With the release of the 2014 football schedule, the spot that has been filled by the Hilltoppers the past few years will be occupied by UT-Martin instead, thus ending (for now) the short-lived “rivalry” with Western. Some of you may be happy that it is over with considering the loss UK suffered at home last year at the hands of WKU. The intrigue and fan interest, however, should be appreciated for what it has brought to the state of Kentucky. No, I’m not one of those people who thinks other programs should succeed (like Louisville) for the “good of the state.” I do think though that it is always fun to watch two intrastate programs that may not always have been historically on the same level compete and bring interest to their games; it was just 4-5 years ago that WKU’s biggest rival was EKU as they transitioned themselves into the D1 rankings.
Now, from a combination of a new coaching staff at UK, a coach who some wanted in Lexington guiding the opponent, and the finality of the game being at the beautiful LP Field (Yes, I’m an unabashed Titans fan, but there are truly few stadiums nicer than LP Field in the NFL) in the never disappointing Nashville, the game has garnered quite a bit of hype. While we all would rather UK be favored by 35+, the totality of the atmosphere and weekend in Nashville shouldn’t be taken for granted. Next year, we will be facing UT-Martin instead, a team that won’t field as much interest or unite two of the state’s fanbases. The only thing that would make the game against Western truly Kentucky at heart would be if they met halfway in Sonora, KY (according to a Google search) and played on the soil of the Bluegrass State. So, regardless of the outcome (unless WKU wins), enjoy the game and appreciate how football has connected our state through an untraditional rivalry.
Lastly, on an unrelated note, the NFL preseason is about as bad as it gets. Even I know you don’t lateral a recovered fumble to a D-Linemen. Sigh.