"Little Brother" won't be an easy win for these five rivalries.
Sibling rivalries fuel competition in families and college football, and conference rivalries are the closest thing we have to sibling rivalry. This was highlighted after the 2007 Michigan/Michigan State game. Michigan State was up to ten late against the Wolverines, and Michigan rallied back to beat Michigan State 28-24. After the game, Michigan running back Mike Hart gave a quote for the ages:
"I was laughing. I thought it was funny. (The Spartans) Get excited; it's good. Sometimes you get your little brother excited when you're playing basketball and let him get the lead. Then you just come back and take it back.
Here are five rivalries you should keep an on where little brother will give big brother fits:
#5 The Game – Ohio State/Michigan (Michigan leads series 59-51-6)
I can already feel the heat from both participants in this rivalry on who is the little brother. Michigan started this rivalry with a 13-0-2 head start, but in recent years Ohio State has begun to close the gap significantly, going 18-3 in the last 21 matchups. When you look at both programs, the youth of Ryan Day, and how far ahead that program is in talent development and recruiting, we could be 2040 looking at Ohio State as the all-time leader in wins in this series. While Michigan last season got a big-time win in Ann Arbor 42-27, they will have two new coordinators and still essential questions on both sides of the ball between quarterback and losing top edge rusher Aidan Hutchison. Ohio State has an offensive juggernaut returning, and with The Game in Columbus this year, Ohio State will inch closer in the series lead column.
#4 The Holy War - Utah/BYU (Utah leads series – Utah claims 62-35-4 lead/BYU claims Utah lead 59-32-4)
The one rivalry on the list where neither side can agree on the rivalry's score, and we shouldn't expect anything less from the participants. Kyle Whittingham's Utah Utes have dominated this rivalry. Dating back to when Kyle Whittingham arrived in Salt Lake City in 1994 as a defensive line coach and worked his way to defensive coordinator under Urban Meyer, and becoming head coach, Utah has gone 18-8 against their rivals from neighbor Provo about a 45-mile drive on I-15. BYU has a few things working for them as of late. Kalani Sitake took over as head coach at BYU in 2016 and has had the momentum the last two seasons. The Cougars have gone 21-4 the previous two seasons, including going 5-0 last season against Pac-12 teams, they beat Utah for the first time since 2009, and the Cougars will join a Power 5 conference for the first time in program history in 2023 when it joins the Big XII.
#3 The Third Saturday In October – Alabama/Tennessee (Alabama leads series 58-37-7)
Yes, I know, for about the last decade in half, the three certainties in life have been: death, taxes, and Alabama beats Tennessee. I get that in the previous six meetings, Alabama has averaged 47.8 points per game and allowed 15.3 points per game. The question might be, what am I seeing, and why am I suggesting that Tennessee might return as a thorn in Alabama's side?
I am looking at the cultural change spearheaded by new Volunteers head coach Josh Heupel. I am looking at the commitment of the Volunteers program. They are no longer celebrating Championships of Life (Butch Jones) or hiring Saban clones who either don't want to be there (Lane Kiffin) or don't have a clue about running a program (Derek Dooley and Jeremy Pruitt).
Heupel has stabilized a program and given it a solid foundation. Heupel's biggest recruiting win was earlier this year when he received a commitment from 5-star Long Beach Poly (CA) quarterback Nico Iamaleava. Remember when Saban knew the tide was beginning to change in Tuscaloosa is when Julio Jones committed to Alabama, if Iamaleava is Heupel's "Julio Jones," that changes the dynamic in this historic rivalry.
#2 Lone Star Showdown - Texas/Texas A&M (Texas leads series 76-37-5)
College Football's version of Top Gun: Maverick, a delayed premier to an epic blockbuster, would easily be identified as a former Thanksgiving tradition coming soon to the SEC in 2023? 2025? Texas and Texas A&M are about as bitter of an in-state rivalry as you can. A&M ran out of the Big XII to find itself, to try to leverage the fantastic resources around them in Texas, and to leverage being the only SEC team in Texas and SEC money.
That all changed last summer when it was announced the SEC was expanding and opening the door for Oklahoma and Texas to join the SEC. While Texas hasn't been the national power under Mack Brown, new Longhorns coach Steve Sarkisian has built some momentum with impact players such as quarterback Quinn Ewers and Bijan Robinson.
While both players seem highly unlikely to be in Austin in 2025 when the SEC doors open for the Longhorns, it is a high possibility for a massive momentum for them in recruiting, and if the Longhorns truly turn it around before joining, they may continue to be the big brother to A&M. However, Texas A&M has really to assert itself by trying to win the SEC and get into the College Football Player. Last recruiting cycle A&M had the #1 overall recruiting class with eight players classified at 5-stars. The build-up is tantalizing for fans, and if A&M attains juggernaut status by 2025, they have an excellent chance to set Texas back even further.
#1 Palmetto Bowl - Clemson/South Carolina (Clemson leads the series 72-42-4)
If 2021 proved anything to the College Football world, Clemson is mortal, and they can be beaten. Following the 2021 season, Clemson saw both long-time coordinators and pillars of the Clemson dynasty Tony Elliott (Virginia) and Brent Venables (Oklahoma), leave for head coaching jobs. Clemson quarter DJ Uiagalelei didn't seem to take that next step predecessor Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence made.
Dabo has some decisions to make on returning to the ultimate elite table in College Football. Quietly in Columbia, South Carolina, Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) First-Year Coach of the Year Shane Beamer has been crafting a resurgence for the Gamecocks.
This has been highlighted by the transfer of junior quarterback Spencer Rattler from Oklahoma, a former First-Team All-Big 12 Quarterback selection. When he had that success, Shane Beamer was Lincoln Riley's assistant head coach. Complimenting Rattler on the resurgent Gamecocks on the opposite side is a pass defense that was 4th in the SEC and allowed only one 300-yard passer. Cam Smith, Darius Rush, Marcellas Dial, and RJ Roderick will anchor a very experienced secondary.
A 2022 recruiting class that was a Top 25 class also commences in Columbia with eight former 4-star players, notably safeties Keenan Nelson Jr., Anthony Rose, and Emory Floyd, linebacker Donovan Westmoreland, WR Landon Samson along, with 4-star QB Tanner Bailey joining the Gamecocks. While Clemson is the lead program, don't be surprised if the Gamecocks make the Palmetto Bowl a difficult one for the Tiger, steal a few games, and ruin a few seasons for Clemson.