SAN DIEGO — The Old Oil Can is faded and rusty.
Kind of like the rivalry between Fresno State and San Diego State.
Whichever side wins Saturday night's nationally televised "Battle for the Oil Can" gets to carry off the trophy, an antique oil can mounted on a square platform of lacquered wood.
This will be the 53rd football game between the Bulldogs and Aztecs since 1923 — only San Jose State has faced Fresno State more often — but the alumni associations from both schools didn't design a perpetual trophy until 2011.
Eighty-eight years after the fact? That ought to tell you something.
According to legend, a 1930s-era oil can from Fresno was unearthed during a construction project at San Diego State. In those days, fans from both schools carried extra oil in their vehicles to make it over the Grapevine.
So that's why the Old Oil Can trophy exists. Cute story, but it feels forced.
Fresno State and San Diego State should be big rivals. Frankly, they need each other to be. Except they really aren't.
The two schools both are part of the California State University system, and the football programs recruit many of the same players. Since last season, they've been members of the same conference and now reside in the same division.
Saturday's winner gains the inside track to the Mountain West Conference title game, which makes this a big game. Just not a rivalry game.
Oh, sure, Fresno State and San Diego State were once rivals — way back in the 1950s, '60s and '70s. And they did meet seven straight years in the '90s before the Aztecs bolted the Western Athletic Conference.
Since 1998, however, the teams have met just three times. Once in 2002, during the instantly forgettable Tom Craft era at San Diego State, but not again until 2011 (Pat Hill's Waterloo) and last season.
If the Aztecs had gotten their way, they would've left Fresno State in the rearview mirror once more.
San Diego State was keen to follow Boise State's lead and ditch the MW for the fool's gold of the Big East. When that crime against geography fell apart, they returned with tails tucked between their legs.
That was all about money, certainly, but you still get the feeling San Diego State considers itself superior to its sister CSU school from the San Joaquin Valley.
Of course, the Aztecs have reason to feel that way.
San Diego State is a bigger school (22,213 undergrads to Fresno State's 16,520 in 2011-12), boasts a larger athletic budget ($38.5 million to $27.8 million) and is located in a world-class city boasting some of the finest weather on earth.
The facilities are superior, too, with one notable exception. Aztecs teams and coaches are housed in the Fowler Athletics Center, a four-story, 130,000-square-foot facility whose airy bottom floor is home to the athletics Hall of Fame.
Fresno State has nothing comparable, though it hopes the planned-for Jim Sweeney Center narrows that gap.
The only thing San Diego State lacks is a football stadium. The Aztecs play a few miles down the freeway at venerable (some would say outdated) Qualcomm Stadium, home of the San Diego Chargers.
With both the Chargers and the Padres, San Diego is a major-league city. That's where the Aztecs get lost in the shuffle.
Unlike Fresno, where the Bulldogs are the biggest show in town, San Diego State must compete with professional sports, beaches and tourist attractions like Sea World and the San Diego Zoo.
Apologies to the Forestiere Underground Gardens, but there's simply no comparison.
Not that the scales are completely tilted. Fresno State boasts a captive audience and media that provides blanket coverage to its major sports. San Diego State can only wish for those things.
Bulldogs offensive coordinator Dave Schramm grew up in San Diego, got his bachelor's degree from San Diego State and spent 12 years on the Aztecs coaching staff from 1990-2001.
So he's a good person to provide perspective.
"Fresno is a smaller town where people are really passionate about Bulldog football," Schramm said. "San Diego State has to compete with the Chargers, the Padres and a ton of other things for the entertainment dollar.
"I know that when I was there, we always felt (the competition) was always something we had to overcome."
Fresno State and San Diego State should be big rivals, but these things can't be forced. They must occur naturally.
Surely a few Aztecs players will have extra incentive tonight after they surrendered 52 points and 536 passing yards to the Bulldogs a year ago.
And if San Diego State derails Fresno State's BCS dreams, next year's game will carry heightened emotions for the Bulldogs and their fans.
That's how rivalries are created. Not because some alumni decided to invent a trophy.
The columnist can be reached at (559) 441-6218, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MarekTheBee on Twitter.