I like Utah State.
I don't consider them my rival team...at least not yet. For me there are stories throughout my life with rivals and rivalry games. It all starts in 1994...
I was six years old, living in Eugene at the time. This was before the era of Phil Knight and the University of Nike, Rich Brooks had helped end the bowl drought at Oregon and was in the process of rebuilding the program. At my elementary school, we were trained to eat, sleep and breath Duck football.
My first grade teacher's son played for the team, and as appropriate: we would sing the fight song every Friday before game day. We had a really crappy television at home, so I listened to most Duck games on the radio. I watched and listened to The Pick in all its glory, and it was probably then where my love for college football really grabbed hold of me.
Fast-forward a few years: I was living in Seattle and in the sixth grade right before the Apple Cup. In my classroom, the teacher (who was a devout Cougars fan) encouraged the rivalry right before game day, as a pandemonium of Crimson and Purple broke out arguing who was better (even though the Cougars were 3-9 that year). The Huskies pulled out a close victory, 24-14.
Rival games, no matter who they are or what's at stake will scare the crap out of you. My first year at Boise State was 2006 and while I went to every game, the game that scared me the most was Idaho. Idaho was, is and forever will always be terrible. However, how embarrassing would it be to lose to Dennis Erickson when the Broncos were undefeated. There were game day shirts in Moscow proclaiming Erickson as their savior, as his second coming gave Vandals hope. The Broncos started slow, but eventually squeezed out an uncomfortable 42-26 victory.
This season we've already had some fantastic rival games within the conference: the Rams have dominated the Rocky Mountain Showdown and the Border War on their way to a great season, the Broncos have escaped the Bulldogs and the Wolf Pack (no SDSU, you are not our rivals...yet), Fresno State has taken back the Valley Trophy in revenge for last year, the Aggies have reclaimed The Old Wagon Wheel and kept Bridger's Rifle, and the Falcons have won the Commander-in-Chief's trophy for the first time since 2011.
Rivalry games are everywhere and the last week of the season usually is where teams square off (thanks to conference expansion and scheduling, this isn't always true anymore): Last night, Ohio and Miami continued their rivalry in a season-long series known as "Battle of the Bricks," The Territorial Cup will be played in Tucson on Saturday along with the Commonwealth Cup in Blacksburg, The Palmetto Bowl in Clemson, "Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate" in Athens, The Governor's Cup in Louisville, The Game in Columbus, The Land of Lincoln Trophy in Evansville, and Notre Dame-USC who fight for a Jeweled Shillelagh at the Colosseum.
All these games hold a special significance and there's always something to play for, even if your team has had a disappointing season. Mississippi State and Ole Miss will fight for a Golden Egg, a trophy that seems by its title, to come out of a medieval folk tale, yet comes alive in Oxford, Mississippi. Minnesota and Wisconsin battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe, with a new policy set in by Wisconsin head coach upset some people. Let's not forget about the Iron Bowl, which has created drama every year it's played...including last year:that have
This week the Mountain West still has three big rivalry games (with a potential for a fourth to start): Colorado State and Air Force will fight over the Ram-Falcon Trophy on Friday, SDSU and SJSU will duke it out in the El Camino Real Rivalry, and the Nevada schools will fight over the most expensive rivalry trophy in sports: The Fremont Cannon.
I will be in attendance on Saturday, in full scarlet and gray attire. I will also record the Utah State-Boise State game and phone look at the same time. I want the Broncos to beat the Aggies, just like I would want them to beat any team. However, I like the Aggies too much to consider them my rival, and if they beat us, I'll be upset, but I won't have that same passion-fueled emotion that some consider "hate" in my heart. Not for another few years at least.
The UNLV-UNR game though? Oh, you can bet that I'll be yelling loud and proud. UNLV might be 2-10, but the cannon was ours last year and the players are going to fight tooth and nail to keep it.
There will be drama: after all, it is a rivalry.