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Top 5 College Football Rivalry Nicknames
No other time of the college football season is more exciting than the last two weeks of play. While the scramble for conference championships and BCS positioning is crucial to the excitement, such post-season ambition is not the primary cause for increased ticket sales. Instead, the time around Thanksgiving is most memorable for "rivalry weeks," when dozens of traditional-rich games are played across America.
In my opinion, the best sign of a meaningful rivalry is the use of a strong nickname. With that in mind, here are the five top names for these annual contests.
1.) Bedlam: The annual meeting between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State is far from the most competitive in college football. Since 1904, the Sooners have enjoyed an overwhelming 82-16-7 record against their in-state rivals. In fact, the Cowboys triumphed a mere 3 times during the lengthy period of 1946-1991 in this celebrated game.
However, this list is about names and the one given to the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State matchup is second to none. The word "bedlam" is defined as a state of wild uproar and derives from the name for a notorious 15th century insane asylum in London. Surely no word can better describe college footballs fanatics. Interestingly, "bedlam" was first coined in reference to rowdy fans from the competition between the schools' wrestling programs.
2.) The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party: Though Florida tackles Florida State during rivalry weeks, most fans attest the October meeting with SEC foe Georgia is actually the school's most heated contest. This is one of the few rivalry games hosted at a neutral site and tickets are distributed evenly to both teams. Though Florida has dominated lately, the passion is so intense that followers cannot even agree on the correct overall record of the series.
When focusing on its name, this meeting is unquestionably one of the best. Few fans actually come from Jacksonville, where the game is played at EverBank Field. With attendees traveling from all over both states, those arriving in Jacksonville tend to party for the entire weekend. The nickname refers to fans' tendency to celebrate rowdily along the waterfront spots on the St. John's River. Recently, the nickname has been de-emphasized due to concerns about alcohol use. However, a party by any other name is just a game and the term is still alive with fans.
3.) Backyard Brawl: As football rivals in the heart of the rust belt, Pittsburgh and West Virginia have competed in this annual game since 1895. While Pitt leads by an overall 61-39-3 margin, the Mountaineers own a slim 30-28-2 advantage over the past 60 years. The universities also enjoy a heated rivalry in basketball, currently squaring off as Big East competitors.
Examining the nickname, I believe this is one of the finest because "Backyard Brawl" not only encompasses the violence of football, but also recognizes the geographic relationship between the schools. These teams are not in-state rivals, nor is Pittsburgh the state university for Pennsylvania. Instead, separated by only 75 miles, the schools share a common backyard along the Interstate 79 corridor and this game provides bragging rights for everyone in between.
4.) Border War: One of the headlines of 2011's rivalry weeks has been the bitter conclusion of the longtime competition between Missouri and Kansas. With the Tigers heading to the SEC in 2012, there are no plans to continue the meeting with former Big XII conference opponent. This is a real shame, since the nearly-even teams have met continuously since 1891, with the exception of only 1918.
"Border War" is powerfully meaningful because the same term was once used to describe fighting between residents of these states prior to the actual Civil War. Such clashes between pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions in Missouri and Kansas were certainly more intense (and tragic) in nature, but don't tell that to a college football fan in late November.
5.) Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate: Georgia is the only school involved in two rivalries on this list. This may suggest that the Bulldogs are creative in their use of terminology or it might mean that the school is more widely disliked. Either way, the nickname is used to describe their annual meeting with Georgia Tech—a rivalry in which the Yellow Jackets trail 62-39-5, including the current loss of 10 of the past 11 games.
I like this name because it describes college rivalries for what they are. While we want to keep things clean, there is very little mutual respect and shaking hands when its over. Players often do not respect their opponents and fans typically want nothing to do with the opposing school. "Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate" suggests it is perfectly acceptable to despise thoroughly a rival school, while still drawing a thin line to prevent those things truly dirty. Everything else is fair game.
Runner-ups: Battle for the Golden Boot (Arkansas vs. LSU), Civil War (Oregon vs. Oregon State), Egg Bowl (Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss), Holy War (BYU vs. Utah), The Keg of Nails (Cincinnati vs. Louisville).
Yahoo! Sports, Dictionary.com, Okstate.com, Espn.com.
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Jeff Briscoe is a writer from Florida who covers sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network and the Fort Myers Examiner. A college football fanatic, he can be found firmly planted on his couch during Saturdays throughout the fall.
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