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Bragging Rights

Louisiana's Top College Football Rivalries

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In 1932, the football teams of two Louisiana HBCUs (historically black colleges/universities) came together in Monroe, one from Baton Rouge, the other from Grambling. It wasn’t exactly the era of political correctness – the squad from the state capital, Southern University, was nicknamed the Bushmen, and their opponents’ school was formally titled the Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institute.

Little did anyone know what that first contest would become.

 Now, 80 years later, the Grambling Tigers and the Southern Jaguars clash annually in he Bayou Classic, the biggest game on the HBCU schedule each fall. Instead of Monroe’s former Casino Park, the contest is now played in New Orleans’ Superdome and broadcast nationally every year, making it the only NCAA Football Championship Subdivision game so displayed.

Grambling-Southern might be the most famous in-state rivalry in Louisiana, at least in 2012 anyway. Decades ago, of course, Louisiana State and Tulane battled every year for Bayou State bragging rights, but the Green Wave has since de-emphasized athletics, and the rivalry has gone kaput with LSU clobbering the Greenies pretty much every time they do play.

But for many Louisianians, the demise of the LSU-Tulane rivalry is just fine with them. That’s because several other in-state college football enmities exist, not the least of which is the Bayou Classic.

There’s the University Louisiana at Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns taking on the UL-Monroe Warhawks in the heated Battle on the Bayou, a fierce Football Bowl Subdivision clash between Sun Belt Conference foes. Then you have the McNeese State Cowboys colliding with the Northwestern State Demons every year, alternating between the ’Pokes home in Lake Charles and NLU’s stomping grounds in Natchitoches in an in-state and in-league (both are in the FCS Southland Conference) feud.

And don’t forget the often-epic battles for the River Bell between the Southeastern Louisiana Lions from Hammond and the Thibodaux-based Nicholls State Colonels, a contest which, like McNeese-NSU, pits two Southland conference foes.

In addition, while several of Louisiana’s institutions of higher learning no longer really have in-state rivals, they do hold grudges against antagonists from other states. Even small, NCAA Division III schools like Pineville’s Louisiana College and Shreveport-located Centenary College have pigskin feuds that burn in players from both schools.

In a different twist, Tulane and Louisiana Tech share a rival, Southern Mississippi. The Bulldogs battle the Golden Eagles in the Rivalry in Dixie, while the Green Wave faces off against USM in the Battle for the Bell.

And LSU, the hegemonic, high-profile Tigers hailing from Baton Rouge? They’ve had rivals come and go, depending on the year and the quality of the teams. Currently, it appears that LSU’s most intense enmity is with the university of Alabama. The two squads played each other twice last year, the second game for the Bowl Championship Series national championship, an honor claimed by the Crimson Tide in a 21-0 victory over the offensively-challenged Tigers.

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