Last week, D3SportsData on X/Twitter published a post asking which is the best rivalry in NCAA Division III. Riley Zayas at TrueToTheCru.com mentioned his view that Mary Hardin-Baylor and Hardin-Simmons should be listed as one of the top rivalry games in Region 10.
Every year, the offseason is filled with topics to get people talking. After all, it helps pass the time during our arduous wait for the season to begin. However, Riley got me thinking about the best Non-FBS conference rivalry games in Texas in 2023. Below is one must-see conference rivalry game for Texas Non-FBS fans at each level.
FCS: Prairie View A&M at Texas Southern
The Panthers have won the last eight meetings between the two rivals and 15 of the previous 18 Labor Day Classics. However, this year is set up for the Tigers to earn their first win in the series since 2015, and the Tigers own a 44-33-1 advantage against the Panthers. This year’s Week 1 matchup is crucial for both programs, who aspire to win the Southwestern Athletic Conference West Division and a spot in the SWAC title game this year.
Division II: Midwestern State at West Texas A&M
The Highway 287 Rivalry is one of the most underrated rivalries in Texas. WT holds a 20-15 advantage in the series and is seeking a fourth straight win over MSU, which would tie for the Buffs longest win streak against the Mustangs. This game likely holds more importance for MSU this season, with the Mustangs seeking their first win in Canyon since 2012. A win for the Buffs would add more momentum to the program in Josh Lynn’s first season.
Division III: Mary Hardin-Baylor at Hardin-Simmons
Yes, this series has been extremely one-sided, with UMHB having won the last seven meetings and 20 of the last 21 dating back to 2004. However, as Riley pointed out in an X/Tweet, this is the defacto American Southwest Conference championship game every season. That alone makes this game crucial for both teams, with an automatic berth to the playoffs on the line. While last year’s 50-20 win for the Cru was their largest in the series since 2013, the games have been more competitive over the previous four seasons.
NAIA: Ottawa (Ariz.) at Texas Wesleyan
Another massive Week 1 game will occur inside Farrington Field in Fort Worth when OUAZ meets the Rams. The Spirit have won all four games in the series, but three of those games have been decided in the game’s final minutes. Last year, OUAZ survived in Fort Worth after Dalton Dale’s pass on fourth and goal fell incomplete as time expired. On top of deciding the likely champion of the Sooner Athletic Conference this year, the winner will have an edge on earning a spot in the playoffs.
These rivals have met five times since the beginning of the 2021 season and are set to matchup at least twice again this year. The Rangers have won four of the last five meetings, but the Apaches lone win was in the SWJCFC semifinals. Kilgore and Tyler will open the season in Tyler on Week 0, which will be a non-conference contest. Their SWJCFC matchup will be inside Lobo Stadium in Longview in Week 9.
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