By Winston Hsiao
While Yale-Harvard ranks as one of the nation’s top college football rivalries, there was a short time before this tradition began when Princeton actually did matter to Yale students.
On Nov. 13, the Princeton Tigers and the Yale Bulldogs will meet for the 127th time in their historic rivalry that began in 1873 — two years before Yale first played Harvard — at the equally historic Yale Bowl. Yale leads the all-time series 68-48-10.
But Yale-Princeton — the second oldest college rivalry behind only Lafayette-Lehigh — is not the only marquee match-up occurring this weekend. While generations have passed since Yale and Princeton were college football powerhouses, several of college football’s current dynasties renew their bitter rivalries this weekend.
Auburn and Georgia renew “The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry,” which began in 1892. The Tigers and Bulldogs face off in Auburn for the 104th time. Auburn leads the series 51-48-8. This year’s game is particularly special, as Auburn and Georgia are ranked No. 3 and No. 9 in the BCS standings. Not only may this game decide the winner of the gloried Southeastern Conference, it may just decide who plays in this year’s Orange Bowl National Championship Game.
In the Midwest, Oklahoma and Nebraska have consistently been two of the premier programs in college football the past several decades. The rivalry is no longer played every year due to realignment in the Big 12 Conference, but when they do get together, the game often has major national implications. In fact, since the inception of the rivalry in 1912, the teams have met 17 times with both teams ranked in the top 10 nationally. But in recent years, the Huskers are a shell of the dynasty they once were, while No. 2 ranked Oklahoma is once again in the national title picture. But to the fans, the game is still important. Whereas Nebraska would make their season by ousting rival Oklahoma from national contention, a loss to Nebraska at home would be devastating for Sooner fans.
“We always take Nebraska seriously, no matter how the season is going,” Oklahoma student Chris Fleming said. “But given that this is our last home game, we’re taking it very seriously. This is OU football we’re talking about, after all, and nobody shames us on our own field.”
While Nebraska and Oklahoma fight for bragging rights, other teams battle for tangible prizes. Up north, the Floyd of Rosedale is up for grabs again as Big Ten rivals Iowa and Minnesota play in Minnesota. Now a trophy awarded to the winner, the Floyd of Rosedale was originally a pig that was placed as a bet between the governors of the states. Although this match up lacks the current national prominence of Oklahoma-Nebraska or Auburn-Georgia, the Floyd of Rosedale remains the proverbial bacon that students and alumni still want to bring home.
“Although Minnesota vs. Iowa may not decide the national championship, it still is special for all of us,” Minnesota alum Ralph Flum said. “The games are even more festive when they are held in Minnesota, because all the Iowans come up to attend the game. Because, let’s face it, there’s not much to do in Iowa.”
Of course, whenever a rivalry takes on national importance, the game is that much more significant. But regardless of the teams’ records or national standings, these games will always matter because they foster healthy, amusing and invigorating competition between athletic, geographic or academic rivals. Yale, Princeton and Harvard students know this all too well. While Bulldog, Crimson and Tiger fans do not come out to most games in droves like at other schools, student interest is instantly reignited annually whenever these teams meet.
“To be honest, most of the student body isn’t gung-ho about football at Princeton, but whenever we face Yale or Harvard, we are all immediately excited,” Princeton student Alex Chiang said.