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Ranking 60 college football rivalry trophies

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A little history and a little subjective opinion combine to create a list absolutely no two people will agree on.

Nothing so clearly screams college football as Rivalry Week, when giant axes, territorial cups, and ruby-adorned Gaelic war clubs crash through our television screens. The traveling trophy game distills what's loved most about the sport and pumps it directly into our veins.

At the same time, trophy games are reduced to mere data points by a proliferating sports analytics sector and the Playoff committee, which in theory gleans insight from it. Composite rankings, whether dished in Tuesday night dictums, S&P+ ratings, or your fave power index of choice, are woven into every corner of modern college football.

And yet these two had never collided. Until now, Program A and Program B have been allowed to believe their own cherished trophy game is the best in the land (or at least not the worst). This is unacceptable. Modern America demands a pecking order. And statistics better be part of it.

Trophy Years awarded Competitiveness Top-10 teams Draft picks Trophy sweetness Total
1. Golden Hat Oklahoma Texas 73 0.480 64 371 12 86.30
2. Jeweled Shillelagh USC Notre Dame 62 0.500 66 468 10 81.60
3. Floyd of Rosedale Minnesota Iowa 79 0.400 25 206 14 80.81
4. Victory Bell USC UCLA 75 0.540 46 421 11 79.68
5. Old Oaken Bucket Indiana Purdue 89 0.360 7 163 14 75.75
6. FOY-ODK Sportsmanship Alabama Auburn 66 0.480 57 322 9 74.35
7. Bronze Boot Wyoming Colorado State 46 0.400 1 97 14 74.28
8. Paniolo Trophy Hawaii Wyoming 35 0.400 1 95 14 73.68
9. Territorial Cup Arizona Arizona State 115 0.480 9 264 10 72.37
10. Stanford Axe California Stanford 81 0.360 15 348 12 71.85
11. Magnolia Bowl LSU Ole Miss 6 0.600 33 195 12 71.40
12. Paul Bunyan Michigan Michigan State 61 0.560 52 318 9 70.89
13. Paul Bunyan's Axe Wisconsin Minnesota 66 0.760 23 215 14 70.32
14. Golden Boot Arkansas LSU 22 0.391 37 293 11 70.04
15. Purdue Cannon Purdue Illinois 71 0.579 11 214 11 69.62
16. Illibuck Ohio State Illinois 89 0.696 41 337 11 69.42
17. Golden Egg Ole Miss Mississippi State 87 0.480 11 81 10 69.24
18. Cy-Hawk Iowa Iowa State 37 0.680 15 179 12 65.33
19. Fremont Cannon Nevada UNLV 44 0.682 0 42 13 65.18
20. Megaphone Notre Dame Michigan State 65 0.565 50 348 7 64.15
21. Wagon Wheel Akron Kent State 69 0.667 0 30 12 63.93
22. Oil Can Fresno State San Diego St 5 0.583 0 167 11 63.72
23. Victory Bell Miami (Ohio) Cincinnati 115 0.380 4 85 10 63.70
24. Frank Leahy Memorial Bowl Boston College Notre Dame 39 0.474 40 310 7 63.20
25. O'Rourke-McFadden Boston College Clemson 6 0.400 11 245 10 61.93
26. Legends Trophy Notre Dame Stanford 25 0.609 45 342 8 61.91
27. Little Brown Jug Michigan Minnesota 111 0.905 48 261 12 61.62
28. Ram-Falcon Air Force Colorado State 34 0.520 2 65 9 61.59
29. Keg of Nails Louisville Cincinnati 85 0.636 3 129 10 61.48
30. Bedlam Bell Oklahoma Oklahoma State 48 0.740 42 279 10 60.80
31. The Saddle TCU Texas Tech 53 0.364 4 147 10 60.12
32. Okefenokee Oar Florida Georgia 5 0.760 36 380 10 57.51
33. Heartland Trophy Iowa Wisconsin 10 0.571 28 265 7 56.67
34. Heroes Trophy Nebraska Iowa 3 0.800 45 359 10 56.14
35. Old Brass Spittoon Michigan State Indiana 64 0.810 16 196 11 55.95
36. Chancellor's Spurs Texas Texas Tech 18 0.760 25 242 10 55.05
37. Silver Spade UTEP New Mexico State 59 0.652 0 59 9 54.62
38. Apple Cup Washington Washington State 52 0.680 16 258 8 53.78
39. Land of Lincoln Illinois Northwestern 5 0.440 11 164 7 53.42
40. Don Shula Award Florida Atlantic Florida International 12 0.636 0 11 9 52.57
41. Platypus Oregon Oregon State 55 0.680 12 171 8 52.41
42. Governor's Cup Kentucky Louisville 20 0.400 4 159 7 50.69
43. Land Grant Trophy Michigan State Penn State 21 0.278 38 350 7 50.62
44. Governor's Cup Georgia Georgia Tech 19 0.760 31 271 8 49.66
45. Governor's Victory Bell Minnesota Penn State 21 0.385 34 293 5 49.15
46. Governor's Cup Kansas Kansas State 45 0.280 9 139 8 48.68
47. Centennial Cup Colorado Colorado State 28 0.667 8 214 7 48.30
48. Victory Cannon Central Michigan Western Michigan 3 0.600 0 38 7 47.90
49. Milk Can Boise State Fresno State 8 0.800 4 117 9 44.28
50. Bronze Stalk Ball State Northern Illinois 6 0.278 0 44 8 44.11
51. Jefferson-Eppes Florida State Virginia 18 0.833 18 295 8 43.50
52. Hardee's Trophy (changing in 2015) Clemson South Carolina 15 0.600 10 249 4 42.30
53. Battle of I-75 Toledo Bowling Green 3 0.600 0 38 5 41.23
54. Commonwealth Cup Virginia Virginia Tech 18 0.240 7 206 6 38.61
55. Shillelagh Notre Dame Purdue 57 0.800 41 315 4 37.91
56. Victory Bell North Carolina Duke 66 0.880 12 167 7 37.61
57. Iron Skillet TCU SMU 68 0.760 10 126 5 37.51
58. The Bell Ohio Marshall 17 0.286 1 30 4 31.84
59. Anniversary Award Kent State Bowling Green 29 0.250 0 42 4 30.31
60. Textile Bowl Clemson NC State 33 0.720 7 248 2 28.91

FBS games between two teams only, though there are plenty of lower-level trophy games and three-team trophies. To qualify, the trophy series needs to be scheduled for 2014 or for upcoming years. Trophy series starting in last few years (without significant series history before) are not included.

There are five criteria, and they are weighed differently.

Whether older is better or not, there is a lot to be said for the passing down of relics through the generations. So in a nod to sepia-toned times past, I take into consideration how many years have passed since the trophy was first awarded (the more, the better). This is 5 percent of the total score.

Series competitiveness over the last 25 years is another factor. This is important, determining 30 percent of the total score. A true rivalry cannot flourish unless each side believes it can win. The closer each team comes to winning half of its games in the series' recent history, the better.

A good series should spotlight really good players. So one category, worth 5 percent of the total, is how many NFL Draft picks the rival programs have produced since 1975.

Better players usually mean better teams and more passion swirling around the big game. That's where the teams' combined all-time number of regular season finishes in the Associated Press top 10 steps in. This metric does shackle the less-established teams that weren't major programs a few decades ago. But it counts for only 10 percent of the rivalry's total score.

My final category is subjective. It's a judgment of how cool the trophy looks, how colorful its past is, and the emotional connection players and students appear to have with it. I call it the Trophy Sweetness metric, and I go into detail about its components here. It's worth half of the total score. If Program A and B outsourced their trophy's traditions to a chamber of commerce, that is a very bad thing.

Minnesota might have the country's greatest trophy tradition; an AP poll ranked three Gopher trophy games atop the nation's best. Jesse Johnson, USA Today

The Textile Bowl musters only two points from a maximum of 15 because it is profoundly non-awesome. The game has been more of an opportunity for the school's textile programs to hobnob than a venue for top-notch ACC football. There's nothing special about the trophy itself. Compare this to a far more awesome trophy, such as the Paul Bunyan Axe Minnesota and Wisconsin will play for this weekend.

Jeff Hanisch, USA Today

You'll notice the list is symptomatic of the rich getting richer. Oklahoma and Texas always rank highly in all-time polls or NFL Draft pick totals. What sends them to the top here is a super-tight series since 1990 and legitimately cool trophy.

The Golden Hat is one of three trophies involved in OU-Texas, but it is the only one given at the end of the game played every year in October in Dallas' Cotton Bowl. In 1941, the State Fair of Texas was so appreciative the schools played during the event that the organization awarded a bronzed (now gold) 10-gallon hat for the game.

Matthew Emmons, USA Today

For the most part, incendiary official nicknames like "Red River Shootout" and accompanying firearms have exited the stadium. Smaller schools in the Mountain states provide a bit of kickback to this trend. Last year, Utah State and Wyoming started using a straight-up rifle as a trophy.

University of Wyoming

If there's one thing Wyoming should be known for, it's trophy awesomeness. Its series with Hawaii -- the nation's most farflung rivalry -- features a piece of bronze depicting the first Hawaiian inducted into the National Rodeo Hall of Fame.

University of Hawaii

Wyoming also battles Colorado State for the bronzed boot of a Vietnam veteran. Each year, one school's ROTC detachment runs the game ball to the state border. Those detachments meet, exchange the game ball, and hurry on foot to the stadium hosting the game. That's up to 39 miles of highway running.

Trophy games are sprouting with unprecedented frequency in the SEC. Starting earlier this season, the winners of South Carolina-Texas A&M get a statue of a South Carolinian hero at the Alamo. Unfortunately, it goes to the winning state governor, not the players.

This Friday, Arkansas and Missouri kick off their recently coined Battle Line Rivalry brought to you by Shelter Insurance. When that game begins using a trophy, it will be the Hogs' second, still a far cry from the trophy-saturated Big Ten climes from which the Razorback head coach hails.

Arkansas winning the Golden Boot from LSU two weeks ago. Jasen Vinlove, USA Today

I asked Bret Bielema, former Wisconsin coach, why he thinks the trophy game hasn't proliferated in the South like in the Midwest.

"It's hard to replace 50 years of history," he said. "The Paul Bunyan Axe has meant a lot for a long time to a lot of different people. So has the Floyd of Rosedale. I think it's really up to the head coach to emphasize it. I put a huge emphasis on trophy games."