A Look at Great Sports Rivalries

Submitted by Son of Lloyd Brady on June 22nd, 2012 at 12:05 PM

Today in "Please God give me Football," I look at some of the best rivalries in today's sports. I originally began this about a month ago as a look at just college football rivalries but I realized there were very few that I cared enough about to waste my time looking at. I then expanded my research a little bit into pro football, basketball and baseball and was pretty interested in what I found. I have a link at the end of the Diary that will take you to the data that I used for the analysis.

I wanted to look at how closely some of the most celebrated rivalries have been played – the scores,  series record, and score difference – but I realized that if I wanted to compare them I would need to look at it a different way as score difference in baseball would be much less than football. I decided to look at the average difference as a percent of the total score (from here on out referred to as ADTS) to give me a better idea of how close the games were actually played.











# Meetings



# Meetings


Series Record

UM 58-43-6


Series Record

UT 59-42-5

Avg Score




Avg Score



Score Difference



Score Difference


Avg Diff as % of Total Score



Avg Diff as % of Total Score


Looking at The Game, I was surprised to see the magnitude of the point spread, especially when compared to the Red River Rivalry, over 3 points between UM and Ohio, while less than 1 point separated UT and OU. Also very interesting in the RRR, UT holds a considerable advantage in the series record but has a lower average score.











# Meetings



# Meetings


Series Record

FL 22-19


Series Record

AL 41-34-1

Avg Score




Avg Score



Score Difference



Score Difference


Avg Diff as % of Total Score



Avg Diff as % of Total Score


The same also goes here for the Tenn/FL rivalry – Tenn averages 6 more points/game but is losing in the series standing. The series for the Iron Bowl is actually much closer than I anticipated, I have normally thought of Auburn as Bama’s Michigan State, makes a run in the series every couple of decades but generally inferior in the long run. UA has actually held their own quite well, but with Bama’s recent dominance (apart from Cam Newton) it looks like the series gap may start to widen.











# Meetings



# Meetings


Series Record

CELTS 196-154


Series Record

UNC 132-102

Avg Score




Avg Score



Score Difference



Score Difference


Avg Diff as % of Total Score



Avg Diff as % of Total Score


The two basketball rivalries I looked at are much closer in ADTS than one would think when looking at the separation in the series record. Despite being down in the series 30 games, Duke scores less than 1 point less than UNC. I find that very amazing after nearly 250 meetings. The Celtics and Lakers have a higher average score than I would have guessed as the two teams usually seem to have some of the best defenses in the league and over 105 points is a rather high scoring average.











# Meetings



# Meetings


Series Record

DAL 60-40-2


Series Record

BEARS 92-86-6

Avg Score




Avg Score



Score Difference



Score Difference


Avg Diff as % of Total Score



Avg Diff as % of Total Score


The storied rivalry between the Bears and Packers definitely lived up to its reputation, very close series average, close scores as well as ADTS. The Cowboys/Redskins matchup is not quite as close but still has a small scoring difference. Some of the flare from this rivalry has been diminished as both of the teams haven’t fared well for the better half of the past decade but it is still a strong rivalry.






# Meetings


Series Record

NY 1132-954

Avg Score



Score Difference


Avg Diff as % of Total Score


I figure most of you have either stopped reading and skipped this part or are losing interest so I’ll wrap it up. Last I looked at the Yankees and BoSox, and this information was a bitch to find (pardon my French, but this was not a fun one to put together either).  Yankees have a considerable lead in the series and while the average runs scored are right in the ballpark (pun intended) of what I would assume, they are closer than what I thought they would be looking at the series record.

Man, I really need football to start, is it September 1st yet?!

Data can be found here: https://skydrive.live.com/#!/edit.aspx?cid=778D17BE3D63472D&resid=778D17BE3D63472D%21107&nd=1



June 22nd, 2012 at 1:07 PM ^

Having gone to UM and then lived in Chapel Hill, there is really something special about the Duke-UNC rivalry that in some senses makes it better than the OSU-Michigan rivalry.  

The biggest being that they've arguably been the #1 and #2 programs in the nation for 30 some years now, and have the NCAA championships to show it, and are in the yearly discussion for best team in the country.  OSU and Michigan have won only 2 NC's in the past 30 years, and the Big Ten lore has depreciated in recent years.

And the campuses are separated by 8 miles!  Could you imagine if driving down the road to Ypsi meant being at Ohio State instead of being at Eastern, and how much more intense that would make the rivalry?  


June 22nd, 2012 at 9:25 PM ^

I have to say that other than the hate on game day, it doesn't even feel like a rivalry to me.  True there is a public (UNC) vs. private (Duke) thing that goes on, and being married to a UNC alumnus, I hear about that aspect all the time (the meme is Duke kids couldn't get into an ivy and so their parents buy there way in -  its not my meme, but it is a prevaling one).  She is also an Auburn grad and her hate of Bama is an order of magnitude greater than her hate for Duke.  Its not even close.

Sure the difference between winning and whining is eight miles, but there is no foreign presence, as it were.  The seats are all full with Crazies (Cameron) vs. students plus the wine and cheese crowd at the Smith Center.  Additionally, the proximity of the schools means that these fans meet and interact with each other all the time.  Duke kids go to Carborro (which is pretty much Chapel Hill)  frequently for the Cradle, 506 and the like.   They meet each other on South Glenwood every weekend.   Durham doesn't have the student night life that CH or Raleigh does, so the kids end up there (as well as NCSU kids).

Football is different.  Tailgaters are encamped like invading armies.  We wear Maize and Blue, Ohio wears red.  They are eyesores in our crowd.   Duke and UNC wear . . . blue and a lighter blue.   There is the threat of  violence (if you happen to be wearing the right colors in Cbus).  Its an entirely different feel.  


June 25th, 2012 at 10:45 AM ^

is that the Duke-UNC rivalry happens multiple times a year and when all is said and done the games seldom have any great meaning other than bragging rights.  Essentially the loser will wind up a 2 or 3 seed, the winner a 1 or 2 seed.  With Michigan and OSU, leaving aside the recent interregnum between Carr and Hoke, lots have been on the line and losing means suffering for a year. 


June 22nd, 2012 at 8:55 PM ^

The governor made us have a rivalry with MSU and forced us to play for that "trophy". If you ask me, teams should play for pride, not some artificial artifact they can sell miniatures of in the gift stores. It's like your mom forcing you to go outside and play basketball with your little brother, and since the older brother doesn't want to, she offers a dollar bill to whoever wins. The older brother subsequently grudgingly plays his little brother.


oriental andrew

June 22nd, 2012 at 2:25 PM ^

Sorry man, but the florida Tennessee "rivalry" is a product of the 90's and not special in any way. Georgia Florida (cocktail party) is a REAL rivalry as is Georgia Auburn ( south's oldest rivalry).

Also yanks sox happens so frequently, it loses a lot of it's luster outside the postseason, despite what espn would have you believe. Maybe just put postseason stats up there.

swan flu

June 22nd, 2012 at 2:36 PM ^

I may be in the minority... but since you included non-football sports...


I would argue that the rivalry between Barca and Real Madrid far surpasses all of the rivalries above save Michigan/OHIO.  I could lay down any stat you want, but here is a factoit that kinda puts it in perspective:  In 2000, Luis Figo transferred from Barcelona to Madrid despite telling the press he would not do so for 3 months.  Upon Figo's return to the Camp Nou (Barca stadium), a Barca supporters group threw a pig's head at Figo when he lined up to take a carner kick.




June 23rd, 2012 at 9:48 PM ^

When Figo transferred the team promoted a deal wherein any fan that wanted to could bring in their Luis Figo Barca jersey and have Figo's name and number removed. They actually paid for this.

I've always kept separate categories for for rivalries in American Sports and rivalries worldwide. The paradigms are just too different to compare. Using the Real-Barca example, the roots of rivalry go a lot deeper than just both teams being good. Real Madrid was the favored team of the Fascist dictator Franco, a man who repressed regional identity and language; rooting for Barca was, for Catalans, their only legitimate way to show pride in themselves and resistance to Franco.

So imagine that a Fascist Dictator ruled the Great Lakes from Columbus: He steered all the best recruits to Osu; he banned people in Michigan from speaking English; he took our tax dollars unfairly for his own use; he neglected our infrastructure; and he arrested anyone who even used their hand to give directions, as that was a sign of regional pride. And imagine that the only way we had to celebrate our identity, language, and culture for 30 years was to root for Michigan Football.

That's Real-Barca. And dozens or hundreds of other rivalries with deep-rooted origins we Americans, with our robust Bill of Rights, economic prosperity, and representative democracy cannot begin to understand.

Ali G Bomaye

June 25th, 2012 at 11:57 AM ^

This is very cool information, but I think that figuring out the median point differential would be far more telling than figuring out the mean.  If you use the mean, then one blowout can have a significan effect on the overall points, even though it's just one year.  But if you use the median, it will more accurately show what a "typical" game looks like.


June 25th, 2012 at 9:53 PM ^

Michigan and ohio by the far the best.   i really cant stand sparty haha...   in professional sports  i cant stand steelers being a big Browns fan haha.