With the bowl games (that matter) still a ways off, I thought I'd mention something I've been musing about: college football rivalries.
Sure, we all know the traditional ones, like Alabama/Auburn, OSU/Michigan, Oklahoma/Texas, Army/Navy, Texas/Texas A&M, Florida/Georgia, Miami/Florida St., Nebraska/Oklahoma, Auburn/Georgia, Harvard/Yale, California/Stanford, and, of course, the one that gets my vote for greatest rivalry: UCLA/USC.
But, why are these rivalries, well, rivalries? Sure, we all know the obvious answers. Many of these teams share conferences, states, cities or long and storied histories. And those reasons are as good as any, I suppose. I also recognize that, with conference play, many schools don't have the flexibility in their schedules to add many new rivalries.
Nevertheless, just for fun, I wonder what rivalries make the "most sense," if all these factors disappeared and we had it to do it all over again. What if we just looked at the universities, their students and their recent pasts, and spun a new set of traditions out of whole cloth? What are the "natural" rivalries? Or, in other words, what rivalries that aren't, but should be?
Here's my list, in no particular order.
1. UCLA vs. Michigan. What a great rivalry that would be. Talk about a couple schools who reflect one another in so many ways. Both are public institutions. Each is a world renowned academic institution (with Michigan just edging UCLA in the most recent US News survey). The Bruins and Wolverines also share top flight programs in their major revenue sports, though thanks to an apathetic administration and a certain coach, us Bruins can't exactly presume to say that our football team quite compares. (And, no, we are not hyping this as the best rivalry just because the Wolverines are coming into Pauley tomorrow afternoon for one of the most anticipated matchups of this OOC season.)
2. Stanford vs. Duke. These two universities are nothing less that two of the premier private academic institutions in the country (see here again). And, when it comes to sports, these schools share great basketball teams who have made a home in the upper echelon of the sport for years. Sure, the Trees have been down some since Monty left the 'ford, but if they can ever right the ship, I can see Stanford and Duke being great natural rivals. And they share something else that makes them a great fit: some of the most desperately terrible football teams in the country.
3. Southern Cal vs. Miami. The original gansta college football programs. With Miami, you had the infamous programs of Dennis Erickson and Larry Coker, and a long string of scandals including one involving none other than 2 Live Crew. At USC, Pete Carroll has his own long stretch of scandal and criminality, along with the stalwart support of Snoop Dog. Tainted success. Not sure what's in the water at these private universities, but there are synergies aplenty for a great rivalry.
4. Texas vs. Florida. Natural rivals. These schools, with over 46,000 students apiece, are two of the five largest universities in the nation. Both are public universities. Each have exceptional major revenues sports programs, which have been in or just outside the rankings in both football and basketball recently. Both play in BCS conferences (Big 12 and SEC). Both are in the South, well, sorta, and enjoy similar climates on their Austin and Gainesville campuses (though Gainesville is more humid). And, they even they share the exact same spot (47th) in the the most recent academic rankings to boot. But, when it comes down to it, I'd just love to see them play each other more often. And, yes, what I think is entirely enough, thank you, to justify this rivalry.
5. Arizona vs. Kentucky. Here we have two public universities with mediocre academic reputations that are nothing less than basketball crazy. What these schools may lack in scholarly bonafides, they make up for in sheer hoops success and tradition (with Kentucky, of course, having the edge in that). So, I propose a yearly trip between Tucson and Lexington to begin what might be a great college rivalry.
6. Arizona State vs. LSU. According to Playboy's most recent list of America's top party schools, Arizona State ranks No.1, with LSU coming in just behind in the No. 4 spot. Both campuses also enjoy some of the best "talent" around, with ASU coming in at No. 2 on one recent list (UCLA is No. 2, I hasten to add), and LSU doing pretty well itself according to reliable sources (i.e., my jackass friends). Sounds like a rivalry to me. Or a least a really awesome tailgate/post-game party.
7. California vs. North Carolina. Although California may not have the same sports tradition as UNC, these two schools have one thing in common. They both have hired solid football coaches, and have demonstrated a commitment to winning. Would Jeff Tedford and Butch Davis turn these two historic public institutions into rivals on the gridiron? Perhaps so.
8. Northwestern vs. Vanderbilt. Two more fine academic institutions, with long football histories. Long histories of mostly failure and futility, however. Northwestern and Vanderbilt, playing football since 1876 and 1890, respectively, have had their fair share of lumps on the field. Northwestern, though briefly No. 1 in 1936 and 1962, and with a blip in 1995, have spent most of its history in the cellar, currently in the bottom half of the Big Ten. Likewise, Vanderbilt, with its last winning season was in 1982, has been getting kicked around the SEC for years. Misery loves company they say. So, we might have ourselves a rivalry.
9. Washington vs. Wisconsin. No shortage of success in the histories of these fine schools. But, aside from the appeal of U'Dub v. U'Dub, what would this rivalry have to offer? Well, for one thing, you have two talented teams from dreary locales, who are in dire need of a natural tan. And then you have the fact that both schools represent progressive corners of their respective states. Maybe saying we'd have the battle of Seawood vs. Bratworst would be going a bit far, but we might have a nice rivalry.
What do you all think? What have I missed? Fire away in the comments section.