College football carries all sorts of historic rivalries which hold reverence of a respected prize. The University of Washington and Washington State compete for the Apple Cup. Oregon and Oregon State square off in the Civil War. Texas and Oklahoma have the Red River Rivalry.
For Boise State and Fresno State, their in-house battle is the Battle of the Milk Can. Bizarre in a sense it is the strangest college football rivalry, but there is a bit of reason to this rhyme.
Idaho and California are in the top five dairy producing states in the United States, at No. 4 and No. 1 respectively. According to Sam Noffs of Ezine Articles, the Bronco Dairy Boosters annually give money to Boise State while the South Valley Dairy Group contributes to the Fresno State program. Two men, according to Noffs, by the names of Roger Fluegel of Meridian and Dan Van Grouw of Visalia, Calif., who have ties to the schools and dairy groups, are responsible for the heralded Milk Can trophy.
The series between the Broncos and Bulldogs began back in 1984, where Fresno State of the Big Sky defeated Boise State of the Big West 37-21 at Bulldog Stadium. It did not become a conference rivalry until 2001, when both schools were members of the Western Athletic Conference. The Broncos upset then the nationally ranked Bulldogs, even with heralded quarterback David Carr, 35-30 at Bulldog Stadium.
From there on out it cemented a solid rivalry between the two football programs. The trophy was not introduced until 2005, the last time Fresno State won the matchup (27-7). Boise State has since dominated the series, taking the Milk Can trophy home the last six times, most notably with a 51-0 victory at Bronco Stadium in 2010 and a 57-7 win at Bulldog Stadium last season.
While both programs have done a bit of conference jumping the last few years, the Battle of the Milk Can has stayed in tact during the Mountain West Conference transition, but looks to be in doubt as the Broncos head to the Big East Conference next season.
It seems as if the Bulldogs are out for blood this year, with an experienced quarterback in Derek Carr, David’s younger brother, and talented tailback Robbie Rouse. Keep in mind, that same Bulldog offense will be going head-to-head with the Bronco defense, who is second in the nation in takeaways at 17.
Saturday should provide an interesting bout between the Broncos and Bulldogs, a game which will truly gauge where each program is at heading into conference play. Hopefully it comes as a reminder to both universities the camaraderie this series holds and renewal will come thereafter. It’s not everyday a milk can could hold so much significance.