Commentary

The Road Warrior: Rivalry Revelry

Updated: December 5, 2008, 12:24 AM ET
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com


• Photo gallery: Best college football rivalry games

Road Warrior … is writing … this … slowly … because … his readers … in Pullman … can't read … very fast.

Ha! That old joke is just a little Washington-Washington State trash talk to set up this month's column, dedicated to the college football's best rivalries for the fan/tourist. Before getting to the list, here are some basic ground rules.

Proximity matters. Yes, yes, Notre Dame versus USC is a big rivalry. But the two schools are 2,000 miles apart; how often do students or grads come into contact with each other?

There is far more at stake when the odds are high you'll actually meet a mean, no-account, semi-alcoholic, illiterate, gutless loser with halitosis from your rival school (and aren't they all like that?) who will repeatedly bring up the many recent beatdowns his team inflicted on your school. Especially if you're married to that same mean, no-account, semi-alcoholic, illiterate, gutless loser with halitosis and she/he withholds sex the week before and after the big game.

Implications matter: The best rivalries are within a conference, where a loss not only hurts your pride, it also costs you a championship and the subsequent college-defining bowl trip to Pasadena, where you would get so drunk, wild and naked that the security guards will escort you off Space Mountain and out of Disneyland (yes, RW is still bitter over Washington's Rose Bowl-costing losses to those mean, no-account, semi-alcoholic, illiterate, gutless losers with halitosis from Washington State in 1982 and 1983).

And, finally, location matters. A lot. Remember, this is a travel column. So while the intensity of the rivalry and the bowl implications matter, so does the appeal of traveling to see the game. Your school may have a splendid rivalry with Northwest East Dakota A&T, but most people would still prefer a trip to Los Angeles in late November. Maybe not the face-painted people you hang with, true, but most people.

So with no further adieu, here are the Top 10 rivalries to attend:

10. Army-Navy

 Granted, no one outside the actual service academies cares who wins (dare you to  name last year's winner), and the outcome hasn't had any national implications  since Roger Staubach's haircut was considered stylish. But for pomp, pageantry and meaning, this one still beats a lopsided rivalry in which nothing more than a bronze pig is on the line.

9. Oregon-Oregon State

 Back in 1983, when the two teams played to a scoreless tie in a depressing  Northwest rainstorm, you wouldn't think this could ever rank among the nation's  best rivalries. But then again, back in 1983 you didn't think Keith Richards could still possibly be alive now, did you? Autzen Stadium is a fantastic place to watch the so-called Civil War (Reser Stadium, not so much); Eugene and Corvallis are close enough that you can almost spit on your rival without leaving your dorm; and the ocean and world-class wineries are short drives away, if you want to celebrate or drown your sorrows.

8. Florida State-Miami

 Florida State fans may hate Florida more, but this rivalry is still damn good; last year  was the first time since 1977 both teams were unranked when they played. More  important, it provides a trip to Miami and South Beach every other year.

7. Florida-Georgia

 The SEC has requested that major media outlets stop referring to this game as "The  World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.'' Since RW always follows reasonable  requests from authority, there will henceforth be no reference to "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" as "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party." Instead, feel free to call "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" the "The World's Largest Outdoor Kegger" or the "Northern Hemisphere's Largest Outdoor Mixer" or "Gator-Pa-Looza" or "DawgStock" or any other suitable euphemism for "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party."

6. Grambling-Southern

 The Bayou Classic matches tradition-rich teams in a great city for a vacation (the Big  Easy). But to really appreciate this rivalry, bear in mind the game isn't even the best  part. That's because the renowned battle of the bands is the most exciting musical competition in college football that doesn't involve a Stanford trombone player and a Cal return man.

5. Auburn-Alabama

 Granted, Alabama in November isn't the first vacation spot named by people who  don't consider houndstooth a fashion, political and religious statement. But some  games are so special they're must sees even if played on the dark side of the moon … or Tuscaloosa. Michigan-Ohio State may have had more national implications of late, but unlike those two states, Alabama has no major pro sports franchise to distract fans. This is the focus for an entire state of fans … and not to be missed by anyone else, either.

4. Ohio State-Michigan

 Again, Columbus or Ann Arbor, while fine cities, may not top your vacation wish list  in the month of November. But more than a 100,000 fans would disagree with you  in both cities. If dotting the i in script Ohio doesn't produce goose bumps so large that you will be tested for steroids, then you probably went to Michigan. And in which case the past few years you've probably wanted to dot your eyes the way Woody Hayes used to – with your fists.

3. Texas-Oklahoma

 Not only is the Red River Shootout a spirited rivalry between two great football  powers, it also has a great setting: the Cotton Bowl during the Texas state fair. You  simply can't go wrong when you mix college football and deep-fried food on a stick.

2. Stanford-Cal

 The Big Game would belong here if only for giving us The Play. And if you can't find  something to do on a weekend in the San Francisco Bay Area, then there is no  reason to ever take the LOTR collectors edition out of the DVD player and leave your                parent's attic.

1. USC-UCLA

 These schools are so close together even Angelenos might be tempted to walk. (Ha!  That's a joke. The last recorded time anyone in Los Angeles walked anywhere was  when swallowing goldfish was all the rage on campus.) But this one has it all for the sports tourist: the Rose Bowl or the Coliseum; great programs; good weather; all those southern California attractions; and the, ahem, "talent" on both campuses.

By the way, fellow Husky fans may be upset that this list includes the Oregon-Oregon State Civil War but not the Washington-Washington State Apple Cup. That's because Road Warrior is impartial, unbiased and detached enough to recognize that while a trip to Seattle for a game at Husky Stadium is always a magical, almost heavenly experience, half the Apple Cup games are played in Pullman, which is an isolated hellhole filled with mean, no-account, semi-alcoholic, immoral, illiterate, gutless, SOB losers with halitosis.

(Yes, RW is still bitter over WSU's 1992 victory Washington -- oh, and this year's debacle.)

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His Web site is at jimcaple.net, with more installments of "24 College Avenue." His book with Steve Buckley, "The Best Boston Sports Arguments: The 100 Most Controversial, Debatable Questions for Die-Hard Boston Fans," is on sale now.
Send in your comments and travel questions to Jim, a k a The Road Warrior
.

Editor's note: This is a reprise of a previous column by the Road Warrior.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

ALSO SEE