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Dormant College Football Rivalries We Want to See Return

September 8, 2023

Rivalry, tradition and pride are the anchors of college football and its popularity around the country. Unfortunately, conference realignment and the allure of money have caused the landscape of the sport to change significantly in the last 15 years.

Though that process has sped up during the last few offseasons, some of the more traditional rivalries have been gone since the mid-2000s. While some effort has been made to renew the storied matchups, we’re only likely to see more disappear as conferences such as the SEC and Big 10 continue their expansion.

For now, let’s rewind to the good old days to highlight some of the best rivalries that have since been abandoned.

Michigan-Notre Dame

The disappearance of this matchup can’t be blamed on conference realignment for two reasons. First, Notre Dame has never been a part of a conference, and second, the teams have only played sporadically at their peak.

The first meeting came in 1887, and more recently the teams squared off consistently once again from 1978 to 2014. In that span, there were 31 matchups, with the series being split exactly evenly at 15-15-1. In addition to being on a level playing field, the games often meant something due to the success both teams have experienced.

Like any good rivalry, there’s also been a war of words between the sides. Notre Dame opted out of continuing the series in 2014, and Michigan’s coach at the time, Brady Hoke, accused the Fighting Irish of “chickening out.” He may have had a point, as the Wolverines had won six of the last nine meetings.

In positive news, there is an agreement for this rivalry to renew in 2033, though we’ll have to exercise some patience before we see it again.

Penn State-Pitt

This is about as obvious of an in-state rivalry as we can get. Penn State occupies the middle of Pennsylvania, but its alumni base is spread all over both the state and country. They’ve dominated the series and recruiting within the state in the modern era of college football, winning 30 of the last 41 meetings.

While the product may have been watered down on the field in that span, Pitt has a historically proud team and has worked to scratch its way back to trying to even the score with the Nittany Lions. In particular, Pitt has won three conference titles since the turn of the century, most recently with current Steelers’ quarterback Kenny Pickett leading the way.

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi has also attempted to change the narrative, regularly going out of his way to attack James Franklin while competing for recruits inside the state. This summer, after landing quarterback Christian Veilleux in the transfer portal from Penn State, Narduzzi said that the quarterback was enjoying the transition from a one-word offense to a real offense.

There’s optimism this rivalry will reignite in the next few years, and it should be worth the wait.

Pitt-West Virginia

We’ll stick with the Panthers for another rivalry, the famed “Backyard Brawl.” Pitt and WVU may not share a state, but there are only 70 miles separating the institutions. That proximity creates the basis of the rivalry and the nickname identifying it.

They were also both members of the now defunct Big East, which led to 105 total meetings between the teams from 1895 and 2022. It may be unfair to call this rivalry truly dormant, as the teams have a series agreed to between 2022 and 2025, and they will also square off from 2029 and 2032.

Ideally, however, we’d see the Brawl take place every year. Hey, at least we get something.

Oklahoma-Nebraska

Nebraska’s departure from the Big 12 was one of the main moves that set off conference realignment, and the loss of the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry was collateral damage. The two schools are both traditional powers in the college football landscape, with the matchup in 1971 serving as the primary example.

That meeting was billed as the “Game of the Century,” as the Cornhuskers entered as the top ranked team in the country and the Sooners number two. Nebraska came out on top in an extremely tight 35-31 game and proceeded to win the national title.

No good rivalry is official without some paranoia, and Nebraska illustrated that by flying in their meals for that showdown in fear of hotel staff being influenced by the Sooner faithful to provide some unsavory meals to its players.

The teams have squared off 88 total times, consistently until 2011 when Nebraska bolted for the Big 10. The matchup returned in 2022 but will not be played again until 2029.

Texas vs. Texas A&M

This rivalry was known as the “Lone Star Showdown” and had all the makings of a classic. In addition to a state, the teams shared the Southwest and Big 12 conferences and played every year from 1915-2011.

The Longhorns dominated the series on the field, but that didn’t detract from the impact of the rivalry. That was clearly illustrated when a state legislator attempted to introduce legislation in 2013 that would require the teams to play every year, after the Aggies departed for the SEC which ended the rivalry.

Luckily, at least depending on point of view, the rivalry is set to restart in 2024 when the Longhorns join the SEC and the teams are conference foes once again.

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