The SEC’s new scheduling policy was designed in part with a goal of keeping traditional rivalries thriving for years to come. The cross-division rivalries in the SEC more important to some than others of course, but Tennessee head coach Butch Jones is happy to see the rivalry with Alabama will continue. Alabama and Tennessee were locked together, keeping the series dating back to 1901 a part of the SEC tradition. Say what you will about the Iron Bowl, because Jones says it is Alabama-Tennessee that is the best rivalry in the SEC.
“I think the Alabama-Tennessee rivalry is one of the best rivalries in the country, and I think it’s the best rivalry in the Southeastern Conference,” Jones said in an interview on 105.1 The Zone in Chattanooga on Monday. “To be able to maintain that rivalry is something that we are very excited about.”
The other cross-division match-ups set by the SEC are Arkansas-Missouri, Auburn-Georgia, LSU-Florida, Ole Miss-Vanderbilt, Mississippi State-Kentucky, and Texas A&M-South Carolina. Of the cross-division match-ups protected by the SEC, the Alabama vs. Tennessee and Auburn vs. Georgia match-ups are certainly ahead of some of the other pairings, specifically Texas A&M vs. South Carolina. But is the Third Saturday in October that far ahead of the rivalry games between Alabama and Auburn or Florida and Georgia? As with most college football issues, this probably depends on your rooting interests.
So, what is the best rivalry in the SEC? Here is my top five to get you started…
1. Iron Bowl: Alabama vs. Auburn
Last year was great, but this rivalry has offered plenty of great moments in college football history and is fueled by some of the strongest rooting interests in the country all within one state’s borders. This really is the biggest game of the year in the state for a reason.
2. Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry: Auburn vs. Georgia
There is something to be said for the deep history in this one. After 117 meetings, Auburn leads the series 55-54-8 dating back to 1892.
3. Florida-Georgia Football Rivalry
The rivalry may have moved away from the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, but no worries here. This game is played on a neutral field and has its own Hall of Fame. The two schools cannot even agree on when the series started. A stake in the SEC East also tends to be on the line more often than not.
4. Third Saturday in October: Alabama vs. Tennessee
The series tends to swing back and forth in chunks but it started with a tie in 1901. Here’s hoping Tennessee can get closer to making this series mean something again soon, and perhaps serve as a preview of a future SEC Championship Game.
5. Egg Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State
The two teams may not be SEC powers, but they play for one of the coolest trophies in college football. The game has become a Thanksgiving tradition over time, and there is just something about it that feels right.