Ever since the early days of college football in America, rivalries between particular teams tended to make certain games on the schedule each season stand out as harder hitting gridiron grudge matches.
In some cases, the animosity between the universities was easy to grasp, clear and unambiguous, such as a pair of colleges located within the boundaries of the same state. Other times the motivations were less distinct, and occasionally sprang to life because of an archaic dispute over seemingly mundane events that were totally unrelated to anything that ever occurred on the football field. In some instances, the rivalries simply developed over the course of many years, often when a formerly weaker team began to turn things around and became a tough competitor for the college that had its virtually unchallenged football dynasty beginning to slip away.
While the origins of college football rivalries are numerous and diverse, nearly all of them share the common feature of awarding a trophy each season to the winning team. The trophies range from simple and unassuming to expensive and dazzling, although each one compels both teams to take their game up to a higher level to capture it for that season.
Technically, the teams are hitting harder and playing their best game for the glory of walking off the field as champions, for the feeling of knowing they beat their rival, and to see their team with the bigger number on the final scoreboard. The rivalry trophy is the icing on the cake, and the hardware that proves the team got the job done when the pressure is on in the big game each year. The biggest trophy awarded every season is the crystal football for the BCS national champions, but there are a lot of other trophies to win along the way, each with its own history and significance.
The top 25 rivalry trophies in college football:
1: Jeweled Shillelagh, USC vs. Notre Dame: Awarded to the winner of the annual Trojan vs. Irish game. Started by the Notre Dame Alumni Club of Los Angeles in 1952.
2: Victory Bell, USC vs. UCLA: Awarded to the winner of the annual Crosstown Showdown between the two major universities in Los Angeles. Began in 1942.
3: Stanford Axe, Stanford vs. California: Awarded to the winner of the annual Big Game. It started becoming a trophy for the game in 1933, although its origins date back to 1899.
4: Legends Trophy, Notre Dame vs. Stanford: Awarded to the winner of the annual Notre Dame vs. Stanford rivalry game. Started in 1989 by the Notre Dame Alumni Club of San Francisco.
5: Golden Egg Trophy, Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State: Awarded to the winner of each season’s Egg Bowl. The trophy began being given to the victor in 1927.
6: Paul Bunyan Trophy, Michigan vs. Michigan State: Awarded to the winner of The Sibling Rivalry every season. First became the game’s rivalry trophy in 1953.
7: Commander-in-Chief Trophy, Army vs. Air Force, Army vs. Navy, Air Force vs. Navy: Awarded to the team that wins the three-game series of head-to-head match-ups between the nation’s service academies. The trophy started in 1972.
8: Apple Cup, Washington vs. Washington State: Awarded to the winner of the annual Apple Cup rivalry game between the two in-state foes. The trophy began in 1962.
9: Iron Skillet, TCU vs. SMU: Awarded to the winner of the Battle for The Iron Skillet each year between TCU and SMU. Began in 1946.
10: Megaphone Trophy, Notre Dame vs. Michigan State: Awarded to the winner of the Notre Dame vs. Michigan State rivalry game each season. Started in 1949.
11: Little Brown Jug, Michigan vs. Minnesota: Awarded to the winner of the Michigan vs. Minnesota rivalry game each season. It is the oldest trophy in major college football, with its origins dating back to 1909.
12: Old Oaken Bucket, Indiana vs. Purdue: Awarded to the winner of the Indiana vs. Purdue rivalry game each season. Trophy began being awarded in 1925.
13: Golden Boot, Arkansas vs. LSU: Awarded to the winner of the Battle for The Golden Boot. Started in 1996.
14: Territorial Cup, Arizona State vs. Arizona: Awarded to the winner of the Duel in the Desert. Trophy dates back to 1910.
15: James E. Foy, V-ODK Sportsmanship Trophy, Alabama vs. Auburn: Awarded to the winner of the annual Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn. Trophy originated in 1948.
16: Frank Leahy Memorial Bowl and Ireland Trophy, Notre Dame vs. Boston College: Awarded to the winner of the Holy War each season. Trophies date back to 1975.
17: Magnolia Bowl Trophy, LSU vs. Ole Miss: Awarded to the winner of the annual Magnolia Bowl rivalry game. Trophy began being awarded in 2008.
18: Platypus Trophy, Oregon vs. Oregon State: Awarded to the winner of the Civil War rivalry game each season. Trophy originated in 1958, but was lost, and finally began being awarded again to the victor each year in 2007.
19: Paul Bunyan’s Axe, Minnesota vs. Wisconsin: Awarded to the winner of the Battle for the Axe each year. The Axe replaced the Slab Of Bacon Trophy in 1948.
20: Land Grant Trophy, Penn State vs. Michigan State: Awarded to the winner of the Battle of the Land Grants rivalry game, now scheduled every few years because of new conference division format. The trophy began being awarded in 1993.
21: Governor’s Cup. Kansas vs. Kansas State: Awarded to the winner of the Sunflower Showdown football rivalry game. The trophy started in 1969.
22: Floyd Of Rosedale, Iowa vs. Minnesota: Awarded to the winner of the annual Iowa vs. Minnesota rivalry game. The trophy began in 1935 with a live pig as the prize, but the following year was a trophy shaped like a pig.
23: Textile Bowl Trophy, Clemson vs. North Carolina State: Awarded to the winner of the Textile Bowl each season. The trophy began being awarded in 1981.
24: Illy Illibuck Trophy, Illinois vs. Ohio State: Awarded to the winner of the Illinois vs. Ohio State rivalry game. Originally, in 1925 it was a live turtle, replaced by a wooden turtle in 1927.
25: Commonwealth Cup, Virginia vs. Virginia Tech: Awarded to the winner of the Battle for the Commonwealth game. The trophy began being awarded in 1996.
Steven Holmes is a Los Angeles resident and season ticket holder for the USC Trojans.