The season-ending Causeway Classic is viewed as the big game for the UC Davis and Sacramento State football teams.
But the Aggies also have a pretty intense rivalry with Cal Poly, which plays at UCD on Saturday in The Battle for the Golden Horseshoe.
"There's something about those guys that grinds our gears," said UCD senior quarterback Randy Wright. "It has a different intensity to the game. All our games with them seem to come down to the wire, and the fans are into it."
Wright is 2-1 in matchups with Cal Poly. He led the Aggies to 22-21 and 24-17 wins over the Mustangs on the road in 2010 and at home in 2011, respectively, before falling 28-20 in San Luis Obispo last year, the Mustangs' first win in four years over the Aggies.
In that game, the Aggies jumped to a 10-0 lead on a 39-yard Brady Stuart field goal and Wright's 67-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Corey Galindo, before Cal Poly scored 28 consecutive points.
Former Pleasant Grove star Deonte Williams led the way for the Mustangs with 188 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
"Last year was a bad memory, but that's motivation for this year to get the horseshoe back," said Wright, who passed for 278 yards and a touchdown. "We had a chance at the end. We just fell a few plays short of a comeback."
Wright's best performance of the three games was his freshman year, when he rallied the Aggies from a 21-0 deficit, hitting Sean Cradick with the winning 5-yard touchdown pass with 35 seconds to play. Wright was 23 for 40 for 302 yards and two touchdowns.
The win knocked the Mustangs, nationally ranked at the time, out of playoff contention.
Wright said the first two Cal Poly games had special personal significance because he went against his former Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa teammate Kyle Murphy.
"That was fun going against him because he's a next-door neighbor," Wright said. "Whenever we're home we reminisce. He never lets me live down that I knocked him out of the playoffs that year."
While the players join the alumni in embracing the rivalry, first-year coach Ron Gould looks at it a little differently.
"I'll learn about the rivalry, and we'll kind of go from there," Gould said. "It's a big game. But it's a big game because it's the next game."
Fifth-year Cal Poly coach Tim Walsh says the rivalry is special for a number of reasons.
There's the proximity of the schools and their impeccable agricultural-studies reputations; the keen competition in recruiting similar scholar-athletes; and the state system versus UC system tug-of-war.
"We're a state university, they are a UC school, and sometimes we feel like we're a stepchild to them," said Walsh, who also has coached at Sonoma State, which no longer has football.
Although the teams first met in 1939, the rivalry didn't flourish until 2004, when the Golden Horseshoe was first awarded.
Because of a misunderstanding, both schools showed up for that game with their own trophies. It was decided the winning school's trophy would be recognized as the perpetual award thereafter.
UC Davis rallied to beat Cal Poly 36-33 on a Jon Grant to Tony Kays touchdown pass in the final 13 seconds.
The Aggies lead the series 19-17-2, including a 12-6-2 record in Davis.
Backs boost Hornets Converted fullback Brandon Kellermann, pressed into service at running back the past three games because of mass injuries to the backfield, will start Saturday's game against No. 12 Montana at Hornet Stadium.
But he'll have some company.
Sac State coach Marshall Sperbeck said senior Ezekiel Graham (ankle) and redshirt freshman Demetrius Warren (shoulder), the team's No. 1 and No. 2 running backs before both were injured against Weber State, are expected to be ready to play.
Kellermann, a walk-on who played special teams and was a short-yardage blocker, has rushed for 247 yards and two touchdowns on 57 carries in his three-game stint. That includes a career-high 119 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries in the team's 31-7 win at North Dakota two weeks ago.
Fade to black Sac State players will be attired in black, rather than the traditional green and gold, for Saturday's game and they are urging fans to do the same.
"I like the change," said senior linebacker Todd Davis. "I think we're going to look a little more intimidating. I'm excited."
Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.