This is a topic I delved into in the blog’s early days. It’s been more than five years now, and I think the subject is worth exploring again… lots of water under the bridge since then.
But let me start by going back to that post for a couple of things. First, this is my list of the features that define a rivalry:
- History. Two things factor in here. How often have the teams faced each other? And, over time, how competitive has the series been?
- Scheduling. How often do the teams play each other at present?
- The Stakes. In terms of winning championships, how often do the games between the teams assume importance?
- Geography. This one is pretty obvious.
- Miscellaneous Factors. Mergz lists South Carolina as a rival. That can only be for one reason – Steve Spurrier. (It helped that Spurrier beat Florida in his first crack, which is something USC had never accomplished previously.) I expect LSU-Alabama to attain a similar level of intensity because of Saban.
I think they still stand. Based on those, here’s the (alphabetized) list of Georgia’s rivals I came up with back then:
- Auburn, by virtue of almost every factor I’ve listed above;
- Florida, again, for all of the above;
- Georgia Tech also reflects all of the above (true, there are no conference stakes anymore, but being an end of season game, there are potential BCS stakes in most years);
- South Carolina may not seem deserving from a historical perspective, as Georgia has dominated the series. But it’s been intense since I’ve been following it, starting in 1980 (Rogers vs. Walker!). And Spurrier’s presence certainly adds some spice. Also, Georgia hasn’t won the SEC East in any season that it didn’t beat USC.
- Tennessee is a rivalry born out of divisional realignment. It wasn’t a historically significant series, as the teams didn’t play that often. Since 1992, though, in most years, Georgia, Florida and UT have to dance the dance with each other to decide which school makes it to the SECCG. Fulmer’s recruiting tactics (and success, unfortunately) and Donnan’s hiring away of Garner have contributed heat, as well.
So what’s changed in five years? First, the “you can’t win the SEC East without beating South Carolina” rule is dead. But, if anything, I’d say the series has intensified over the past two or three seasons because the ‘Cocks appear to have taken a step up to legitimate division contender status. Tennessee, however, may have lost some of its flavor as a rival under SOD. Partly that’s because the Vols haven’t been in contention for a division title in a while; partly it’s because Dooley doesn’t seem to raise our ire in the way that his two predecessors did.
But all in all, the list continues to work, I think. The other three still qualify and no doubt will continue to do so until Buzz Bissinger gets his wish and college football gets banned. As for new additions, the Dawgs don’t have another opponent outside of the SEC they play often enough to qualify and there really isn’t another team in the East ready to step up (although James Franklin would probably like to argue about that with me).
Seems like a good spot for a reader poll.
‘Splain yourself in the comments.