Rutgers and Maryland Should Hook Up Each Year For Delaware Memorial Bridge Trophy
On Tuesday it was learned that Pittsburgh was set to revive one of the nation’s best in-state rivalries as Penn State announced it would resume its series with the Panthers in 2016. The Nittany Lions are scheduled to play at Pitt’s Heinz Field on Sept. 10, 2016 and then host the Panthers on Sept. 16, 2017. No further dates were set.
This is great news for the Panthers and also a big boost to the Big East’s non-conference schedule. Many hope this is just the first step of renewing the once annual matchup. With this in mind here is the top non-conference rivalries that we would like to see either renewed or jump started for Big East members:
1 Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Penn State Nittany Lions
Reviving this rivalry was great news. Now the task is to keep it going for more than just this one series making it an annual event. This was once one of the storied rivalries in northeast college football. The teams met 96 times beginning in 1893 and last played in 2000 at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. Penn State holds a 50-42-4 edge. The game often had regional and national implications with three particularly epic matchups in 1976, 1981 and 1982. The rivalry then began to unravel in the 1990s when the schools left the ranks of college football independents and chose to join different conferences. In 1991 Pittsburgh and the Big East began football play. The previous year Penn State had joined the Big Ten. These conference affiliations resulted in fewer scheduling opportunities. Additionally, it had been reported that Penn State had demanded uneven scheduling in order to get the series back on track – that is two or three home games for Penn State to one or two for Pittsburgh. The current agreement for the games in 2016 and 2017 are in the 1-for-1 format.
If Joe Paterno could make one more act for the sake of the sport, making this series an annual meeting should be it. Penn State may take the high road as the Big Ten member, but the reality is they have yet to find a rival that would be the main rivalry game for them and the other team involved. Sure Penn State-Michigan and Penn State-Ohio State have been good rivalries themselves. But for both of those opponents, their fiercest rivals are each other. In this regard Pittsburgh has been able to survive with its annual matchup with West Virginia – the Backyard Brawl – gaining greater prominence. But should this series get back to a regular event, Panther fans will look forward to this game most of all.
For the rest of this list I will refrain from using Penn State as an option. Surely all of the other northeast schools in the Big East with long FBS histories – West Virginia, Syracuse, and Rutgers would love to play the Nittany Lions each year as well. After all Penn State is a northeast school and should be in the Big East, but that ship has sailed.
2 West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Virginia Tech Hokies
These two schools met every year from 1973 to 2005, the year Virginia Tech left the Big East and began ACC conference play. They first met in 1912 but then didn’t play from 1917 to 1952. They then had 47 meetings after 1953 in the Battle for the Black Diamond Trophy, named for the rich coal heritage of the school’s regions. One of the most memorable games in the series’ history came in 2003 when 2-4 underdog West Virginia upset then No. 3 Virginia Tech in Morgantown 28-7 at Mountaineer Field. West Virginia has a 28-22-1 edge in the series.
3 TCU Horned Frogs vs. Ohio State Buckeyes
Yeah, sure we can say TCU-Texas, but the Horned Frogs are national now that they are in the Big East, so if they don’t think regionally, then neither should you. Besides this one has bite to it.
Last season Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee was forced to eat his words as TCU basked in its glory of a 21-19 Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. In November, Gee insulted TCU and other non-BCS conference schools. “I do know, having been both a Southeastern Conference president and a Big Ten president, that it’s like a murderer’s row every week for these schools. We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor,” Gee told The Associated Press on Nov. 24.
Following their Rose Bowl victory an anonymous donor posted billboards all over Columbus with that infamous line capped off. The billboard read, “Congratulations to TCU for their Rose Bowl victory — Little Sisters of the Poor.”
TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte had responded to Gee’s comments in November, by challenging the Buckeyes on a Dallas radio station. “Anytime, anyplace, anywhere,” Del Conte said. “Buckeyes against the Horned Frogs. Tee it up. Let’s go.”
So what better time than now to make this happen? Hey, it could be looked at as a bowl game for Ohio State as those may soon be going away with potential sanctions looming over Buckeye Nation. Only problem here is if this game is not allowed on national TV?
4 Syracuse Orangemen vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
This series has already been renewed, but why not make this an annual game as well? These are two schools with proud football traditions. However, they have only met six times. The last game was a thrilling 24-23 Orangemen victory at South Bend in 2008.
They are currently on target to play in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. Including the 2008 game, the five game series will feature two games at Notre Dame and three games at the New Meadowlands Stadium. True rivalries are for the fans. Rework this contract so that at the very least the games are played at Notre Dame, at Syracuse and at the New Meadowlands stadium on a three-year rotating basis. Syracuse fans deserve to be able to host the Fighting Irish on-campus. While there is a considerable Syracuse alumni presence in the New York City area, so is there a Notre Dame presence and an even larger fan contingent. East Rutherford, New Jersey is over 180 miles and four hours away from the Carrier Dome. Good rivalries have good atmospheres, and no better one than what the Dome would provide for the Irish. Make this one happen.
5 Connecticut Huskies vs. Boston College Eagles
As the only two FBS programs in New England, this matchup is a slam dunk waiting to happen and would be great for New England football. However, bad blood stemming from Boston College’s decision to depart from the Big East in 2003 has kept this rivalry from ever getting off the ground.
At the time, UCONN was in the midst of making the jump into the Big East for football after moving to the then Division I in 2000. The University had made a substantial investment into the move, including $91 million dollars on a new 40,000 seat, off-campus football stadium. Connecticut saw Boston College’s defection as a potential blow to their return-on-investment. Led by the Connecticut Attorney General, UCONN, and the remaining Big East football member schools – Rutgers, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia – brought suit against the ACC, BC and Miami for improper disclosure of confidential information and conspiring to weaken the Big East. Things got personal with BC brass. The lawsuit against the ACC was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, while BC was eventually exonerated. While many believe the lawsuit was more the work of Connecticut politicians Boston College has never forgiven UCONN.
Another reason for Boston College to avoid this rivalry early on may have also been an attempt to marginalize UCONN by not playing them. With the Huskies the current reigning Big East champion and with a growing local fan base the Eagles can not claim top dog in New England purely on history. Only one way to settle it – on the field, hopefully wiser heads prevail in the upcoming years as time heals all wounds. This has the potential of being a regional rivalry that could garner national television exposure at some point.
6 Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Ohio State Buckeyes
Ok, I do admit this is a pipe dream. For one, the Buckeyes are too national a team to lock themselves down to a regional non-conference rivalry. As a BCS opponent the Bearcats would poise too much of a threat, year-and-year out for Ohio State to maintain the game on an annual basis and still play a full Big Ten schedule and one national non-conference BCS opponent like Texas or USC each year. But one can dream can’t they? As the only two BCS programs in this football-first state this would be a good matchup to see each year.
7 Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. Maryland Terrapins
Ideally for Rutgers this would be an annual rivalry with Penn State. However, as I stated earlier, Penn State is a potential natural rivalry for many Big East teams, but it is unrealistic to expect them to tie themselves to one opponent. For now Rutgers will take the two game series coming up in 2014 and 2015 and we’ll hope Penn State locks up with Pittsburgh long term. That leaves Maryland. College Park is just a three-and-half hour drive from Piscataway. This is a trip fans would enjoy making every other year as there is plenty to do and see in the area. With Randy Edsall as coach at Maryland and his familiarity with New Jersey and with Rutgers having recruited players in the D.C. corridor (i.e. Joe Lefeged and Brandon Coleman) over the last few years there is mutual recruiting advantages as well. The one stumbling block here is that Rutgers recently signed a deal to play Temple in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. As such, the earliest this series could kickoff would be in 2019. Rutgers needs to have seven home games a year to pay off stadium expansion debts. They could battle for the Delaware Memorial Bridge Trophy.
8 South Florida Bulls vs. Central Florida Knights
USF fans are probably going to hate this choice as UCF is the only non-BCS opponent on this list. But this is another game that just makes too much sense. It has one prerequisite already as the fans genuinely don’t like each other. Heck, it already has a cool name – the War on I-4 – a reference to the interstate between Tampa and Orlando, home of USF and UCF respectively. In April 2011, UCF head coach, George O’Leary remarked that the series would resume in 2014 or 2015, however USF officials denied that any form of agreement had been reached. The two teams did play four years in a row from 2005-2008 with USF winning all four. The Bulls could also look to lock this in as a rivalry week game thereby assuring themselves of not travelling that weekend to a cold-weather conference opponent. Of course, with all the conference uncertainty out there, this could very well become a Big East conference battle some day.
9 Louisville Cardinals vs. Indiana Hoosiers
Absolutely nothing sexy about this match up, but when you have a BCS opponent within a two hour drive you have to make that happen. In addition, this would give the Cardinals each season the opportunity to potentially boast about beating an SEC and Big Ten team in the same year should their series with Kentucky renew after 2012.
Maker sure to vote on the polls page for the non-conference match up you would most want to see Rutgers make an annual event – I’ll even let you vote for Penn State!