College Football's Top 10 Rivalry Nicknames

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Everything has a nickname but what are the best-named rivalry games in college football?

College Football's Top 10 Rivalry Nicknames

Rivalries are part of what makes college sports the best sport in the country. Because most of the best ones take place on and around Thanksgiving weekend, it makes what happens in these heated battles all the more memorable. Giving them unusual, regional, creative and entertaining nicknames has helped separate the college game from the pro version. As great as the Bears-Packers or Cowboys-Redskins rivalries are, none of them have historic titles like the NCAA game.

Here are the best rivalry nicknames in college football.

1. Holy War: BYU vs. Utah
First Meeting: 1896 
Record: Utah, 53-31-4

Not too be confused with its imposter (looking at you Notre Dame and Boston College), the Holy War's simplicity is what makes this nickname so appealing. The two schools have been equally successful on the football field with each taking a turn dominating the series for long stretches and both needing to win this game on multiple occasions to claim supremacy when they were in the same conference. The extreme proximity — the two campuses are roughly 45 miles from each other — and obvious differences in religious personality add layers to the already passionate rivalry. It's the classic public vs. private narrative between the LDS Church of BYU and the State of Utah (Utah). They are the two biggest schools in the state of Utah and, frankly, Holy War is way better than, say, Battle for the Beehive Boot.

2. Red River (Shootout) Rivalry: Texas vs. Oklahoma
First Meeting: 1900 Record: Texas 60-43-5

For obvious reasons, the official name of the storied Texas and Oklahoma annual neutral field rivalry has been changed to the Red River Rivalry. But to those who grew up at any point in the State of Texas, the Shootout is how it will always been known. Named after the Red River that divides the two states, Oklahoma and Texas played 100 editions of the Red River Shootout before the name officially changed in 2005 to the Red River Rivalry. The game is usually extremely important nationally and the Texas State Fair never disappoints — but try repeating Red River Rivalry as quickly as possible over and over again.

3. World's Largest Outdoor (Cocktail) Party: Florida vs. Georgia
First Meeting: 1904 Record: Georgia, 49-40-2*

These two SEC powerhouses don't agree on how many times they have played — apparently, Florida disputes the 52-0 loss on Oct. 15, 1904 in Macon, Ga. But everyone agrees the rivalry is aptly named. Fans flock from all over the nation to Jacksonville since the SEC launched in 1933 to watch the Bulldogs and Gators do battle. And it most certainly is a party. The beaches, bars and parking lots are packed with outdoor cocktail goers for an entire week leading up until kickoff. You can take the cocktail out of the name but you can't take the cocktail out of the party when Georgia and Florida come together. Legend has it, a local sports editor coined the official phrase after watching an intoxicated fan offer a drink to a police officer in 1950. 

* - Georgia claims 50-20-2

4. Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate: Georgia vs. Georgia Tech
First Meeting: 1893 Record: Georgia, 63-40-5

It has a nasty but polite ring to it, doesn't it? The nickname is almost giving the fans permission to hate one another as long as it is done in a respectful manner. Located just 70 miles from each other, the Yellow Jackets and Bulldogs have done battle since the 1890s in everything from touchdowns to SAT scores. The old-fashioned rivals battle for the The Governor's Cup each season on the season's final weekend.

5. Backyard Brawl: Pitt vs. West Virginia
First Meeting: 1895 Record: Pitt, 61-40-3

No two teams better personify the name of their rivalry quite like West Virginia and Pittsburgh. Like two brothers in the backyard, these two blue-collar programs have duked it out over 100 times. The rivalry has recently been put on hold but there is no reason to think that two schools just 75 miles down I-79 couldn't play each and every season. This name fits the personality of the fan bases and region as well as any in the nation.

6. Bedlam Series: Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State
First Meeting: 1904 Record: Oklahoma, 83-17-7

Originally stemming from two competitive wrestling teams, Bedlam Series has evolved to include all things Cowboys and Sooners. Obviously, the football game — which lately has carried heavy championship implications — is the marquee event of the calendar year for both schools. With two rock star head coaches and two loaded rosters, the once lopsided gridiron battle between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State is now perfectly named for the outright bedlam that normally ensues when these two meet on the season's final weekend.

7. The Iron Bowl: Auburn vs. Alabama
First Meeting: 1893 Record: Alabama, 42-34-1

Only since 1999 have these two played in one another's home stadium in alternating years. For many years, the game was held at a neutral site in Birmingham, Ala., so the name of the heated Iron Bowl rivalry stems from the city's deep connection to the steel industry. In one of, if not, the most college football-crazed state, the Iron Bowl carries year-round significance and repercussions for both the winner and the loser. It may not be all that creative or unique a name, but few terms illicit a more emotional response than Auburn-Alabama's Iron Bowl.

8. The Civil War: Oregon vs. Oregon State
First Meeting: 1894 Record: Oregon, 60-46-10

The seventh-most played rivalry in college football has been named the "Oregon Classic" or the "State Championship Game" but started being known as "The Civil War" in 1929. By 1937, it was the official nickname for the Beavers' and Ducks' annual intrastate showdown. With two of the more passionate fan bases in the Pac-12, the battle for the Platypus Trophy always lives up to its, uh, billing as one of the top in-state rivalries in college football. The two schools are located less than 50 miles from each other.

9. Third Saturday in October: Tennessee vs. Alabama
First Meeting: 1901 Record: Alabama, 50-38-7

There really isn't any in-depth analysis or explanation for this nickname as it's pretty obvious how the Tennessee-Alabama rivalry got its name. It hasn't always taken place on the "third Saturday in October" every single year, but by in large, the third weekend in October has been reserved for the annual battle between the historic SEC rivals. It isn't all that creative or fancy but it has some poetic uniqueness special to the two mighty college football power programs.

10. The Big Game: Stanford vs. Cal
First Meeting: 1892 Record: Stanford, 59-46-11

No rivalry nickname is simpler or more straight forward than Stanford and Cal. And no nickname conjures up a more memorable image of bizarre football history than The Big Game did in 1982. Active and creative student sections partner with extremely brash and entertaining bands to form one of the better rivalries in college football. What could be more direct and to the point than "The Big Game?"

The Top 25 Rivalries in College Football History

Some others we like:

Rumble in the Rockies: Colorado vs. Utah (1903)
Battle on the Bayou: UL Lafayette vs. UL Monroe (1951)
Border War: Kansas vs. Missouri (1891)
The Apple Cup: Washington vs. Washington State (1900)
The Egg Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State (1901)
Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry: Auburn vs. Georgia (1892)
Textile Bowl: Clemson vs. NC State (1899)
Battle of the Brazos: Baylor vs. Texas A&M (1899)
The Palmetto Bowl: South Carolina vs. Clemson (1894)
The Game: Ohio State vs. Michigan
Shula Bowl: FAU vs. FIU (2002)
The Commonwealth Cup: Virginia vs. Virginia Tech (1895)
The Territorial Cup: Arizona vs. Arizona State (1899)
Battle for the Iron Skillet: SMU vs. TCU (1915)
Friends of the Coal Bowl: Marshall and West Virginia

 

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