Arts & Culture

11 of the South’s Best Rivalries (Besides Auburn-Georgia)

As Southern football teams compete for conference titles, tell us which other Southern rivals you’re pulling for

Photo: Terry Manier

This year, the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry is also its most recurrent. Auburn and Georgia, which met just three weeks ago, will square off again tomorrow in their 122nd matchup, this time for the SEC championship. Clemson and Miami will also meet on Saturday, in the ACC championship, and although not a long-time rivalry (they’ve met just 10 times), with teams this competitive, it probably won’t be long before one develops.

In the spirit of goodhearted competition, we’ve scouted some of the South’s other intense rivalries. Like the games this weekend, some are time-tested and others are up-and-coming. Where do your allegiances lie?

Little Debbie vs. MoonPie

Chattanooga, Tennessee, might as well be the snack cake capital of the world. In 1917, the MoonPie revolutionized the snack industry with its chocolate-coated-graham-cracker-and-marshmallow combination. Just down the road and a few years later, O.D. and Ruth McKee started selling what would become Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies—and later, Swiss Rolls, Zebra Cakes, and Honey Buns.

Eastern vs. Western North Carolina Barbecue

Already divided between Blue Devil, Tar Heel, and Wolfpack fans, among others, barbecue is another thing that North Carolinians will never agree on. The dividing line separating Eastern and Western camps can be drawn—roughly—around Raleigh. To the East, chopped whole hog barbecue topped with a thin, vinegar-based pepper sauce holds sway. Western Carolina barbecue, also called Piedmont or Lexington-style, opts for pork shoulder, sliced or chopped, with a vinegar sauce reddened by tomato.

Coke vs. Pepsi

Coca-Cola and Pepsi have been competitors since their inceptions in the late nineteenth century. Pepsi is from New Bern, North Carolina, and Coke, of course, is from Atlanta. Although the colas have virtually identical ingredients, nobody thinks Coke and Pepsi taste the same. And everybody has strong feelings about their favorite.

Myrtle Beach vs. Pigeon Forge

When it comes to tourist destinations with a kick of kitsch, the South has plenty of options. Perhaps the most beloved—or most infamous—are Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. What’s better? A day at the beach followed by a round of putt-putt, a jaunt through Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!, and a concert at the House of Blues? Or a morning hike in the Great Smoky Mountains, an afternoon (and a funnel cake or two) at Dollywood, and dinner at the Dixie Stampede?

Georgia Brunswick Stew vs. Virginia Brunswick Stew

Everybody acknowledges that Brunswick stew is delicious, but people can’t quite come to an agreement on its origin. Brunswick County, Virginia, and Brunswick, Georgia, both claim to be the home of this hunt-camp staple. In Georgia, a large, rusty pot marks the spot where the first stew was made on July 2, 1898, but Virginia hosts a festival every year to celebrate the stew, born, it claims, during a hunting expedition in 1828.

Hatfields vs. McCoys

During the second half of the nineteenth century along the West Virginia-Kentucky border, the Hatfields, a wealthy timber clan, and the McCoys, a family of fewer means, became engaged in one of the biggest feuds in the country’s history. It began, some say, with a love affair between two of the children. Others claim it originated from a McCoy accusing a Hatfield of stealing his hog. Whatever the case, this rivalry planted itself in the American imagination and is built on a great Southern foundation: family honor, revenge, and pig theft.


Back in the day, these were largely one-sport leagues: The SEC dominated football, the ACC basketball. The playing fields—and courts—are more leveled now, but the question of sports supremacy remains.

Mardi Gras in Mobile vs. Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Although New Orleans’s parties and parades attract the most attention each year, Mobile, Alabama, is actually the birthplace of Mardi Gras—having started the tradition fifteen years before the Crescent City was even founded. Each city’s celebrations are unique: New Orleans’s Mardi Gras is more about the parades whereas Mobile places emphasis on its grand balls.

South Florida vs. Tampa Cuban Sandwiches

Chefs with a knack for Cuban sandwiches are serious about their craft. Each spring, a series of Florida festivals pits cubano makers against one another in preparation for the International Cuban Sandwich Festival held in Tampa each spring. The real crux of the competition, though: Whether Genoa salami belongs in the ham, Swiss, pickle, and mustard mix. That’s how they do it in and around Tampa. But in Miami and Key West, two more hubs of Cuban sandwich tradition, salami is heresy.


Okay, so they’re not really sports rivals—but the University of North Carolina and the University of Georgia do have a bone to pick with each other: Both claim to be the oldest public university in the country. And both, in their own ways, are correct. UGA was chartered first, in 1785. UNC didn’t receive its charter until 1789, but opened its doors in 1795—six years before UGA did.

A1A vs. Blue Ridge Parkway

From top to bottom, mountains to beaches, the South presents countless travel destinations and some very scenic ways to see them. The Blue Ridge Parkway in the fall is otherworldly, winding travelers through the autumn foliage between Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. At the region’s other pole lies State Road A1A, which runs through Florida along (and over) the Atlantic Ocean from Fernandina Beach to Key West, joining up with U.S. 1 at points to showcase more than 500 miles of beautiful Florida coastline.