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178 of college football’s amazing rivalry nicknames, sort of ranked

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Soooo many bizarre Battles, Brawls, Wars, and Cups, all with local bragging rights on the line.

Montana State athletic department. Banner Society illustration.

A few quick rules:

  1. I’m not pondering the quality of your rivalry, just the poetry of its name.
  2. Many rivalries have trophies, but not names. If teams don’t really refer to their game as the “Battle for the ____” or whatever, they don’t make the cut. Yes, Michigan and Minnesota play for the Little Brown Jug. Can you find an example of either school calling it The Battle for the Little Brown Jug, capital letters and all?
  3. At least one school has to have used the name. A separate section on fan-created names follows.
  4. Series that can no longer call themselves by defunct trophies (like the EKU-Morehead State Old Hawg Rifle or Kentucky-Tennessee Beer Barrel) can’t be included.
  5. I don’t care if these teams haven’t met in a while.
  6. These groups are loosely ranked amongst themselves, but I’m not assigning numbers to all eleventy million, until the very top group.
  7. Two-team rivalries only.

Now let’s get right to it, going from lesser names to the actual great names.

Boooring names

  • Governors Cup (Eastern Washington-Montana, though lots of other rivalries also have trophies with names like this.)
  • The Academic Bowl (Carnegie Mellon-Case Western)
  • The Courage Bowl (Rochester-St. John Fisher)
  • The Heroes Game (Iowa-Nebraska)
  • Battle Line Rivalry (Arkansas-Missouri)
  • The Civil War (Oregon-Oregon State, with demerits for wildly overselling.)
  • Battle of the Border (Lamar-McNeese State)
  • The Border War (Colorado State-Wyoming and Oregon-Washington. These are the Border Wars not named after actual wars.)
  • The Game (Michigan-Ohio State, Harvard-Yale, and Hampden-Sydney vs. Randolph-Macon, with bonus points for pomposity.)
  • Big Game (Cal-Stanford)
  • Ram-Crusader Cup (Fordham-Holy Cross)
  • Aggie-Eagle Classic (North Carolina A&T-North Carolina Central)
  • Tommie-Johnnie Game (St. John’s-St. Thomas)
  • Battle of the Blue (Delaware-Villanova)
  • Black and Blue Bowl (Memphis-Southern Miss, with slight bonus points for the hard-hitting connotations of “black and blue.”)

“We are in the same large area”

  • The Mid-America Classic (Eastern Illinois-Illinois State)
  • Rivalry in Dixie (Louisiana Tech-Southern Miss)
  • The Battle for Nevada (Nevada-UNLV)
  • Constitution State Rivalry (Central Connecticut-Sacred Heart)
  • Commonwealth Cup (Virginia-Virginia Tech)
  • Capital Cup (Richmond-William & Mary)
  • Empire State Bowl (Columbia-Cornell)
  • Empire Clash (Albany-Stony Brook, with demerits for sounding like a cell phone app.)
  • The Liberty Cup (Columbia-Fordham)
  • Florida Classic (Bethune-Cookman vs. Florida A&M)
  • Battle of I-75 (Bowling Green-Toledo)
  • Battle of I-10 (New Mexico State-UTEP)
  • I-35 Rivalry (Texas State-UTSA)
  • The Palmetto Bowl (Clemson-South Carolina)
  • Battle of the Palouse (Idaho-Washington State)
  • Battle on the Bayou (UL-Lafayette vs. ULM)
  • Dakota Marker (North Dakota State-South Dakota State)
  • Keystone Classic (Penn State-Pitt)
  • Battle of the Piney Woods (Sam Houston State-Stephen F. Austin)
  • Grand Canyon Trophy (Northern Arizona-Southern Utah)
  • Colonial Clash (New Hampshire-UMass)
  • Rio Grande Rivalry (New Mexico-New Mexico State)

“We have something beyond a very general location in common, even if it’s just a more specific location!”

  • The Bill Walsh Legacy Game (San Jose State-Stanford)
  • Shula Bowl (FAU-FIU)
  • Turnpike Classic (Oklahoma State-Tulsa)
  • Causeway Classic (Sacramento State-UC Davis)
  • The Southwest [Conference] Classic (Arkansas-Texas A&M)
  • The Tiger Bowl (Auburn-LSU)
  • The Sunshine Showdown (Florida-Florida State, with demerits for being difficult to say.)
  • The Mayor’s Cup (Temple-Villanova)
  • Friends of Coal Bowl (Marshall-West Virginia)
  • Two Rivers Classic (Fayetteville State-UNC Pembroke)
  • Great Valley Classic (Shepherd-Shippensburg)
  • The NSU Challenge (Nicholls State-Northwestern State, with bonus points for making me laugh three times while making this list.)
  • The Fountain City Classic (Albany State-Fort Valley State)
  • Labor Day Classic (Prairie View A&M-Texas Southern)
  • Bridger’s Battle (Utah State-Wyoming, named after a local frontiersman)
  • The Territorial Cup (Arizona-Arizona State, because the state was a territory at the time, you see.)
  • The Apple Cup (Washington-Washington State)
  • Battle of the Ravine (Henderson State-Ouachita Baptist)
  • Battle of the Bay (Hampton-Norfolk State)
  • Battle of the Brazos [River] (Baylor-Texas A&M)
  • The Magnolia Bowl (LSU-Ole Miss)
  • The West Texas Championship (Texas Tech-TCU name one)
  • Battle in Seattle (Central Washington-Western Washington)
  • Red River Valley Showdown (Minnesota-Crookston vs. Minnesota State-Moorhead)
  • Battle of the Valleys (Grand Valley State-Saginaw Valley State)
  • Route 1 Rivalry (Delaware-Delaware State)
  • Southern Heritage Classic (Jackson State-Tennessee State)
  • State Fair Classic (Grambling State-Prairie View A&M)
  • Battle for Sixth Street (CMS-Pomona-Pitzer)
  • The Bayou Classic (Grambling State-Southern)
  • Military Classic of the South (The Citadel-VMI)
  • Miner’s Bowl (Missouri Southern-Pittsburg State)
  • The Admiral’s Cup (Maine-Mass Maritime)
  • The Coal Bowl (IUP-California University, a far superior name to the “Friends of Coal Bowl.”)
  • River City Rivalry (Cincinnati-Pitt)

I didn’t have any group to put these games in

  • The Bronze Derby (Newberry-Presbyterian)
  • The Dutchman Shoes Trophy Game (RPI-Union)

Battles for objects, Tier III

  • Battle for the Heartland Trophy (Iowa-Wisconsin, with major demerits for not daring to just call it “Battle for the Heartland” or “Battle for the Neutered Bull.”)
  • Battle for the President’s Cup (Central Oklahoma-Northeastern State)
  • Battle for the Bell (Marshall-Ohio and Southern Miss-Tulane)
  • Battle for the Victory Bell (Cincinnati-Miami (Ohio))
  • Monon Bell Classic (DePauw-Wabash, which isn’t technically a “Battle for ___,” but had to be alongside its bell brethren.)
  • River Bell Classic (Nicholls State-Southeastern Louisiana. Same.)
  • Battle for the Ol’ School Bell (Jacksonville State-Troy)
  • Battle for the Valley Trophy (Fresno State-San Jose State)
  • Battle for the Cortaca Jug (Ithaca College-SUNY Cortland)
  • Battle for the Red Belt (Murray State-Western Kentucky)
  • Battle for the Book of Knowledge (Carleton-Macalester, nerds)
  • Battle for the Wagon Wheel (Akron-Kent State)
  • Battle for the Rag (LSU-Tulane)
  • Battle for the Oil Can (Fresno State-San Diego State)
  • Battle for the Black Diamond Trophy (Virginia Tech-West Virginia)
  • Battle for the Victory Barrel (East Carolina-NC State, with bonus points for the student governments just deciding this game had a trophy, out of nowhere.)
  • Battle for the Brice-Cowell Musket (Maine-New Hampshire, with slight demerits for naming the musket after football coaches, rather than historical figures.)

They just named the whole damn game after the second sentence of its encyclopedia entry

  • The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry (Auburn-Georgia)
  • The South’s Oldest Rivalry (North Carolina-Virginia, with bonus points for being technically incorrect but claiming it anyway, the most college football behavior of all.)
  • The Third Saturday in October (Alabama-Tennessee)

Battles for objects, Tier II

  • Battle for the Paniolo [Hawaiian word for “Cowboy”] Trophy (Hawaii-Wyoming)
  • Battle for the Megaphone Trophy (Michigan State-Notre Dame)
  • Battle for Chief Caddo (Northwestern State-Stephen F. Austin, with bonus points for trophy size: “Chief Caddo is the world's largest sports trophy, standing 7’6 and weighing over 320 pounds.”)
  • Battle for the Peach Basket (Valdosta State-West Georgia)
  • Battle for the Conestoga Wagon (Dickinson-Franklin & Marshall)
  • Battle for the Saddle (Texas Tech-TCU name two)
  • Battle for the Paddle (Nicholls State-Texas State)
  • Battle for the Belt (South Alabama-Troy, with bonus points for rasslin’ belt trophy.)
  • Battle for the Palladium (Middle Tennessee-Troy, with bonus points for contrived backstory. It’s a Greek statue, playing on Troy’s nickname, with Odysseus being described as a “Raider of Cities” in MTSU game notes, in order to give the Blue Raiders a connection.)
  • Battle for the Bronze Stalk Trophy (Ball State-Northern Illinois)
  • Battle for the Golden Horseshoe (Cal Poly-UC Davis)
  • Battle for the IlliBuck (Illinois-Ohio State, with bonus points for IlliBuck being a wooden turtle that replaced a live turtle almost 100 years ago.)
  • Battle for the Golden Boot (Arkansas-LSU, with bonus points for it being an enormous gold statue.)

Very good names

  • Beehive Bowl (Southern Utah-Weber State; yes, that’s just the state’s nickname, but I like that an FCS rivalry claimed it.)
  • Battle of the Bluegrass (Eastern Kentucky-Western Kentucky, following the same principle as the Beehive Bowl.)
  • The Fall Classic (Northwest Missouri State-Pittsburg State, following the same rule as above. A Division II game stole the nickname of the damn World Series.)
  • The Chowder Bowl (Mass Maritine-SUNY Maritime, with bonus points for cleverness, but demerits for chowder being bad.)
  • The Ninth Island Showdown (Hawaii-UNLV)
  • Gate City Soup Bowl (Greensboro-Guilford)
  • The Egg Bowl (Mississippi State-Ole Miss)
  • The Cranberry Bowl (Bridgewater State-Mass Maritime, the Buccaneers’ far more delicious food bowl rivalry.)
  • The Bucket Game (Indiana-Purdue)
  • Battle of the Brothers (Utah-Utah State)
  • Granite Bowl (Dartmouth-New Hampshire; yes, this is much higher than other state nicknames, because granite is better than commonwealths and magnolias.)
  • The Cuyahoga Gold Bowl (Baldwin-Wallace vs. John Carroll)
  • Rumble in the Rockies (Colorado-Utah)
  • Rocky Mountain Showdown (Colorado-Colorado State)
  • The Sunflower Showdown (Kansas-Kansas State)
  • The Lone Star Showdown (Texas-Texas A&M)
  • The Textile Bowl (Clemson-NC State)
  • Turnpike Tussle (Emporia State-Washburn)
  • 26th Street Tussle (Augustana-Sioux Falls)
  • Cajun Crown (McNeese State vs. UL-Lafayette)
  • Anchor-Bone Classic (Ferris State-Grand Valley State)
  • Rocking Chair Classic (Hamilton-Middlebury)
  • The Old Hickory Stick Game (Northwest Missouri State-Truman State)
  • The Bronze Turkey Game (Knox-Monmouth)
  • Battle of the Firsts (Cheyney-Lincoln, both of whom claim to be the country’s first HBCU.)
  • War on I-4 (UCF-USF)
  • The Magic City Classic (Alabama A&M-Alabama State)
  • The Arch Rivalry (Illinois-Missouri ... because the St. Louis Arch is between them, you see.)
  • The Crab Bowl Classic (Maryland-Navy)
  • The Bayou Bucket Classic (Houston-Rice)
  • The Cereal Bowl (Carleton-St. Olaf)
  • The Axe Game (Minnesota-Wisconsin)
  • The Revivalry (Baylor-TCU)
  • Deeper than Hate (Appalachian State-Georgia Southern)
  • The Shotglass Trophy Game (Coast Guard-RPI)
  • Top Dog Game (Butler-Indianapolis. Their mascots are dogs. Defunct since 1992. Don’t care.)
  • The Biggest Little Game in America (Amherst-Williams)

Battles for objects, Tier I

  • Battle of the Bricks (Miami (Ohio)-Ohio)
  • Battle for Paul Bunyan (Michigan-Michigan State)
  • The Battle for the Cannon (Illinois-Purdue)
  • Battle for the Victory Cannon (Central Michigan-Western Michigan)
  • Battle for the Maple Sap Bucket (Castleton-Norwich)
  • Battle for the Iron Skillet (SMU-TCU)
  • Battle for the Border Claw (East Texas Baptist-Louisiana College)
  • Battle for the Old Brass Spittoon (Indiana-Michigan State)
  • Battle for the Milk Can (Boise State-Fresno State)
  • Battle for the Old Mountain Jug (Appalachian State-Western Carolina, with bonus points for the jug being a moonshine jug.)
  • Battle for the Bones (Memphis-UAB, with bonus points for the greatest rivalry trophy of all time: a 100-pound, bronzed rack of ribs.)
Wikimedia Commons
  • Battle for ScotZilla, the only thing on here that merits a full explanation. From Lyon College:

The concept of the ScotZilla Trophy comes from Lyon College’s school mascot and its Scottish heritage. Hendrix instilled the use of Godzilla — a creature that was originated from a series of Japanese films dating back to 1954 — as part of the trophy from Hendrix president Bill Tsutsui’s studies of the fictional character.


The 20 best, actually ranked

20. The Holy War (Boston College-Notre Dame and BYU-Utah)

19. The Backyard Brawl (Pitt-West Virginia and Millsaps-Mississippi College)

18. The Iron Bowl (Alabama-Auburn)

17. The Soul Bowl (Alcorn State-Jackson State)

16. The Dam Cup (Eastern Washington-Portland State)

15. The Red Beans and Rice Bowl (Central Arkansas-McNeese State)

14. The Real HU (Hampton-Howard. Lots of schools argue about acronyms. Putting it on the line > yapping.)

13. Seafaring Scuffle (Merchant Marine-SUNY Maritine)

12. Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate (Georgia-Georgia Tech)

11. The BoomBox Classic (Jackson State-Southern)

10. The Border War (Kansas-Missouri ... like, they named it after a literal war.)

9. Red River Shootout (the name of Oklahoma-Texas, no matter what they try to tell you.)

8. The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (the name of Florida-Georgia, no matter what they try to tell you.)

7. The Moonshine Throwdown (Marshall-Western Kentucky)

6. Battle for the Keg of Nails (Cincinnati-Louisville)

5. The Rivalry (Lafayette-Lehigh, the only rivalry that could possibly attempt such a name, seeing as it’s football’s oldest ongoing series.)

4. The Black Hills Brawl (Black Hills State-South Dakota School of Mines)

3. 100 Miles of Hate (Middle Tennessee-Western Kentucky)

2. Bedlam (Oklahoma-Oklahoma State, with no demerits for the name of the game usually being a lie.)

1. Brawl of the Wild (Montana-Montana State, and they can call it Cat-Griz, Griz-Cat, the battle for the Great Divide Trophy, and so forth all they want.)

I’m sure I’m missing lots of good names.

Drop them in the comments, and I’ll get caught up on categorizing them at some point. If you can, include evidence of a team using the name.

And, in ABC order, some rivalry names that aren’t exactly recognized, but not for lack of trying by the internet.