Conference realignment can be an exciting time. It brings a new batch of annual opponents who may have little to no prior history, and makes for interesting story lines.
However, it can also separate longtime rivals who, in many cases, quit playing altogether. This is the collateral damage that schools could mitigate through out-of-conference series, but often don’t for political or monetary reasons. Sometimes, there’s really no apparent reason they don’t play each other.
Nowhere is this more true than in the Group of 5, where realignments are more common. The G5 is made up of new programs, but also traditional programs that have gone through various conferences where rivalries can be formed then broken multiple times.
Since rivalries are one of the best parts of college football, here’s a list of inactive G5 rivalries we want back (and by “back,” I mean playing every year, not just an occasional home and home).
Memphis Tigers vs Southern Miss Golden Eagles
Record: USM leads 40-22-1
The Black and Blue Bowl was played every year from 1952-2012 (except 1980), and they were both founding members of C-USA. Yes, Southern Miss wears black and Memphis wears blue, but that’s not necessarily the only reason this game is the “Black and Blue Bowl,” if you know what I mean. This was a very heated rivalry, and I’m sure Tiger and Eagle fans alike would love to see it return.
Rice Owls vs Houston Cougars
Record: UH leads 29-11
Yes, they are playing in 2017-18. No, that’s not enough. Rice has more history with SMU, but SMU already has two crosstown OOC rivals they play annually. Rice and Houston are five miles apart and played every year from 1971-1995, and 1999-2013. They were conference foes in the Southwest Conference or C-USA for most of that. Rice doesn’t really have a true rival in C-USA right now, so bringing back the battle for supremacy in Houston (every year) would be great.
Cincinnati Bearcats vs Louisville Cardinals
Record: UC leads 30-22-1
The Bearcats and Cardinals played every year from 1966-1992 and 1996-2013, but they had played off and on prior to that. The two schools are separated by just over 100 miles of I-75 and played for the Keg of Nails. Yes, that’s right, the friggin KEG OF NAILS. That trophy alone is reason enough to bring back this rivalry. Yes, Louisville is in the ACC now, but if TCU can keep playing SMU, Louisville can find time to play Cincinnati.
UAB Blazers vs Memphis Tigers
Record: UAB leads 10-5
Although the Battle for the Bones doesn’t have the same history as the Black and Blue Bowl, it was another heated rivalry in pre-American C-USA. They first played in 1997, then every year from 1999-2012 once UAB’s football program joined C-USA. As UAB returns to the gridiron, bringing back this rivalry game could help spark interest in Blazer football even more during #TheReturn.
Marshall Thundering Herd vs East Carolina Pirates
Record: ECU leads 10-5
Although they’ve only played 15 times, few rivalries could have more history. They first played each year from 1967-1970. On November 14, 1970, following the Pirates 17-14 victory in Greenville, the plane the Herd were flying back to Huntington on crashed, killing everyone on board. The fact they were returning from an ECU game has forever bound the two programs.
The two teams would next meet in 1978. Then in 2001, the rivalry was renewed in the GMAC Bowl, one of the greatest college football games ever played, a game Marshall won 64-61 in double overtime. Marshall joined C-USA in 2005 and the two played each year in the east division through 2013, after which ECU left for the American. Their last meeting was a showdown in Huntington for the East division crown. Marshall won, securing their first of two straight division titles. This rivalry should return due to the history they share, and I’m sure Pirates fans would love to avenge that 2013 loss.
Utah State Aggies vs Utah Utes
Record: Utah leads 79-30-4
The first intercollegiate athletic event in the state of Utah was the 1892 football game between what is now Utah and Utah State, won 12-0 by USU. Besides the fact this was the first game in the history of both schools, they have played 113 times, making it one of the most-played rivalries in all of college football. Although it’s been pretty one-sided, the Battle of the Brothers is one leg of the three-way rivalry in the state of Utah between Utah, Utah State, and BYU, with the winner taking home the Beehive Boot.
Utah “won” it in 2016, but they only played BYU, a game they won by a single point. BYU still plays both the Utes and the Aggies, but the Brothers last played in 2015 and no future games are scheduled. Utah now sees BYU as their main rival, which is fine. But their dominance of the series, combined with their move to the Pac-12 in 2011, has given them an excuse to stop playing Utah State altogether. The Beehive Boot can’t be awarded properly if all three legs aren’t being played, so the Brothers need to battle once again.
What rivalries do you want to see return? If we missed one, let us know in the comments!