If I can make a confession, I love all sports but college football is a clear number one on my watch list. The pageantry, the atmosphere, the rivalries – all of these things serve to make college football games my favorite to attend. Speaking of those rivalries, some contests in college football come with their own rivalry trophies.
Today, I’m providing my personal ranking for the best rivalry trophies in college football at the FBS level. We’ll get to plenty of fantastic trophies from NAIA up to FCS at some point but for now, our focus is on the highest level of the sport at the amateur level. Also, while I love the trophies that focus on competition between more than just two teams, we’re focusing on the trophies that only feature two teams for now. Let’s dive in.
#11 The Bronze Stalk
We kick off our list with a trip to the MAC. Northern Illinois and Ball State have been competing on the gridiron for a while but the Bronze Stalk trophy was first featured in 2008. I love when trophies honor where they are from. The maize that features prominently in the scenery of Illinois and Indiana immortalized in trophy form provides an excellent example.
#10 The Keg of Nails
Separated by just over an hour of drive time, the cities of Cincinnati and Louisville have always had a bit of a regional rivalry. It should come as no surprise that the universities that bear the name of each city also share a rivalry. Though the two teams no longer share a conference and only play sporadically, the Keg of Nails Trophy is still one of my favorites. Said to signify that the winner of the contest is “tough as nails”, the origin of the trophy shrouds itself in a bit of mystery. Symbolism and mystery: also key parts of rivalries.
#9 The Fremont Cannon
The Fremont Cannon is a functional piece of armament. I don’t know what more needs to be said about the inclusion of the trophy UNLV and Nevada play for. Top-tier, no notes.
#8 The Golden Egg
Even if the Egg Bowl didn’t have a trophy, I’d probably put it on this list just by force of the sheer chaotic energy the game produces every year. However, the Golden Egg that serves as the trophy is also amazing. A fantastic trophy for a fantastic contest.
#7 The Bronze Boot
Household items used as trophies really make me happy. The Bronze Boot that Colorado State and Wyoming play for in their Border War is the first such rivalry trophy on the list. The only thing that could make this trophy better would be a matching Bronze Boot and the ability for players to wear it to celebrate victory.
#6 The Jewelled Shillelagh
Weapons as trophies are also great as shown by the previous mention of the Fremont Cannon. USC and Notre Dame’s rivalry trophy is fitting with Notre Dame being the Fighting Irish. Though Notre Dame and USC aren’t regional rivals like most of those on this list, the rivalry is no less fierce and the shillelagh is a great rivalry trophy for the contest.
#5 The Golden Hat
Trophies that can be worn are great trophies. The Golden Hat that Oklahoma and Texas play for in the Red River Shootout provides possibly the best example. A worthy inclusion in the top five of college football rivalry trophies, seeing the hat passed around after the game for the players to wear is a load of fun.
#4 The Silver Spade
We’re hanging around the Lone Star State for the next entry on our list but head to Far West Texas for the rivalry between New Mexico State and UTEP. This rivalry actually has two trophies – the Silver Spade and the Mayor’s Cup. I’m focusing on the older of the two, the Silver Spade. A replica of a prospector’s shovel from the Organ Mountains, I can’t think of a better regional encapsulation of this rivalry.
#3 Paul Bunyan’s Axe
Speaking of regional trophies, the folk hero Paul Bunyan is an unofficial embodiment of the state of Minnesota. It seems natural that Minnesota and Wisconsin would play for his axe. Honestly, Minnesota is a bit spoiled when it comes to rivalry trophies. Any number of contests could’ve found their way onto this list (in fact, there is another Minnesota trophy game still to come) but I decided I had to put Paul Bunyan’s Axe in the top five.
#2 The Iron Skillet
I talked about SMU and TCU’s battle for the Iron Skillet in our Sports Everything video on our Mount Rushmore of Trophies. The utility of the Cast Iron Skillet is what really sells this one for me. I also think the rivalry got taken up a notch with former SMU Head Man Sonny Dykes leaving the Mustangs for TCU in 2022 and then immediately taking the Horned Frogs to the national title.
#1 The Floyd of Rosedale
A prize pig adorns the trophy awarded to the winner of the rivalry between Iowa and Minnesota. The trophy descends from a bet in 1935 where the governors of the two states bet prize hogs from each state on the game. Minnesota won the game and a prize hog from Rosedale Farms in Iowa. Though the tradition of a live pig being bet didn’t carry on, a trophy capturing the likeness of “Floyd of Rosedale” was commissioned and the Floyd of Rosedale Trophy was born. The pig is my personal favorite trophy in college football thanks to the combination of history and the ridiculousness of two teams playing for a bronze pig.
Did we miss any trophies? Make sure to let us know which trophies you think deserve a spot on the list on Twitter!
Honorable Mentions: Tiger Rag/Victory Flag (LSU/Tulane), Victory Bell (USC/UCLA), Little Brown Jug (Michigan/Minnesota), Old Oaken Bucket (Indiana/Purdue), Land Grant Trophy (Penn State/Michigan State), Golden Boot (LSU/Arkansas), Wagon Wheel (Kent State/Akron)