NCF Nation: Bitter

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

Through an informal survey, I have tabbed the non-BCS' top 5 in-conference rivalries. The top choice is predictable, but there might be a few others that surprise you.

1. BYU vs. Utah (The Holy War) -- There is no other in-state/in-conference rivalry that supplies the passion of the game on the field with the passion of religion off it. These teams despise each other so much that BYU fans refuse to own anything red and Utah fans have the same feeling about navy blue. This rivalry will be especially heated this year as the two could be battling for the Mountain West title.

2. Fresno State vs. Boise State (Battle for the Milk Can) -- Fresno State is disliked by many around the WAC, but there are few teams Fresno State dislikes more than Boise State. Perhaps it's because Fresno State is a little envious of Boise State's consistent success. Or it could be the fact that the Bulldogs are 1-6 against the Broncos this decade. To Fresno State's credit, that one win cost Boise State the outright WAC title in 2005 (shared with Nevada).

3.  Army vs. Navy -- This game is not just about braggin' rights on the field, it's about national pride. This game, the most tradition-rich rivalry in the country, usually decides the winner of the Commander-In-Chief Trophy, which is given to the best service academy. It started in 1890 when some midshipmen challenged a few cadets to play. An order went out to all cadets weighing more than 180 pounds to join practices to try to learn how to play. Two months later, Navy won, 24-0.

4. Bowling Green vs. Toledo (Battle of I-75) -- Despite Toledo having a couple down seasons, the bout for the Peace Pipe is one that still rages strong in Ohio. The rivalry started in 1919. In 1935, a riot broke out after a 63-0 rout by Toledo. The Rockets removed BGSU from its schedule until 1947. That year, a peace pipe was constructed to restore order, but the pipe was stolen from Toledo in 1980 and a replica pipe was made. Bowling Green leads the series 37-31-4, and nine times the game has helped decide a MAC divisional champion.

5. Middle Tennessee State vs. Troy (Battle for the Palladium) -- I'll be honest, I picked this rivalry because of the story behind the battle's name. According to that mythology, the Palladium is a wooden statue that fell from heaven and was kept at the Temple of Athena in the city of Troy. The Palladium was stolen by a Raider during the Trojan War, which led to the fall of Troy. This is young rivalry -- only seven games -- but a closely contested one. Troy leads 4-3, but this decade the series is split 3-3, which has sometimes cost both teams the Sun Belt title.  

Other notable rivalries: Idaho vs. Boise State (Battle of Idaho), Houston vs. Rice (the Bayou Bucket), Memphis vs. Southern Miss (Black and Blue Bowl), and Akron vs. Kent State (Wagon Wheel).

Posted by ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach 

1. Pitt-West Virginia: The "Backyard Brawl" finally became a rivalry again with Pitt's stunning 13-9 upset in 2007.
2. Louisville-West Virginia: The teams waged epic battles in each of the last three seasons, but it won't be as intense without Bobby Petrino and Brian Brohm.
3. South Florida-West Virginia: This recent rivalry might eventually become "the game" in Big East play.
4. Rutgers-West Virginia: Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano is still looking for his first win after seven tries against the Mountaineers.
5. Rutgers-Pitt: Schiano once worked for Pitt's Dave Wannstedt when he coached the NFL's Chicago Bears.

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Picking the five most bitter rivalries in the SEC is like picking the five worst criminals at San Quentin. Everybody hates everybody in the SEC. Just about every game that's played is a rivalry of some magnitude. There are bitter intrastate affairs, nasty feuds, coaches who don't like each other, fans who detest certain coaches and players that boil the blood of everybody else in the league but their own fans. It's called the SEC, where football season never ends. So here goes:

1. Alabama vs. Auburn: It's hard to imagine that any other game in college football has the kind of hold on an entire state the way the Iron Bowl does. Families are divided. Friends on opposite sides don't speak the week of the game. Some coaches become icons. Others become ogres. Just ask Tommy Tuberville, whose Tigers have won six in a row.

2. Alabama vs. Tennessee: This is a feud that has transcended football. In fact, the hatred between the fans probably has more to do with what's happened off the field. Tide fans hate Phillip Fulmer for his role in landing Alabama on NCAA probation. Vol fans hate Alabama for not letting it go. Attorneys are serving Fulmer subpoenas or threatening to every time he steps foot in the state of Alabama. Welcome to the circus that is Alabama vs. Tennessee.

3. Florida vs. Georgia: Always one of the more colorful games around the country, the scrap formerly known as the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" has added some serious spice thanks to Georgia's dance party in the end zone last season. You get the feeling that Urban Meyer would like to dance on Mark Richt's head. The added bonus is that the Bulldogs and Gators should be two of the best teams in the country this season.

4. Alabama vs. LSU: The LSU fans obviously have short memories. Nick Saban brought a national title to Baton Rouge in 2003 and left a cadre of talent for Les Miles to win another one last season. But Saban is Public Enemy No. 1 now that he's at Alabama, and he goes back to Tiger Stadium this season. His coaches have already told him that they're riding separate buses from the hotel to the stadium.

5. Florida vs. Tennessee: The truth is that Tennessee hasn't done a good job of making this a rivalry since the divisional split, and Phillip Fulmer has yet to beat Urban Meyer. Still, there's some pretty rocky history in this series from former Florida coach Steve Spurrier's frequent jabs at the Vols, to Florida fans allegedly going after Fulmer's wife, Vicky, in the stands back in the 1990s, to the controversial ending of the 2004 game won by Tennessee on a last-second field goal.

Posted by ESPN.com' Tim Griffin

The Big 12 is marked by several rivalries that cause fans to plan ahead with anticipation as their schools hook up with the most hated rivals.

Here's my opinion of the five best rivalries in the Big 12. If you have any other choices, let me know. And I'm sorry I couldn't find a place for Nebraska-Oklahoma, an oldie-but-goodie that has lost its relevance because the Cornhuskers and Sooners are in different divisions.

1. Texas vs. Oklahoma -- The setting is what makes this game so special. The Cotton Bowl is divided up into two neat sections -- one red and the other orange. And staging it in conjunction with the State Fair of Texas is a master stroke of genius and enables me to have my yearly quota of one Fletcher's Corny Dog. It was an outstanding rivalry before, but it seems like the stakes have risen with the two programs becoming the South Division's power teams. And it's even more fascinating in the matchup between Bob Stoops and Mack Brown, two great football coaches with vastly different philosophies.

2. Kansas vs. Missouri -- Rarely do you see historic events from nearly 150 years still being referenced around a football rivalry. But "Quantrill's Raid," when William Quantrill's Confederate guerillas burned Lawrence and murdered nearly 200 people, still resonates for both sides. Neither side has forgotten it and it's carried over during a 116-game "Border War" football rivalry that first began in 1891. Last year's game with national title and conference title ramifications was electric, but it's still a bitter blood feud even if nobody is noticing nationally.

3. Texas vs. Texas A&M -- "The Lone Star Showdown" has been a late-season staple for football fans in Texas for both teams since 1900 and dates to six years before -- making it the longest-running rivalry for both schools. There's a bitterness for both sides that was softened during the Longhorns' heartfelt tribute to their rivals after A&M's bonfire tragedy in 1999. Each school still mentions the other one in its fight song and has an elaborate pregame preparation. And Texas still has a unique lighting scheme for its tower after Longhorn victories over the Aggies.

4. Texas A&M vs. Texas Tech -- The nation's most underrated football rivalry features a good ol' fashioned touch of bitterness on both sides. Those feelings peaked in 2001 when Tech claimed a 12-0 victory and fans celebrated by ripping the goal posts which was touched off by a nasty postgame brawl. Tech fans were referenced as "Classless Clowns" originally in the 12th Man magazine and later in the A&M media guide the following year. And it hasn't toned down any as Mike Leach has repeatedly mocked the Aggies' military traditions as he's notched a 7-1 record against the Aggies during his coaching tenure.

5. Colorado vs. Nebraska -- It was the best rivalry at the end of the old Big Eight Conference and has carried over in the conference's prized day-after-Thanksgiving window through the Big 12's history. Recent slumps for both programs have made this iffy unless Dan Hawkins and Bo Pelini return their programs to their previous levels of dominance. I still remember it for Nebraska's nine-game winning streak from 1992-2000, including the last five wins that were settled by a combined 15 points. Or the way that Colorado broke the streak the following year as Chris Brown gashed them for 198 rushing yards and six TDs in a 62-36 blowout. Those were the days.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Trying to find five legitimate, smashmouth, prank-worthy, we-hate-them-games was not easy in this conference.

Here are the ones that seem to get the most ire out of fans, players and coaches. Feel free to tell me what I'm missing. (Duke/Carolina? Please. Does it say March on your calendar?)

1. Florida State vs. Miami: This game doesn't draw the national attention it used to, but it still draws out the best in our Florida friends. The Seminoles have won two of the past three, but Miami leads the series 30-22-0.

 
2. Virginia vs. Virginia Tech: The most exciting matchup between these two schools was last season, when the Coastal Division crown was on the line. The Hokies have won eight of the last nine, and lead the series 47-37-5. They've also got possession of the coveted Commonwealth Cup.

 
3. Miami vs. Virginia Tech: This one was bigger when both schools were in the Big East, but their history is part of what makes it intriguing. They've gone 4-4 against each other this decade, but Miami leads the series 16-9.

 
4. North Carolina vs. NC State: This one is most interesting to people within the Triangle, but it's a rivalry game fair and square, and it's been going on since 1894. UNC leads the series 63-28-6 and has won three of the past four.

 
5. Florida State vs. Clemson: This one obviously became more interesting during Tommy Bowden's tenure, and he has won four of the past five. FSU leads the series 15-6-0.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Why can't we all just get along? Because it's college football.

Pac-10's five most bitter rivalries

 

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1. USC-UCLA: Sure, there are big-time state rivalries, but how many legitimate national powers occupy the same city? And talk about wild swings of momentum: UCLA won eight in a row from 1991-98, then USC won seven in a row from 1999-2005. New Bruins coach Rick Neuheisel's prime directive is to restore balance to the rivalry. His and Pete Carroll's frenetic energy and relentless enthusiasm -- and tendency to be glib -- figure to make for a very entertaining future.

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2. Arizona-Arizona State: Perhaps the nation's most underrated rivalry, as I found out first-hand. There's a rational basis for the extreme dislike -- UA tried to stop ASU from becoming an accredited university in the 1950s -- but it's festered into the sort of joyful, spiteful irrationality that fuels, say, Auburn-Alabama.

 

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3. Oregon-Washington: Oh, this one used to be so much fun! The heyday had to be the Rick Neuheisel Era at Washington, when both teams were regulars in the top-half of the national polls (Neuheisel: Oregon is a propaganda machine. Mike Bellotti: I'm insulted. Neuheisel: I meant that in a nice way. Bellotti: That's stupid.) But with the Huskies languishing, this one has lost some of its steam.

 

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4. California-Stanford: Hey, it's the Big Game. And it's on an upswing with the arrival of Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, who handed Jeff Tedford his first defeat in six games in the rivalry last fall. Moreover, no other Division I-A rivalry game matches two more academically elite institutions, which means the post-game emails tend to be Faulknarian in their darkness and tangled verbosity.

 

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5. Washington-Washington State: This one nips Oregon-Oregon State in large part because I've been a first-hand witness to this peculiar hate-fest. Remember when WSU won 10 games three consecutive seasons? Each included a bitter loss to inferior Huskies teams (at least in terms of national rankings), part of the Cougars six-game losing streak in the series from 1998-2003. After the Huskies prevailed at WSU in triple-overtime in 2002, Cougars fans spent a half-hour hurling bottles and other trash onto the field. A Tacoma News Tribune reporter actually sustained a concussion from one bottle.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

If you haven't caught on already, we're giving you heaping helpings of hate today. There's already some debate as to the Big Ten's most hated team. Is it Ohio State hands down, or do Michigan and Penn State enter the discussion? You can weigh in.

Let's take a look at the league's top 5 rivalries:

1. Michigan vs. Ohio State -- Nothing else comes close. From the Snow Bowl to the Ten-Year War to John Cooper's struggles to Lloyd Carr's struggles, this rivalry has had it all. The 2006 meeting that paired the nation's top two teams was arguably the most anticipated regular-season contest ever, certainly in the last decade. Most Ohio State fans think Michigan fans are arrogant; most Michigan fans think Ohio State fans are classless. It makes for one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports. 

2. Michigan-Michigan State -- Both teams have other rivals (Ohio State and Notre Dame, respectively), but the intra-state matchup has become increasingly more intense. Though Michigan has won six straight in the series, six of the last nine meetings have been decided by eight points or fewer. Last year's game further fueled the rivalry, as Mike Hart referred to Michigan State as Michigan's "little brother," prompting an angry response from Spartans coach Mark Dantonio.

3. Wisconsin-Iowa -- One of the league's most competitive rivalries has some bitterness as well, especially after Bret Bielema, a former Iowa player with a Hawkeye tattoo on his ankle, became Wisconsin's coach. The Badgers hold a 41-40-2 edge in the series, which is strikingly close despite Iowa's string of 18 straight games without a loss between 1977-96.  

4. Illinois-Ohio State -- Buckeye dominance has marked most of the series, but the bitterness is building. Illinois nearly stunned Ohio State two years ago and then completed the upset of the top-ranked Buckeyes last year in Columbus. If the Illini continue to recruit like a powerhouse, they'll continue to fuel this rivalry.

5. Minnesota vs. Wisconsin -- It might not reek of bitterness, but in terms of longevity, this game stands alone. The Golden Gophers and Badgers have played since 1890, making it the most played rivalry in Division I-A. The teams originally played for a slab of bacon and now try to claim Paul Bunyan's Axe. Hailing from bordering states, the two programs are always competing for talent, giving the game some added spice.

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