The University of Kentucky and the University of Tennessee have an interesting relationship. No other team has beaten the University of Kentucky in basketball more than Tennessee has throughout history, and UK and UT used to have a traditional border-rivalry game that was marked by a beer barrel. The two schools rest on the eastern sides of their respective states, and the two schools are separated by a 2.5 hour (1.5 if you’re Don racing between the two) drive.
Kentucky has traditionally played Tennessee very close in football without actually being able to get over the hump over the past 2 decades or so, and Tennessee, until recently, has had the same frustrating problem with Kentucky in basketball.
Kentucky and Tennessee, 69ing since the Puritans
I’ll be the first to admit though, that when Kentucky became bowl eligible, and played and won in the Music City bowl, I was happy for them. Not because they’re a rival, and you want your own team to look good because you beat them, and they beat someone else, but because Kentucky is like your brother who is perhaps not as successful as you in matters of money, but more successful than you in other things, like getting the ladies. You want him to do well because he’s your brother, but not that well, because well, you sort of hate his guts.
I have a rule that when it comes to OOC games, I almost always root for the SEC school, partly due to my superiority complex regarding the SEC, but also because it’s sort of like a big family where rivalries exist, but they’re still blood. The SEC shares a common bond of knowing they’re the best football conference, whilst simultaneously having a hard time wondering why everyone else in the country doesn’t believe the same thing.
Our friends over at A Sea Of Blue have posted a two part series about Kentucky’s rise in football over the past few years, as well as having a positive outlook with regards to the upcoming season. Part One here, and Part Two here. It’s a good read, and also coming from a blog that is mainly focused on basketball, gives an interesting perspective from someone who was used to the mediocrity of the past, but cautiously optimistic about the future.
The SEC has become a top-heavy conference now more than it has ever been, with the only problem being that due to the fact that there is such parity in the league, is that it makes it increasingly difficult for a team to emerge scatheless. Yes, scatheless. Would you prefer, without scathe? Fine, a team to emerge unscathed. But scatheless is better, trust me.
We’ll see this season how the perennial underdogs of the SEC fare in a conference where not only are they getting better, but the good teams are also getting better. Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and Kentucky are all poised for runs this year if all their cards fall into place, as they all have very good and stable coaching staffs in place and a steady stream of good recruits coming in to try to help their respective programs get over the hump. It’ll be a fun season to watch… As long as UT still beats all of them.
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