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Published: July 7, 2014 at 11:05 a.m.
Updated: July 10, 2014 at 01:08 p.m.

14 for '14: Top rivalries in college football

» Complete 14 for '14 series

There is an unidentifiable something about college football rivalry games.

The sky is bluer. The field looks better than usual. The uniforms seem to stand out even more. The players and fans are more jacked. Heck, the anticipation is almost too intense.

After a lot of thought, as part of our "14 for '14" series to get you ready for the season (which is a bit more than eight weeks away), here are the 14 best rivalries in college football. Trust us: It was tough to narrow it to 14, as there were some good ones we left out.

14 Photos Total

  • 14. Minnesota-Wisconsin 14

    Andy Manis/Associated Press

    14. Minnesota-Wisconsin

    Series history: Minnesota leads 59-56-8. First game was in 1890.
    Buzz: This is for "Paul Bunyan's Axe," and while it is not as nasty as the other rivalries on this list, it is the most-played series in the FBS ranks, which earns it a spot on our list. And familiarity does breed some contempt. The teams have played every season since 1907, making it the longest uninterrupted series in FBS history. The matchup should take on a little extra flavor this season because the teams now are in the same Big Ten division (the West); they had been in different divisions the past three seasons.

  • 13. UCLA-USC 13

    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    13. UCLA-USC

    Series history: USC leads 46-30-7. First game was in 1929.
    Buzz: The campuses are a bit more than 10 miles apart in Los Angeles, with UCLA's in the swank Westwood neighborhood and USC's in a grittier area in south L.A. Besides being conference rivals located within close proximity, there's the whole private school vs. public school dynamic at work, too. (We're willing to wager that it was a UCLA student or alum who came up with the " 'USC' stands for 'University of Spoiled Children' " putdown.) Still, while a typical UCLA fan would like nothing better than to beat USC, most USC fans consider Notre Dame a bigger rival. (You'll read more about that rivalry in a minute.)

  • 12. BYU-Utah 12

    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    12. BYU-Utah

    Series history: Utah leads 54-31-4. First game was in 1896.
    Buzz: "The Holy War" takes a backseat to almost nothing in terms of nastiness. Religious overtones gave the series its name and lead to much of the animosity. Kansas City Chiefs QB Alex Smith is a former Utah star, and he made his feelings known about BYU before playing the Cougars in 2004: "They are the most arrogant people. It's the whole church and state thing. They're the 'good kids.' We're the 'bad kids.' " BYU NT Lenny Gomes was irritated by Utes fans after Utah won in the last second in 1993: "Typical Utah (expletive). All those (Utes) think that's all there is to life. But when I'm making $50-60,000 a year, they'll be pumping my gas. They're low-class losers." The rivalry is downgraded a few spots because the teams are not scheduled to meet this season or next, but there are games scheduled for 2016-18. That there is no game this season means the schools won't meet for the first time since 1945.

  • 11. Oregon-Oregon State 11

    Don Ryan/Associated Press

    11. Oregon-Oregon State

    Series history: Oregon leads 61-46-10. First game was in 1894.
    Buzz: This rivalry is known as "The Civil War." But the attitudes fans have toward the "other" school aren't civil. The in-state aspect breeds nastiness; in addition, Oregon is the "city folks" and Oregon State the "country folks," which adds another element to the mix. The teams have met every season since 1902 except for 1911 and 1943-44.

  • 10. California-Stanford 10

    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    10. California-Stanford

    Series history: Stanford leads the series 58-46-11. First game was in 1892.
    Buzz: It's known as "The Big Game" (well, to Cal and Stanford alums, at least). At its core, it's smart private-school kids vs. smart public-school kids. Thus, think of it being all about class struggle! One of the most famous college games ever was the 1982 meeting, when Stanford's band got involved on the final play (known as "The Play," naturally) and the Golden Bears pulled the upset. The teams -- separated by about an hour's drive in the San Francisco Bay Area -- have met every season since 1919 except 1943-45, when Stanford didn't play football.

  • 9. Clemson-South Carolina 9

    Richard Shiro/Associated Press

    9. Clemson-South Carolina

    Series history: Clemson leads 65-42-4. First game was in 1896.
    Buzz: This is city slickers (South Carolina) vs. country folk (Clemson), and the country folk have a large lead. South Carolina owns a current five-game winning streak, its longest in the series; before the current streak, Clemson had won 16 of 21. The lowlight of the series might have been in 2004, when a brawl between the teams erupted after the game; both teams self-imposed a bowl ban as punishment. There also was a brawl after the 1902 contest, which led to a cancellation of the series until 1909; the teams have played every season since '09. From 1896-1959, the game was played on a Thursday in Columbia; since then, it has been on Saturdays and a home-and-home series.

  • 8. Florida-Georgia 8

    Stephen Morton/Associated Press

    8. Florida-Georgia

    Series history: That depends on who you believe. Georgia says it leads 50-40-2; Florida says Georgia leads 49-40-2. The first game? Georgia says 1904, Florida says 1915.
    Buzz: "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" -- one of just three annual neutral-site games remaining -- is an event every college football fan should attend once. Walking among the seemingly millions of RVs in Jacksonville, being offered a drink by everyone (and we mean everyone), listening to grown men and women bark like dogs, seeing grown men and women running up to grown men and women that are barking like dogs and doing the "Gator Chomp" -- and that's just on the Friday before the game. The rivalry has re-intensified of late. Florida owned Georgia in the 1990s and 2000s like Sherman owned Georgia in 1864, but the Bulldogs have won three in a row; before that, the Gators had won 18 of 21. The teams have met every season since 1926 except for 1944

  • 7. Florida State-Miami 7

    J. Pat Carter/Assocaited Press

    7. Florida State-Miami

    Series history: Miami leads 31-27. First game was in 1951.
    Buzz: This series has lost some luster because each program has struggled at times in the past 10 years. Then again, it would be tough to top the preceding 25 years: At least one of the teams was ranked at kickoff in every season from 1981-2006, 23 times one or both of the teams was in the top 10 and 12 times both were in the top 10. The game has taken on added importance since 2004, when UM joined the ACC. The teams have met annually just since 1969.

  • 6. Notre Dame-USC 6

    Kevork Djansezian/Assocaited Press

    6. Notre Dame-USC

    Series history: Notre Dame leads 45-35-5. First game was in 1926.
    Buzz: The only true intersectional rivalry in the nation -- and it generally involves good teams, as last season's meeting was just the 11th where neither team was ranked at kickoff. The teams have a rich history of important meetings, going back a long way: The winner of the ND-USC game won the national title each season from 1928-32, and the teams combined to win eight national titles between 1962-78. Joe Montana made his first college start for the Irish in 1975 against the Trojans. Since the series began in 1926, the teams have met every season except for 1944 and '45

  • 5. Florida-Florida State 5

    John Raoux/Associated Press

    5. Florida-Florida State

    Series history: Florida leads 34-22-2. First game was in 1958.
    Buzz: The Gators won 16 of the first 19 games in the series, which seemingly gets chippier and chippier every season, but the series is 12-12-1 over the past 25 meetings. The rivalry was at its best in the 1990s: In each matchup from 1990-2000 (there were 13 such contests because they met twice in bowls), both teams were ranked in the top 10, and the winner played for the national title six times. One of those occurrences came in the 1996 season, when -- in a rematch of a regular-season game that FSU won -- the Gators rolled to the national title over the Seminoles in the Sugar Bowl. While the schools haven't been as evenly matched of late -- there has been only one meeting since 2000 when both were in the top 10 -- they have combined to win three national titles in the past eight seasons. The teams have met annually since the first meeting in '58.

  • 4. Army-Navy 4

    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    4. Army-Navy

    Series history: Navy leads 58-49-7. First game was in 1890.
    Buzz: Pageantry and tradition abound. Still, other than for those reasons, the game hasn't really mattered to those who don't have a stake since the early 1960s. The game has played been played at 16 sites, and just six games in the series have been played on either campus (three on each campus). The teams have met annually since 1930. Navy has won 11 in a row in the series.

  • 3. Oklahoma-Texas 3

    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    3. Oklahoma-Texas

    Series history: Texas leads 60-43-5. First game was in 1900.
    Buzz: "The Red River Shootout" (none of that PC "Red River Rivalry" stuff here) is one of the three annual neutral-site games remaining; it's played at Dallas' Cotton Bowl, and the Texas State Fair atmosphere adds to the pageantry. The Cotton Bowl is located roughly equidistant from each campus, and the stadium is split evenly among Longhorns and Sooners fans at the 50-yard line. OU has won nine of the past 14 in the series to narrow Texas' lead. The game has been played every season since 1929.

  • 2. Michigan-Ohio State 2

    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    2. Michigan-Ohio State

    Series history: Michigan leads 58-46-6. First game was in 1897.
    Buzz: Michigan was 12-0-2 in the first years of the rivalry, but since then, it is 46-46-4. Ohio State has won 11 of the past 14 in the series. The rivalry was intense from the beginning, but it became even more so starting in 1969, when Michigan hired Bo Schembechler as coach (he was a protege of Ohio State coach Woody Hayes). That started the "10-Year War" period of the rivalry. The teams have met annually since 1918, and the game has been the regular-season finale for the schools since 1935 except for 1942, '86 and '98.

  • 1. Alabama-Auburn 1

    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    1. Alabama-Auburn

    Series history: Alabama leads 42-35-1. First game was in 1893.
    Buzz: Alabama has played Tennessee more often than it has played Auburn, and Auburn has played Georgia more often than it has played Alabama, but so what? "The Iron Bowl" takes the cake for plain outright nastiness in any U.S. sports rivalry. Browns-Steelers, Red Sox-Yankees, Celtics-Lakers, even Michigan-Ohio State -- those are akin to kindergarten kids fighting over a juice box compared to Alabama-Auburn. There are no pro sports in Alabama to take the spotlight off these programs, so you can bet fans lord a win over their archrival's fans 24 hours a day for 364 days. The teams met 12 times between 1893 and 1907, but not again until 1948; they have played every season since. As for its importance? The winner of this game has played in each of the past five national-title games.

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