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Welcome to the West: Predicting UAB’s Top Rival in their New Division

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UAB returns to the gridiron in 2017 and takes up residence in C-USA West. Will what happens next surprise us?

UAB Blazers v Arkansas Razorbacks Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Ever-evolving, Conference USA football returns in 2017 with yet another change: The return of UAB Blazer football for the first time since 2014. Changes have been made in the ensuing years, and with Old Dominion and Charlotte taking their place in the East, it’s time to welcome the Blazers to their new home, and new slew of rivals: The C-USA West.

Ultimately, this makes sense, as their new divisional rivals are closer geographically. Will this mean a new heated rivalry? Sure it will. But with whom? Let’s take a closer look at the rest of the West:

Louisiana Tech

All-time record vs. UAB: 5-0

Already on top of the West over the last few seasons, Tech remains the team to beat. Will this be the year the new Western upstart Blazers topple the Bulldogs? We’ll find out on Oct. 7.

UTSA

All-time record vs UAB: 1-0

The Roadrunners and Blazers have only met once before, back in 2013, with UTSA winning in a slugfest, 52-31. With the new divisions that means an annual match-up for many years to come, starting Nov. 11 of this year, when the Blazers come to the Alamodome. A unique venue and one that has confounded visiting teams, this could be a new rivalry all its own, if UTSA didn’t already have North Texas.

North Texas

All-time record vs UAB: 0-2

Now that’s more like it. Meeting only twice in program history, UAB took both meetings, 19-14 back in 1995, then a far more decisive 56-21 in 2014. While the Mean Green might be happy for a new rival with a similar green tint, more likely UNT will continue to struggle against teams from Alabama, as Troy gave them fits back during their Sun Belt days. Now it’s the Blazers turn to do some annual damage. UAB opens conference play at UNT on Sept. 23.

Southern Miss

All-time record vs UAB: 10-5

The one true pre-existing rivalry on this list, and one that fans on both sides are waiting for. Southern Miss was having a pretty good year in 2014 under Todd Monken, then along came the Blazers who soundly defeated the Eagles, 45-24. This was the largest margin of victory by the Blazers in the rivalry, which dates back to 2000, when UAB were mere FBS upstarts.

In 2017 they are upstarts again, but USM would be wise not to sleep on them. This rivalry needs a trophy and it needs one now. Pack the house in Hattiesburg in Oct. 28.

Rice

All-time record vs UAB: 3-2

Not exactly from the same neck of the woods, these teams met for the first time in 2005. At the time of the Blazers’ unscheduled hiatus, they were on a two-game losing streak to the Owls, dropping contests in 2013 and 2010. An annual match-up between these programs, and these coaches, could be a lot of fun, but a full-blown rivalry? That might be stretching it. Though it’s worth noting, UAB is a large campus in the small city of Birmingham, while Rice boasts a tiny campus in the sprawling Houston metroplex. These fans will have much to talk about. Leave restaurant recommendations in the comments, as the Owls take the field in Birmingham on Nov. 4.

UTEP

All-time record vs UAB: 1-3

The Miners don’t exactly have a storied football program, and this is quite the hike for either team, as El Paso and Birmingham sit at 1,272 miles apart, or the farthest distance any C-USA team will travel for a divisional match-up. Not a great road-trip opportunity (that’s roughly 18 hours by car), let’s try and remember that UAB’s only bowl game in program history was in Hawaii. UTEP will have to be the first to suck it up, though, as they travel to Birmingham this year for their Nov. 25 match-up and season finale.

What say you? Does USM become UAB’s biggest rival, or will their new conference rivals turn into something much more heated? Comment below, or tweet at us between basketball games.