Man I love rivalry week. I know things in college football have gotten dark in recent years. Player compensation debates, concussion-related concerns, your general run-of-the-mill scandals and SEC-bias run amok in the media (I kid, I kid... sorta). But among all that is “wrong” with the sport, one thing stands the test of time: college football rivalries. You can have your Red Sox-Yankees, your North Carolina-Duke basketball, your Canadiens- Maple Leafs, or your Sounders-Timbers. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, compares to a good ole fashion college football rivalry. The tradition is so deep, the trophies so glorious and peculiar, the regionalism so seeped in politics, geography, and history that nothing in American sports compares to these long-running stories between two schools that just don’t like each other.
And behold, we are on the very precipice of rivalry week. The days following Thanksgiving where college football’s biggest rivals clash in oft-times epic fashion. Who could forget Kick-Six at Jordan-Hare in 2013? Or the Game of the Century in 2006? Or the epic (C)Apple Cup of 2008, with a single win being featured between two hapless Washington and Washington State squads?
And what’s more but the glorious, glorious trophies that accompany these games. They are what truly makes the charm of the college game. Most of them defy the commercialism and corporate money grabs that so pervade the sports world these days. They call back to simpler times when player for a little brown jug was enough to satisfy even the thirstiest of fan bases.
So, the tiers this week are by FBS rivalry trophies*. As usual, direct all anger and disbelief in the order/names of tiers and teams in the comments.
*NOTE: No Gopher trophies were considered because we all know they are the best (minus the bell of course). Also, the tiers focus on the trophies themselves not the games in which they are played for.
The Fremont Cannon (Nevada-UNLV) Tier
#1 - Ohio State Buckeyes (1st, 1st)
Nothing is as explosive as a Cannon. Or Ohio State’s offense or defense at this point in season.
The Old Oaken Bucket (Purdue-Indiana) Tier
#2 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (14th, 13th)
#3 - Michigan Wolverines (10th, 14th)
#4 - Penn State Nittany Lions (7th, 9th)
#5 - Wisconsin Badgers (11th, 6th)
#6 - Iowa Hawkeyes (21st, 16th)
There’s something so Big Ten about the Old Oaken Bucket. And since almost half the conference is in this tier, I decided to make it match up. Teams could shift within this tier quite a bit after we know the results of this weekends’ games. Michigan is hotter than a firecracker right now and Penn State has only lost to the two division leaders. While Iowa defeated Minnesota and Wisconsin has played a tougher cross over schedule, I’ll give the Gophers a homer bump because we all know... BETTER DEAD THAN RED!!!!!!!!!
The Old Brass Spittoon (Indiana-Michigan State) Tier
#7 - Indiana Hoosiers (22nd, 35th)
#8 - Illinois Fighting Illini (56th, 62nd)
#9 - Michigan State Spartans (40th, 38th)
Since the teams that play for the trophy both happened to fall in this tier, it seemed appropriate.
The Telephone Trophy (Missouri-Iowa State) Tier
#10 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (52nd, 78th)
#11 - Purdue Boilermakers (62nd, 69th)
Because the trophy of this tier was a causality of conference realignment, I put it in with Nebraska who came from the conference (RIP old Big XII) where it was exchanged.
The Platypus Trophy (Oregon-Oregon State) Tier
#12 - Maryland Terrapins (88th, 109th)
#13 - Northwestern Wildcats (91st, 92nd)
I think the Platypus Trophy is an excellent amalgamation of the two teams’ mascots who play for the trophy (Duck + Beaver = platypus). Plus, the game is called the Civil War. It’s definitely high on my rivalry week power ranking list. Now, if only Northwestern’s defense could have amalgamated with a legitimate offense, they’d have gotten themselves out of this tier and into the thick of the conference...
The Civil Conflict (UConn-UCF) Tier
#14 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (117th, 125th)
The rivalry and its trophy were forced upon the world by former UConn coach Bob Diaco. No one who mattered really acknowledged its existence. Insert Bob Delaney and Rutgers in the Big Ten and the metaphor is perfection.