The Cal Poly and UC Davis football teams have met many times — 36 to be exact since 1939.
It wasn’t until 2004 when the two California universities — two of only four left in the state that play FCS football — decided to start waging war over a golden horseshoe-shaped rivalry trophy, but the annual game has come to hold great meaning to both programs.
That’s why this season’s game feels a little out of place. Arch rivalries are often saved for the end of the season.
As it is, the Mustangs (2-0) and Aggies (1-2) will meet in the fourth week of the season, each opening their first year in the Big Sky Conference against against an old foe from the former Great West Conference.
Cal Poly and UC Davis haven’t played this early since the season opener in 1997 when the aggies were still playing in Division II.
“That’s unusual to have it that early,” 20th-year Aggies head coach Bob Biggs said. “You tend to like your big rivalries, them and Sacramento State further down the road. But it is where it is, and I just look forward to the game.
“In all my years both as an assistant coach and as a head coach, it’s just one of those game that I thoroughly enjoy. I just think that it brings out the best in both teams.”
Biggs has plenty of reason to have enjoyed the rivalry the past three years. UC Davis is on a three-year winning streak, leaving Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh winless against the Aggies.
Coming off the program’s first victory over an FBS program under Walsh, last week’s 24-22 win at Wyoming, this game has perfect timing for Walsh.
In avoiding a letdown, it’s a little easier to preach the importance of every game when the one coming up is one of the biggest of the year.
“This is the first game in the Big Sky,” Walsh said, “against your rival, their first game in the Big Sky. I don’t think it gets any better than this. This is great college football atmosphere, and I’m glad it’s the first for both teams.
“For us, it’s a great opportunity to make a statement about what we want to do in the Big Sky but also to get the horseshoe back.”