggest and best rivalries that make college football an American institution.


Nickname: The Army-Navy Game

The Records: Navy leads the series 62–54–7

The Army-Navy football clash, an annual December tradition, stands as one of America’s most iconic sporting events. It serves as the crescendo of the season for both teams, players primed for military service, not NFL stardom. Whether watching from the bleachers or on TV, this game is a grand spectacle, a salute to American patriotism and military service.

With roots tracing back to 1890, the Army-Navy rivalry can be counted on to deliver tense moments and often unexpected outcomes. It’s always worth tuning in.

The Next Matchup: December 9 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts

Who Has the Edge This Year?: It’s a toss-up. Both teams are off to lackluster starts, so the game figures to be a close, likely low-scoring, grind-it-out game.


Nickname: The Game

The Records: Michigan leads the series 60-51-6

The annual showdown between the Wolverines and the Buckeyes is the biggest rivalry in the Midwest, a Big Ten finale played out on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

This year’s game promises another chapter in their storied history, with both teams ranked in the top 10. Throughout the decades, “The Game” has delivered countless memorable moments, including “Ten-Year War” between coaching legends Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes in the ’70s, the legendary “Snow Bowl” game of 1950 and the unforgettable “Game of the Century” in 2006.

The Next Matchup: November 25 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Who Has the Edge This Year?: Who knows? Expect another battle of possibly undefeated teams. Entering this week, Michigan is ranked No. 2 in the country. Ohio State is No. 3.


Nickname: The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party

The Records: Georgia leads the series 54-44-2

Georgia-Florida isn’t merely a football game — it’s a regional rite of passage. Played on neutral ground in Jacksonville, Florida, the stadium’s 68,000-seat capacity pales in comparison to the throngs that descend upon the city, transforming it into a tailgating extravaganza, aptly called “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.”

The series has been a pendulum of dominance, featuring a procession of the sport’s finest talents. The Gators enjoyed an era of success in the ’90s and early 2000s under head coaches Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer. More recently, the reigning national champions, the Bulldogs, and head coach Kirby Smart, have held the upper hand.

The Next Matchup: TBD

Who Has the Edge This Year?: The Bulldogs defeated the Gators 43-20 in Jacksonville on Oct. 28.


Nickname: The Game

The Records: Yale leads the series 69–61–8

Although Ivy League institutions are celebrated more for scholarly achievements than athletic glory, Harvard-Yale remains an enduring rivalry. It commenced in 1875 when Harvard secured a 4-0 victory in a contest that bore little resemblance to modern football.

Through the years, the game has drawn notable dignitaries, including several American presidents, and even welcomed Yankees slugger Babe Ruth in 1935. The 1968 showdown lingers in the memories of fans and alumni. Yale jumped to a 22-0 lead before Harvard stormed back The game ended in a dramatic tie, an outcome that was famously memorialized in the Harvard school newspaper with the headline “Harvard Beats Yale 29-29.”

This year, the matchup takes place in the legendary, 109-year-old Yale Bowl. 

The Next Matchup: November 18 at the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut

Who Has the Edge This Year?: Though Yale won in 2022, Harvard looks to be the favorite this year. Off to a fast start, the Crimson began the season 5-0.


Nickname: The Red River Rivalry

The Records: Texas leads the series 64-51-5

This year’s chapter of the Red River Rivalry has already been penned, a thrilling 34-30 Oklahoma upset over then-No. 3 Texas. A frantic fourth quarter saw Texas snatch a 3-point lead with a late field goal, only to see Oklahoma charge down the field and score the game-winning touchdown with 15 seconds remaining.

This rivalry is a treasure chest of memorable encounters, with the 1971 “Game of the Century” resonating as a classic, Texas edging out Oklahoma 15-14 in an iconic battle. The 2018 edition unleashed a fireworks display of scoring, amassing a combined 93 points, as Oklahoma edged Texas 48-45.

Both Texas and Oklahoma will trade their Big 12 allegiance for the SEC in 2024. The Red River Rivalry goes on.

The Next Matchup: TBD

Who Has the Edge This Year?: Oklahoma upset Texas 34-30 on October 8.

Notre Dame vs. USC

Nickname: The Jeweled Shillelagh

The Records: Notre Dame leads the series 49–37–5

The Notre Dame-USC football saga, a distinct and enduring chapter in the annals of college football, defies the conventional bounds of geographical proximity. Despite the miles that separate them — Notre Dame nestled in Indiana, USC basking in the California sun — their clashes have become part of the fabric of college football.

The game’s moniker, “The Jeweled Shillelagh,” is a nod to the legacies of the respective institutions. The shillelagh, an emblem of Irish tradition and of Notre Dame’s strong heritage, intertwines with the “jeweled” spirit of USC’s Trojans.

In October, Notre Dame authored a dominant 48-20 victory, with Fighting Irish quarterback Sam Hartman out dueling USC’s reigning Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Caleb Williams.

The Next Matchup: TBD

Who Has the Edge This Year?: Notre Dame won 48-20 on October 14.

This year, DIRECTV was the presenting sponsor of the Jeweled Shillelagh. Learn more


Nickname: The Iron Bowl

The Records: Alabama leads the series 49–37–1

The day after the Iron Bowl creates an interesting phenomenon in the state of Alabama. Half the state is happy and jubilant, still riding the wave of euphoria. The other half is despondent, disappointed and depressed.

The Iron Bowl has seen its share of memorable games, with the 2013 matchup standing out as one of the most unforgettable. In that game, Auburn’s Chris Davis returned a missed field goal 109 yards for a game-winning touchdown as time expired. In more recent years, the Crimson Tide dominated the Tigers en route to winning three national championships since 2015.

The Next Matchup: November 25 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama

Who Has the Edge This Year?: Though Alabama, with one loss already, is having a down year, the Tide is still a safe bet to win its fourth consecutive Iron Bowl.


Nickname: The Border War

The Records: Washington leads the series 62–48–5

The Oregon-Washington rivalry carries immense significance across the Pacific Northwest, and fortunately the rivalry will continue, even as both schools trade the Pac-12 for the Big Ten.

The 1994 game, memorialized by the epic “Kenny Wheaton’s gonna score!” play-by-play call is among the many standout moments. On that day, Oregon’s Kenny Wheaton returned an interception for a touchdown to seal the Ducks’ victory. The 2019 matchup was also notable, with Oregon securing a victory on their way to a Pac-12 championship and a Rose Bowl appearance.

While it may not get the national attention of other rivalry games, how can you not get excited an epic clash in which the winner takes home the coveted Platypus Trophy?

The Next Matchup: TBD

Who Has the Edge This Year?: Washington defeated Oregon 36-33 on Oct. 14.