How do the Big 12 rivalries stack up nationally?

May, 12, 2009
5/12/09
10:33
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Sometimes venom and vituperation can go a long way.

Take the topic of college football rivalries. NBC Sports.com is currently polling its viewers to determine the best college football rivalry in the country.

The Big 12 is represented by three of the top 15 rivalries in college football with Texas-Oklahoma, Texas-Texas A&M and Missouri-Kansas.

I think all three of those are worthy choices. And I'm not really surprised where they rank nationally if the continuing numbers are any indication.

Texas-Oklahoma ranks as the second-best rivalry in the poll with about 20 percent of the vote of about 5,900 respondents early Tuesday morning. It ranks only behind Michigan-Ohio State, which tops the poll with about 27 percent of the vote.

I think that number is about right, although it wouldn't surprise me if Texas-Oklahoma really receives a lot more national attention this season than ever before.

The Oct. 17 game at the Cotton Bowl will be played under the backdrop of last year's tiebreaker controversy that sent the Sooners to the Big 12 title game in front of the Longhorns, despite Texas winning the early regular-season game.

It became even bigger when fans from both schools had flyovers, explaining why their team shouldn't play in the championship game. The Red River Rivalry has become even bigger in the offseason as it surfaced that Texas had claimed a Big 12 title -- with an asterisk -- on a team board of program achievements at the Longhorns' football facility.

Texas then awarded its coaches bonuses like it had won the Big 12 championship, even though the Sooners won the title game.

Needless to say, the Texas-Oklahoma game will have emotions running high. Assuredly, they will be higher than usual this season.

Even normally low-key Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford realizes the upcoming game will have a little something extra from most of his normal games.

Bradford made his comments in a wide-ranging interview with Kirk Herbstreit of ESPN last week. But his comments about the Texas rivalry were especially noteworthy.

"It's going to be magnified even more than it is now, which is hard to really understand," Bradford told Herbstreit. "Especially if you go to school here, you realize that there's some pretty deep hatred for Texas here. But, I think even this year it's going to be just that much more intense when we meet at the Cotton Bowl."

The Texas-Texas A&M rivalry is tied for seventh in the NBC poll tied with Florida-Florida State. Some of the national attention for this game has dipped as Texas A&M has struggled in recent years. But it remains a bitter rivalry for both schools.

And the Missouri-Kansas rivalry checks in at ninth place with 1.9 percent of the vote. It is the longest uninterrupted rivalry west of the Mississippi dating to 1891.

The Missouri-Kansas game has its roots in the legendary border war between settlers in Kansas and Missouri in the days before the Civil War from 1854-58 that influenced whether Kansas would enter the United States as a free or slave state. And it has picked up a little in recent seasons as Gary Pinkel and Mark Mangino have transformed both programs into ones that are challenging for North Division championships.  

I'm curious if my readers think any other Big 12 rivalries should have been included on the list.

For my money, I'll throw out three others that I think are worthy choices -- just a shade below the big three.

I think that Colorado-Nebraska, Texas A&M-Texas Tech and Iowa State-Iowa all have a legitimate claim among the most bitter college football rivalries around.

Here's how I would rank the Big 12's most bitter rivalries.

1. Texas-Oklahoma
2. Texas-Texas A&M
3. Missouri-Kansas
4. Colorado-Nebraska
5. Texas A&M-Texas Tech
6. Iowa-Iowa State

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