This weekend the WKU football team, currently ranked 4-1, takes on its biggest rival.
The Middle Tennessee State University Blue Raiders.
“We’re moving on to a very important game on our schedule,” WKU football head coach Jeff Brohm said in a press conference Monday. “It’s Middle Tennessee. It’s our rival.”
This rivalry is nothing new. Brohm is frequently quoted that the last time WKU beat MTSU in Bowling Green was 1989. MTSU’s team usually challenges the Hilltoppers, and the last few games came down to tight scores.
But for 14 of those years straight, the teams didn’t play. Last year’s match was close and the Hilltoppers barely lost, but the teams haven’t actually played in Bowling Green in a couple of years. The Tops have won their last six straight home games.
“They freaking suck,” Russellville sophomore Will Hughes said. “It’s 100-miles of hate, and they always beat us, so we have to win this year.”
Putting sports analysis aside, do Hilltoppers even care about the Blue Raiders?
“I feel like [the universities are] making it to be a rivalry,” Elizabethtown junior KJ Hall said. “I don’t really know who [MTSU] are, but hey, go football. Go tops. Am I right?”
There are understandable reasons for fostering a rivalry. Every year, the schools put on rival blood drives during the week before their football match-up. “Let’s support our TOPS in more ways than one,” an email to WKU students reads. “We can beat MTSU in blood donations and then beat them at the football game!”
Plus there are the financial reasons. The average attendance for the last three home games was around 13,000, according to WBKO. That’s not a record, but it’s not a bad number of tickets. Plus, that average will likely increase this year.
Sure, there are plenty of fans who love to hate MTSU. But for every Blue Raider-hater, there’s someone like Martinsville, Indiana senior Michael Melton, who “Literally couldn’t care less.”
With so much disparity in the opinions and comments of the student body, one could easily be left in a daze of confusion and with a flurry of questions.
Are we supposed to hate our neighbors, located just 100 miles down the road in Murfreesboro, Tennessee? Do the Blue Raiders share in our animosity?
Did we collect more blood than our counterparts at MTSU? Who will leave the stadium victorious Saturday afternoon?
But if we do win, there’s a bigger question to ask: How long will this self-proclaimed, long-sustained rivalry continue to exist? Will Hilltoppers always care about beating a team from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, or are we moving on?