College Football In-State Rivalries Must Survive In The Future

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College Football started with a bang this past weekend and nowhere was that more evident than in the Tar Heel state. Sure, neutral site spectacles in places like Atlanta, New Orleans, and Arlington are great, but the heart of the sport resided in Boone and Greenville on Saturday.

In our rapidly approaching college football future, the sport will be extremely divided into “haves” and “have nots.” If some programs currently in Power 5 conferences are seeking shelter in the SEC or Big Ten, where does that leave Group of 5 schools that have alumni and fans that also care about football?

Maybe it’s eventually going to be a different subsection of the game that’s not FBS and not yet identified. Regardless of the future, the present offers up a great opportunity to create more matchups like what we saw in the early window of games on Saturday.

The early window games in the Tar Heel state were everything we love about college football (Getty)

Tar Heel State Fireworks

Both East Carolina and Appalachian State are highly reputable programs with rich histories. They both have passionate fans. And they both are about to be sequestered to a realm of college football previously unseen if the current trajectory doesn’t change. But when given a chance to host “power” schools, they are able to play toe to toe and energize the college football world for 3 and a half hours on a Saturday afternoon.

In front of a raucous home crowd, East Carolina was a missed extra point and a missed field goal away from toppling 13th ranked NC State. The two schools are 83 miles apart and there’s genuine hostility in the rivalry. Credit NC State for agreeing to play a game like this on the road (even if they were pressure by state legislature) and credit ECU for giving us a game for the ages.

On the beautiful Appalachian State campus, we got a 4th quarter for the ages.  The Mountaineers and North Carolina combined for 62 points. App State accounted for 40 of those points in one of the craziest finishes I can remember. The Mountaineers scored two TDs and failed to convert a pair of 2-point conversions in the final 31 seconds alone. Convert either one of the 2-point plays and the game would have been tied. We all would have had even more of a great thing.

College Football Needs More In-State Rivalry Games

And I want more of this great thing. NC State, UNC, East Carolina, and Appalachian State should play a revolving series of “home and home” contests between the four instate schools.

This won’t happen with any regularity because the ACC schools in the state will always protect their own interests. Give the people what they want.

But in this column, I don’t have to be as selfish. So here are 5 other games between instate Power 5 and Group of 5 programs that should happen every year. (Note: Some of the more obvious matchups feature teams making the move to Power 5 next season, so those games are excluded: Ex: Cincinnati- Houston, Texas A&M-Houston, and UCF-Florida)

1) Virginia Tech vs. Old Dominion

College Football: Old Dominion beat Virginia Tech 20-17 in Week 0. (Photo by Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Yes, I watched this game on Friday night. And yes, it was often ugly. But it didn’t make it any less thrilling when ODU stunned Virginia Tech in new head coach Brent Pry’s first game. Old Dominion has now beaten the Hokies in 2 of the last 4 years. And then news came out that Virginia Tech’s locker room got jacked during the game. Spicy.

2) Tennessee vs. Memphis

It’s tough to understand the utter disdain Memphis fans have towards Tennessee unless you live in the state. And living in this state, I see it all the time. There’s also a divide between the city of Memphis and the rest of the state in general. Folks in the Bluff City are a proud bunch and there’s not enough Interstate BBQ to feed the party that would be thrown if they got an annual crack at the Vols.

3) Marshall vs. West Virginia

It’s a crime to humanity that the “Friends of Coal Bowl” hasn’t been played since 2012. There’s a lot of state politics at play and there’s nothing currently planned for the future. Let’s hope the politicians can come to a compromise or apply the right amount of pressure on West Virginia to get the rivalry burning again.

4) Air Force vs. Colorado

The Buffaloes of Colorado already play Colorado State in the Rocky Mountain Showdown. Colorado State already plays Air Force annually in the Mountain West. Add one of the best programs in the “Group of 5” to Colorado’s schedule and you get a fun 3-way round robin every year. You can even give the winner of the series some stupid trophy every year.

5) Georgia State vs. Georgia Tech

The Battle for Atlanta. For all of you history buffs, you can name this trophy the Sherman’s Cup. Georgia Tech hasn’t been particularly interesting in years.  Georgia State was able to beat Tennessee in 2019, almost beat Auburn a year ago, and was hanging tough with South Carolina in the 2nd half on Saturday before two blocked punts sealed their fate.

What games would you like to see played? Email me at

Written by Chad Withrow

Chad Withrow is the host of OutKick 360 which breaks down all the latest sports headlines every day from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET.

Previously, Withrow hosted multiple sports talk radio shows in Nashville including “Midday 180” which was the winner of the Barrett Sports Media Award for Best Show in America and also launched ClayNation with Clay Travis and Chad Withrow. Withrow was previously the owner of which was a successful high school sports website.

A native of Tennessee, Withrow graduated from the University of Tennessee.

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