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Best rivalry in the MAC

Just a 20-mile stretch of I-75 separate Bowling Green State University, and the University of Toledo. However, it seems even less than that separates their football teams in terms of talent, history, and especially rivalry.

Speaking of rivalry, these two MAC titans will be taking to the field of battle for the highly coveted “Peace Pipe” (a tradition since 1980) tomorrow night at the Glass Bowl.

These two teams have a lot in common this season. They both have two of the highest ranked quarterbacks in the nation in Omar Jacobs and Bruce Gradkowski. Also, they have both competed for the MAC West title (which BGSU was eliminated from on Saturday as NIU beat EMU) in recent years.

On top of their similarities in recent seasons, their rivalry dates all the way back to 1919, as Toledo won by a baseball score of 6-0. BGSU was trailing in the short series, 3-5-3 before the 1935 game, when the Rockets humiliated the Falcons, 63-0. The mammoth loss prompted Bowling Green to decline continuing their yearly match-up. Bowling Green also sited unruly UT fan behavior, and said it had more to do with the abrupt end to what would eventually be one of the top rivalries in Mid-American Conference.

The two teams would resume the series in 1948, and the Falcons were ready as they took the game, 21-6. The two teams have met every year since, with the Falcons getting the bragging rights as they lead the series, 36-28-4.

It’s not only the distance between the two schools that creates the animosity on and off the field. It’s also the fact that many of these games have been not only close, but for something more. There are actually four good reasons that this match-up has become that arch-rivalry it is. The first is that the outcome of the game has often determined the champions of the MAC West, which leads right into the second reason. Bowling Green moved from the MAC East to the MAC West in 2002. The third reason made the clash more hyped, as the game was moved to the season finale instead of its previous date in mid October.

Though it’s true that Bowling Green has only taken four of the last ten meetings between these teams, the last four games have been split…2 wins for BGSU, 2 wins for UT. The Rockets had actually won four straight from 1995 to 1998. The 2000 game, played at The Glass Bowl, went to Toledo as they routed the Falcons, 51-17. 2001 saw a packed Doyt L. Perry Stadium cheering a 56-21 Falcon victory over the eventual MAC Champions. It was in 2001 that BGSU finished 8-3 overall, their best record since 1992. 2002 was another win for the home team. In other words, Toledo won the contest by a more tame score of 42-24 en route to a MAC West title. 2003 was the closest of these battles, as Bowling Green came away with a 31-23 victory, and their first MAC division championship since in 11 years.

Though a win in this year’s game will benefit Toledo more than Bowling Green in the long run (the Rockets still has a chance to win the MAC West with a victory), this is still a rivalry last time I checked. No matter what else is at stake outside the Glass Bowl Tuesday night, only one thing matters to both teams – a victory!

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