Who’s ready for some football? As autumn kicks into full swing, students and loyal alumni alike gear up to watch their undergrad footballers get gritty on the gridiron. Let’s take a look as our nation’s most intense rivalries heat up.
USC v. Notre Dame
October 19. When the Fighting Irish take on the Trojans this year in South Bend, Ind., they’ll be defending their emerald-studded shamrock from last year’s victory on the Jeweled Shillelagh — that is, the trophy awarded to the winning team each year. (And whenever USC nabs a win, a ruby-decorated Trojan head is added.) It’s no wonder why this highly touted game is revered. Both teams have produced national titles, Heisman trophy winners, All-Americans, College Football Hall of Famers and future NFL Hall of Famers.
Lafayette v. Lehigh
November 23. Sure, these academic powerhouses in Pennsylvania may not exactly participate in the Rose Bowl, but Lafayette College and Lehigh University claim bragging rights to the most-played rivalry in the nation. Plus, it’s the longest uninterrupted annual rivalry series, dating back to 1884. As a scintillating treat next year when the Leopards meet the Mountain Hawks, they’ll celebrate their 150th matchup by competing at Yankee Stadium.
Auburn v. Alabama
November 30. Every year when the University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide takes on the Auburn University Tigers, it’s an exciting rivalry. Dubbed “the Iron Bowl” due to Birmingham’s historic role in the steel industry, perhaps the most memorable moment occurred in 1972 when Bama led 16-0 only to see their lead get obliterated as Auburn scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to claim victory.
Michigan v. Ohio State
November 30. Known as simply “the Game,” these Big 10 rivals are certainly no slouches on the field or in the stands. The Wolverines and the Buckeyes, respectively, have clashed ever since 1897 when Michigan started a consecutive winning streak that lasted until 1912. The rivalry is so colorful and intense that it caught the eye of HBO for the network’s first college football documentary, appropriately called “Michigan v. Ohio State: The Rivalry.”
Army v. Navy
December 14. The Black Knights and Midshipmen, synonymous with the Army and Navy, have been competing since 1890. It all began when Cadet Dennis Mahan Michie accepted a challenge from the Naval Academy to face off at West Point. And the rest, as they say, is history. In fact, the backstory about the military teams with mutual respect is told in “Gridiron Glory: The Story of the Army-Navy Football Rivalry.”
College rivalry trophies
• Commonwealth Cup: The victor of the Virginia v. Virginia Tech game takes home a cup constructed of marble and cherry wood with the scores of all the games in their meet-ups.
• Old Oaken Bucket: Either the Indiana Hoosiers or the Purdue Boilermakers claim this traveling trophy.
• Old Wagon Wheel: The BYU-Utah State rivalry dates back to 1948 when they started competing for the wagon wheel.
• Paul Bunyan Trophy: The Michigan v. Michigan State trophy is a 4-foot wooden statue on a 5-foot base.
• Territorial Trophy: The duel in the desert comes down to the Arizona Wildcats and the Arizona State Sun Devils, both looking to claim this prize.