That’s the question for the college football fan bases most obsessed with their rivals. It’s not enough that they care about their own teams, but they incessantly crash message boards and comment sections on items that deal only with their rivals.
Maybe it’s an inferiority complex at work, because their obsession is not returned in kind. Some of the rivalries are so one-sided that their perceived rivals actually consider somebody else the real rival. The fans of their rivals are mostly concerned about their own teams and couldn’t give a flying fig about what their so-called adversaries are doing (not nearly to the same extent, anyway).
Keep in mind that this list is fluid, as fortunes in rivalries tend to have an effect on the intensity of the obsession. So this is where things stand, as of 2016:
1. Michigan State: Fans of the Spartans have always been obsessed with Michigan, which doesn’t even consider its in-state competition as the chief rival (not even close). But Sparty hate for the Wolverines have reached a crescendo after Jim Harbaugh’s return to Ann Arbor as coach.
Never mind that Michigan State has won seven of eight against Michigan, including last year’s Miracle at the Big House. Sparty fans are extra ornery and cranky because while Harbaugh is hogging all the attention their team is once again relegated as the “Little Brother” even though Michigan State is the reigning Big Ten champion.
2. Utah: This is truly a strange one. Utah is a bigger school than BYU, a secular institution, a member of the Power 5 conference and has had much more recent success (having won the last five meetings). Yet, Utes fans have such a vitriolic hate for all things BYU that borders on irrational.
Maybe it’s the Notre Dame syndrome played out in a single state. BYU holds itself to a “higher standard” and that’s probably why Utah’s fans can’t stand it.
3. Oklahoma State: Oklahoma considers Texas its real rival, on and off the field. They compete for the same recruits, play in one of the biggest rivalry games annually in Dallas, and vie for influence regionally and nationally. To the Sooners, Oklahoma State is just a nuisance.
Thanks to the largess of T. Boone Pickens, Oklahoma State is catching up to the Sooners, having beaten its more storied rival twice in the last five years. This recent success is helping to fuel the rivalry, at least from the Stillwater side.
4. UCLA: It’s an accepted fact in L.A. that USC is the football school and UCLA is the basketball school. That’s just fine for USC’s fans but drives UCLA fans up a wall because somehow they have illusions about UCLA being a football power. The Trojans, on the other hand, consider only Notre Dame as their true rival.
The Bruins did enjoy a recent uptick in the crosstown rivalry, winning three straight while USC was handcuffed by NCAA sanctions before losing last year. More bad news for UCLA is that USC swept the basketball series this year.
5. Auburn: Of course Tigers fans always had an inferiority complex about Alabama, but the Tide’s recent run of national championships is making things even more irritating.
The thing is, though, Auburn has actually been the one thorn on Alabama’s side, having beaten the Tide twice in the last six years to derail Nick Saban’s title train. This fact both emboldens and frustrates Tigers fans to no end.
6. Texas A&M: This rivalry is slowly dying, thanks to A&M’s move to the SEC in 2012 to escape Texas’ shadow. But even though these programs haven’t faced each other in four years, Aggies fans remain obsessed with their in-state rival.
They still cheer every Texas misstep, whether it’s on the field or in recruiting. And while A&M is raking in unprecedented SEC cash, Aggies fans are still forever sore about the existence of the Longhorn Network.
7. Florida: There was a time when Florida State was much more obsessed with this rivalry, even during the heyday of Bobby Bowden when the Seminoles were ascendant. But ever since the departure of Urban Meyer and the subsequent meltdown of the Will Muschamp era, it’s the Gators fans who are bothered by the Noles’ every move.
Florida State has won five of the last six against Florida, claimed a national championship and a Heisman Trophy during that span while the Gators continued to implode. And the Noles are punking Florida on the recruiting trail, too. No wonder this rivalry has flipped on its head.
8. Baylor: Call it the nouveau riche rivalry of the Big 12. Baylor and TCU were two small christian schools that have long operated in the shadows of Texas and Texas A&M in the old Southwest Conference. But ever since TCU’s inclusion in the revamped Big 12 in 2012, these two schools have locked horns atop the conference’s football pecking order.
Perhaps it’s spurred on the fact that Baylor won an epic battle in 2014 and yet failed to corral an inaugural College Football Playoff spot, Bears fans have been much more vocal and angry about this I-35 rivalry. The schools have split their four games since TCU became a Big 12 member, but you’d never know it from the ways their fans act.
9. Oregon State: Talk about an inferiority complex. Oregon State is in every way not an equal of its richer, more glamourous and more successful “big brother.” Sure, Oregon State is a Nike school, too, but Uncle Phil tends to shower more of his money – a lot more – on his beloved alma mater than on the Beavers.
It didn’t help that Oregon has emerged as a national power in the last decade and have won the Civil War eight straight times. It’s living hell for Oregon State fans right now.
10. Ohio State: Ohio State has beaten Michigan in 11 of the past 12 years. It’s won a national championship in 2014. Yet the Buckeyes fans are still eternally obsessed about all things Wolverines. But maybe they’re just glad Michigan is relevant again to deserve their scorn.
Whether it’s the refusal to acknowledge its rivals by name (TTUN – The Team Up North) or the attempt to eliminate the letter M from the alphabet (sponsored by the governor), the entire state of Ohio just seems to have a buckeye up its you-know-what about Michigan. And it’s only getting worse with Harbaugh’s return to Ann Arbor.