Ah, Rivalry Weekend.
Thanksgiving weekend, the final full weekend of the college football season, is the realm of the gridiron giants. The games that divide states and households. The ones that have earned nicknames from Bedlam to the Civil War to the Iron Bowl. Contests played for 364 days of pride and trophies so weird they are downright cute.
Could it get any better than this?
Well, actually, yeah. With a handful of tweaks, it could.
First, is it time to look into moving Michigan-Ohio State? Not immediately, mind you. But with the advent of the Big Ten title game, once all the NCAA restrictions have expired, do we want to see back-to-back Wolverines-Buckeyes matchups? If both win their divisions they could meet twice in seven days, no matter what the outcome of The Game. I'm not offering up an opinion one way or the other here. I'm just curious what people might think about the idea.
But I digress. What we're really here to argue isn't the games that currently reside on this most sacred date of the college football calendar, it's to consider the contests that don't. Those games that are played at other times during the regular season that deserve a place among this time of the truly great rivalries. They are just as divisive, emotional and downright hate-filled as the matchups played at the end of November. But for whatever reason they don't reserve the spot on the calendar that they rightly should.
Some can't be moved because of others. For example, it would be great to see Georgia and Florida play on Rivalry Weekend, but the Dawgs are busy with Georgia Tech and the Gators are a little preoccupied with the Seminoles. But others have no such road blocks.
Here are the top five games missing from Rivalry Weekend.
First meeting: 1911
All-time series: UNC, 64-32-6
Last 10: NCSU, 6-4
2012: Oct. 27, UNC 43-35
This game means little on the national stage, but it is one of a pile of regional rivalries that would be much better served (and would have the potential to become a much bigger deal) if it were moved to Rivalry Weekend.
Full disclosure: I grew up in the Triangle, squarely between these two schools. I have seen the venom that exists between the two firsthand, including an emotionally exhausting contest at Kenan Stadium nearly a month ago. The bitterest game of the series was in 1998, a 37-34 overtime win by Carolina at Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium. It was played the final weekend of the season, as have been many of the games in this century-old in-state showdown. But instead of locking down a date and making it part of every North Carolinian's annual consciousness like all great in-state rivalries, it has drifted all over the calendar. That makes no sense whatsoever.
So this weekend, while Virginia and Virginia Tech meet to the north and South Carolina clashes with Clemson to the south, the Wolfpack will host Boston College and the Tar Heels have a home game versus Maryland.
4. Harvard Crimson vs. Yale Bulldogs
First meeting: 1875
All-time series: Yale, 65-56-8
Last 10: Harvard, 9-1
2012: Nov. 17, Harvard 34-24
With all due respect to Ohio State and Michigan, to many this is actually The Game. Last weekend I didn't even realize it was happening until it showed up on my on-screen TV channel listings. I flipped over in time to see a very entertaining final quarter.
To me, the best rivalry in college football (and I said this on ESPNU on Tuesday) is Army-Navy. It's a game packed with history and tradition, but totally lacking in NFL talent and national championship relevance. But Army-Navy should always have its standalone place on the schedule, at least as much as it can have in the era of conference championship games.
So why have The Game on The Weekend? It dates back to a time when Ulysses S. Grant was in the White House and takes us back to a time when college football was still what many want to believe it still is: pure, collegiate competition. Wouldn't it be nice to have just a touch of that in among all the massive games in palatial BCS-funded coliseums?
Only twice has The Game not been played on a Saturday. It was held on Thanksgiving twice, in 1883 and '87. Why not bring that back as a way to kick off Rivalry Weekend?
3. USC Trojans vs. UCLA Bruins
First meeting: 1929
All-time series: USC, 46-29-7
Last 10: USC, 8-2
2012: Nov. 17, UCLA 38-28
Yes, I know this weekend is all about USC and Notre Dame. But that game, which dates back to 1926, is going to be big whenever it's played.
Rivalry Weekend should be about the big in-state throwdowns. And, as we saw last weekend, the Trojans and Bruins have the ability to be among the biggest of them all. With the arrival of the Pac-12 championship game, there could be a postseason berth on the line on the final weekend between these two teams.
Who would Notre Dame play here instead? Take your pick. But as large as this weekend's ND-USC and Stanford-UCLA games already are, the Battle of Los Angeles would feel big every single year -- even bigger than it already does.
2. Utah Utes vs. BYU Cougars
First meeting: 1896
All-time series: 56-34-4
Last 10: Utah, 7-3
2012: Sept. 15, Utah 24-21
The powers that be don't like to call this the Holy War any longer. But that's what it is. It's also the most underrated rivalry in the nation. Few games can match the tension that exists in Salt Lake City or Provo when this game comes to town and the results in recent years are mind-boggling.
Consider this: Before Utah's past two wins, the series was split 12-12. In the 16 games played since 1997, all but three have been decided by a single score, eight by three or fewer points. Two of the past seven played went into overtime, and the outcome has been decided on the final play of the game three of the past four years. Meanwhile, results have been punctuated by smack such as the "I really hate them" statements from Utah's Alex Smith and BYU's Max Hall.
So, why in world are we burying all this into the faded memories of mid-September?
1. Texas Longhorns vs. Texas A&M Aggies
First meeting: 1894
All-time series: Texas, 76-37-5
Last 10: Texas, 7-3
2012: No game
The only aspect of Rivalry Weekend wrapped up in more bitterness than the games being played are the feelings about the games that are missing, the biggest casualties of conference realignment madness.
There are, sadly, many to choose from. But the MIA contest that has created the biggest gaping hole in Thanksgiving is Texas vs. Texas A&M, which had become a plan-your-meal-around-it contest for both the citizens of the Lone Star State and families around the nation, in recovery from a stuffing and gravy overdose. Instead, this year we get the Aggies versus fellow Big 12 refugee-turned-SEC newbie Missouri and the Longhorns with TCU on Thursday. UT even held its annual Hex Rally, which centered on A&M, but has been transferred to the Horned Frogs. The reception was a bit lukewarm.
They say there's a chance that these two could meet again after 2018. Let's hope so. But until then, let's get to work on getting some of these other games, matchups that deserve the honor, moved to the weekend they truly belong.