College football is the best sport in the world and I won’t hear any arguments to the contrary. Part of that greatness is the lore and excitement around rivalry games. While there are well over 100 unofficial rivalries in FBS football, I did some digging and discovered that 71 of the regular season games will result in a trophy handoff this season.
My wheels started spinning — should I write a “who has the coolest trophy” piece? What about a “the best rivalries in college football” article? No, those are over-done. And frankly, who cares? If I have a remote in my hand on a Saturday this fall, I don’t care if they’re playing for a pig statue or screwdriver, I just want to watch a good football game.
So instead of giving you the 71-game long list of “trophies I’d want in my trophy case”, I’m going to release a month-by-month ranking of trophy games you don’t want to miss. I don’t take into account if the matchup features a blue blood or if the trophy weighs 200 lbs., I simply want to rank the most watchable games that end in a team rushing the sideline and hoisting a trophy in their opponents’ faces. The only way to get through all 71 is to start small.
So without further ado, I present you the 12 regular season trophy games of September, ranked worst to first.
12. Battle of I-10: Silver Spade Trophy
UTEP vs. New Mexico State, Week 2 (70 of 71 overall)
Starting off strong, we get one of the worst regular season rivalry trophies just two weeks into the season. Not only was New Mexico State one of the worst teams in college football last season, but they’re not expected to be any better this season. UTEP is historically horrible but finally seems to have established some footing with head coach Dana Dimel. That unfortunately means this game likely won’t be very competitive and finishes as the second worst regular season rivalry game in all of FBS this season, but if you’re desperate for football at 8:00 p.m. CT in Week 2, this will do.
11. The Bayou Bucket
Houston vs. Rice, Week 4 (69 of 71 overall)
Houston won this game 44-7 last season. In fact, they’ve won the last 6 in the series by a total of 155 points. Rice is consistently horrible and Houston is consistently not that bad. If you’re looking for a trophy game with a little bit of excitement, skip this one.Embed from Getty Images
10. Battle on the Bayou: Wooden Boot Trophy
Louisiana-Monroe vs. Louisiana, Week 4 (68 of 71 overall)
The Ragin’ Cajuns have won 12 of the last 14 in this series and if I were a betting man (I am), I would put the house on Louisiana to win 13 of 15. While it’s one of the Sun Belt’s best rivalries, it only clocks in at 10th in the month of September this year.
9. Battle for the Bell: The Bell Trophy
Tulane vs. Southern Miss, Week 4 (56 of 71 overall)
Nothing against the three before this on the list, but we’re finally approaching watchable games. Southern Miss and Tulane are a mere 110 miles away and truly do not like each other. While Southern Miss holds a 23-9 series record, Tulane has won the last two in the series and is heavily favored in this season’s matchup in Week 4.
8. The Victory Barrel Trophy
East Carolina vs. NC State, Week 1 (47 of 71 overall)
Looking for a trophy game in Week 1? You only have one choice! And unfortunately, it probably won’t result in many fireworks. NC State has taken the North Carolina crown in this in-state rivalry the past two seasons by a score of 92-9. While East Carolina has improved since those last two losses, no one is predicting an upset in this one.
7. The Old Wagon Wheel Trophy
BYU vs. Utah State, Week 5 (46 of 71 overall)
Maybe I’m ranking this one too low simply because of what’s at stake here — perhaps the last Battle for the Old Wagon Wheel in the foreseeable future. As BYU prepares for a move to the Big 12, this is the last scheduled game in the series until the in-state rivals decide they need an annual non-conference rivalry again. BYU should be able to score plenty against a struggling Utah State program this season, but don’t count out a scorned in-state rival that is looking for blood in the last scheduled matchup.Embed from Getty Images
6. The Battle for the Bell: Victory Bell Trophy
Cincinnati vs. Miami (OH), Week 3 (38 of 71 overall)
This is the oldest non-conference football rivalry in college football and the 59-59-7 record would suggest this is one of the better rivalries in the sport. Even with Cincinnati’s move to the Big 12, the two programs have agreed to extend the rivalry through 2029. Unfortunately, Cincinnati has won 15 in a row dating back to 2006, meaning Miami is due… right? Probably not, but this in-state rivalry is guaranteed to be watchable for at least a few quarters.
5. The Black Diamond Trophy
Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia, Week 4 (37 of 71 overall)
Former Big East foes, the now-ACC, and Big 12 teams have played twice since 2005 and split the games in hard-fought battles. Last season, the Mountaineers took down the Hokies in Morgantown 27-21, but this season the hometown Hokies should be favored in one of the more random and fun rivalry games of the season.
4. Battle for the CyHawk Trophy
Iowa vs. Iowa State, Week 2 (30 of 71 overall)
Another in-state rivalry, another winning streak that takes some of the excitement out of the game. While Iowa has won the last 6 matchups, the CyHawk rivalry has drawn plenty of national attention with the last two games being ESPN’s featured location on College GameDay in 2019 and 2021. The game is almost always low scoring and competitive — 6 of the last 10 have been decided by one score or less — so expect a close and gross game in Iowa City.Embed from Getty Images
3. Battle for the Chancellor’s Spurs
Texas Tech vs. Texas, Week 4 (26 of 71 overall)
In what has become known as one of the highest-scoring rivalries in all of college football, the Texas-Texas Tech game is expected to deliver fireworks again after four-straight games of more than 70 points, including a 63-56 overtime shootout in the 2020 season. Many will remember the rivalry for the iconic 2008 matchup that featured a last-second Michael Crabtree tip-toe touchdown reception to win the game, and this year’s matchup should deliver some excitement in both teams’ Big 12 opener.
2. Battle for the Iron Skillet
SMU vs. TCU, Week 4 (22 of 71 overall)
High scoring? Check. Exciting? Check. Two teams who hate each other? Check. TCU and SMU have one of the healthiest rivalries in college football at the moment, with SMU claiming the last two victories in the series. This year’s matchup should be one of the best in college football with no shortage of points. Don’t be surprised if the winner has 40+ points for the 5th straight season.Embed from Getty Images
1. The Southwest Classic: The Southwest Classic Trophy
Arkansas vs. Texas A&M, Week 4 (12 of 71 overall)
Dubbed the “Southwest Classic” and played in Arlington, Texas, annually, this highly-contested rivalry was dominated by Texas A&M for 9 consecutive seasons until Arkansas stole a win last season. They’ve played 3 overtime games in the past 8 seasons and Arkansas coach Sam Pittman seems to have the Razorbacks in a position to compete. With Texas A&M ranked #6 in the preseason AP Poll and Arkansas ranked #19, this game is poised to be one of the best games of the season, trophy or not.
Check back next month for the October rankings of regular season rivalry trophy games!