But the thing I like most about this week is that every year it reminds why I love the Pac 10. There is no other conference in America with such natural rivalries, all within the same conference. Every Pac 10 team has a natural rival that trumps all other rivals, and all of those are conference games, making the game that much more important (don't kid yourself into thinking U$C v. ND is bigger than U$C v. UCLA). Here's my own "pulled from ass" rivalry criteria:
- Teams should both be in-state, or at the very least, from bordering states. Even better if they're in the same metropolitan area.
- Teams should be in the same conference. For years, the Rose Bowl almost always came down to the UCLA v. U$C game, and it always elevated the rivalry.
- Teams should both be competitive, as in, they should both make appearances in the top 25 at least every other year or so (for example, this sort of eliminates Indiana v. Purdue and Illinois v. Northwestern).
- Most importantly, the two teams' biggest rivals should be one another. For example, Michigan v. Michigan State is a good rivalry, but Michigan has a bigger rivalry with Ohio State, which means it's not a great rivalry. Hell, people at Illinois thought of Michigan as one of our big rivals. Geez, it's not a rivalry if your "rival" doesn't really care about you.
So let's break down the Pac 10 rivalries:
- U$C v. UCLA - The only negative might be that people on the back East may think that the ND v. U$C rivalry is more important than U$C v. UCLA. People back East are stupid.
- Arizona v. Arizona State - No question on 1, 2, and 4. Arizona has been down recently, but they had a good run in the '90s. ASU has played for the national championship within the last ten years, and they seem to make people think they're good before just about every season. Their recent tank jobs have diminished this one a bit. Still, it's better than most Big 10 rivalries.
- The Civil War - Oregon v. Oregon State - Both schools have been in BCS bowls in this decade, and while Oregon is usually better, they've both been not-awful for a while now. 20 years ago, no one would have cared, but nowadays, it's a big game. And it's got a cool name.
- The Big Game - Cal v. Stanford - Not quite as good as U$C v. UCLA, but Cal has been very good lately, and Stanford has been to a relatively recent Rose Bowl. It's got some damn fine history as well.
- The Apple Cup - Washington v. Wazzu - Washington has been down recently, but the rivalry has been buoyed by a surprisingly competitive Washington State team.