Though the Mountaineers and Thundering Herd have not played each other since 2012 the rivalry and dislike between the two are still prevalent. All you have to do is visit a Marshall University message board or follow @herdhater on Twitter to see the lack of respect opposing fans have for the other. However, this season may be that rare occurrence when state pride could take precedence over the rivalry. Because this year although both programs are making waves in the NCAA landscape the combination of the two are giving the state of West Virginia notoriety, including this article from NBC Sports.
Both Marshall and WVU currently have spots in the AP Top 25, the Thundering Herd at #23 and the Mountaineers at #22. There is only one other state in the country that can boast having their only two FBS schools in the AP Top 25. Arizona. Just like WVU and Marshall, Arizona and Arizona State are side by side in the most current poll at #14 and #15. The key difference between the state of Arizona and West Virginia is where their schools can ultimately end up come bowl season.
WVU currently controls its own destiny in the Big 12. Winning out will give WVU their first Big 12 Conference championship in football and all but guarantee the Mountaineers an invite to a BCS Bowl game. Likewise, The Thundering Herd, who currently sit at the second highest ranked Group of Five teams behind #19 East Carolina, could see itself staring at a BCS Bowl as well by winning out to include the CUSA Championship game.
It is not often two schools from the same state have this type of opportunity, especially outside of the state of Florida. Since the BCS started in 1999 the following states have had at least two teams in BCS Bowl games in the same season:
’99 Florida (Florida St/ Florida)
’01 Florida (Florida St/ Miami/ Florida)
’02 Florida (Florida/ Miami)
’04 Florida (Miami/ Florida St)
’10 Texas (Texas/ TCU)
’13 Florida (Florida/ Florida St)
Though many will argue that Marshall has played one of the easiest schedules in FBS this season (at fact that really can’t be disputed) they still have to the win the games. The Thundering Herd have won all eight contests to this point by at least two touchdowns. The Mountaineers are coming off huge wins over Baylor and Oklahoma State and are preparing to welcome TCU and ESPN’s College Gameday to Morgantown this weekend all while starting out the season 6-2 after finishing 2013 at 4-8.
Though there is a true dislike between the two fanbases this season both WVU and Marshall have put the state of West Virginia in rare company.
Other states that currently have two teams ranked in the AP Top 25 are Texas (Baylor and TCU), Alabama (Alabama and Auburn), Mississippi ( Ole Miss and Mississippi St), and North Carolina (Duke and East Carolina).
article picture courtesy of collegeflagsandbanners.com
Rankings courtesy of The AP Top 25
BCS Bowl game statistics courtesy of www.bcsfootball.org