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The Greatest SEC Rivalries

Ahh…it’s rivalry week in college football. My favorite time of year!

Now perhaps it’s because I grew up in SEC country and attended an SEC school for law school, but I was shocked to learn that there were no SEC schools atop the list of the most intense rivalries in college football based on a study by Dr. Joe Cobbs of Northern Kentucky and Dr. David Tyler of Western Carolina.

According to the study, these are the Top 5 most intense college football rivalries:

1. Arizona vs. Arizona State

2. Michigan vs. Ohio State

3. Bowling Green vs. Toledo

4. BYU vs. Utah

5. Central Michigan vs. Western Michigan

The first SEC school to make it onto the list is South Carolina vs. Clemson at #6. The top in-conference rivalry in the SEC? The Egg Bowl (Mississippi vs. Mississippi State) at #12. The Iron Bowl (Alabama vs. Auburn) comes in slightly lower at #16.

Seriously, does the name Harvey Updike ring any bells? The man poisoned 130-year-old oak trees in the name of college football rivalry. I know that’s just one crazy fan, but Alabama vs. Auburn is only the 16th most intense rivalry in the country? Have you ever listened to The Paul Finebaum Show?

It makes a little more sense if you understand how the results were determined….

Last August, Dr. Cobbs and Dr. Tyler surveyed 5,317 college football fans from 122 FBS football programs using an online questionnaire they promoted on 194 fan message boards. Respondents were each given 100 “rivalry points” they could divide between opponents of his or her favorite college football team. Fans could allocate all 100 points to one rival or divide it between multiple rivals.

For example, here’s how Auburn fans collectively divided their rivalry points between the Tigers’ opponents:

Alabama: 66.78

Georgia: 21.16

LSU: 6.67

And here’s how Alabama fans collectively divided their rivalry points:

Auburn: 48.21

Tennessee: 25.42

LSU: 19.84

The Top 5 rankings above are based on a “rivalry score” which added the rivalry points each school assigned to the other. For example, Alabama vs. Auburn would total 114.99 when you add the average 66.78 points Auburn fans assigned to Alabama and the 48.21 average points Alabama fans assigned to Auburn.

Arizona vs. Arizona State took the #1 spot on the list with 171.76 total points.

A couple of SEC programs had margins of less than 5 points between the programs they ranked as their #1 and #2 rivals. Ole Miss fans allocated an average 45.02 points to Mississippi State and 44.85 points to LSU, meanwhile Mississippi State fans overwhelming chose Ole Miss (78.22) as the top rival of the Bulldogs. Florida fans allocated 38.78 to Florida State and 34.39 to Georgia. Although Georgia allocated a similar number of points to Florida, fans were almost evenly divided between Georgia Tech (20.81) and Auburn (20.34) as their #2 rival.

Here are the top rivalries for each SEC school:

Alabama: Auburn (48.21)

Arkansas: LSU (35.31)

Auburn: Alabama (66.78)

Florida: Florida State (38.78)

Georgia: Florida (40.94)

Kentucky: Louisville (56.40)

LSU: Alabama (49.64)

Mississippi: Mississippi State (45.02)

Mississippi State: Mississippi (78.22)

Missouri: Kansas (71.58)

South Carolina: Clemson (67.29)

Tennessee: Alabama (48.37)

Texas A&M: Texas (44.54)

Vanderbilt: Tennessee (72.82)

What do you think? Do the results fit with your perception of reality?

Written by Kristi Dosh