Greatest Rivalries ... No. 4 through No. 6
Miami QB Steve Walsh
Miami QB Steve Walsh
Posted Nov 21, 2009

The ten greatest rivalries in college football ... No. 4 through No. 6

College Football's Top Rivalries

No. 4 to No. 7

College Football's Top Rivalries
- No. 1 to 3 | No. 7 to 10 

4. Alabama vs. Auburn (Alabama leads 39-33-1 according to Alabama, 39-34-1 according to Auburn)

As far as the pure definition of an angry college football rivalry game, this is number one as the fire and passion between the two schools is unlike any other in any sport. 365 days a year radio talk shows discuss this game, and people who grew up and live in Alabama are defined by their allegiances. There's no debate about it; this one is the nastiest of the bunch as the only thing the two sides can agree on is that they hate each other and that they think their rivalry is the biggest and best in college football. Why isn't it higher? There's little interest on a national scale, but that could quickly change over the next few years if Auburn can get back to an elite status.

The rivalry began with a fight. As legend has it, the battle between the two halted between 1908 through 1947 because of a fight after a 6-6 tie following the 1907 game, but in reality, the two didn't play because they couldn't decide which referees to use and how much each of their players could get for expenses. After 41 years of bickering, the presidents of the two schools decided enough was enough and demanded the two schools to play again.

With a few notable exceptions, the games were relatively average until the 1980s when the rivalry started to really hum with several heart-stopping finishes and close battles. The rivalry took another major turn in 1989 when, after years of playing in Birmingham, Alabama went to Auburn for the first time and saw its national title hopes dashed as the Tigers won 30-20.

Signature Game: Auburn 17 … Alabama 16 December 2, 1972
Just before going on a nine-year Iron Bowl winning streak, the Tide lost to their hated rivals after Bear Bryant made the pregame statement that he'd "prefer to beat that cow college once than beat Texas ten times." The No. 2 ranked and unbeaten Tide were up 16-3 with 5:30 to play and the game seemingly in hand, but Auburn pulled off a miracle by blocking two Bama punts for touchdowns for a 17-16 win. Had Alabama beaten Auburn, it would've been playing for the national title. Oddly enough, the Bear didn't only lose to the Cow College, but he also later lost to Texas 17-13 in the Cotton Bowl.

5. Miami vs. Florida State (Miami leads all-time 31-24)

Don't confuse quantity with quality. It took a bit of a dip over the last few years, and the two haven't been battling each other in the ACC title games like many thought they would, but no matchup has been more important to the entire landscape of college football for a 25-year span more than this one. The rivalry took off into the stratosphere in 1987 (more on that in a moment), but it was strong once Bobby Bowden made Florida State a power. A 23-17 loss to the Canes in 1977 was the first time an elite Seminole team lost to Miami, and it's been an interesting ride ever since.

In 1980, Miami handed FSU a 10-9 defeat for Bowden's only regular season loss before playing Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. In 1983, the Canes won a narrow 17-16 dogfight that ended up being the gateway to a national championship, with an epic win over Nebraska coming next in the 1984 Orange Bowl. And then came the 1987 classic, and from then on, this rivalry has been played at a higher level and with more at stake than any in college football history.

Since the 1987 26-25 loss, Florida State has lost out on playing for the national championship five times because of losses to Miami, and a defeat in 2000 almost cost Bowden a chance at to play for the national title (which the Noles lost to Oklahoma). The two teams have met 13 times in the last 18 years when both were ranked in the top ten, while at least one of the two has been ranked in the top six in 20 of the meetings.

Signature Game: Miami 26 ... Florida State 25  October 3, 1987
In a rivalry marked by missed kicks, it was a decision not to kick that cost Florida State in the biggest matchup between the two. There were more heralded games between Miami and Florida State, but the 1987 classic was when this became MIAMI vs. FLORIDA STATE. Tied at 19 with 2:32 to play, Miami had it third and seven on its own 27 when Steve Walsh audibled out of a short pass and floated a throw up the right sideline hitting Michael Irvin in perfect stride for a 73-yard score. The Noles came back with a gut-check drive converting one clutch fourth down pass and finished with Ronald Lewis making a diving catch in the back of the end zone. Bobby Bowden had said before the game that if it came down to a late decision, he'd kick the extra point and take the tie instead of going for two. But when the pressure was on, QB Danny McManus and the other FSU players lobbied furiously with Bowden to go for two and the win. Bowden relented. McManus had Lewis wide open in the middle of the end zone, but he didn't see him choosing to try a pass in the right corner of the end zone, but it was underthrown and broken up. Miami recovered the onside kick with :42 to play and went on to win the national championship. Florida State rolled through the rest of its schedule without a problem and finished number two.

6. Army vs. Navy (Navy 53-49-7)

What other rivalry stops the most powerful men and women in the world in their tracks for one day a year? This isn't just the battle for a state or for a national title; this is for national supremacy. 

It begins with the Army Corps of Cadets and Navy Brigade of Midshipmen marching onto the field before the game in most unique pageantry in all of sports, and it always ends with the two sides showing mutual respect no matter how the outcome turns out.

It all started in 1890 when several midshipmen challenged some cadets to play. Almost no one at Army had ever seen the game of football before, but that wasn't about to get in the way. 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, who had been playing football for a few years, had won 24-0 and the rivalry was on. Army won the following year 32-16.

Signature Game: Navy 21 … Army 16 December 7, 1963
It takes a classic to be considered the best Army-Navy game off all-time. This might have been it due not only to the spectacular play, but also the circumstances surrounding the times as it was postponed a week due to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Navy was 8-1 going against a 7-2 Army team that was a decided underdog. Tied 7-7, Navy's Pat Donnelly tore off a 20-yard touchdown run and would later score third touchdown of the day to give the Midshipmen an apparently insurmountable lead. But Army would come back. Army quarterback Rollie Stichweh marched the Cadets down the field for a touchdown and tacked on a two-point conversion to get within five points with six minutes to play. Following the score, Stichweh recovered the onside kick and Army was in business again. With just over a minute and a half to play and the crowd going crazy, Stichweh completed a fourth down pass to get down to the Navy seven. A few plays later, Army was on the two with twenty seconds to play with the noise so deafening that Stichweh asked the referee to quiet the crowd before each play. Army came to the line but since no one could hear. Again, the referee stopped the clock to get the crowd to quiet down. Army went back into the huddle, but the referee had started the clock again. One more time, Stichweh asked to stop the clock due to noise. It was stopped but when it restarted, to the amazement of the Army offense, the clock ran out. Game over. Navy would finish the season ranked No. 2 in both polls. While this might not have been the most significant Army-Navy game, it was the most exciting. This was also the last real gasp for these two service academies as neither would ever regain such a lofty status on a national scale.