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Who Are the Most Prevalent Rivals in the SEC?

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 This logo is cool, but I'd like it a little bigger, please...

 

Four weeks ago, we had a poll here at TET trying to determine who our 3rd biggest rival behind Alabama and Georgia was. I had seen a similar poll over at Dawgsports the week before, and it got me wondering who might be each SEC team's top conference rival, what overlap existed, and who was the most prevalent team that appeared. So like the Clinton Administration used to do, I put some polls in the field over at our SB sister blogs in order to get a general idea of who fans from the conference felt was their three biggest conference rivals. I then used that information to bolster what I already knew about southern rivalries to come up with the data for this thread.

Keep in mind that although I attempted to use an (admittingly weak) statistical sampling, the results are not exactly what any person would call scientific. With college football fans being the passionate folks that they are, you can ask ten of them from one team a question and get eleven different answers, so just remember that before you pepper me with double-aught buckshot. My thanks to the administrators of our sister blogs for allowing me and assisting me to post the polls as Fanposts on their sites. Believe it or not, the biggest response came from Roll Bama Roll, so mad props to their fans for their cooperation in the spirit of de'tente.

 

WEST RANKINGS:

AUBURN:  1) Alabama 2) Georgia 3) LSU   There's little doubt that the purple Tigers are now our third biggest rival, with historic series with Florida and Tennessee no longer on an annual basis. Although the Tiger cousins had shared the same conferences together for 97 years prior to the realignment of 1992, they had only played 26 times. Virtually every other game in this series gets branded with a nickname. Here's to making up for lost time!

ALABAMA: 1) Auburn 2) Tennessee 3) LSU  Bama's rivalries within the conference are legendary and virtually written in stone. None were affected by the realignment. The series with Auburn and Tennessee are statistically close, with the Tide winning 54% of the games against both, but Alabama has distanced LSU over the years, almost winning twice as many games as the Tigers, 44-23-5. Alabama is also the top rival for three other SEC teams, a record in this poll.

ARKANSAS: 1) LSU 2) Ole Miss 3) Alabama  One of the new kids on the block, Arkansas' old Southwest conference ties cause it to be on no other SEC team's top three rivals list, but look for that to change once Arkansas is granted statehood. The Razorbacks always seem to play Alabama and Auburn tough, so perhaps those rivalries will gain stature over time.

LSU:  1) Alabama 2) Auburn 3) Florida  The Cajuns seem to have an infatuation with both teams from the Yellowhammer state, but maybe that's just because they're so lonely down there on the Bayou, being the only big fish in the pond. Auburn just barely edged Florida in the rankings despite the Gator-Purple Tiger series being the most intense new inter-divisional rivalry in the conference. The Tiger-Tiger rivalry seems to be one born of respect so far, the occasional incidental chop-block notwithstanding...

OLE MISS: 1) Miss State 2) LSU 3) Tennessee  The Rebel's third slot with the Vols was a toss-up with Arkansas. Although UM had played the Razorbacks many times during their old SWC days, the series with Tennessee is longer and more intense for the Rebs. Ole Miss still isn't represented on the SB nation. We're looking forward to that, Colonel Reb.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: 1) Ole Miss 2) Alabama 3) LSU  State, too,  has a long relationship with teams from the state of Alabama, but LSU gets the nod for third place over Auburn probably because that series is roughly 20 games longer and the Bulldogs have a much better winning percentage against the purple Tigers. MSU's series duration with it's chief rivals has indeed outlasted the cows coming home.

 

EAST RANKINGS:

FLORIDA: 1) Georgia 2) Tennessee 3) LSU  The Game Where You Can't Mention Alcohol Anymore ranks among the top rivalries in CFB and is the second-oldest neutral-site game out there. Florida is distinct because it's two other biggest series are basically new rivalries since 1992. FL-TN was big in the 1990's and the annual FL-LSU matchup now serves as a perfect counter-weight for both BCS National Championship winners from this century.

GEORGIA: 1) Florida 2) Auburn 3) Tennessee  Although Dawg fans are enjoying a growing intensity with the Vols, that rivalry is merely in it's infancy compared to Georgia's Top Two historic series. The Aformentioned Game Where You Can't Mention Alcohol and The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry take a back seat to none for the Bulldogs. Georgia's most intense rivalry, arguably Georgia Tech, warrants footnote status as the two did share conferences for roughly 70 years. But like most divorces, one ends up with the house and the other a trailer  the ACC.

KENTUCKY: 1) Tennessee 2) S.Carolina 3) Vanderbilt  The series with the Gamecocks occupies 2nd place in spite of these two teams having only met thrice before the conference expansion. South Carolina and Vandy are virtually interchangeable with the Wildcats and might not be very far ahead of Georgia. The Cats and the Gators can't be under-stated either, with Kentucky gathering strength under Rich Brooks the last few years.

SOUTH CAROLINA: 1) Georgia 2) Tennessee 3) Florida  USC is the second of the New Kids on the Block, being Donnie Wahlberg to Arkansas' Marky Mark.  However, unlike the Hogs, the Cocks are second cousins with most of their conference stablemates, having some history there, especially with Georgia. Tennessee is probably a solid #2, with Florida and Arkansas probably neck and neck. The Hogs and the Cocks were alien species in the barnyard, having never played prior to joining the SEC in 1992.

TENNESSEE: 1) Alabama 2) Florida 3) Georgia  The Third Saturday in October trumps all others for the Vols, but like Florida, Tennessee shares the fact that it's second and third rivalries are relatively new, as they didn't have significant history with Florida or Georgia prior to the realignment. (lending further evidence to my theory that Tennessee should have been in the west division) Alas, Rocky Top winds up as two other schools' biggest rival and as Miss Congeniality on many more. Many Vols believe that Florida might eventually be supplanted by the nascent border war with Georgia.

VANDERBILT: 1) Tennessee 2) Kentucky 3) S.Carolina  What a difference a century makes. Vandy goes from being the entire (SIAA) conference's rival who no one can beat, to being the perpetual caboose of the modern day SEC. Glad they stuck with us. No one defends the much-maligned Commodores more than her sister schools, except for maybe Lionel Richie. Really, only Kentucky has a mutual rivalry with Vanderbilt at this time. Tennessee doesn't generally give them the time of day, (except in 2005).

 

So if you assign a simple point value of 3 for being someone's top rival, 2 for being second, and 1 for third, you come up with the Top Six:

1) Tennessee: 14 points

2) Alabama: 12 points

T-3rd) Georgia, LSU: 9 points

T-5th) Auburn, Florida: 7 points

It seems that the results closely mirror the all-time standings in conference winning percentage, which is historically Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia, respectively.  This group of three enjoy a comfortable lead over the next gang. Although I fully expected the Tide to be the most prevalent rival, Tennessee's dominance in it's own state and neighboring states, in addition to having new heated rivalries with division stablemates, pushes her above Alabama for the crown.

The tie for numbers 3-6 is especially fitting since those three schools are in a statistical dead-heat for the 3rd through 6th best all-time SEC winning percentages. After 2007, Auburn was barely ahead of LSU and Florida, respectively, but after the 2008 season, Florida has now edged LSU and Auburn. Welcome to the SEC!!