In the South, we tend to take our history and traditions a bit more seriously than folks in other parts of the country. When it comes to our football, that love of tradition is especially powerful.
With the SEC expanding to 14 teams — possibly as soon as next July — the league’s divisional format will need to be tweaked. It’s scheduling plan will need to be re-worked. In doing so, some rivalries will be lost. And that amounts to stomping on the aforementioned love of tradition. That’s dangerous.
The SEC’s last expansion should have taught us that as some old rivalries fade out, new ones will ignite. For example, Auburn’s long-standing rivalries with Tennessee and Florida were lost in 1992. But the Tigers gained LSU and the Vols and Gators became the must-see SEC game of the 1990s. Change isn’t necessarily the end of the world.
That said, the SEC’s goal should — and most likely will be — to preserve as many classic rivalries as possible… in order to keep thousands of SEC fans from losing the teensiest bit of their over-the-top passion.
The rivalry that seems most in danger these days is the Alabama-Tennessee series. For years the schools clashed on the Third Saturday in October. When the league expanded in ’92, the date occasionally changed, but the game remained. It’s a yearly matchup of the two winningest programs in SEC history. The Crimson Tide and Volunteers have collected the most SEC championship hardware since the league’s inception in 1932. If SEC powerbrokers are likely to save any rivalry, it’s that one.
But there are other great games that are in need of protection, too. Below we’ve listed the 22 SEC rivalries that have been played at least 60 times. In some cases we’ve had to side with one school over another when it comes to the actual number of games played. So there’s no need to email us to let us know that the 1925 game between Team A and Team B really shouldn’t have counted because Team A used its JV team and Team B’s squad was composed of World War I vets. We simply want to give you an idea of the games that have the most history. Some may surprise you.
The SEC’s Most-Played Rivalries
|Auburn – Georgia
|Mississippi State – Ole Miss
|Kentucky – Tennessee
|Tennessee – Vanderbilt
|LSU – Mississippi State
|LSU – Ole Miss
|Alabama – Mississippi State
|Alabama – Tennessee
|Florida – Georgia
|Vanderbilt – Ole Miss
|Auburn – Mississippi State
|Kentucky – Vanderbilt
|Alabama – Vanderbilt
|Auburn – Florida
|Alabama – Auburn
|Alabama – LSU
|Georgia – Vanderbilt
|Alabama – Georgia
|Georgia – Kentucky
|Ole Miss – Tennessee
|Georgia – South Carolina
|Florida – Kentucky
Of the 22 rivalries that have been played at least 60 times, four are not played annually in the league’s current eight-game, 5-1-2 format: Auburn-Florida, Alabama-Vanderbilt, Alabama-Georgia and Ole Miss-Tennessee.
The question moving forward is: Which possible divisional alignments will keep the majority of these great rivalries going? In Part Three of our short series on realignment and scheduling, that’s just what we’ll discuss.
(Sidenotes — Some rivalry games have already been played in 2011 while some are still scheduled to be played later in the season. For that reason, the numbers above reflect the number of times rivals have met through the end of the 2010 season.
Also, our goal was to show the oldest rivalries among current SEC members. Naturally, we’ve been asked to include Texas A&M in our breakdown as well, and A&M would have one rivalry on our list: Texas A&M-Arkansas had played each other 67 times through the end of the 2010 season.)