Mon May 17 02:29pm EDT
With Notre Dame and Miami lining up a reprise of one of the most intriguing, long-ignored intersectional rivalries in the country, ESPN's Bruce Feldman wants to know: What other traditional non-conference hate-fests deserve to be renewed? It's a fairly easy list, really:
• Georgia vs. Clemson. The campuses are less than two hours apart, they've been playing each other since fans rode mules to the game and, as Georgia blogger T. Kyle King is quick to point out, there are older Bulldog fans who still count Clemson as their most hated rival almost two decades after the game ceased to be an annual affair. The Tigers and Bulldogs played 29 times in 34 years from 1962-95, when conference expansion began to put a crimp on marquee non-conference games. They have staged one home-and-home since, in 2002-03. The rivalry hit its height in the early '80s, when both teams won national championships (Georgia in 1980, Clemson in '81) and went 59-4-1 against the rest of the country from 1981-83.
• Miami vs. Florida. Bad in-state blood was enough to keep the Gators and 'Canes coming back for 50 consecutive years, from the Great Depression to the Savings-and-Loan crash, at which point they called it quits for more than a decade with both schools riding what were then historical peaks in the mid-'80s. Excluding a pair of chance meetings in bowl games, UM and UF have come together three times in the last decade, most recently in 2008. But if Florida State can play both on an annual basis, as it has every year since 1958, there's no reason it can't be a round robin.
• Penn State vs. Notre Dame. The solid old independents first met in 1913 and again in the '20s, but somehow have avoided each other in the regular season for more than 50 years until kicking off a fine run of games from 1981-92, three of which featured an eventual national champion and six of which were decided by a touchdown or less. The last one, the famous 1992 Snow Bowl, was the best one:
The Irish's more established Big Ten rivalries with Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue have curbed the series since Penn State joined the conference, but their home-and-home in 2006-07 is proof it can still be done, and should be.
• Pittsburgh vs. Penn State. The only Nittany Lion tradition that predates Joe Paterno: Pitt and Penn State was an annual affair from 1935-92, and prior to that had been an annual affair from 1900-31; in all, the Panthers and Lions met 92 times in the 20th century, and again in 2000. This series, too, was killed by PSU's move into the Big Ten (the Lions decided they couldn't afford an unglamorous trip to Pitt every other year at the expense of a sixth or seventh home game), but that could change if the conference targets Pitt in its expansion plans – an idea Paterno was embracing almost 10 years ago.
• Alabama vs. Georgia Tech. There's bad blood, metaphorically speaking, and then there's actual blood, in this case that of former Yellow Jacket Chick Granning, who was infamously mangled by an elbow to the face by Alabama's Darwin Holt while covering a routine punt in 1961. The alleged cheap shot deepened the rivalry between Bear Bryant and Tech coach Bobby Dodd, who, even in the days before scholarship restrictions, had already been charging Bryant with oversigning players for years. Spurred by the reaction of the Atlanta media, Dodd sent Bryant a letter after the game asking him to suspend Holt for intentionally injuring his player; Holt never missed any time, the SEC declined to restrict "tryout camps" and Tech was out of the conference within three years.
The Jackets and Tide got together again after a 15-year hiatus for a six-year run from 1979-84, and hope to end the subsequent 25-year drought soon – if they can ever get on the same page.