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Ranking the Rivals

By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.

What makes a great sports rivalry? Familiarity, tradition, mutual respect and maybe just a wee bit of contempt. The University of Hawaii football program has its share of rivalries, although admittedly nothing like Ohio State-Michigan or Auburn-Alabama. Here are Hawaii’s top seven rivals, in ascending order:

7 – AIR FORCE: The two schools are both in the Mountain West but in different divisions, so they don’t meet on an annual basis like they used to. This rivalry features the Kuter Trophy, which is named in honor of the late General Laurence S. Kuter, the first head of the Pacific Air Forces Command. Hawaii trails the all-time series, 7-14-1.

6 – NEVADA: Some of Hawaii’s most satisfying wins in recent history have come against the Wolf Pack. UH even beat future NFL,QB Colin Kaepernick twice, in 2008 and ’10. The Wolf Pack leads the all-time series, 15-11. The rivalry is also notable for some of the familiar names that were once on the Nevada coaching staff, including Nick Rolovich and Timmy Chang.

5 – UNLV: The Rainbow Warriors used to dominate this rivalry, but not anymore. In fact, the Rebels have won four of the last seven games against Hawaii. (UH still lead the series, 18-13.) Let’s face it, this is one rivalry where Hawaii fans look forward to the road games more than the home ones.

4 – SAN JOSE STATE: Hawaii and SJSU share a special connection. The late, great Dick Tomey served as the head coach for both programs (Hawaii from 1977 to 1986, SJSU from 2005 to ’09). Now the two schools compete annually for the Dick Tomey Legacy Trophy. Also, current Spartans coach Brent Brennan is a cousin with Rainbow Warrior great Colt Brennan. And just wait for next season, when UH visits the Spartans and their new QB…Chevan Cordeiro. Hawaii Leads this series by the slimmest of margins, 22-21-1.

3 – SAN DIEGO STATE: While the Aztecs have dominated this series (Hawaii trails all time, 12-22-2), the Rainbow Warriors have had some success against them. In fact, every UH coach in the Division 1 era except Norm Chow has beaten SDSU at least once – yes, including Fred von Appen. Remember Hawaii’s 14-11 win in 2019 to capture the Mountain West’s West Division title?

2 – FRESNO STATE: Holy Flying Screwdriver, Batman! Yes, the Bulldogs are Hawaii’s most frequent opponent. The two schools have met 54 times, with FSU holding a 29-24-1 advantage. The Rainbow Warriors and Bulldogs have had some classics over the years, including Hawaii’s thrilling 38-34 win at Aloha Stadium in 2001.

1 – BYU: Yes, still. Even though the Cougars are no longer fixtures on the UH schedule, few things get local football fans as pumped as a Hawaii-BYU matchup. There’s a reason why UH’s wins over the Cougars in 1989 (56-14) and 2001 (72-45) are considered two of the greatest games in the history of the program. Hawaii trails this series, 9-23. The next matchup is a road game in 2024. Hawaii is 0-10 in Provo.

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