25 Biggest College Football Rivalries – 2024

February 5, 2024

biggest college football rivalries

Fordham University, where I was an undergrad, is not a big sports school. As a result, I was never initiated into the ritualistic world of tailgating and fight songs, homecoming traditions and bowl game aspirations. And although college sports still, to some extent, remain alien to me, they’re becoming more and more difficult to ignore. College football in particular continues to be a huge part of the ever-expanding sports media sphere—in 2019, Division I athletics was a $15.8 billion industry, with football generating the vast majority of revenues. So even I, a college sports layperson, have become familiar with some of the narratives surrounding college football—powerhouse legacies like the Alabama Crimson Tide, exorbitantly-paid head coaches, controversial playoff snubs, developments related to player compensation, and, of course, rivalries. Michigan vs. Ohio State, Army vs. Navy, UCLA vs. USC—these longstanding rivalries make up the fabric of college football. Check out a list of the biggest college football rivalries below.

Biggest College Football Rivalries

1) Michigan-Ohio State

Kicking off the list of the biggest college football rivalries is one of the biggest rivalries not just in college football, but in American sports at large. The Wolverines and Buckeyes first met on the gridiron in 1897, and the annual contest between the two Big Ten powerhouses—also known as The Game—went on uninterrupted from 1918 until COVID derailed the meeting in 2020. That’s a total of 119 matchups. In terms of the overall numbers, Michigan has the edge: the Wolverines have bested the Buckeyes 61 times; the Buckeyes have prevailed over the Wolverines 51 times; they’ve tied 6 times.

So why is it such a heated rivalry? Let’s start with the obvious. Both Michigan and Ohio State are amongst the best college football programs in the sport’s history. Good rivalries aren’t one-sided, uneven matchups; it wouldn’t be much of a rivalry if one side always won. Then there’s the fact that both teams are in the Big Ten. Rivalries always seem to take on more significance when they’re intra-division or conference—here, familiarity breeds contempt.

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And speaking of familiarity breeding contempt, it’s also worth mentioning that Michigan and Ohio State share a border. In fact, the two states went to war over their shared border in 1835. The border dispute, known formally as the Toledo War, Michigan-Ohio War, or Ohio-Michigan War (depending on where you ask, I guess) didn’t result in any casualties. But it is conceivable that when the two teams met for the first time in 1897, there might still have been Ohioans or Michiganders alive who remembered the conflict. So there you have it: the roots of the rivalry can be traced back to a real-deal armed conflict. No wonder Michigan-Ohio State is at the top of the list of the biggest college football rivalries.

2) Alabama-Auburn

As deep-seated and bitter as the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry is, I don’t think it would’ve been too controversial to place Alabama-Auburn at the top of the list of the biggest college football rivalries. Just like Michigan-Ohio State, the Iron Bowl rivalry—that’s the moniker for the annual meeting between the Crimson Tide and the Tigers—has its roots in a political spat. To make a long story short, both Tuscaloosa and Auburn wanted to be the site of a new land-grant college under the Morrill Land Grand Act of 1862. The city of Auburn won out in 1872.

On to slightly more relevant considerations—Alabama and Auburn held their first showdown in Birmingham in February 1893. Because Birmingham in the early 20th century was a major industrial city and leading producer of iron, coal, and steel, the annual meeting between Alabama and Auburn became known as the Iron Bowl.

Both Alabama and Auburn compete in the SEC. And even though Alabama has the clear edge in terms of overall dominance, the rivalry isn’t as one-sided as you might think. The Crimson Tide currently lead the overall series against the Tigers with an overall head-to-head record of 48-37-1.

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3) Army-Navy

Yes, Army-Navy has landed on the list of the biggest college football rivalries. To some, counting the rivalry amongst the biggest college football rivalries is obvious; to others, it’s a bit of a head-scratcher. Let me explain.

The Army-Navy rivalry deserves a spot in the pantheon of college football rivalries not because it’s consequential, high-stakes football. The last time Army won a national championship was 1946, and the last time Navy won a national championship was twenty years before that. Only four times in the last 60 years have both teams come into the game with winning records. And nothing turns on the result—the game is typically played after the conference championships have been decided.

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In other words: the Army-Navy rivalry is all pomp and circumstance, founded entirely on tradition. And that’s what makes it one of the biggest college football rivalries. The annual matchup has been held uninterrupted since 1930. The sitting U.S. president is often in the stands. It’s a militaristic, patriotic spectacle, replete with flyovers and traditions like “The Prisoner Exchange” and “The March On.”

Navy leads the rivalry with a head-to-head record of 62-53-7.

4) Oklahoma-Texas

The Oklahoma-Texas rivalry dates back to 1900, before the Texans were the Longhorns and before Oklahoma was a state. Oklahoma and Texas are neighbors, and the annual meeting between the two teams is also referred to as the Red River Shootout—the Red River forms part of the border between the two states.

The game is played in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas and happens at the same time as the Texas State Fair. The winner of the matchup receives the Golden Hat, a gold ten-gallon hat, which is kept by the prevailing team until the next year.

Texas leads the series with a 62-50-5 record versus Oklahoma.

5) USC-Notre Dame

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While most of the other biggest college football rivalries are rooted in politics or geography, the USC-Notre Dame rivalry has its origins—according to some—in a conversation between the wives of Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne and USC athletic director Gywnn Wilson. As the story goes, USC sent Wilson and his wife to Nebraska, where Notre Dame was playing, in search of a national rival. The coaches and their spouses met, and after getting over some reluctance because of the travel involved, in 1926 the USC-Notre Dame matchup became an annual fixture.

Unlike the purely ceremonial Army-Navy rivalry, when USC and Notre Dame meet, there is typically something at stake. Often, the playoff hopes of one or both of the teams rests on the outcome. Plus, USC and Notre Dame are two of the most storied, decorated programs in college sports history.

Notre Dame has taken home the Jeweled Shillelagh—that’s the trophy they play for—more often than USC has. The Fighting Irish lead the series with a record of 49-37-5.

6) Florida-Georgia

The annual Florida-Georgia game attracts huge crowds to Jacksonville, and because of the widespread tailgating and other festivities, the matchup has become known as the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” (Interesting side note: a punk music festival happens every year in Gainesville at the same time as the Florida-Georgia showdown; UF students and fans leave Gainesville deserted, and the punks take over).

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The Florida-Georgia rivalry has been a proving ground for legends like Vince Dooley, Steve Spurrier, and Urban Meyer. Since the SEC split into two divisions in 1992, Florida and Georgia have combined for 25 SEC titles, with the annual meeting between the two teams often playing a decisive role. Georgia leads the rivalry with a record of 54-44-2.


The USC-UCLA rivalry has it all: the schools share a city, they’re both members of the Pac-12 Conference and will in 2024 migrate together to the Big Ten, and there’s typically something at stake. In the 1980s and 1990s, the winner of the Crosstown Cup would often go on to play in the Rose Bowl. But as recently as 2022, the result of the game had implications for the College Football Playoff and Pac-12 Championship hopes of both sides.

The winner of the contest hoists the Victory Bell trophy, an actual bell from an old Southern Pacific locomotive. USC leads the series with a record of 49-33-7.

8) Florida State – Miami

Although this rivalry is relatively young, both Florida State and the University of Miami have rich football traditions. The two teams have a combined eight national championships, 80 All-Americans, and five Heisman Trophy winners. Since the late 1980s, one or both of the teams has been highly ranked entering the game, so the matchup usually has implications on the national championship hopes of the teams.

Miami leads the head-to-head series with a record of 35-33.

9) Ole Miss-Mississippi State

Another intrastate rivalry is the Egg Bowl or Battle of the Golden Egg, the name given to the annual matchup between Ole Miss and Mississippi State (since 1927 the winning team has been awarded the Golden Egg trophy). The Ole Miss-Mississippi State rivalry may be one of the most heated on the entire list. Even when enduring an otherwise poor season, for many the success of the season depends entirely on the result of the Egg Bowl. In 2018, five players were ejected after a mid-game, benches-clearing brawl. The following year, the contest was decided based on an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Ole Miss has taken home the Golden Egg 65 times to Mississippi State’s 46; they’ve tied six times.

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10) Florida State-Florida

Although this Florida rivalry had more national relevance in the 1990s and early 2000s, it still qualifies as one of the biggest college football rivalries. The Gators and Seminoles first met in 1958, and have played every year since then except 2020, when COVID prevented the meeting.

Florida dominated the series until the mid-1970s, when Bobby Bowden became the Seminoles head coach and began to turn FSU’s athletics department around. The rivalry was at its most heated in the 1990s, when both teams were ranked in the top 10 for every meeting between 1990 and 2001.

Florida leads the overall series with a record of 37-28-2, though Florida State bested Florida in 2022 and 2023.

11) Harvard-Yale

If the Army-Navy rivalry gets a mention on the list of the biggest college football rivalries, then so should Harvard-Yale. Just like the Army-Navy rivalry, when Harvard and Yale face off on the gridiron, very little (save pride, ego, bragging rights) is at stake. That’s because the academically elite Ivy League does not participate in postseason football.

With all of that said, Harvard-Yale does have many of the ingredients that make for a good rivalry. They’re in the same athletic conference, they’re both in New England, and they’re both academic powerhouses with incredibly rich and prestigious histories. In fact, it’s one of the longest-standing rivalries in the country—the teams first played against one another in 1875—and it’s often presented as an archetype of American college rivalry in pop culture.

Honorable mentions

12) Clemson South-Carolina

This in-state rivalry dates back to the 1890s. Clemson’s got the decisive edge with a record of 72-43-4.

13) Oklahoma-Oklahoma State

Might be the most one-sided “rivalry” on this list: Oklahoma leads the series with a record of 91-19-7.

14) Pittsburgh-West Virginia

Known as the Backyard Brawl, only 75 miles separate Pitt and West Virginia. Although Pitt was moved to the ACC and West Virginia to the Big 12, this rivalry remains heated. Pitt leads the head-to-head with a 62-40-3 record.

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15) California-Stanford

A Northern California battle between private school Stanford and public school California, Berkeley. Stanford leads at 65-49-11.

16) Texas-Texas A&M

This long-standing rivalry was put on hold when Texas A&M moved to the SEC in 2012. Texas leads with a series record of 76-37-5.

17) Oregon-Oregon State

This matchup used to be dubbed the “Civil War.” Oregon leads, 67-49-10.

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18) BYU-Utah

This rivalry goes by the name of the “Holy War.” That’s pretty much all you need to know. Utah’s got the clear edge with its 62-35-4 head-to-head record.

19) Alabama-Tennessee

The Crimson Tide beat the Volunteers 15 times in a row until the Volunteers pulled off an upset in 2022. Overall, Alabama leads the series at 57-39-7.

20) Michigan-Michigan State

This is one of those big-brother-little-brother matchups, with MSU playing the role of little brother. Michigan leads the head-to-head at 72-38-5.

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21) Minnesota-Wisconsin

This rivalry is deadlocked at 62-62-8. The winner takes home the Paul Bunyan Axe.

22) Michigan-Notre Dame

Michigan and Notre Dame are legacy teams, but it’s a budding rivalry. They’ve only played against one another regularly over the past 30 years. Michigan leads the series 25-17-1.

23) Georgia-Georgia Tech

An intrastate, albeit somewhat one-sided, rivalry, Georgia’s got the decisive advantage with a head-to-head record of 70-41-5.

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24) Lafayette-Lehigh

These two small private schools are located just 17 miles apart. They’ve met a total of 159 times and didn’t miss a matchup between 1897 and 2020—which makes it the most-played rivalry and the longest uninterrupted annual series in college football’s history.

25) Auburn-Georgia

This Deep South rivalry goes back to 1892. Georgia has the slight edge in terms of overall record (63-56-8), in part thanks to its current six-game winning streak.

Best College Football Rivalries – Additional Resources

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