We have reached the time of the year in college athletics in which conference basketball tournaments have come to an end and 68 teams are now preparing to square off in the NCAA Tournament. We also got to see several rivalries - Duke vs. North Carolina and UCLA vs. Arizona to name just of many - play out to determine conference champions.
Football has its share rivalry games. Ohio State vs. Michigan, the Iron Bowl, Army vs. Navy and the Red River Rivalry are just some of the greatest rivalries in all of sports.
That got us to thinking: who are the Temple Owls biggest rivals? Better yet, do they even have one?
This is a football-only discussion as the Owls have built up some great rivalries in college basketball in the Philadelphia Big 5. For those who know the tradition, Temple, Villanova, St. Joseph's, La Salle and Penn value winning the Big 5 just as much as their conference. However, they do not carry over to football because outside Temple, none of the Philadelphia schools have a football team that plays at the FBS level.
Temple and 'Nova have played 32 times in what is called the Mayor's Cup, but their last meeting was in 2012. The teams will square off again the next two seasons, but is it really a rivalry when the games do not happen every year? For Temple, this game has been a tune up for the rest of the season as the Owls have won the last two meetings by a combined score of 83-17. If anything, this game means more for the Wildcats as it's a chance to knock off a FBS program.
Some point to Penn State as the Owls biggest rival, but to the Nittany Lions, Temple is just another game. What adds fuel to this "rivalry" is that Owls typically field a team of local talent that PSU did not covet. The games have drawn massive crowds at both Lincoln Financial Field and Beaver Stadium the past few seasons, but after 10 meetings in the past 11 years, the battle inside Pennsylvania has come to an end with no future dates set. Then again, it is hard to call this a rivalry when Penn State has dominated the all-time series 40-4-1.
Temple had a long history of playing Rutgers annually, but conference realignment put an end to that series as well. Rutgers does have a problem with Temple as many New Jersey players have chosen North Broad over Piscataway in recent years, but on the field, it has lost its luster. The rivalry will be renewed as Temple will host the Scarlet Knights in 2021 and 2023, while Rutgers will host the Owls in 2020 and 2022.
Then, there is a debate about recent competitors. Yes, it is Wikipedia, but the Temple football page has the Connecticut Huskies and South Florida Bulls listed as rivals. While the Owls have had some memorable games in recent history with both schools, what makes either of them a rival other than the fact that they are also in the American Athletic Conference? The AAC is still too new to have developed any rivalries, and geographically, these do not make much sense either.
With the series against Penn State coming to an end, the Owls do not have that one game on their schedule that matters most. While many programs around the country end their regular season with games of importance, Temple is not one of them. They end the 2017 at Tulsa, which is just another conference game.
Conference realignment has shaken up so much around the country, but for a program like Temple, the moves from the Big East to Mid-American and now into the AAC has never given them a real opportunity to start one either. For now, Temple fans will have to stick with Big 5 basketball for wins that matter most.