Having the game on the last Saturday of the regular season adds another dimension to the rivalry between the Louisville and Kentucky football programs. The best way to end the season for the winner, extremely bitter for the losing side.
The stakes are even higher considering the outcome could decide whether UofL goes to the Orange Bowl or UK stays home again during the bowl season.
Coach Bobby Petrino, already 4-0 against Kentucky, has even more reason to want to beat the Wildcats again. After UK canned Joker Phillips, Bob Petrino, Sr. was out campaigning for his son, telling local newspapers that Bobby wanted to interview for the job.
Bobby was eager to get back to level one football, even with a program he allegedly hated. The call never came from UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart. A year later, he would fill the position vacated by Charlie Strong at Louisville.
Then, of course, there’s the natural antagonism between UofL and UK fans, especially in Louisville where a smaller, but higher vocal, demographic of UK fans refuses to accept its minority status, for inexplicable reasons turning its back on the hometown school for a school 70 miles away.
In a rivalry game, the outcome is often decided by the team that wants the game the most. In this case, it’s a draw between who wants it the most because no one is giving an inch when it comes this rivalry.
UK has plenty of reasons to want the win. The Wildcats haven’t won a road game in two years, they want to show some progress by getting to a bowl game, and they want to avoid a losing season. A win also would enable them to save some face with their basketball-crazy fan base and salvage the season for them.
Louisville, on the other hand, is about maintaining its reputation as a good football program. A win gives the Cardinals a shot at a blue chip bowl, continued momentum, and a 9-3 season. Plus, UofL still trails 14-12 in the overall series. And, finally, a win for UofL would keep UK football fans quiet for another year. No shortage of motivation for the Cardinals.