Do you know your enemy?

When I was a freshman at N.C. State, I quickly learned that I needed to know four words in the fight song above all others. I could be forgiven for not knowing the rest as long as I shouted “Go to Hell, Carolina!” at the top of my lungs. (The actual words to the song are “Come over the hill, Caroline,” but really, what fun is that?)

For Wolfpack fans, it’s crystal clear that North Carolina is their rival. But Sports Illustrated has a survey out that shows every fan base in the ACC doesn’t have the same clarity, at least when it comes to figuring out who’s their main in-conference rival.

The SI survey covered every I-A conference in the country. Andy Staples wrote a summary of its results, including this description of how it came about:

In October, we asked college football fans of all stripes to tell us about themselves. We received 33,144 responses to questions such as “What is your favorite team?” and “How closely do you follow recruiting?” We received responses from fans of all 120 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and everyone’s answers counted the same — whether they came from Ohio State fans (the most, with 2,004 responses) or Florida Atlantic fans (the fewest, with four responses).

That last sentence tells me this wasn’t the most scientific survey, but that doesn’t make the data for the ACC any less interesting. Here’s how fans from each school answered the question “What is your biggest conference rival?”:

Boston College Virginia_Tech
Clemson Georgia_Tech
Duke North_Carolina
Florida State Miami_FL
Georgia Tech Clemson
Maryland Virginia
Miami Florida_St
N.C. State North_Carolina
North Carolina North_Carolina_St
Virginia Virginia_Tech
Virginia Tech Virginia
Wake Forest North_Carolina

Before digging too deep into this, it’s worth pointing out a couple of things. First of all, the question is limited to conference rivals. Based on their team’s opponent this weekend, Clemson fans likely would have answered this question overwhelmingly with South Carolina if they’d had the choice. Same for Georgia Tech fans and Georgia.

The other caveat is that the question focused specifically on college football. My guess is the answers would have been a bit different had this been about college basketball. For example, Carolina fans probably would have gone much more for Duke than N.C. State instead of splitting 52-41 for the Pack.

With that out of the way, here are a few things about this poll that stuck out for me:

  • Among the four North Carolina teams, UNC is the one everyone else wants to beat. The Tar Heels came in first among fans of Duke, N.C. State and Wake Forest, although it wasn’t anywhere close to unanimous for Demon Decaon fans.
  • Florida State-Miami was the rivalry both fan bases involved were surest about. Among FSU fans, 97.1 percent picked the Hurricanes, while 88.9 percent of Miami fans went with the Seminoles.
  • Unlike Miami and Virginia Tech, Boston College didn’t come into the ACC with a built-in in-state rivalry. So it’s not all that surprising that the Eagles’ fellow Big East expatriates (61 percent for VT, 12.9 percent for Miami) came in first and second on their list of major conference rivals.
  • The ties between the former Big East schools also run strong for Virginia Tech fans. Miami (38.8 percent) came in a relatively close second to Virginia (53 percent) among Hokies fans.
  • While Duke fans largely picked Carolina, Florida State (1.7 percent) came in second place on their list, ahead of the Blue Devils’ in-state rivals Wake Forest (0.9 percent) and N.C. State (0.9 percent). Somehow, I don’t think Seminole fans see the relationship between the two teams the same way.
  • Maryland only broke 1 percent with fans of their “primary crossover” opponent, Virginia. But don’t think the rest of the ACC just completely dismisses Terrapin football. When asked, “Which school has the rudest fans for visitors?” 15.6 percent named Maryland, putting the Terps’ fan base second in the conference behind Miami.
  • Speaking of Maryland, I’d wager most of the 15.5 percent of Terps fans who called Duke their primary conference rival were thinking of basketball.

One Response to Do you know your enemy?

  1. Joel Frady says:

    What’s even more disheartening about the response from Wake Forest fans is that UNC was chosen as their top rival despite the fact they only play them twice every five years.

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