- Associated Press - Thursday, November 25, 2010

History, heroes and hate. The best rivalries have an ample dose of those three elements.

It helps if the teams are good, though the best rivalries can be compelling even if the participants in a particular year are just so-so. And the most intense can turn a bad season into a good one for the team that wins _ or get a coach fired from the team that loses.

So here are the 12 most heated and celebrated rivalries in major college football. We’ll stick to the Division I-A variety, so Harvard-Yale and Lehigh-Lafayette, while worthy of recognition, don’t qualify for this list.

And we’ll list the participants in alphabetical order because even which team gets mentioned first can be a point of contention in these matchups.

1) Alabama-Auburn.

Nickname: The Iron Bowl.

Series record: Alabama 40, Auburn 33, 1 tie.

It is cliche to say this Southeastern Conference rivalry divides families _ it’s also true. Alabama-Auburn is a 365-days-a-year topic in the state. How important is this game? Put it this way, if Alabama beats Auburn on Friday but somehow the Tigers still went on to win the national championship, there will be plenty of Tide fans convinced their team had the better season.

2) Michigan-Ohio State.

Nickname: The Game.

Series record: Michigan 57, Ohio State 43, 6 ties.

Ohio State coach Woody Hayes refused to even refer to Michigan by name. He’d just call it, “That school to the north.” John Cooper went 111-43-4 in 13 seasons as Buckeyes coach, but was 2-10-1 against Michigan and most Ohio State fans have never forgiven him. If Rich Rodriguez wants to win over Michigan fans, all he has to do is break the Buckeyes’ six-game winning streak in the series.

3) Oklahoma-Texas.

Nickname: Red River Rivalry.

Series record: Texas 59, Oklahoma 41, 5 ties.

Story Continues →