Watching college football again is great. I didn't know how helplessly empty I was without out until it returned. Life doesn't seem to be possible without it. Alright, maybe I'm exaggerating, but college football season is definately my favorite time of year.
We can't talk about college football without rivalries. These are the games that the fans, die-hard and fair-weather, rich and poor, old and young, turn out for. However, perhaps one of the hottest debates in today's game is whether these games should be played at the beginning or end of the season. The obvious answer would be to save the best for last, but I decided to look into both arguments.
Look at Kentucky, for instance. Kentucky's primary rival in all sports is undoubtfully in-state Louisville. Kentucky and Louisville annually play for the Governor's cup at the beginning of the season, on the first week @ U of L and on the third week, tentatively, @ UK. While it may seem pretty crazy to play such a major game at the beginning of the season, it does have positive consequences.
- In cases such as the UK-UL game, or the Colorado-CSU game, it is impossible to gain national attention for the game unless they are played at the beginning of the season. While these can be and often are very exciting games, games such as OSU-UM, USC-UCLA, Alabama-Auburn, and FLA-FSU would overshadow some of the underrated rivalries.
- It gives the teams more time to focus on conference play. Given that most end of the season rivalries are conference games, getting a big game like that out of the way early gives the team more time to focus on the needs of improvement against quality opponents before entering the games that matter the most.
- It gives fans something to be excited about right off the bat. Without some rivalry games early, we would likely be watching, as someone on the Kentucky board said once, a game pitting #1 vs. "Idaho State Poly Tech" for the first few weeks. This season in particular, it was very exciting for UK fans to see UK play their rival very early, with no one really knowing how good either team would be.
- In a sense, it makes the games fairer. There are no 12-0 vs. 6-6 records. There are no 30 touchdown quarterbacks going against a back-up that had to step in mid-season. There are no biases. It's just football.
Obviously, going first does have its downside. There is no chance to improve your team before the big game. There is no time for the tension to build up between the fans and schools. There is no immediate bowl opportunity or conference championship on the line. These games certaily seem to get more national attention.
Either way, rivalry games are essential and arguably the greatest part of the game. I just wanted to shed some light on the reasons why teams might choose to play their rivalry games at the beginning of the season, which is often questioned by many fans. Personally, I'm glad that we have a variety of times in the season to catch these heart-pumping contests. As a Kentucky fan, it does feel good not to worry about the Cards anymore, though.
Then again, we also have another rivalry to look forward to at the end of the season, while most people do not consider it our major rivalry game. Either way, things certainly aren't friendly between the Cats and the Vols in November.