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Primetime Prestige

May 26, 2021

These are the games that commonly find themselves played on primetime. The yearly battle between these schools sparks hatred between fanbases, but winning is rarely a fruitless victory, and almost always impacts the landscape of the sport for that entire season.

Only a select few rivalries can annually impact the entirety of college football, but these games generally live up to the title.

 

The Battle for the Jewelled Shillelagh

The prototype of a prestigious rivalry. Notre Dame and Southern California are two of college football’s most storied programs, both boasting multiple national championships over their century of existence. 

While these two schools are almost polar opposites in every way, winning is seemingly the only thing that unites these programs. 

While USC sits within the cinema capital of the world in Los Angeles, Notre Dame resides in the small Midwestern town of South Bend, Indiana.

The series was first played in 1926 and has been played annually ever since, except for the duration of World War Two.

From 1966 to 1979, one of USC or Notre Dame finished as national champion or runner-up 10 out of the 14 seasons. 

This remarkable run of dominance between the two rivals encapsulates the tension present every year between the two schools. 

 

Alabama-LSU

The stakes have never been higher during the last decade of this century-long division rivalry. 

Alabama-LSU has almost annually decided the winner of the SEC West Division, and, at times, has been the biggest threshold to cross to win the national championship. 

The two teams met twice in the 2011-2012 season, once in the regular season that resulted in a 9-6 victory for LSU, then again in the national championship game that crowned Alabama after a 21-0 victory. 

Despite Alabama winning 9 of the last 10 matchups between the two schools, 15 of the last 17 games have been decided by two possessions or less, with the sole two exceptions being 2018 and 2020.

The two schools currently share a common figure integral to both schools’ successes in football: Nick Saban. 

While Saban is generally associated with the unprecedented dynasty he has created at Alabama, Saban achieved his first national championship victory at LSU, before he left for the Miami Dolphins of the NFL two years later. 

This game is commonly selected for CBS’s single primetime broadcast of the season, and more times than not lives up to the hype.

 

Notre Dame-Michigan

A true story of the successor surpassing the predecessor. As the small Catholic school located in South Bend, Indiana looked to jumpstart their fledgling football program, they turned north to the powerhouse football program of the University of Michigan, looking for advice on how to become a better football team. 

Michigan gladly offered this advice, assuming the small school in South Bend would never pose a threat to their dominant team. This presumption was held true for the two schools’ first meetings, as Michigan won each of the first eight games. 

The tides turned in 1909, as Notre Dame defeated Michigan 11-3 to achieve their first victory against the Wolverines. 

The stunning loss, coupled with the resentment of losing to the school that they had taught to play football, caused Michigan to start a hiatus in the series, which lasted for 33 years.

The two schools have played the series on and off for the better half of the 21st century, but the two fanbases still hold the resentment towards the other that was present when the series was halted all the way back in 1909.

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