Dammit, it's rivalry week and we have to get in the spirit here at ASoB. Saturday, we face our biggest football (and arguably, basketball) rival in a game in our house that we absolutely have a chance to win. We have a chance to put "paid" to a few of the past due indignities heaped upon us every year when we face the Cardinals.
First off, I'm not gonna bad mouth the Cards. They have beaten us fair and square for the last four years, and no matter how bad that hurts, we have to face it like adults. But that doesn't mean we have to like it, and trust me, the only thing I can think of that is more painful than losing to the Louisville Cardinals is having some enraged chick perform a Lorena Bobbit on me.
With all that said, we need to stick it to these guys. They have a new coach, a struggling defense, and are not showing the kind of killer instinct they had under the Loathsome Troll Petrino. That may be because Kragthorpe, from all indications, may actually be a real person instead of a self-serving, unprincipled, megalomaniac will-a-real-team-please-offer-me-a-job mercenary.
If Kentucky is going to get it done, it has to be this year. Look at all the subplots. Besides the long-suffering Wildcat fans, there is André Woodson in his eternal battle with Jeff Brohm for recognition. There is Keenan Burton, the Louisville Manual star who wanted nothing but to play for the Cardinals, but whom Petrino/Smith ignored. There is the Brooks/Barnhart demand that they have the freedom to move the game before renewing the series. There is the fact that the Cardinals have been to a bowl game every year since 1998, and Kentucky, well, hasn't. There is the #9 ranking of the Cardinals on the line, and the likelihood that UK would crack the top 25 if they defeat Louisville. Update [2007-9-14 7:52:23 by Truzenzuzex]: I almost forgot that Woodson has attempted 213 passes without an interception, and needs 58 more to tie the NCAA record.
Yes, there is a lot on the line Saturday. Redemption, or more frustration. An entire college class could go through UK without ever beating the Cardinals even once, something that has never happened in the history of the series renewal.
If you think it is just Kentucky feeling the heat, you are wrong. The Cardinals are not whatsoever interested in giving up bragging rights to the Wildcats. They mean business, and are dead-bang serious about this game. Mike at Card Chronicle says that this game is a real test for Kragthorpe, and it has big-time repercussions if he loses:
Brooks can lose this game and still go 5-3 or 4-4 with a big upset in the SEC, and with a solid showing in a respectable bowl game his season will still be considered a success. About five minutes after the final whistle blows on Saturday, Kentucky fans will resign themselves to the belief that everything is going to be different now that the Brohm era has come to a close, and will allow a win over Arkansas or South Carolina to quench their thirst for red domination.
Kragthorpe loses, and anything short of a conference title and a win over a major program in a BCS bowl will assure him of the most tumultuous offseason of his coaching career.
I think Mike's right about this. It would be wrong to say that this game means more to Louisville than to Kentucky -- it doesn't. But it does mean more to their coach, because he has to don the shoes of the uber-successful (if entirely smarmy) coach Petrino, who was undefeated against Kentucky and shut us out once. Just ask Tubby Smith or Joe B. Hall how it feels to follow an act like that. Brooks, on the other hand, could lose this game, go to another bowl and find himself with plenty of support instead of on life support. I'm not saying Kragthorpe needs this to keep his job, but I am saying that the Cardinal faithful will not forgive him if he messes up their nice winning streak, and will noisily remind him of it until this time next year.
On the other hand, a victory over a hated rival like Louisville, especially ranked in the top ten, would insulate Brooks against any criticism if he were to somehow miss a bowl this year, certainly possible with Kentucky's schedule. But Brooks has perhaps the greatest opportunity of any Kentucky coach in modern history -- a chance to pull a major upset of a hated rival, get the Cats ranked in the top 25 for the first time in many years, and take our football team to a second straight bowl game. Were we to throw in an upset of UT in the bargain, Brooks might well receive a ticker-tape parade in Lexington.
By the way, if you want to know what a real rivalry looks like (blogwise, at least), check out the goings on over at EDSBS between Orson Swindle and Holly of the Ladies... blog that was involved in a big uproar earlier in the year. Funny stuff.