3 most underrated college football rivalries to watch in 2024

Washington State v Washington
Washington State v Washington / Steph Chambers/GettyImages
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3. Minnesota at Wisconsin (Friday, Nov. 29)

Wow. I almost felt a gust of wind from how quickly your eyebrow raised upon reading that subheading, and I understand why: Unlike the rivalries already addressed, this one doesn’t involve a team coming off anything memorable, with Minnesota having just gone 6-7 and Wisconsin 7-6 (performances that are especially sorry when considering their standards as of late). There’s far more to this game than meets the eye, though.

For starters, this is undeniably one of the greatest rivalries in collegiate athletics period, with the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe not only being the most-played FBS series of all time but also up there for most competitive, with the record between the programs currently sitting at 63-62-8, Wisconsin.

With that figure in mind, I’m sure we can all agree this rivalry is worthy of TLC on any day of any year, but what makes it extra special in 2024 is the coaching implications on both sides.

P.J. Fleck has shown great promise at Minnesota, and led his Golden Gophers into 2023 on an active streak of three full seasons with nine wins or more. However, as previously established, last year proved to be a forgettable one for his tenure. So, he and his guys should be looking to bounce back stronger than ever this fall, and capping the tear off by sending a message to their opps in Madison that says they won’t be going anywhere.

Speaking of Madison, this will be Luke Fickell’s second year there, and he’s certainly hoping to lead it somewhere better than the bare-minimum line of 7-6. But, one look at the schedule he and the Badgers have to work with implies that will be far easier said than done.

Thanks to there being several troublemakers on the agenda—including Alabama, USC, Northwestern, Penn State, Iowa and Oregon (with a couple of trap games lingering around as well)—we can’t bet a lot on Wisconsin seeing a sizable improvement in 2024, and though that is unfortunate for the most part, one upside is that it can make what I’ll now call the “Bunyan Bowl” mean all the more.

To put it bluntly, the thought of the Badgers entering this game looking to clinch a winning record, if not to simply make the postseason, is frighteningly easy to imagine. Especially when considering that they haven’t finished in the red since 2001, that means their (and perhaps Fickell’s) reputation of reliability could live or die by this game, making it even more of a must-watch than it usually is.

Next. 3 SEC teams that will disappoint in 2024. 3 SEC teams that will disappoint in 2024. dark

So, come the morning of Black Friday, when you’re lounging around with nothing but your robe and some Thanksgiving leftovers, I'd strongly recommend that the Bunyan Bowl be the first thing you have on your television.