- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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The slow days of spring and summer that precede the college football season can bring some interesting topics to bat around in your brain.
Well, that very thing happened this week when John Clay of the Lexington Herald-Leader brought up the notion of potentially ending the Kentucky-Louisville football series. He dove into the subject because of a tweet from J. Rowland stating that he didn't believe Kentucky had anything to gain from playing its in-state rival on the football field.
Clay then wrote three reasons why Kentucky shouldn't end its series with Louisville. His three reasons were that the rivalry has increased the interest in football in the state, Kentucky wins have provided the Cats with good season momentum, and its much better than another cupcake opponent.
All good points, really. These have traditionally been basketball schools, and now Louisville has another BCS win in hand. It could also be a top-5 team when these teams meet this fall. Not too long ago, the Wildcats played in five straight bowl games, and the excitement around the program has really grown in the past few months with Mark Stoops running the show.
Imagine what a Kentucky win this fall against Louisville would do for the buzz around the program? To the rest of the SEC, this isn't Florida-Florida State or Texas-Texas A&M, but it's important to the Bluegrass State. A win by the Wildcats would be huge for Big Blue Nation, and could provide the right push for a team looking to get back into the bowl picture this fall.
Obviously, there's no way the rivalry will be scrapped this season, but its future really is unknown. Rowland made the point in his series of tweets that there's no real evidence that Kentucky really benefits from beating Louisville when it comes to recruiting, and that the Wildcats will be judged far more on SEC results.
I can't speak for high school athletes in or around Kentucky, but after covering recruiting for so long I know that individual games really don't mean all that much in the end. But I do think that beating up on your rival does make an impression on high school kids. Proving that you're the cream of the crop in your own state can go a long way for kids trying decide between two schools like Kentucky and Louisville.
The point of a nine-game SEC schedule was also talked about. Now, if that happens, teams will have to cut one of their nonconference opponents. That could mean teams that hover around the six-win mark could opt to get rid of their stronger out-of-conference foes. For Kentucky, that would likely be Louisville. Making it to a bowl is more important for Kentucky in the long run than beating Louisville.
I get that, and I get that Kentucky is far away from legitimately competing for an SEC title or more. Why risk missing a bowl game?
But I also understand that there's more to it than that. This game has been good to both schools, both fan bases and the state in general. And Kentucky has been much more competitive against the Cardinals (8-11 since 1994) than its divisional rivals. While Kentucky has gone 4-6 in its past 10 games against Louisville, it is 0-10 against Florida, 1-9 against South Carolina and Tennessee, and 2-8 against Georgia. For those counting at home that's 3-27.
This program deserves a decent gridiron football rival that fans enjoy being a part of, and this game puts more people in seats than some lesser directional school would.
2dAlex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf
3dEdward Aschoff and Greg Ostendorf