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These college football teams should pick rivalry fights with bigger powers

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Here are 10 teams who should follow the example set by Colorado-Nebraska and UConn-UCF.

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Getty Images. Banner Society Illustration.

The explanation of the blog post, by Jason Kirk

No one considered Colorado-Nebraska a rivalry until new CU head coach Bill McCartney spoke it into existence in 1982. The mighty Huskers had beaten the lowly Buffs 14 times in a row at that point, with Tom Osborne’s monster rumbling into Boulder every other year for an easy W. The most recent score at the time of McCartney’s lofty rasslin’ promo: Huskers 59, Buffaloes 0.

To say the least, McCartney went all in.

Learning that Nebraska was the most hated of the Big Eight teams by Colorado fans, McCartney declared Nebraska to be the Buffs’ rival. All other games on the calendar in the Buffs’ locker room would be stenciled in in black; the Nebraska game would be highlighted in red.

McCartney barnstormed throughout campus, speaking to alumni groups and student gatherings in an attempt to incite the fans to come to the game, and, just as importantly, not to sell their tickets to the Husker masses who flocked every other year to Boulder.

McCartney reportedly asked the student body to wear blue to counteract Nebraska red, organized a corn husk roast, and gave his players shirts that read “every play, every player, Buffs beat Huskers, 10-9-82.”

“I’m sure the fans don’t view the Colorado game as all that significant,” Osborne retorted. Nebraska won by 26.

But unlike UConn’s amazing attempt to make The Civil ConFLiCT against UCF happen, this bold gimmick, uh, worked. In 1986, CU beat Nebraska for the first time since 1967, won again in 1989, and then made it back-to-back for the first time since 1961. Amid all this, McCartney was able to claim a national title before the legendary Osborne could. At no point did McCartney chill:

Debate me, you coward!

Speaking of that split, guess whose vote handed the coaches’ poll #1 to Georgia Tech? Osborne’s. (To be fair, his Huskers did have a tougher time against the Jackets than against the Buffs.) And decades later, the rivalry fire still ... smolders?

So! In that spirit!

Let’s talk about other scrappy middleweights who should take ambitious shots at haughty powers, up and declaring their overlooked or non-existent series the hating-est feud of them all. Give the whole thing a mean rivalry nickname before they can, hogging all the SEO for your university. Show no mercy, whether they notice or not!

If they don’t want your hand-sculpted rivalry trophy, you can hide it on their campus and post a devastating photo.

“Look everyone, they’re prominently displaying the Old Rusty Hate Box behind their sociology annex’s chips machine. We’re living rent-free in their heads.”

Toledo vs. Michigan, by Richard Johnson

Back in the 1800s, competing militias disputed the territory between Ohio and Michigan. Notice I didn’t say fight, because there wasn’t really much of a fight. The legislators hashed out a compromise that helped create the state of Michigan.

So there’s history here, even before you remember that time the Toledo Rockets were angered by the city giving its key to native son and Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh.

I think such a rivalry would serve both parties on the field too.

  • The Rockets being able to promise Midwestern recruits a major Big Ten game every year would be a pretty big deal.
  • Michigan has a score to settle. These teams have only played once, and hilariously, Toledo holds the all-time upper hand, winning 13-10 in 2008.

Also, Michigan needs the opportunity to actually beat a team from Ohio.

Missouri vs. Texas, by Alex Kirshner

“We are Texas’ only rival in the SEC,” Mizzou fans should declare.

Both these schools have had unfulfilling Thanksgiving weekends with random teams since breaking things off with blood rivals amid realignment. Both teams get to fill voids, and a Mizzou-Texas rivalry means Longhorns fans finally get to tell the truth when they say they don’t care about their SEC rival. Additionally:

  • The programs share a bit of history. They’ve played 24 times, first in 1894. They also spent 16 recent years in the Big 12.
  • Their 2017 Texas Bowl was one of the most memorable forgettable bowls. It featured Michael Dickson putting on the best punting show ever and Tom Herman mocking Drew Lock’s celebration. Both are cause for bad blood.
  • Mizzou is 6-18 against Texas all-time, a perfect record for the Tigers to announce, “PLAY US, OR YOU’RE SCARED.”

ULM vs. Louisiana Tech, because apparently Louisiana Tech is too big for this, by Steven Godfrey

Did you know one of these schools considers itself bigger than the other? Do you know which one is which in that relationship? Exactly.

One wondrous element of college football hate: the prism’s completely different colors depend on where you stand. Where most of us not in North Louisiana stand is that these schools should play each other because it makes sense and would be fun.

But Tech refuses to play Louisiana-Monroe, a fellow FBS school one parish (that means county in their country) over on Interstate 20. Tech even once turned down a bowl bid at 9-3 just to avoid the Warhawks.

There’s a firm, stupid belief that Tech is superior to ULM because ... C-USA > Sun Belt? I guess? Seriously, I spend most holidays in this part of the South, and no one has ever given me a real reason why. ULM needs to play Tech, but also vice versa!

Did I mention there’s a bowl stadium a few miles west, where Shreveport is looking to create more football events? Wouldn’t it be ridiculously logical to play once a year in that stadium? I know, right? Wouldn’t want to sully Tech’s old tradition of WAC rivalries against Hawaii and Idaho.

The Pac-12 vs. REI, by Bud Elliott

The West Coast’s amazing weather and bevy of outdoor activities are what the Pac-12 usually blames for the lack of interest in its product. So the Pac-12 should announce its biggest rival is REI, the outdoor-gear retail giant.

REI is in more states than the Pac-12 Network, so the league could have something to gain by punching up. The Pac-12 might even be able to increase exposure by getting its games played on the walls inside REI locations.

Alabama vs. Rice, by Jason

Rice is 3-0 against Alabama.

Temple vs. Tennessee, by Ryan Nanni

If you want to start a fight on the internet, find a bunch of Southern Cal fans and refer to the SEC school in Columbia, South Carolina, as USC (or vice versa). In 2010, East Coast USC asked the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn a Federal Circuit ruling affirming West Coast USC’s claim to the “SC” trademark, though the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Despite old vitriol, these two have only played in 1980 and 1983. Since Southern Cal already has Notre Dame every year and South Carolina already draws Clemson, I don’t think I can convince either to add a cross-country Power 5 rival.

But! I can use The USC-USC SCirmish as inspiration. This is the logo Temple used from 1960 to 1971:

Say, that T looks familiar, doesn’t it? Almost reminiscent of the Tennessee Power T, wouldn’t you say? This is one thin pretext Temple can take to war with the Volunteers, but there are others:

  • Both play in stadiums right near rivers.
  • Both had one total first round pick in the last five drafts combined.
  • Both are constantly on the coaching carousel — Temple because it has good coaches that get hired away, Tennessee because it has bad coaches that it fires.
  • “Owls” and “Vols” are one letter off from each other.

And Philadelphia isn’t much farther from Knoxville than Gainesville is! We can even give this rivalry a stupid name: The BaTTle.

Notre Dame College vs. The University of Notre Dame, by Jason

Lots of schools squabble over names real and fake. But “the battle to be the real GSU/USC/HU/DBU/QBU/Long Snapper U*” is small time. Division II Notre Dame Falcons of Euclid, Ohio: now is the time to storm the Vatican, overthrow the Fighting Irish, and install yourselves as the pope’s favorite college football team.

* I think Cal might be Long Snapper U.

Arkansas and Mississippi State should forsake all other rivals and create The Hog-Dog Slog For The Log, by Spencer Hall

Rivalries don’t have to be nationally important. They just have to be explosive. There have to be stakes, even if those stakes are imaginary. They need tension off the field, even if it is very silly. They have to contain enough emotional dynamite to go off every 365 days, but without outright combat in the stands, which can cancel a rivalry for decades.

Whoops —

That’s two Mississippi State fans fighting each other after the 51-50 MSU win in 2015. That was after a win, and with their fellow fans! Imagine the intensity if everyone made this a big deal and forgot that forced bit about Arkansas making Missouri a rival.

The Arkansas-Mississippi State rivalry contains everything one needs for annual donnybrooking. It’s a pretty competitive series; the Razorbacks have a 16-12-1 lead, but seven of their last 10 meetings with the Bulldogs have been one-score affairs. A rivalry needs emotion, and who in the SEC West sits atop more agony than Arkansas and Mississippi State fans? A rivalry needs external factors to pressurize the situation, and what greater pressure is there than the ultimate contest: The Battle Of Whose King Ranch F-150 Is Badder?

By the time Mississippi State and Arkansas meet every year at the end of November, the stakes will be dire indeed: bowl eligibility, desperate scrapping to stay out of the division basement, and the need to fight someone for a moment of happiness as you are. They understand each other’s plight, and that’s what makes their fights so special.

Make the trophy an enormous log because a.) it rhymes with rabid dogs and feral hogs, and b.) these fanbases respect quality lumber.

P.S. Let’s also move the Egg Bowl to the second week of the season. Let a new game ruin your Thanksgiving for once, state of Mississippi.

Nebraska vs. Colorado, by Jason

The Huskers hope to create Big Ten West rivalry emotions, but Nebraska shouldn’t neglect the past.

These two have plenty in common! For example: Colorado, like Nebraska, won a national championship so recently, the parents of recruits might remember it.

More importantly, the Huskers can punch upward by calling out a school that has attended a conference title game more recently than Nebraska has.

Virginia vs. Virginia Tech, by Alex

Isn’t it time the Hokies had to start facing an in-state challenge each Thanksgiving rivalry weekend? How cool would that be?

We also did a spinoff episode of the Shutdown Fullcast on this topic, including such nonsense as Delaware-Michigan and Maine-Hawaii: