Ranking the SEC’s 10 best rivalries heading into 2014

NCAA Football: Alabama at Auburn

Ask any normal SEC fan, and they’d likely tell you that the only thing better than winning a national championship is beating their arch-rival.  (Fans around the country are looking at us like we’re crazy right now. Who would rather beat your in-state neighbor than be the best team in the country?)  The thing is, in the South, rivalries last 365 days. Championships fade, but in the dead of winter when the year seems longest, you can always talk about beating that “other” team.

So as coaches, players and fans alike count down the days to their team’s season opener, let’s take a look at the SEC’s top 10 rivalries going into 2014.

1. Auburn vs. Alabama

As if the Iron Bowl couldn’t get any more crazy, 2013 happened. There is arguably no play that has or will define the Yellowhammer State’s rivalry like Kick, Bama, Kick last year.  Fans around the state are already hailing Gus Malzahn as just as good a coach, if not better, than Nick Saban which is blasphemous in Tuscaloosa.  As we head into 2014, the SEC’s Western division is up for grabs with Bama being the favorite and pundits wondering if 2013 was a fluke for Auburn.  The November 29th matchup at Bryant-Denny is most certainly a revenge game for the Tide.

2. LSU vs. Alabama

This is the game that has carried the most weight in recent years, but with new SEC Network analyst Greg McElroy’s insinuation that Les Miles’s success is due, in part, to Nick Saban’s tenure in Baton Rouge, things will almost certainly ramp up a few notches. Since Bear Bryant’s retirement, the series is virtually split, with Alabama leading 17-14-1.  The 2014 rendition of the “Saban Bowl” should carry division, SEC championship and College Football Playoff implications as both teams are expected to contend for the SEC West title.

3. Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State

In what may come as a surprise to you, the Egg Bowl comes in at number three on our list of top 10 rivalries heading into the 2014 season.  Under young head coaches, both schools are heading in the right direction, with some believing this may be the year both the Rebels and the Bulldogs can compete in the ever-tough SEC West.  The 2014 Ole Miss-Mississippi State matchup will be the 87th Egg Bowl with the Rebels holding an Egg Bowl trophy series 55-26-5 edge, along with 61–43–6 record overall.

4. Georgia vs. South Carolina

Because of Steve Spurrier’s recent success in Columbia, this is now the most important game in the SEC East.  Though it’s early in the schedule, the winner of this game controls their own destiny the rest of the way with the only real roadblock left the Gators.  It wasn’t much of a rivalry until the ‘Ole Ball Coach stepped foot in Williams-Brice Stadium, but through his mouth (and Carolina’s three-straight 11-win seasons), Georgia and South Carolina has all but decided the Eastern Division champion.

5. Auburn vs. Georgia

Some would argue that the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry has lost its steam in the last half-decade.  Maybe I’m a little biased, but much like the Iron Bowl, last year’s Prayer at Jordan-Hare should reinvigorate this matchup.  The 2014 version will mark the 118th game played between the two schools with Auburn holding a slight edge at 55-54-8.  With Auburn looking to repeat it’s magic from last year and Georgia optimistic about its chances with a healthy roster in 2014, this historic rivalry should reignite its flame.

6. Tennessee vs. Alabama

Though it hasn’t been the most competitive as of late, it’s still beautifully historic and filled with plenty of genuine hate.  Especially now that Lane Kiffen has joined Alabama’s staff and will make a can’t-miss return to Knoxville on the Third Saturday in October.  Alabama leads the series 50-38-7, but Butch Jones is doing a respectable job on Rocky Top and should have this rivalry back to full health in no time.

7. Georgia vs. Florida

The Dawgs have owned the series since Urban Meyer’s departure from Gainesville and many feel this is a must-win game for Will Muschamp’s likelihood in 2014, but despite all that, it’s still one of the conference’s best showdowns.  The two schools don’t agree on when the series began or its record, but it’s the World’s Largest Cocktail Party so who cares.  Even though this game likely won’t decide the SEC East winner this year, it’s still one of the most storied rivalries in all of college football.

8. Arkansas vs. LSU

Though the rivalry dates back to 1901, Arkansas and LSU resumed their annual rivalry in 1992 after Arkansas left the Southwest Conference for the SEC.  The Battle for the Golden Boot has been a good one, though, with LSU leading the trophy series 11-6.  Sadly, these two teams will no longer meet on the final weekend of the regular season, as LSU will take on Texas A&M and Arkansas will meet Missouri.

9. Florida vs. Tennessee

Florida and Tennessee have met annually since 1992 when both schools joined the SEC East.  The rivalry took on a life of its own during the Phillip Fulmer and Steve Spurrier hey-days in the early 1990s and 2000s.  Florida leads the all-time series 24-19.  With Tennessee on the rise and Will Muschamp looking to turn things around in Gainesville, it would be good for the SEC if this rivalry can get back to what it once was.

10. Tennessee vs. Vanderbilt

This one may come as another surprise, but trust me, there is true hate boiling in the Volunteer State.  The rivalry, aptly named Hatred in the Hills, dates back to 1892 with Tennessee leading 73-30-5.  However, under James Franklin and aided partly by Tennessee’s downfall, this matchup has gotten interesting over the last five years.  Vanderbilt has compiled some good seasons and looks to continue that trend under new headman Derek Mason.  Butch Jones is leading Tennessee back to conference prominence, so look for this rivalry to continue its upward trend in the coming years.

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  • I’m headed to SC for the UGA game this year and I can not wait! That will be a make or break game for both teams which is devastating being so early in the season. The gamecock better figure out their secondary othwrwise it will be a loooong day for sure.

  • Been saying it for the last few years, the Georgia-South Carolina rivalry is delicious. It’s easily the most underrated rivalry over the last few years.

    • If you wouldve asked me 10 years ago, i wouldve said Tenn-Ga was the biggest where i grew up in Ga. Then Fla-Ga. Then Auburn- GA. SC wasnt even on the radar. 5 years ago, Aub-Ga, Fla-Ga, SC-Ga then Tenn-Ga. last year? SC-Ga, Fla-Ga, Aub-Ga, then Tenn-Ga. Now this year….oooo, man its tough. I would say, Ga-Aub, Ga-SC, Ga-Fla, Ga-Clem and Tenn-Ga.

      Gonna be a fun year for football.

  • Can’t say I care about where Les’ success came from at this point. Saban’s recruits are long gone. At this point, it’s got to be Les. That insinuation is old news!

    • Initially, I was one of the people who thought Les Miles was piggy-backing off of Saban’s success at LSU. However, at this point in time, I think it’s hard to argue that Les Miles is not a good coach. Granted he likes to make the occasional call that makes absolutely no sense (hence his nickname “The Mad Hatter”), but he’s still a damn good coach.

  • I’d probably of ranked the Georgia-Florida rivalry higher than the Auburn-GA game, because as a UGA fan, and most UGA fans will agree, I can honestly say their isn’t a team that I hate more than the Gators!

    • Florida Georgia is a top 5 rivalry in all of college football. Not sure why it is so low on this list. The guy above me thinks so too. He’s just mad because Florida is a better school and Florida has won 3 championships in my lifetime and Georgia never wins anything.

      • I would agree with the first half of this guys ^^ statement. Up until “Georgia never wins anything”. I’m assuming that he means “in his lifetime”. Funny how UF fans always talk about what happened in their lifetime when it comes to the Dawgs. Well from what happened in my sons lifetime the Dawgs are up 3-0. Get it sissy. Goooooooo Dawgs sic em woof woof woof!!

      • But they have 39 NC’s to UF’s 33 so I am missing your point.

    • I completely agree. I was raised a Noles fan (most of my family went to FSU), and I am a student at UGA. There is nothing more on this earth that I hate more than a Gator.

  • Tennessee shouldn’t be mentioned until they start winning a few games again.

  • It’s funny how old rivalries don’t show up on this list. I know I’m an LSU homer, so I’l be using these two as examples. LSU-Ole Miss used to be one of the greatest for a very long time. LSU-Florida also was a slugfest worth watching. I’m not sure they still fit in the top 10, but they are definitely honorable mentions among others.

    • I believe the author’s intention was to rank on how good / heated the rivalries are heading into 2014. For the most part it’s an accurate list. I’ll agree with your post & say Ole Miss – LSU could easily replace Tenn. – Bama as being far more exciting the last 5 or 6 years. Putting Tenn. – Bama on here is just lazy. It’s a terrific series over the course of history, but it hasn’t been good in 8 years.

  • in the MSU-OM rivalry, there have actually been 110 games

    OM leads 61-43-6

    • Thought that didn’t sound quite right

    • Yeah, I enjoyed the large advantage, since the the game started being called the Egg Bowl, being in print above in the article, but I knew that it was wrong. Hey, for both our school’s sake, let’s hope this game has true meaning outside the borders of Mississippi this year.

  • Why is it no one every seems to get the Egg Bowl record right? Yes, it got its name in 1927 with the introduction of the trophy. The game was played well before that. In fact the trophy was introduced because Ole Miss snap State’s 13-game winning streak in the series causing a riot between the fans. The actual record is 61-43-6 Ole Miss. The 55-26 or whatever he put in thsee column is only for the games play after 1927. The rivalry started in 1901.

  • Hey Jordan, do a little research. Your Ole Miss-MSU all time record number is WAY off. Ole Miss leads 61-43-6.

  • ” Georgia and South Carolina has all but decided the Eastern Division champion.”

    Uh…you do realize that the winner of this game hasn’t won the east since 2010, right?

  • SC answered one piece of the puzzle about their secondary. A combo of A&M quarterback skill and little skill in secondary for SC.