Thanksgiving Weekend Offers Feast Of College Football Rivalries

Believe it or not, the final week of the college football season is here. Though some rivalries were played last week, Thanksgiving weekend is full of them, many of which date to the 1890s.

So, have your pecan pie with the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving evening and keep the leftovers coming through Saturday night with Notre Dame and USC battling for the shillelagh.

Thursday

Mississippi State at Ole Miss

The Rebels and Bulldogs first met in 1901 and this year’s matchup will be the 119th time the schools will have tangled on the gridiron. They have been playing for the Golden Egg Trophy since 1927 when the student bodies agreed on a trophy that in part, promoted the tradition of the annual affair. Ole Miss leads 66-45-6.

Friday

Arizona State at Arizona

The Wildcats and Sun Devils will meet for the 96th time in a series that began in 1899, or 13 years before Arizona achieved statehood. The schools play for the Territorial Cup, which in the first year was awarded to the school with better record. That was ASU, or what was known the Territorial Normal School. While the trophy has an interesting history, it has been awarded to the winner only since 2001. Arizona leads the series 49-45-1.

Central Michigan at Eastern Michigan

This year marks the 100th meeting between schools that first met in 1902. On the line in the MAC’s longest-running rivalry is the Michigan MAC trophy. The winner will take home the hardware, and bragging rights, after coming out on top in the round robin among the three conference members – also Western Michigan – in the Great Lakes State. The Chippewas lead 63-30-6.

Florida at Florida State

This matchup does not have the history of others on this list, having been first played in 1956. Yet, national implications were oozing for a number of years — see 1996 with the No. 1 Gators and No. 2 Seminoles, a 24-21 FSU win, though UF would win the national title — before the rivalry slipped in recent seasons. This year, both programs will go to bowl games for the first time since 2019. The Seminoles enter the matchup No. 16 in the AP. Florida leads the series 37-26-2.

North Carolina State at North Carolina

A series that dates to 1894 will be played for the 112th time Saturday. The schools, charter members of the ACC, are separated by all of 25 miles. When the teams met in 2020, it marked only the third time in which both entered the game ranked. There will not be a fourth time this year, but the Tar Heels’ Drake Maye, who will get his first taste of the rivalry as he did appear in the game last year, is among Heisman contenders. UNC leads 68-37-6.

Saturday

Auburn at Alabama

The Iron Bowl has seen it all since it was first played in Birmingham, once known for being the largest producer of iron and steel in the south, in 1893. The rivalry, dubbed “Iron Bowl” by Auburn coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan in 1964, is known for its dramatic and unforgettable moments, though there was a four-decade hiatus (1907-1948) before the teams took the field again in 1949. It has been played every year since. For 11 years (1989-1999) the game was played at either Legion Field or at Auburn before it became a home-and-home series in 1999. The 2000 matchup between the teams was the first one in Tuscaloosa in nearly a century. Alabama leads 48-37-1.

Georgia Tech at Georgia

“Clean Old-Fashioned Hate” is one of the south’s oldest rivalries having been first played in 1893. It has been a one-sided affair for most of the past two decades with the Bulldogs winning 17 of the last 20 matchups. Saturday will mark the 114th meeting between the schools, which are separated by about 70 miles. UGA holds a 69-41-5 advantage in a series that has uninterrupted starting in 1925. While the schools met in 1943 and 1944, Georgia, unlike Tech, was unable to field a competitive team due to WWII and does not count a pair of losses (69-39-5) to its rival in those years.

Illinois at Northwestern

The Sweet Sioux Tomahawk was awarded for 61 years before Illinois did away with Native American imagery. Starting 2008, the schools have played for the Land of Lincoln Trophy. The rivalry dates to 1892 and, after 115 meetings, the series is a tight 56-54-5 in favor of the Fighting Illini.

Kansas at Kansas State

It was 2009 when both teams last met with winning records. It was 2003 when the Jayhawks and Wildcats last met with both on their way to a bowl. Indeed, the Sunflower Showdown is an attractive matchup this time around. In this 120th encounter, and 112th consecutive meeting, KSU will look to extend its win streak to 14 and continue to close the gap in a series KU leads 64-50-5.

Louisville at Kentucky

This matchup does not have the history of others on this list, by any stretch, though the schools first met in 1912. The Cardinals and Wildcats met six times over 13 years before going 70 years without meeting on the gridiron. They met again in 1994 when they began playing for the Governor’s Cup, and have played 26 of the 27 years since with 2020 being the exception. The Wildcats lead 17-15.

Michigan at Ohio State

The last time the teams met with both undefeated was 2006 when Ohio State held on, 42-39. The victory sent the top-ranked Buckeyes to the BCS Championship Game, which they lost to Florida. The Wolverines, who entered the game No. 2, settled for the Rose Bowl, where they lost to USC. The schools first met in 1897 and this weekend in Columbus will mark the 117th meeting. The virus in 2020 ruined what was a streak 102 consecutive years of taking the field. Michigan, which snapped an eight-game losing streak last year, leads 59-51-6.

Minnesota at Wisconsin

The longest uninterrupted rivalry in the FBS? The Golden Gophers and Badgers have honors thanks to playing each year starting in 1907. The all-time series dates to 1890 and this year’s game will be the 132nd. The schools have been playing for Paul Bunyan’s axe since 1948 with the original axe donated to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003. Starting in 1930, and continuing through 1947, the Slab of Bacon trophy served as the award. The Badgers lead 46-25-3.

Notre Dame at USC

A jeweled shillelagh goes to the winner of one of college football’s upper-echelon rivalries and was first presented by the Notre Dame Alumni Club of Los Angeles in 1952. The original shillelagh was retired and a new one introduced in 1997. The teams have met 92 times with the first meeting in 1926 in Los Angeles. Soldier Field in Chicago was the venue for a couple of the early meetings before the series became a true home-and-home affair with the first game in South Bend taking place in 1931. The Irish, who have won four straight, lead the all-time series 50-37-5.

Oregon at Oregon State

No longer the Civil War, which the rivalry was known as from 1937 to 2019, the Ducks and Beavers have been playing for the much lesser-known Platypus Trophy effective 1959. It was a trophy that went into hiding for a number of years. The schools, which first met in 1894, will meet Saturday for the 126th time, including every year since 1945. Oregon leads 67-48-10.

Purdue at Indiana

In 1925, alumni groups from both schools wanted to start a tradition in support of the rivalry that was already 34 years in the making. A bucket was found on a farm in southern Indiana and the Old Oaken Bucket has been played for ever since in a nearly 100-year-old tradition. Its story, though, dates to 17th century Massachusetts. The teams first met in 1891 with Purdue leading the rivalry 75-42-6.

South Carolina at Clemson

The teams first played in 1896 and played every year from 1909 to 2019 before virus-restructured conference schedules in 2020 put a halt to what was the second-longest active streak at 111 straight. This year will mark the 119th all-time meeting. From the first meeting through 1959, the game was known as the “Big Thursday” matchup that was played in Columbia during the state fair before it became a home-and-home affair. Since 2014, it has been known as the Palmetto Bowl. Clemson leads 71-42-4.

Tennessee at Vanderbilt

Both schools are founding members of the SEC (1932) and have been Volunteer State rivals since their first meeting in 1892. The Commodores dominated (19-2-3) the series in its first three decades before the Volunteers took over (71-9-2) for the next 80-plus years, including a stretch of 22 straight wins from 1983 to 2004. Things have been even, literally, the past 10 years in series that will play out for the 117th time Saturday. The Vols lead 78-33-5.

Virginia at Virginia Tech

It will be a Thanksgiving weekend of heavy hearts throughout Virginia – and all of college football – following the tragic loss of three Cavaliers, 15 years after a tragedy in Blacksburg took 32 lives. The Hoos and Hokies will meet for the 102nd time in a series that dates to 1895. Tech leads 60-38-5.

Washington at Washington State

The Huskies and Cougars first met in the gridiron in 1900 with the Apple Cup being awarded since 1962. The trophy, initially known as The Big Apple Trophy and donated by the Washington Apple Commission, reflects the state being a major producer of the fruit. From 1934 to 1961, the schools played for the Governor’s Cup. Washington leads 73-33-6.

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