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Predicting C-USA’s Next Great Rivalry

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In 2017, C-USA finally moves back to its more-or-less permanent line-up, at 14 schools. What rivalries can we expect to develop?

NCAA Football: Marshall at Western Kentucky Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

In 2013, the University of Connecticut invented the largely fictional “Civil Conflict” trophy, deciding out of the blue that they were now rivals with the University of Central Florida, a campus located 1211 miles away. UCF remains largely uninterested in this fictional rivalry, even going so far as to leave the trophy on the field after the 2016 meeting.

Rivalries, at the college level and throughout sports, are supposed to mean something. Texas hates Oklahoma, and vice versa. Michigan hates Ohio State, and vice versa. The rivalries MEAN something, not just because of geographical distance, but also history and tradition. During the offseason, it’s unlikely any Knights spends much time thinking about UConn at all. Below, we explore rivalries already more intense than fictional east-coast trophies, and what they could become.

1) North Texas vs UTSA

(All-time series: UTSA leads 3-1)

Why it should be a rivalry

During UNT’s time in the Sun Belt, they didn’t have an in-state rival. Finally, in 2013, at long last they got the call up to Conference USA. That same year, UTSA also received the call after a scant one year in the WAC, barely even paying their dues at the FBS level. UNT sees UTSA as the arrogant upstart, and UTSA sees UNT as the arrogant team from up north that has never won anything.

UNT’s stadium is the crown jewel of the conference. UTSA is one of the very few FBS schools to play their home games in a dome.

Denton is a chill small town you can drive across in twenty minutes. San Antonio is sprawling and offers the Riverwalk for locals and out-of-towners alike to enjoy.

These fan bases are still getting to know each other, but for these reasons and more, they are not fans of each other. For UNT, the rivalry was an afterthought at first, until UTSA took the first two meetings. UNT finally won in 2015, the same year as their infamous homecoming blowout loss, only to hire a better coach in 2016 who managed to lose this game in his first year. Meanwhile, Roadrunner coach Frank Wilson continues to recruit circles around his G5 Texas brethren. Things are not only getting ugly, but there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight.

Why it’s not

What do you need for a rivalry? Fan bases who want to see the other side lose real bad (check). A close proximity and annual or nearly-annual meet-up (check). A trophy? Still waiting on that one.

Even the “Safeway Bowl” between UNT and SMU has an official name, though there’s no trophy or even a name for the rivalry beyond that unofficial nickname that keeps popping up on Wikipedia. It’s time to MAKE this official, because while we may all be showing good sportsmanship, the other side just needs to be humbled and lose, dammit.

Possible Rivalry Names:

War on I-35, Green vs Blue, Trinity River Rivalry

Possible Trophies:

A plaque is so 21st century. Most of the famed other trophies are actual TROPHIES, so some inanimate object. A rifle, a feather, a bell, a piece of the Alamodome’s roof, a piece of Fry Street’s old architecture before it was bulldozed for condos. A traffic cone. We believe Twitter will figure this out.

2) UAB vs Southern Miss

(All-time series: Southern Miss leads, 10-5)

Why it should be a rivalry

Last week we ran a brief piece on UAB’s possible new rivalries now that the Blazers have moved to C-USA West. This wasn’t even a poll, but the Twitterverse had opinions: The answer was Southern Miss.

In UAB’s final season before their, let’s go with “hiatus,” the Blazers rolled into Hattiesburg and crushed the home team, 45-24, in what would turn out to be UAB’s final football game until 2017. In a scheduling quirk, the Eagles were coming off a bye week, and still couldn’t pull this one out. USM fans have not forgotten the loss, and have waited this long to get their vengeance. Now it gets to be an annual thing, and with an average of 3-4 games of history, each, against the entire rest of the West, this match-up has the most history, by far.

Why it’s not

This is UAB’s first season sharing a division with USM. They’ve been working on getting their team up and running and probably haven’t had a chance to get to the plaque store, or whatever. An “every couple years” rivalry doesn’t work unless there was some history of beef before that, so overall this is a relatively new situation. But a passionate one.

Possible Rivalry Names

Battle at the Border, War in I-59, Dogfight (Dragons vs Eagles, get it?)

Possible Trophies

Well, both mascots are more or less aerial, so something related to that? Though if it were something elephant-related, like a fake tusk or elephant-shaped trophy, that would severely annoy the Crimson Tide and that’s always fun.

3) Marshall vs Middle Tennessee

(All-time series: Marshall leads 4-2)

Why it should be a rivalry

Conference USA added a number of its current members for the 2013 season. At the time, the Blue Raiders had only met the Thundering Herd twice before in football, in 1992 and 1994. Marshall had won both meetings.

In 2013, the Blue Raiders hosted the Herd for their first in-conference match-up. In a thriller, MTSU took the victory, 51-49. Sound exciting? Here are all 100 points:

The following year in Huntington, the Herd had some words for the opposing team, then backed it up, winning 49-24. Then in 2015 back in Murfreesboro, the Blue Raiders won again on a play as time expired, 27-24. The teams have not only traded victories since taking up residence in the same division (Marshall won last year, 42-17), but in a seeming rarity for G5, both teams have had the same head coaches during the entire span.

Why it’s not

Middle Tennessee already has the 100 Miles of Hate (WKU), Marshall has storied rivalries against Ohio U, East Carolina, West Virginia, and have already taken on a new C-USA rival in Western Kentucky. But aren’t multiple rivalries what we expect from higher-profile teams? Maybe Marshall and Middle Tennessee can work out.

Possible rivalry names

The “War on I-64” has a nice ring to it but you can’t name every rivalry after a highway. Also you turn off 64 onto 65 once you get to Elizabethtown, and don’t think MTSU fans wouldn’t notice.

Possible trophies

Maybe some sort of fence? A sword perhaps? As usual, the comment section is open. If there’s another unofficial rivalry we’re missing, let us know. Fourteen teams is a lot, and something new happens every season, after all the Moonshine Throwdown between Western Kentucky and Marshall emerged out of nowhere. A new rivalry could be in the fold for C-USA in 2017.