Regardless of how you feel about the new placement of the Louisville/Kentucky football game on the schedule, it's hard to deny that this is a much more fun weekend to play it on. You're right, if you're against the Governor's Cup's new November slot, you'll find it quite easy to deny that this is a better time. We're already off to a phenomenal start here.
Well, let's put it this way: If you're part of the crowd that isn't yet all in on the idea of Louisville and Kentucky meeting in November, here's why you should reconsider (If you are all in, just nod your head in agreement at the end of this)...
1. Other huge, bitter rivalries are being played this Saturday.
Sure, this is different than all of the other rivalries, and there's certainly a complex within some people who don't care to be like the rest of the crowd, etc. Well, all of the rivalries are different in their own right, and they're still all big and are still all on this Saturday. Alabama/Auburn, Ohio State/Michigan, the suddenly relevant Egg Bowl, the list goes on. It's cool to be in that mix, even if this year's game isn't yet of the national importance that some of the others are.
The Louisville/UK matchup on the football field certainly won't get the same kind of attention or hype of its fellow late-November rivalries, but the game is finally surrounded by others that it wants to be like (football-wise, that is). Those that have been around the rivalry in Kentucky know it's great, and when it gets there on the field, it will be nice for a national audience to get a chance to associate it with other great football rivalries.
It's clear that Louisville is ahead of the curve here compared to the Wildcats as far as football relevance, but it'll be nice when/if Kentucky catches up and can make this game one that people outside the Commonwealth are inclined to tune in to.
2. Having a late-season matchup with an SEC team can help boost future post-season aspirations.
Hold your thoughts on how likely it is that Kentucky will become a regularly national player in football and humor this line of thought for a moment. Alabama just played Western Carolina last weekend and were criticized heavily (and rightfully) for it. If Kentucky finds its way under Mark Stoops and has SEC success, they'll represent a great opportunity to get a quality win at a part of the season where quality wins speak louder.
Louisville obviously plans to be in the national conversation more and more as they get used to life in the better division of a better football conference, and having strong out-of-conference options can only help when it comes to reaching that new-fangled College Football Playoff. As we're finding out now, every single part of a team's schedule is scrutinized, and a stronger Kentucky can only help that.
Again, this sounds silly right now given the recent history of the Kentucky football program, but they at least have the platform to become a quality opponent due to their place in the SEC. It's annoying/hilarious when Kentucky fans pull the "We're SEC" card these days, but they're not technically wrong. If they get it together and win games in that conference, they'll become more useful to Louisville's strength of schedule, and that would be nice of them.
3. The summer hype machine for Louisville/UK football just wasn't that substantial, anyway.
Yeah, when the game was played early in the season, it was talked about a little bit more and was usually the highlight of an otherwise boring out-of-conference slate. It was kind of fun to talk about a matchup with UK early on because basketball season was nowhere in sight. But was it really that fun? It certainly didn't have much potential to get more appealing with the likes of Ohio and Eastern Kentucky preceding it in seasons past.
With the game being late in the year, both teams will have a chance to build a case and become more exciting (looking at you, UK), and they'll be able to put it all on the line in the season finale. There's way more to talk about there.
4. Of course, if #1 and #2 never happen, Kentucky will be downtrodden after the SEC season and just as fun to beat as they have been recently.
Look, winning consistently in the SEC is really, really hard. Winning consistently in any of the major conferences is hard, but the SEC is probably the hardest. We could debate this further and climb into debates about how the media makes the SEC and whatever else, but it's futile. They're the best, and they tend to back it up against everyone else in the big games in January. Because of this, Kentucky may never get to the point where they're contending in the SEC East, let alone the conference as a whole, but they appear to have at least a little more momentum under Stoops, and that's kind of cool.
In the event that all of that excitement and good recruiting falls out from under the Wildcats, at least Louisville will have a favorable match-up late in the season that will be harder to trip up on. All Louisville fans can agree that Kentucky is a fun team to beat in all sports, and if they aren't very good for the foreseeable future, it will make it easier to enjoy that basic truth.
Still, Louisville doesn't want that. Louisville wants Kentucky to be on the good end of what we'll call the "Western Carolina is not a Productive Late-November Opponent Theorem". Don't be Western Carolina, Kentucky. And seriously, Alabama. Western Carolina? You didn't need to do that.
Regardless of how heavily Louisville is favored in this season's Governor's Cup matchup, the rivalry is still there, and it's still reason enough to get excited for the weekend. Moreover, it's the main reason that the game could still be close enough to raise the collective blood pressure of the state of Kentucky. Even though a lot of Wildcat fans are in full-on 40-0 mode already, plenty will still tune in with some measure of hope that they'll beat Louisville. And if that tragic outcome somehow happens, it will make their entire season. That's why rivalries are fun.
The Governor's Cup's more competitive days are probably (hopefully) still ahead of it. But one of these days, the Louisville/Kentucky football game will have a chance to be mentioned along with the Egg Bowl and the Iron Bowl, because it's finally found a home on Rivalry Week.
P.S. Let's make sure Kentucky isn't allowed to go to a bowl game for at least one more year, though. It's pretty neat to have that fate solely in Louisville's hands. Agreed?