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Monday, August 12, 2013
Updated: August 13, 1:54 PM ET
Realignment killed the BCS rivalry

By Mark Schlabach
ESPN.com

The controversial Bowl Championship Series is far from perfect, but it has had its moments in the past 16 seasons.

The BCS brought us Vince Young magic, Boise State creativity, SEC dominance, Ohio State futility and, of course, plenty of controversy.

But the most egregious change in the BCS era was conference realignment and the end of many of college football's most traditional rivalries. Plenty of famous rivalries have ended in the past two decades: Penn State vs. Pittsburgh, Texas vs. Texas A&M, Arkansas vs. Texas and Nebraska vs. Oklahoma, among others.

They were the games college football fans circled on their calendars before every season. Now they've been erased, and many fans think that's because of money and greed.

Here's a closer look at the six biggest college football rivalries that died in the BCS era:

1. Texas vs. Texas A&M

Everything is bigger in Texas, and the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry might have been the biggest fatality of conference expansion in the BCS era. Until 2012, the Aggies and Longhorns had played 118 times since 1894. Although UT holds a 2-1 advantage in the series (76-37-5), it was still a classic in-state rivalry.

It was the state school versus the agricultural school. Both schools mention the other in their fight songs, and the game was traditionally played at the end of the regular season, on Thanksgiving or the day after. Texas A&M students prepared for the regular-season finale with a traditional bonfire, and UT had its Hex Rally. The Longhorns celebrated a victory over the Aggies by lighting up the UT Tower.

In a strange way, A&M students even named the UT mascot. In 1916, UT students decided to brand their Longhorn mascot with the score of their 21-7 victory over the Aggies. But A&M students beat them to it, branding the steer with 13-0, the score of the Aggies' victory over UT in 1915. UT students changed the brand to BEVO.

Texas 111127
Justin Tucker kicked the game-winning field goal for Texas against Texas A&M in 2011.

In 1957, first-year UT coach Darrell Royal guided the No. 15 Longhorns to a 9-7 upset of the No. 4 Aggies, who were coached by Paul "Bear" Bryant in his last season in College Station. In 1963, the Longhorns needed two fourth-quarter touchdowns to come back for a 15-13 victory over the two-win Aggies, saving what would be a national championship season.

The rivalry came to an end last season, after A&M bolted the Big 12 for the SEC. There has been proposed state legislation to force the two schools to play again, but, as of now, nothing is on the books.

2. Nebraska vs. Oklahoma

The Cornhuskers and Sooners played in 71 consecutive seasons and were rivals in four conferences: Missouri Valley, Big Six, Big Eight and Big 12. It probably became a big rivalry when Nebraska ended OU's 74-game winning streak in conference games in 1959. Their regular-season contest determined the Big Eight championship 31 times in 36 seasons.

From 1984 to '87, both teams were ranked in the top five of the AP Top 25 poll at the time of their meeting. The Sooners won four straight times, including a 17-7 victory over the No. 1 Cornhuskers in the 1987 contest in Lincoln, which came to be known as the "Game of the Century II." But then, Nebraska coach Tom Osborne flipped the rivalry, beating OU nine times in the next 10 seasons.

After the schools moved to the Big 12, they played twice every four seasons. They haven't played since Nebraska moved to the Big Ten in 2011, although they'll renew the rivalry for at least two seasons; they'll play in Norman in 2021 and in Lincoln in 2022.

3. Penn State vs. Pittsburgh

This game was once considered the greatest rivalry north of the Mason-Dixon Line and often determined which team would be the king of the Northeast. Penn State and Pittsburgh played every season from 1900 to 1931 and again from 1935 to 1992. Separated by about 135 miles, Pittsburgh is the urban school from Steel City, and Penn State is the state school in Happy Valley.

Pitt dominated the series before the 1950s, defeating the Nittany Lions 14 consecutive times from 1922 to 1938. But momentum swung in the 1960s after Joe Paterno was hired at Penn State. The legendary coach had a 21-7-1 record against the Panthers from 1966 to 2000.

The series' heyday occurred in the early 1980s, when two strong-armed quarterbacks -- Penn State's Todd Blackledge and Pitt's Dan Marino -- squared off against each other. In 1981, No. 1 Pitt was undefeated and one victory from playing for its second national championship in five seasons. Pitt took an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter, but Penn State tied the score before the half and scored 34 unanswered points in the second half of a stunning 48-14 upset.

The next season, both teams were 9-1 entering the regular-season finale. Blackledge again led the Nittany Lions to victory 19-10, then defeated Georgia 27-23 in the Sugar Bowl to give Paterno his first national championship.

The rivalry began to collapse once Penn State and Pitt gave up their independence to join the Big Ten and Big East, respectively. They played four straight seasons from 1997 to 2000 but aren't scheduled to play again until 2016-19.

4. Pittsburgh vs. West Virginia

Known simply as the Backyard Brawl, the rivalry was one of the fiercest in the country, partly because of the schools' proximity to each other. The Mountaineers' campus in Morgantown is about 75 miles south of Pittsburgh. The Panthers and Mountaineers played for the first time in 1895, making it the 14th-oldest rivalry in the country, and they played in every season from 1943 to 2011.

New, lost and best rivalries

Even though the rivalry landscape has changed in the past decade, there are still plenty of old conference foes battling every year, as well as a few new enemies just starting to enter the rivalry conversation. Conference rivalries »

Perhaps the most famous game in the rivalry's history was the 100th Backyard Brawl on Dec. 1, 2007. No. 2 West Virginia only had to defeat 4-7 Pitt to earn a trip to the BCS national championship game, but the Panthers pulled off a stunning 13-9 upset at Mountaineer Field, ending West Virginia's chances of playing for its first national title.

The series ended after West Virginia moved to the Big 12 in 2012. The Mountaineers won the last game 21-20 at home but left the series at a 40-61-3 disadvantage.

5. Michigan vs. Notre Dame

The rivalry pitted two of the sport's greatest heavyweights, but they've played each other only 40 times. After their 1943 game, they didn't play again for 35 years. Michigan won the 1978 "Reunion Game" 28-14 at Notre Dame Stadium, then the teams played eight times in the 1980s and eight times in the 1990s. They've played every season since 2002, with the Wolverines holding a 23-16-1 lead in the series.

The Irish beat the Wolverines 23-17 in the first night game at Notre Dame Stadium in 1982. The Wolverines defeated the Irish 35-31 in the first night game at Michigan Stadium, in 2011, after the teams combined to score three touchdowns in the final 72 seconds.

The Fighting Irish and Wolverines will play in each of the next two seasons, but the rivalry will take a three-year hiatus starting in 2015. The Irish are ending many of their longtime series against traditional opponents because they reached an agreement to play five ACC games every season starting in 2014.

6. Kansas vs. Missouri

Talk about long-standing dislike. The Jayhawks' hatred for the Tigers (and vice versa) goes back to the Civil War, when the states were on opposite sides of the slavery debate. The Border War was first played in 1891, and the teams met 120 times, making it the oldest rivalry west of the Mississippi River. The schools can't even agree on the series record. Missouri says it leads 57-54-9; Kansas says the record stands 56-55-9. There is a dispute over the 1960 game, which Kansas won 23-7. But the Jayhawks were forced to forfeit the victory after the season for using an ineligible player.

Missouri says the 1911 contest between the schools was the first homecoming game in the country. The Tigers sent a telegram to more than 1,000 former students welcoming them back to campus to attend the game. The 2007 game was probably the most famous and anticipated because No. 2-ranked Kansas was undefeated and No. 3 Missouri had one loss. The Tigers won 36-28 and moved to No. 1 in the BCS standings. They lost to Oklahoma 38-17 in the Big 12 championship game, though, and Kansas ended up getting an invitation to the Orange Bowl.

Missouri won the final installment of the Border War, 24-10 in Kansas City in 2011. The rivalry ended when Missouri left the Big 12 for the SEC last season.