Rivals National Columnist Mike Farrell is here with a some thoughts on Oklahoma and Texas reportedly inquiring about joining the SEC, the best rivalry trophies in college football and the Mount Rushmore of Nebraska football since 1980.
I know it’s all about money but, from a competition perspective, it would not go well. Texas can’t even break through in the weak Big 12 and Oklahoma is 0-4 in the CFB Playoff. The Sooners are by far the best program in the Big 12 and they would compete in the SEC but their normal, reliable double-digit win total would likely go down to eight or nine wins a year. And Texas? Forget about it. This is a program that has lost to the likes of Maryland, Cal, Texas Tech, Kansas State and Kansas. There’s no way the Longhorns could consistency put up seven- or eight-win seasons in the SEC.
The money is there but the path to the expanded playoff is not, at least for Texas. Texas A&M is a solid former Big 12 program in the SEC, but not elite. The Big 12 isn’t that good — and that’s exactly where Oklahoma and Texas should stay.
There are so many great trophies in college football, so obviously there are going to be some omissions, but here’s my top 10…
10: Keg of Nails (Cincinnati vs. Louisville) – Although no longer conference foes, Cincinnati and Louisville have played some outstanding games over the years, and the Keg of Nails was introduced in 1929 to commemorate the winners of the game as being “tough as nails.”
9: Iron Skillet (TCU vs. SMU) – The two major programs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, their rivalry dates back to 1915, but the Iron Skillet was first awarded in 1946. Legend has it that an SMU fan was frying frog legs in the skillet before their game that year, and thus the trophy was born.
8: The Platypus Trophy (Oregon vs. Oregon State) – The Platypus (which looks like a hybrid of the schools’ two mascots, the duck and the beaver) was first played for in the 1959 edition of the Civil War, but was lost three years later and not rediscovered until 2005, when it was found in a closet on Oregon’s campus.
7: The Golden Egg (Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State) – First awarded in 1927, the Golden Egg was created after Ole Miss fans rushed the field in Starkville and destroyed the goal posts in 1926. While the design is actually a brass football on a wooden base, because footballs in the 1920s were rounder than they are today, it looked like an egg, especially to the eyes of modern fans, and thus the name of the rivalry (The Egg Bowl) was born in 1979.
6: Little Brown Jug (Michigan vs. Minnesota) – One of the oldest trophies in college football, the Little Brown Jug dates back to 1903, when legendary Wolverines coach Fielding Yost was worried that his water supply would be contaminated in a game in Minneapolis, so he had an assistant get him a jug that he filled himself. When the Gopher fans stormed the field with two minutes left, the jug was left behind by Yost, and picked up by a custodian, and the trophy was born.
5: Wagon Wheel (Kent State vs. Akron) – Introduced in 1946, the Wagon Wheel was supposedly discovered in 1902 during construction of a building near Kent State’s campus. According to Raymond Manchester, then dean of Kent State, the wheel came from the carriage of John Buchtel, the founder of Akron, and thus the legend was born.
4: Fremont Canon (UNLV vs. Nevada) – A replica of an actual 1840s Howitzer used by explorer John C. Fremont which was abandoned in the Sierra Nevada mountains, the trophy debuted in 1970, and is still the largest and most expensive trophy in all of college football. Every time the trophy changes hands, it gets repainted in the winning school’s colors.
3: Paul Bunyan’s Axe (Wisconsin vs. Minnesota) – The most played rivalry game in FBS, the axe was not actually the original trophy for these two Big Ten foes – that would be the slab of bacon, which was played for between 1930-43. After the trophy was lost following the 1943 game, Paul Bunyan’s Axe was introduced in 1948 – measuring more than six feet long, the winner of the game “chops down” the opponents goal posts after a win with the axe, one of the best traditions in any rivalry.
2: Bronze Boot (Colorado State vs. Wyoming) – Definitely not the most well-known trophy, but it has a fantastic backstory. The winner of the annual Border War gets this actual boot worn in Vietnam by former CSU Army ROTC instructor Dan Romero that has been dipped in bronze and preserved. Before the game every year, the two schools’ ROTC units have a relay bringing the game ball from one school to the other. Another great tradition that goes under the radar.
1: Floyd of Rosedale (Iowa vs. Minnesota) – It doesn’t get much better than a giant trophy of a pig. Before the 1935 game between these two bitter rivals, the governor of Minnesota placed a friendly wager with the governor of Iowa, stating in part “If you seriously think Iowa has any chance to win, I will bet you a Minnesota prize hog against an Iowa prize hog that Minnesota wins today. The loser must deliver the hog in person to the winner…. You are getting odds because Minnesota raises better hogs than Iowa.” When Minnesota won the game, the Iowa governor lived up to his end of the bet, sending a pig named “Floyd” from Rosedale Farms to the Twin Cities. Since the two schools could obviously not keep betting a living pig, a 98-pound statue of Floyd was commissioned, and has been played for ever since.
Finally I’ll continue my Mount Rushmore series since 1980 with Nebraska football and some amazing players.
RB Mike Rozier — The 1983 Heisman Trophy winner, Rozier was one of the most dominant backs of the 1980s, topping 1,000 yards in each of his three seasons on campus after spending his freshman year in JUCO. But his senior season stands above the rest – 2,295 yards and 29 touchdowns on the ground, averaging 7.9 yards per carry. That year marked his second consecutive consensus All-American nod for the college football hall-of-famer, who remains Nebraska’s all-time leader in rushing yards.
QB Eric Crouch — Another Heisman winner, Crouch was a run-first QB who had a truly special senior season, where he came out on top of a crowded field to win the trophy. Crouch still has more rushing touchdowns than anyone else in program history, and went 31-5 as a starter in his last three seasons on campus. The two-time Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, Crouch also won the Davey O’Brien and Walter Camp awards as a senior.
QB Tommie Frazier — Leader of the 1994 and 1995 national title teams, Frazier was runner-up in the Heisman as a senior and a consensus All-American. As a junior, he missed most of the year due to a blood clot in his leg, but came back for the Huskers’ Orange Bowl game against Miami, the de facto national title game. Frazier won back-to-back-to-back national championship game MVPs, solidifying his place among the greatest to ever suit up for Nebraska.
DT Ndamukong Suh — A three-year starter, Suh was one of the most dominant defenders of the 21st century, becoming the first defensive player to ever win the AP Player of the Year in 2009. As a senior, Suh racked up the awards – the Lombardi, Bednarik, and Outland trophies, as well as a top-four Heisman finish. The definition of a menace, stats simply did not do Suh justice for the amount of disruption he caused on opposing offenses.