45 Best College Football Rivalries of All-Time

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Barry Switzer and Tom Osborne (Photo by Brian Bahr/Allsport)

All year, fans look forward to the day when his or her team plays its most heated rival. Which game is the best of the best? We count down the 45 greatest college football rivalries of all-time.

History. Pageantry. Spirit. Bragging Rights. Passion. Respect. Pride. Hatred.

There are many things that come to mind when thinking of college football’s greatest rivalries – often all at once. It’s like old, grainy black-and-white or Technicolor footage of touchdowns, cheerleaders, pom-poms, and green grass.

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The marching band plays in the background, and the roar of the crowd grows louder and louder as the footage gradually gains speed. It gets faster and faster until a 240-pound linebacker knocks a quarterback’s helmet off in full HD.

It can be overwhelming, but exciting at the same time. It’s a personal reaction and one of the things that makes college football the most special sport in America. All year, fans talk about it with friends, family, and co-workers. They call into local talk radio shows in February, in July, in November. And then finally, on that one very special day, Old Alma Mater straps it up against its most bitter rival.

They’ve played on the same fall Saturday for more than a hundred years, but each new meeting is a brand new chapter in an ever-expanding book. And fans can’t wait to find out how it ends.

Because of the personal feelings involved, ranking one rivalry series above another is sure to upset those whose passion burns for his or her favorite team. It’s understandable.

Alas, we throw caution to the wind to explore the 45 best college football rivalries there have ever been. Here’s number 45.

Oklahoma Sooners
Nebraska Cornhuskers
  • First Meeting: 1912 – Nebraska 13, Oklahoma 9
  • The Greatest Moment: Nebraska and Oklahoma were both ranked in the nation’s top three in 2000 and 2001, but the greatest game in series history was, aptly, The Game of the Century in which No. 1 Nebraska defeated No. 2 Oklahoma 35-31 in Norman in 1971.

If the two teams had played more in recent decades, and perhaps at all since 2010, the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry would easily be one of the top ten college football rivalries of all-time. Nebraska and Oklahoma met 71 straight years from 1928 to 1997, until the Big Eight Conference added four members of the Southwest Conference to form the Big 12.

While the Cornhuskers and Sooners stopped playing annually once the Big 12 was created and the teams were placed in different divisions, Nebraska’s move to the Big Ten caused a complete shakeup in a few of the program’s other traditional rivalry games.

Nebraska and Kansas played every year from 1906 to 2010 – a streak of 105 years – until the Cornhuskers left for the Big Ten. When it ended, the annual matchup was the longest continuous rivalry in the FBS. In 2010, the Cornhuskers also severed ties with Iowa State – a program they had played continuously since 1921, a string of 90 years – and with Kansas State and Missouri, which had both been annual rivals since 1922.

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