We are now under 24 hours from year two of the Louisville-Kentucky playing on the final Saturday of the regular season era, and fans on both sides still seem unsure how to feel about it.
When the news of the move first broke a couple of years ago, I broke down the pros and the cons of the Cards and Cats playing on Thanksgiving weekend. I still agree with a lot of what was written back then.
PRO: Big-time college football programs play their arch-rivals in the last game of the regular season
Ohio State/Michigan, Army/Navy, Florida/Florida State, South Carolina/Clemson, Georgia/Georgia Tech; the sport's best rivalries all fall on the final weekend of the regular season for a reason. There will be no more "if we'd played later in the year" smack talk from either side, and that's going to be refreshing. For the foreseeable future, each team will be facing the other with the maximum amount of experience possible for a regular season showdown.
This how college football rivalries are supposed to be.
PRO: Thanksgiving weekend = football
No holiday is more synonymous with a sport than Thanksgiving is with football. Louisville going up against Kentucky two days after Turkey Day is something that gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. My guess is most of you feel the same way.
Some people will complain about the colder temperatures, but I think getting all bundled up and hitting the parking lots outside PJCS with leftover Turkey and stuffing is as close to football Heaven as you can get in this state. I'm already tailgating for November 29, 2014 in my mind.
CON: The basketball and football games being less than a month apart might cause the state to spontaneously combust
On one hand, if Louisville were to ever lose to Kentucky in football, knowing that a shot at redemption in basketball is just around the corner would be comforting. On the other, I think it's good when a rivalry win or loss has some time to fester; it makes it mean more. On a space creature third hand, owning or losing complete rivalry bragging right for an entire year during that magical time between Thanksgiving and New Year's is about as extreme a risk/reward situation as I can think of.
The holidays are going to become exponentially more intense starting in about 15 months.
PRO: There will always be something to play for at the end of the season for both teams
As unpleasant as it may be to imagine, there may come a time when a Louisville football season doesn't go as planned and the mighty Cardinals get knocked around a little bit. Should a Kragthorpian year occur, there will still always be something to look forward to, a reason for the more casual fans to remain invested, an opportunity to end the season on a particularly high note. The same goes for the other side.
CON: Getting national attention will be more difficult
The final two weekends of the regular season are for big-time college football. Louisville and Kentucky moving their rivalry game is a nice statement for the direction that both programs are hoping to keep moving towards, but let's not act like national college football fans (or networks) are going to immediately shift their focus from Florida/Florida State or Georgia/Georgia Tech to the Cards and the Cats.
The series has found a nice niche with Labor Day Weekend. It's a flexible weekend without a lot of top-level competition where the game can be played on Saturday or Sunday and get a national audience on ESPN or ABC. That won't be the case going forward.
For Louisville/Kentucky to compete with the other games on the final weekend of the regular season and earn a national audience, both teams are going to have to achieve some success and sustain it. Kentucky has never gone into the Battle for the Governor's Cup with a national ranking, and Louisville has only done so five times in 19 years (modern era). That has to change.
You want to be a big-time college football rivalry that people want to watch on a big-time college football weekend? You're going to have to earn it, and it's going to take both sides pulling their weight.
I still like that the game is being played on "rivalry weekend," and I love that Kentucky is playing for bowl eligibility for a second straight year, but I don't know, there's still a large part of me that wishes this game had been played 11 weeks ago.
Anyway, I posed the question to folks on Twitter and the responses were every bit as varied as they were last year.
@CardChronicle should be the first game of the year. Much more excitement on both sides— dc (@coultas_david) November 27, 2015
@CardChronicle perfect ... If UL continues a positive trajectory and if UK is ever decent ... It will be viewed as a legitimate rivalry— Andrew Phelps (@dewyulsc) November 27, 2015
@CardChronicle It seems fine. It would still be awesome to win and it would still suck to lose. That never changes.— Chris Stone (@ChrisStone01) November 27, 2015
@CardChronicle still hate it. Missing family time in Indy by leaving tonight to go— Jason A. Wyrick (@steagles1) November 27, 2015
@CardChronicle gets overshadowed by all the other rivalry games from national perspective.— Danatty (@ClevelandCat) November 27, 2015
@CardChronicle gives UK fans the perfect timing for the "we don't care about football, its basketball season" line when they lose— Rush Nkottkamp (@TheRealRushKott) November 27, 2015
@CardChronicle stakes are higher, there's something to play for. Basketball should be at end of regular season too— Andrew Phelps (@dewyulsc) November 27, 2015
@CardChronicle I think the excitement has been taken out of both programs. Will be good if both teams are ever 8-3 or better going in— Caleb Ahlers (@TheField17) November 27, 2015
@CardChronicle still love it, needs to be the same week as all the other P5 non-con rivalries— Alex Edwards (@TAUlex_Edwards) November 27, 2015
@CardChronicle love it— Josh Zeller (@j_zizzle14) November 27, 2015
@CardChronicle crushing their bowl hopes is quite fun, can't lie— Chris Person (@cpersonCPT) November 27, 2015
@CardChronicle bow eligibility for one is determined by the game 2nd year in a row. Adds to it actually— Michael Zimmer (@MZimmer557) November 27, 2015
@CardChronicle I don't love it. Preferred it as opening game. Only positive is being able to ruin their bowl chances.— Marcia Bishop (@CardsLady) November 27, 2015
@CardChronicle So much worse, especially in seasons like this. At the beginning of the season, hope springs eternal for both.— Chad M. Blanton (@Chad_Blanton) November 27, 2015
@CardChronicle I don't really care either way. I don't feel like the game has been diminished at all by moving it.— Derek (@DSF456) November 27, 2015
@CardChronicle Like it, especially when UK has to win for a bowl. I think we might see that more often than not.— John Barry (@CardsFanTX) November 27, 2015
@CardChronicle it's cool but now both holidays are a minefield with family.— FoxSportsGuyTBG (@ThatBoysGood) November 27, 2015
@CardChronicle I like the football game at the end, wish the basketball game would get moved to mid January or February— Dr. Unimpressed (@dr_unimpressed) November 27, 2015
@CardChronicle every power conference plays their rivalry games this weekend.— DownOnFloyd (@MdotKampy) November 27, 2015
@CardChronicle Hate it. 1st game creates hype. Now there isn't any.— Obi Wan CARDnobi (@_cynyc_) November 27, 2015
@CardChronicle Loving having a rivalry game over the holidays. Not to mention if u do have a bad season u can make it better with a W.— J. Shaffer (@JoelShaffer2) November 27, 2015
@CardChronicle much much much better than early seaso.— Carly Kaiser (@carlykaiser) November 27, 2015
@CardChronicle Anything is better than the week 3 nonsense that UK pulled.— Jeremy (@Jeremy0333) November 27, 2015
@CardChronicle gonna take some more good years by both schools to ever get any respect during this weekend— Brett Blair (@cards28bab) November 27, 2015
@CardChronicle in years where both programs are underachieving, I hate it. So much optimism as season begins and much is lost this late.— Chad Brizendine (@ChadBrizendine) November 27, 2015
@CardChronicle Hate it. Mistake.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) November 27, 2015
The obvious pros and cons are certainly represented by the variance in opinions, but it does seem like people are getting more used to the idea in year two. Again, as long as the result remains the same as it has the last four years, I'm good with playing the game whenever.