The 12 Biggest College Football Rivalries

College football has a long and exciting history, with many notable feuds. Discover 12 of the most famous college football rivalries.
portrait of Ellery Weil
Ellery Weil
Read Full Bio


Ellery Weil, Ph.D., is a historian and education writer. When she's not writing about education for BestColleges, she specializes in turn-of-the-twentieth-century women's history. Her writing has been published on three continents. She holds degrees ...
Updated on September 6, 2023
Edited by
portrait of Tyler Epps
Tyler Epps
Read Full Bio

Editor & Writer

Tyler Epps is an editor for BestColleges. He writes and edits content about higher education, specializing in degree planning and college rankings. He is passionate about helping students prepare for college and navigate their educational journey. He...
Learn more about our editorial process is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Turn Your Dreams Into Reality

Take our quiz and we'll do the homework for you! Compare your school matches and apply to your top choice today.

  • American college football rivalries bring communities together and build school spirit.
  • Some rivalries are so well known that they attract fans who didn't attend either school.
  • Many older colleges have famous rivalries that are more than 100 years old.
  • Rivalries can start in many ways and include a variety of fun college traditions.

Ready for the big game? Depending on which college football team you're rooting for, a "big game" could refer to the playoffs — or to any game against the school's biggest rival.

Many colleges have football rivalries that go back decades. And while some football rivalries only attract local fans, many, like those listed below, make national headlines and excite spectators from all over the country.

Most people who attend colleges with football rivalries think their feud is the best. However, there are a few notable, longstanding rivalries that attract fans who never attended either school. Check out the 12 best college football rivalries — and be sure to tune in to the next game.

1. Michigan vs. Ohio State

The granddaddy of all college football rivalries is the University of Michigan vs. Ohio State University. These two midwestern Big Ten powerhouses have been at it since 1897, with the Wolverines and Buckeyes meeting for "The Game" around Thanksgiving weekend for over a century.

In 2021, the Wolverines claimed victory, bringing their all-time lead up to 59-51-6.

Fun fact: During the years The Game is held in Ann Arbor, so many football fans come to town that Michigan Stadium often can't hold them all — despite being the largest stadium in North America.

2. Alabama vs. Auburn

Some say that college football is like a religion in the American South, and two of its grandest cathedrals are at the University of Alabama and Auburn University. The rivalry, known as the "Iron Bowl," has been in place since 1893, with the Alabama Crimson Tide currently leading the Auburn Tigers by 48-37-1.

While many rivalries start because of geography, the Iron Bowl originated with a political spat. A 19th-century dispute over the location of the new land-grant college that would become Auburn University — whose funding the University of Alabama had hoped to win for Tuscaloosa — became the Iron Bowl.

3. Army vs. Navy

While the U.S. military is typically a united body, the United States Military Academy and the United States Naval Academy (USNA) have a fierce rivarly on the football field. The two oldest branches of the military have been battling it out in the Army-Navy game since 1890, although the game didn't become an annual tradition until 1930.

The record currently stands at 62-53-7, with Navy in the lead. The annual game is one of the military's biggest athletic events — along with USNA's annual croquet match against St. John's College, a less traditional but still engaging rivalry.

4. Oklahoma vs. Texas

Are football rivalries fiercer in the Wild West? If the University of Oklahoma Okies and the University of Texas at Austin Longhorns have anything to say about it, the answer is yes.

Texas leads 62-50-5 in the "Red River Showdown," a rivalry that dates back to 1900. The annual game has been uninterrupted since 1929. The victor not only takes glory but also a golden ten-gallon hat, which the winning school keeps until the next game.

5. USC vs. Notre Dame

With so many rivalries between neighboring institutions, this feud between a school in Indiana and one in California may seem surprising. However, the rivalry between the University of Southern California and the University of Notre Dame has been going strong since 1926.

Notre Dame leads 48-36-5 in the battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh, an Irish club adorned with ornaments. Unlike many rivalries, legend says USC vs. Notre Dame was deliberately created, with the wife of a new USC coach agreeing with the wife of Notre Dame's coach to convince their husbands to start the annual game.

6. Georgia vs. Florida

Bulldogs vs. Gators may sound like a viral animal video on YouTube, but it's actually one of the great football rivalries of the Southeast: University of Georgia vs. University of Florida. The record for this annual fight is contested. Florida claims Georgia's lead stands at 53-44-2, while Georgia holds it at 54-44-2.

The schools disagree about which game was the first "official" match of the rivalry — 1904 or 1915. Either way, the annual game is known for its epic tailgating traditions, earning it a humorous nickname "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party."

7. Harvard vs. Yale

In this Ivy League showdown, two of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the U.S. duke it out. These schools have taken their all-around rivalry to the football field every year since 1875, making it one of the oldest football feuds in the country.

The Yale bulldogs hold the edge in a 68-61-8 lead. Since the Ivies don't take part in postseason championships, this game is the biggest of the year. However, the rivalry is relatively lighthearted, as indicated in Tom Lehrer's "Fight Fiercely, Harvard."

8. Florida vs. Florida State

Not everything is sunshine and roses in the Sunshine State — certainly not when it comes time for the University of Florida vs. Florida State University game. The Gators lead the Seminoles 37-26-2 in a rivalry dating back to 1958.

The game, known as the "Sunshine Showdown," dates back to the founding of Florida State. When men-only University of Florida and women-only Florida State became coed after World War II, the rivalry took off and has been going strong ever since.

9. California vs. Stanford

Two of California's most prestigious universities also play host to one of the Golden State's oldest and fiercest football rivalries. The "Big Game" between the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University dates back to 1892, with Stanford leading 65-48-11.

The Big Game is the oldest college rivalry in the West. The lead-up to game day is a celebration on both campuses, with bonfires, plays, and competitions in other sports, including the "Big Sail" regatta and the "Big Splash" water polo match.

10. Miami vs. Florida State

Florida vs. Florida State is not the only football rivalry in the Sunshine State. The University of Miami and Florida State University have been facing each other since 1951.

The Miami Hurricanes currently lead the Florida State Seminoles 35-31. This rivalry dates back to when Florida State first became a coed institution, with nearby Miami ready to welcome them as a rival.

11. Texas vs. Texas A&M

Is everything bigger in Texas? If you're judging by the intensity of football rivalries, the University of Texas at Austin vs. Texas A&M University makes a strong case. The Texas Longhorns currently lead the Texas A&M Aggies 76-37-5 in a rivalry dating back to 1894.

When Texas A&M joined the Southeastern Conference in 2012, many feared the rivalry was over. However, the Texas legislature passed a bill keeping the annual game — and the rivalry — alive to this day.

12. UCLA vs. USC

Last but not least is another California rivalry. In the University of California, Los Angeles, vs. the University of Southern California game known as the "Victory Bell," USC leads 49-33-7.

Dating to 1929, the rivalry's name refers to an actual 295-pound brass bell. Originally used by UCLA to ring in every point they scored, the bell became the game's trophy after USC students stole the bell in 1941.

Feature Image: skynesher / E+ / Getty Images is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Compare Your School Options

View the most relevant schools for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to finding your college home.