Rivalries are one of the greatest parts about college football. Who doesn’t love having someone to hate? Someone who’s losses make you almost as happy as your team’s wins? Twitter and other social media platforms are so much more fun when two rival fan bases go at it, especially during the drawn out offseason.
Here’s a ranking of the major rivalries in C-USA. Note that this only includes rivalries between C-USA teams and does not include out of conference rivalries.
Honorable mention: UAB vs La Tech, UAB vs Southern Miss
The brewing rivalry between UAB and La Tech has been thus far limited to basketball. The Blazers’ rivalry with USM is a little more established, as their absence from football has transferred all of their hate towards Ray Watts for now.
5. Moonshine Throwdown (Western Kentucky Hilltoppers vs Marshall Thundering Herd)
The youngest rivalry on this list started in 2014 when upstart C-USA newcomer WKU upset #19 Marshall 67-66/OT in Huntington in the regular season finale, spoiling the Herd’s shot at an undefeated regular season and a potential access bowl bid. The following year in Bowling Green, excitement was high in Week 13 when the Hilltoppers and Herd faced off for the C-USA East title. Marshall’s revenge bid went sour quickly, however, as the Tops won 49-28.
The 2016 edition saw a surprisingly bad Marshall team barely have the will to fight the juggernaut that Big Red has become. This game had the potential to be a top rivalry in C-USA, but each game has been a bigger blowout from WKU than the last, and the heat has mostly subsided for now. Both fanbases currently direct most of their attention elsewhere. However, if Marshall can get back to business and get a win over WKU, this rivalry could heat back up very quickly. The all-time series is tied 4-4, but the actual rivalry portion of the series sees WKU with a 3-0 lead.
4. The Shula Bowl (FIU Panthers vs Florida Atlantic Owls)
The Shula Bowl pits C-USA’s “Florida twins” against each other, and this rivalry is as old as their respective teams. FIU has played the Owls literally every season of football it has had. FAU’s only season that didn’t involve FIU was their first back in 2001. The two schools are about two hours apart and have been conference mates since they both joined the Sun Belt in 2005. It is ranked as only the fourth best rivalry because, since joining C-USA in 2013, neither team has exactly been competing for conference titles and neither has been bowling, so the games haven’t meant much outside of South Florida.
However, the hires of Butch Davis (FIU) and Lane Kiffin (Florida Atlantic) could see the importance of this rivalry rise very soon. Florida Atlantic leads the all-time series 10-5, but the series is an even 2-2 since it became a C-USA game, with the home team winning each game.
3. North Texas Mean Green vs UTSA Roadrunners
First off, this rivalry needs a name. This is an interesting one, as the fan bases like to deny it’s a rivalry, but proceed to constantly light each other up online. Throw in reports of UNT players allegedly urinating on the Alamodome’s turf, and I think we all know the truth. This rivalry is only a year older than the Moonshine Throwdown, but it started in a similar way. After defeating Rice, North Texas had a legitimate shot at winning C-USA West in their first year in the conference. All they had to do was win their final home game, then go on the road and defeat a pretty bad Tulsa team. That final home game, however, was against UTSA, who played the upstart newcomer in this story.
In only their third year of football, the Roadrunners upset North Texas 21-13 in Apogee Stadium to keep UNT out of the title game. After winning again in 2014, UTSA suffered their first loss to UNT in 2015, which would be the only game North Texas won that year. The game hasn’t meant too much as both teams have struggled the past few years, but with both on an apparent upswing, the importance of this game could increase very soon. UTSA leads the all-time series 3-1.
2. Rivalry in Dixie (Louisiana Tech Bulldogs vs Southern Miss Golden Eagles)
This rivalry is vastly older and more historic than the ones mentioned up to this point. The previous three have been played a combined 22 times. The Rivalry in Dixie has been played 48. The first game was in 1935 in Ruston, a game La Tech won 27-0. This game was played annually from 1946 until 1972, but was played most years until 1992. After a semi-lengthy hiatus, the two finally met again in 2010 and 2011, followed by their full reunion when Tech joined C-USA in 2013.
This marked their first time sharing a conference since Southern Miss left the Gulf States Conference in 1952. The hate has been slow to build after the long break in playing each other, but it’s starting to heat up. The lengthy history of these two, combined with the effect this game has had on the past two C-USA title games, gets this rivalry the number two spot. Thanks to dominant runs in the 1940s and ‘50s, Southern Miss leads the all time series 33-15, but the C-USA record is an even 2-2.
1. 100 Miles of Hate (WKU Hilltoppers vs Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders)
This game is clearly the best rivalry in C-USA. The two schools, separated by roughly 100 miles, have met 65 times. After Middle Tennessee won the first two games in 1914 and 1921, WKU went on a dominant 13-2-1 run against the Blue Raiders. Since then, however, outside of the mid to late 1970s, MTSU owned the series. WKU’s wins the past two years marked the first time WKU had a win streak against MTSU since 1980. Similarly to the Rivalry in Dixie, the 100 Miles of Hate was interrupted in the early 1990s.
However, the series resumed in 2007 and soon became a Sun Belt series before MTSU moved to C-USA in 2013, followed by WKU in 2014. Since the return of this series, the hatred between the two has flourished and is easily evident. This series takes the spot as the best rivalry in C-USA thanks to its history, the hatred between the fan bases, and the fact both teams reside in the top tier of C-USA and both are annual conference title contenders. Through all of the roller coaster that this series has been, Middle Tennessee leads the all time series by a narrow 33-31-1 margin. However, since this became a C-USA game, WKU leads 2-1.