Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Of the many wonderful things to be thankful for this morning, the mini-edition 5-at-10 offers the rich joy that is a great college football rivalry.
From the "Mama McNabb stage here at the beautiful Al Davis Studios," here we go...
A lot goes into making a great college football rivalry, but all parts are not created equally and each piece must be graded on its merits. Some great rivalries are in-state; some are separate by 2,000 miles. Some are in conference; some are not. Some have funky names; some don't. But the great ones - the all-consuming, bragging about it year-round, there's no way to avoid it rivalries - each share a passion that tippy-toes the jagged edge of intensity and insanity.
No matter what they are called - The Iron Bowl, The Red River Rivalry, etc. - these games are The Game to the players, coaches and most overwhelmingly the fans.
1) Auburn-Alabama. This one has everything. Everything. In fact it has too much of it. The old rivalry cliche is "I don't care if we go 1-11 as long as that one is _." That's hogwash of course - no true fan wants his or her team ever to go 1-11, regardless of the situation. This game is the closest to that cliche being true, however.
2) Army-Navy. The pride and pageantry make this one more special than any. If the Iron Bowl is the best overall college football rivalry, then Army-Navy is the most respected.
3) USC-Notre Dame. While separated by great distance, this rivalry has had more riding on it than any other through the years. Granted the winner of the Iron Bowl has produced the national champion and the Heisman Trophy winner in each of the last two years, but the winner of USC-Notre Dame has gone on to win 19 national titles and there have been 11 Heisman winners play in this rivalry.
4) Michigan-Ohio State. The stakes of this one are always through the roof. Michigan's struggles on the field - the Wolverines have not won this game since 2003 - and Ohio State's struggles off the field have caused this game to fall off recently. Seriously, how much does it mean to the players when the Buckeyes are selling off the commemorative trinkets for winning this game for tattoos?
5) Oklahoma-Texas. The Red River Shootout. That's a great name, and this game gets bonus points for playing at a neutral site and for splitting the tickets 50-50.
Close but not quite: Georgia-Florida, Clemson-South Carolina, Duke-UNC (in hoops), Tennessee-Alabama, Harvard-Yale, among others.
And let's not forget the three great rivalries that conference expansion has ruined or will ruin according to current ADs: Oklahoma-Nebraska was awesome back in the day before sub-dividing the Big 12 ended its yearly renewal; tonight could the final Texas-Texas A&M game; and Missouri-Kansas is also in jeopardy because of the SEC expansion.
Enjoy the day, and sweet buckets of Momma's gravy, don't eat too much. (OK, go ahead and eat all you want. It's Thanksgiving for crying out loud.)