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No bigger rivalry than Tide vs. Tigers

Listening to sports radio on my drive to work on Monday the topic of what is the biggest rivalry in sports along the professional and collegiate ranks.

The talkshow host said without a doubt the most intense rivalry was the Michigan-Ohio State game. The host talked of the sheer hatred that the schools have for each other.

Having never covered sports in that part of the country, I wouldn't know. But one thing is for sure, I would put the Auburn vs. Alabama rivalry up against any of the rivalries in all of sports.

I've covered some rivalry games in the past like Florida State vs. Miami, Florida State vs. Florida, Clemson vs. South Carolina and of course Auburn vs. Alabama.

All four have redeeming qualities. But never will you hear a game more talked about than an Alabama vs. Auburn game or Auburn vs. Alabama game. It just depends on how you look at it.

No sooner does the final seconds run out on the 2004 game, the talk begins about next year. Auburn won't have that first-round draft pick backfield back, but Alabama will have their golden-armed, Brodie Croyle, quarterback returning.

Auburn can't repeat as SEC champs because they can't repeat a 13-0 season. Alabama has no where to go but up after an abysmal 6-6 season.

That's how the talk starts. And it goes on and on and on.

But that's just the vanilla version of most conversations between Alabama and Auburn fans. Remember, this is a family newspaper. We don't need to get into any rated R versions here.

I don't believe I have ever heard a Michigan fan or a Ohio State fan talk about football in the spring much less the winter while they are trying to dig their car out of 10 feet of snow.

Looking at other college football rivalries, I can assure you that Florida State fans don't even think about the Gators until game week. And the same can be said of Florida fans about the Seminoles.

The difference there is the two schools belong to different conferences. So the number one priority of each is a conference championship. Then they can concentrate on each other.

That's why I believe the Florida State vs. Miami rivalry will eventually surpass the rivalry between the Seminoles and the Gators.

Speaking intraconference rivalries, I've noticed the hatred between South Carolina and Clemson does go beyond the gridiron. The verbal barbs exchanged between the two schools during a college baseball game are quite reminiscent of the Auburn vs. Alabama rivalry. But the talk is only that day of the game.

Sure there are other rivalries that stand out. Texas vs. Oklahoma is developing into one of the great storied rivalries. And as long as the two reams remain in the Top 10 nationally, this could be the rivalry to top Auburn vs. Alabama.

Since both teams have been on probation, the Auburn vs. Alabama game has lost some luster. Until 1992, a conference championship usually was hanging in the balance for either team leading up to the intrastate game.

For the last four years, Auburn has been on an upswing. And Alabama has been plagued with probation.

Still the records are thrown out every Iron Bowl. I don't have to remind you which team was backed against the ropes after a masterful first half last season. Auburn was backpeddling so after the opening half, that I heard Bobby Lowder was fueling up the jet to court a new coach by the half.

Sure the Michigan-Ohio State game is a good rivalry game. The winner of that game tends to play in the Rose Bowl or win the conference championship, but you just don't read or hear of the excitement surrounding that game until game week.

The Auburn vs. Alabama game is a topic of conversation at anytime during the year, whether it be January or June.

There just is no game that has as much intensity or build up like an Auburn vs. Alabama game. I challenge anyone to argue that there is a better college football rivalry anywhere in the country than right here in the Heart of Dixie.

Kevin Taylor is sports editor of The Greenville Advocate. You can e-mail him at kevin.taylor@greenvilleadvocate or call (334) 383-9302 ext. 122.