Rivalries are cool. Rivalry trophies make already-cool rivalries even cooler. And the cooler the trophy, the cooler the rivalry.
Meaning that the newly-christened "Bridger's Battle" between Utah State and Wyoming is going to be about as cool as rivalries get. Here's the series' new traveling trophy, awarded for the first time Saturday, the "Bridger Rifle":
The winner of the annual contest will take home the traveling "Bridger Rifle," a .50 caliber Rocky Mountain Hawken rifle that was popular among mountain men and widely considered to be what Bridger carried. Each year's game score will be notched into the maple stock.
Absolutely no offense to, say, the Little Brown Jug (whose history is storied and awesome), but carving game scores into the stock of a 19th-century rifle is just a wee bit cooler than painting them onto a water container ... or just about anything else. There's a nice logo, too:
Another wrinkle in the series between the Aggies and Cowboys is that's it's far from new; it's been played 63 times, the first time in 1903. But USU and Wyoming haven't met as members of the same conference since 1961.
"Our historic rivalry, geographic proximity* and institutional commonalities make a rivalry trophy a no-brainer," USU AD Scott Barnes. "It's gratifying to see a rivalry being restored when in so many cases recently, the wave of conference realignment has forced several to fall."
There's even some raised stakes for the inaugural Battle, with Utah State needing a win to clinch the Mountain Division title and a spot in the inaugural MW Championship Game. But when a win also means the right to celebrate with the "Bridger Rifle," what other motivation do you really need?
*The schools are separated by 384 miles and approximately six hours' worth of driving, but in the Mountain West, of course, this practically makes them next-door neighbors.