Earlier this season, we discussed discussed whether LSU should be considered a rivalry game. This week, as we get set for not only the Iron Bowl but rivalry weekend for many teams, one has to wonder: Is the Iron Bowl the pinnacle of college football rivalry games?
Let’s take a look at both sides:
The Iron Bowl Is The Rivalry To End All Rivalries
Alabama and Auburn have been playing each other since 1893 (with a few lulls in between). This weekend marks the 77th game between the two, and the stakes have never been higher than in the past few meetings.
Over the last five years, the BCS National Championship has been at stake as these teams stepped onto the field against each other. The past three Iron Bowls have determined the national champion. Two of last three selected the SEC champion. The last four have involved a team with the inside track to the BCS National Championship. These stakes are what make a rivalry great, and what make the Iron Bowl the champion, so to speak, of rivalries.
There is also more hatred between teams’ fans than any other. Each fan base exults when the other is busted for NCAA violations; celebrates the other teams’ losses; and even though the state of Alabama has won the last three national championships, each teams’ fans claim they cheated to get it. At the winning team’s home basketball game between the two teams, the SGA President of the losing school has to sing the other team’s fight song.
The biggest part of this rivalry is what it means for the coaches. When you accept the job at Alabama or Auburn, you go in with the understanding that you must beat the other team year in and year out. Auburn’s Tommy Tubberville was fired shortly after the 36-0 loss in 2008. Alabama’s Mike Shula was fired after never beating Auburn in his 4 years as head coach.
Let’s face it: With a name like the “Iron Bowl,” you cannot deny the game’s significance. It easily beats out the other rivalries.
Iron Bowl Is A Rivalry, But Not The Only Notable One
Don’t get me wrong. I love watching the Iron Bowl as much as the next Alabama or Auburn fan, but calling the best rivalry in America is overstating it. There are bigger rivalries in the college football game than the annual Auburn/Alabama game.
Sure, Alabama and Auburn fans are passionate and tend to hate and spit on each other, but I can’t find a rivalry that doesn’t have more bad blood than Michigan and Ohio State. These two teams’ fans not only talk smack to each other, but the players are usually rub each other the wrong way both on and off the field. At Wednesday night’s Michigan basketball game, the fans chanted “Beat Ohio!” as a Pittsburgh player was shooting free throws in the waning moments of the game.
And while the Iron Bowl has produced national and SEC championships recently, who’s to say the LSU and Florida rivalry is worse than that? From 2006-2008, the winner of the game was the SEC and national champion for each of those years.
It’s really unfair to rank rivalries in the first place, since the scale is simply not the same and the perception from the fan is going to be one-sided. People from the southeast love SEC rivalries and think they are the best. People from the west coast love Pac-12 rivalries and think they are the best. Midwest people think B1G football rivalries are the best. People from Lipscomb in Tennessee will think there is no better rival than Belmont.
Plus, there are rivalries that extend beyond college football. Take Texas/Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry. Attendance at the games during football season is usually quite high, but for other sports like basketball or even volleyball, attendance is typically higher than normal and the hatred spreads.
Point is, it’s unfair to put the Iron Bowl at the top when there are so many other rivalries that can be just as good.
What do you think? Is the Iron Bowl the best rivalry ever or do you think that there are other good matchups out there? As always, your comments are welcome.