What makes a great rivalry in college football? Three main elements are consistently found in some of the biggest competitions. First, it helps if your rivals are geographically close. If the schools are in the same state or adjacent states, fans from both schools live close enough to participate in the long-running competition over the course of a year. Second, teams must be closely matched as competitors. No one wants to watch a game if the outcome is always a foregone conclusion. Third, the rivalry requires a lot of lore and a storied history.
The 15 football rivalries posted here tick all those boxes. To celebrate the school spirit, Best Universities used Stathead data to compile a list of the most even and long-running college football rivalries in the United States. Rivalries were ranked based on how close each team’s total number of wins was in a particular rivalry. Only rivals with at least 90 games played were considered. Additionally, due to dataset limitations, only games in which at least one team was counted as “major school” (equivalent to current Division I Football Bowl subdivision) were included, so the records may not match full-period totals calculated elsewhere.
Most of these 15 rivalries date back not a century but two centuries ago, to the 1890s. Fans have bought tickets, marked their calendars for the months ahead, and see the “big game” between his alma mater and its biggest rival each year as one of his highlights of the season.