Rivalries are funny things. Everybody wants at least one. But, like securing a prom date or getting Nicolas Lewis to okay a bowling article, it's not easy getting one.
For example, the SEC essentially told Missouri and Arkansas that the Hogs and Tigers hate each other and that there would be a trophy to commemorate it. Counting 2015, the two have played all of seven times.
Last summer, UConn created a trophy to be awarded to the winner of the fierce Huskie vs. Golden Knights rivalry. Except UCF wasn't even aware that a rivalry existed. In fact, both teams had only played each other twice.
You can't wish a conference rivalry. Hate is organic.
After 14 years of Sun Belt play, Arkansas State is still looking for a Sun Belt program to hate. We've had brief bursts of anger with Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky. Some of us even sort of hated FIU. Now that the Sun Belt has absorbed several rounds of realignment, the Red Wolves are left with once again deciding which team it hates most.
Let's do this right.
Let's use sorcery, science, logic and philosophy to unearth the Red Wolves true Sun Belt rival. We'll start with the Process of Elimination.
No Raiding Rivals
The Sun Belt is chuck-full of natural rivalries, thanks to geographical pairings. If the Red Wolves wish a true rivalry, it can't poach from these pre-made hater-sausages:
Georgia State vs. Georgia Southern
South Alabama vs. Troy
ULM vs. ULL
This news will be met with chagrin by Georgia Southern fans, who seem to harbor more ill-will to Appalachian State than its natural, in-state rival. Too bad. Meanwhile, many A-State fans will be dismayed to see that UL-Lafayette is unavailable for rivalry as conference supremacy has been a heated battle between Cajuns and Red Wolves for several seasons now. But them's the breaks.
Here are a few Red Wolves previews I ran tonight for the ULL game: Ragin' Cajuns have struggled on... https://t.co/ePSB6Tw3y0— Kamen Entchev (@KamenEntchev) October 20, 2015
Gone Before We Can Hate You
Wherever you stood on the full Sun Belt membership of Idaho and New Mexico State, the fact remains that both teams are booted after 2017. It's sort of too bad. Based on Red Wolves' fans low-burn dislike of Paul Petrino alone, the Red Wolves were a Vandals upset away from achieving a slightly radioactive rivalry. As for New Mexico State, well, there wasn't much there there. And besides, they already hate New Mexico.
That Leaves Two Candidates
Discounting Coastal Carolina (who do not play Sun Belt football until 2018), the two candidates remaining are the Texas State Bobcats and the Appalachian State Mountaineers. Neither are classic rivals; the Red Wolves have played a combined five games against the Bobcats and Mountaineers, and both campuses are more than 600 miles away from Jonesboro. Still, beggars can't be choosers.
|Appalachian State||Texas State|
|Distance from A-State||620 miles||672 miles|
|Number of Games||Two||Three|
|Series Record||1 and 1||2 and 1|
|Best Sun Belt Finish||2nd||4th|
|Frustrating Characteristic||Higher Polls||Texan Moxie|
|Reason to Fear||Charming Mystique||Croot'n Hot Bed|
|SBC Sheriff's Rating||Contender||Academy|
|Fan Mood||Humble Brag||Dismayed|
|Another Reason to Fear||Loaded Roster||Hungry Coach|
|Reasons They Hate A-State||40-27||Denied bowl in 2014|
Why It Should Be Appalachian State
The Mountaineers are good. It's no fun beating up (or getting beat by) a horrible team. And last year's season-long battle for the championship was certainly the stuff of rivals.
As App celebrates our bowl win, Arkansas State is getting killed in their bowl game— Jason Huber (@jhub1996) December 20, 2015
Why It Can't Be Appalachian State
The Mountaineers may not have an in-state, in-conference rival, but Appalachian State already has history with Georgia Southern, whom they've played 31 times since 1932. Arkansas State doesn't need another sloppy-seconds rivalry. And besides, the Sun Belt but the A-State/Appalachian State game on two-year hiatus. Who knows how hot the coals will be by the time 2018 rolls around?
Why It Should Be Texas State
Regionally, it makes sense. Arkansas and Texas share a border, which also gives the two teams common enemies in ULL and ULM. Also, like A-State, the Bobcats are without a true conference rival.
Arkansas State vs. Texas State in football. The disowned stepchild schools in their respective states.— Brett Myhres (@BrettMyhres) November 21, 2014
Why It Can't Be Texas State
Thanks to the Bobcat's rebuilding status, there just isn't much heat between the two programs. Yes, Texas State must be steamed to have been passed over for A-State by the GoDaddy Bowl in 2014, and yes, both teams are undefeated against each other when playing at home. But until a Texas State vs. A-State game has championship ramifications, this rivalry is tepid at best.
Hung jury! While Appalachian State and Texas State are both rival-worthy, the history is too green. The wounds are too shallow. There's heat but no sizzle. Until the match-ups become more seasoned, the Red Wolves will have to continue hating on the Cajuns.
And that still feels pretty good.