College Football

The 10 Best and Oldest College Football Rivalries

College football is home to some of the bitterest rivalries in sports. Many of the rivalries date back to the 1800s, making them some of the longest standing rivalries ever to be played. With stadiums that can fill up to much higher levels than professional sports, reaching over 100,000 people in many cases, the atmosphere is unmatched when attending a historic college football rivalry. Below are the ten best and oldest college football rivalries.

Yale vs. Princeton

Yale vs. Princeton is far from one of the better rivalries in college football, but it is one of the oldest. Princeton and Rutgers played in the first football game the world had ever seen in 1869, but they would not go on to be bitter rivals, as Rutgers has changed conferences multiple times since.

The first meeting between Yale and Princeton took place on November 15, 1873. It was not the most exciting game, but Princeton prevailed 3-0. Yale leads the all-time series 78-54-10.

Yale vs. Harvard

Known simply as “The Game,” many refer to Harvard vs. Yale as the oldest rivalry in college sports. While many will reference their 1875 meeting as the first football game between the two schools, that is only partly correct. The game that was played on the field that day was actually rugby and not football. Harvard preferred to play rugby with 15 players per side, while Yale preferred soccer, with 11 men per side. Harvard took the first meeting 4-0.

“The Game” is the third-most played college football rivalry, behind Yale vs. Princeton and Lehigh vs. Lafayette. In 2005, Harvard won 30-24 in triple overtime, the longest Ivy League game in history. Yale leads the all-time series 68-60-8.

Navy vs. Army

The Army vs. Navy game dates back to 1890 when Navy beat Army 24-0 in West Point, NY. Army won the following year on the road at Navy, and the series has been tightly contested ever since. This series has been played in historic stadiums such as the Polo Grounds in New York beginning in 1913. It was played in Soldier Field in a 1926 tie, and in Yankee Stadium from 1930-1931, both Army wins.

The game has been played in Philadelphia for the majority of the contests and is usually played on a neutral field. Most recently, it has been played at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles, and M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens. Navy leads the all-time series 61-52-7

Wisconsin vs. Minnesota

One of the greatest and oldest rivalries in college football is Wisconsin vs. Minnesota. The series began with a resounding 63-0 Minnesota win on November 15, 1890. Minnesota led the series from 1902 through 2016 before Wisconsin tied it up with a 31-0 win in 2017.

The two teams used to play for the Slab of Bacon trophy, which was replaced with Paul Bunyan’s Axe in 1948. Wisconsin leads the all-time series 61-60-8.

Miami vs. Florida State

Miami vs. Florida State is not as old as many of the other rivalries on this list, but it is one of the most anticipated games each year. From the late 1980s up through 2019, each team has typically been highly ranked heading into the contest, which is often a requirement for a long-lasting rivalry to hold its appeal. The two teams play for the Florida Cup, and Miami leads the all-time series 47-0.

USC vs. Notre Dame

For a football rivalry to truly be great, both programs must be highly respected year in and year out. Due to their elite reputations, the USC vs. Notre Dame rivalry is one of the most significant games on the calendar each year, despite the significant distance between the two schools geographically. Many times, the winner of this game has gone on to play in the college football national championship. Both schools lay claim to 11 total national titles. The first game was played in 1926, and Notre Dame leads the all-time series 47-36-5.

Georgia vs. Florida 

You know you have a special rivalry when neither team agrees on what the all-time record is. Georgia believes that a 1904 game against what was then called the University of Florida was when the rivalry started. But it was not against what is the modern University of Florida. Instead, it was against a school that became the Florida Agricultural College in Lake City. George sports historian Dan Magill had this to say about the dispute, “That’s where Florida was back then. We can’t help it if they got run out of Lake City.” Known as the World’s Largest Cocktail Party, by Georgia’s count, they lead the series 53-43-2.

Texas vs. Oklahoma

What used to be known as the Red River Shootout is now referred to as the politically correct Red River Showdown. The first meeting came on October 10, 1900, in a 28-2 Texas victory. Most recently, the game is played annually during the State Fair of Texas at the Cotton Bowl stadium in Dallas, Texas. A total of three trophies can change hands after the outcome of the game. The Golden Hat is kept by the winning school’s athletic department, the Red River Rivalry trophy is exchanged between student governments, and the Governors’ trophy is typically a steak dinner bet between both state governors.

Alabama vs. Auburn

The Iron Bowl has been played since February 22, 1893, when Alabama won 32-22 in front of 5,000 people. A staple of Thanksgiving weekend, Auburn vs. Alabama has become one of the greatest rivalries in college sports thanks in part to the dominance of the Southeastern Conference the two teams play in. Alabama has a winning record against every SEC team and leads the all-time series vs. Auburn 46-37-1.

Ohio State vs. Michigan

If you live in the Midwest, Ohio State vs. Michigan is likely the biggest college football game on the calendar. The first meeting came in 1897 in a 34-0 Michigan win. Michigan leads the all-time series 58-51-6, and the game switches locations each year. Since the 1970s, the Michigan vs. Ohio State game has frequently determined the Big Ten champion, or which team will go to the Big Ten title game. In 2000, ESPN ranked the game as the greatest rivalry in North American sports.

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