Getting SEC Rivalries Right

ESPN.com's Pat Forde may be the best writer on that site and I really enjoy his stuff. Often he provides the basis for a column or discussion here. Well, he's inspired me yet again, but this time for another reason. Forde recently listed the top rivalries in college football and included four SEC rivalries on the list.

But somehow he left off the No. 1 rivalry in the league. At least that's the way I see it. Here, to me are the half dozen top rivalries in the SEC in descending order.

#6 LSU vs. Alabama ----- This one has the potential to move up several notches in the years ahead. LSU is "Nuveau Riche" suddenly hanging around with the bluebloods of college football whereas the Crimson Tide is clearly the "Old Money" in the SEC. Even the phrase is a French one, which is apropos of the school which hangs signs that say "Geaux Tigers". Add to it that LSU Coach Les Miles has hitched his financial wagon to Nick Saban with a contract clause that guarantees him to be the highest paid coach in the SEC and you got some really good stuff going on there.

#5 Auburn vs. Georgia ----- These two schools are relatively close together, but the passion also ties in to the fact that Auburn is just about on the Georgia state line making for intense recruiting battles over the years. The rivalry got a little extra spice in the 80s because for eight years Auburn was coached by Pat Dye, a Georgia graduate and Georgia was led by Auburn grad Vince Dooley. Tell you what, if you are ever around a fan of each school start a discussion about who was better, Bo Jackson or Herschel Walker and watch the carnage that ensues.

#4 Florida vs. Tennessee ----- This rivalry is getting a little pick me up thanks to the Vols maturity-challenged new coach. In the 90s this was THE game in the SEC and one of the tops in the nation and had huge national title implications but not so much any more. Most of the venom in this one originates in the Smokies, but that'll change when the boys from Rocky Top win again. The Vols may have won the BCS Title in 1998, but Florida fans take more satisfaction in never having lost to Peyton Manning.

#3 Tennessee vs. Alabama ----- Any game with a great nickname is special and this one was always knows as "The Third Saturday in October". It was like nothing on earth could ever more or trump this one. It was huge for years; so much so that both schools made it a pre-condition for their votes to approve expansion in 1992. It got really nasty after Phillip Fulmer turned in Alabama for cheating and the Vols coach had to try and doge and weave to avoid being "served" when in the state. The schools have a long history of vicious recruiting wars.

#2 Florida vs. Georgia ----- For any Gator fan who came up age before 1985 this one will always be at the top of the list. Gator fans suffered through a 5-15 humiliation in the stretch from 1970-89 including mind numbing losses on an end-around pass, fourth and dumb and most of all, Lindsay Scott. However since 1990 things have been dramatically different and it's the Dawgs squawking about moving the game and the unfairness of the venue. When both teams are ranked, this game is something special.

#1 Alabama vs. Auburn ----- To get a feel for the nastiness of this one I refer you to a sign I saw in the back of an Alabama fan's vehicle almost 20 years ago --- Culture 28 Agri-culture 17! Not only is that mean, it's pretty funny too. After the stirring 1994 SEC Title game won by Florida 24-23 I asked an Alabama official how tough it would be to get over the loss. His response was, "As long as it ain't Auburn, we can get over anything." For years the game was known as "The Iron Bowl" and was played in Birmingham. But then Auburn decided they wanted to go home and home and added even more fuel to the fire. This rivalry divides a state, families and law enforcement agencies. It is arguably the top rivalry in all of college football and is easily the best in the SEC.

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There are other good rivalries in the SEC, but they didn't quite make my list. LSU/Ole Miss an underrated rivalry by some, but the games just haven't had much importance. Ole Miss/Arkansas has some added oomph with Houston Nutt having switched sides. Ditto Florida/South Carolina with the Head Ball Coach. Tennessee/Kentucky or Tennessee/Vandy has good potential, but the other schools beat the Vols so infrequently it's hard to call them rivals.

Mississippi State/Ole Miss has obvious in-state implications and Florida/LSU has more on-field importance than off-field passion but that would change dramatically if they were in the same division or meet in the SEC Championship Game. Still as things stand today, these are the six biggest rivalries in the SEC, right?


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