When they first announced that this season’s UK/UofL football game would be played at the end of the year, I quickly rejected all of the complaints. Most of the complaints pointed towards the fact that they liked it being the first game. I quickly bounced back by saying that I liked it as the first game too, but it’s only the first game 50-percent of the time. The other 50-percent you get the game after both teams have played the likes of Ohio or Murray State to start the year.
The first game is great, but the first game every other year is not. At least now, we knew that the game was going to be played last every single year.
Then I looked at the other possible positives. What if you get to the last game of the year and one team is playing for a BCS bowl and needs a win to get there? What if one team has five wins and needs to beat their biggest rival to get to a bowl?
If these things happened, it would be nuts right?
We inch closer and closer to Saturday and both of those scenarios are exactly the case. But, nuts it is not.
The anticipation feels different than it has in years’ past.
And maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the anticipation is there. Maybe football fans in this state are pumped.
But, I just don’t feel that right now.
A lot of the lack of anticipation may have something to do with the fact that basketball has started, which was something a lot of critics pointed towards when the new game date was announced.
Maybe it’s because we didn’t have all summer, while basketball was dormant for the most part, to debate this game. Even when it was the third game, something I hated, Cards and Cats fans could still fight it out all summer.
But, let me tell you the real reason why. It’s because Kentucky’s season has spiraled out of control. It’s because Louisville is going in completely the other direction.
And we know this because we have seen them play a whole season. And because we have seen them play, not many think this is going to be much of a game.
This is a brand new element to the whole UK/U of L football rivalry. For the first time we have evidence of how good these teams are.
After starting 5-1, Kentucky has lost fives traight. In those five games, the Wildcats have lost a combined 219-91. That’s an average loss of 37-15. And it’s gotten even worse the last two games. Georgia and Tennessee combined to beat Kentucky 113-47. Georgia put up 559 yards. Tennessee put up 511 yards.
At times they looked more interested watching their opponent dance in the end zone after a score then simply making one tackle.
They were awful. They looked spent. They were physically and mentally drained after eight straight weeks of football and six straight weeks of losses. All the while that elusive sixth win dangled right there in front of them.
The Cards on the other hand are rolling. DeVante Parker and Michael Dyer are healthy and the offense is clicking like it hasn’t all year. The defense continues to cause havoc. And Louisville is coming off of a road win at Notre Dame that many are calling the biggest win away from Louisville in the program’s history.
The Cards brought in Bobby Petrino to assure that their program didn’t skip a beat. And that is exactly what has happened. They enter Saturday with an 8-3 record and a win over the ‘Cats puts them in position for a possible trip to the Orange Bowl.
If you look at this game simply by the records, the hype should be there. Heck, the hype should be greater than it’s ever been before.
Kentucky is playing Louisville for a chance to go to a bowl. Louisville is playing Kentucky for a chance to go to the Orange Bowl.
But, you can’t just look at the records. You have to look at the trends. And these two teams are trending in different directions. If they continue in those directions, the game on Saturday will be a laugher.
And that is why it seems that the interest isn’t the same as it has been in the past.
But, I still believe that this move can be good for the rivalry. Louisville is where they need to be and will continue on that path with Petrino. Despite their recent rough stretch, I still believe that Kentucky is heading in the right direction. Mark Stoops will continue to improve this team’s talent and overall play.
When Stoops gets them there, they can make this football game matter in a basketball-crazed state.
This can become a game that is not only relevant in the state of Kentucky, but across the nation.
I really believe that.
But, this is now. The Cats aren’t playing well. The Cards are.
And that is why the feel is different.