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August 21, 2013Once labeled "Game One," Kentucky's annual football rivalry game with Louisville is shifting to Game 12.
That was the biggest revelation on Wednesday when UK released its 2014 football schedule, which for the first time will feature the Wildcats and Cardinals playing in the final game of the regular season.
The rivalry series, which renewed as the season opener in 1994 with the "Game One" branding, has been played as either Kentucky's first or third game of the season. Louisville played a game prior to visiting UK in 2001.
"Why not?" Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said after practice Wednesday. "I just left a pretty good rivalry at the end of the year. The Florida-Florida State game is pretty big, a pretty big deal at the end of the year. From my understanding, that was what was best for both conferences, so that'll be great. That'll be a lot of fun."
The move to the season finale is being made at the request of the Southeastern Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference, Louisville's home beginning next season.
The Birmingham News reported Wednesday on its website that the move was made to facilitate more rivalries on the final weekend of the season.
The switch of the Kentucky-Louisville game date means that there will be four SEC vs. ACC in-state rivalry matchups on the final weekend of the season. The Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Georgia Tech and South Carolina-Clemson games also are on that weekend.
UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown said the Cats-Cards game can get "lost in the shuffle a little bit" when it's played earlier in the season.
"Some people may disagree with that, but later in the year, playing on that rivalry weekend, I think it will be good for us," Brown said. "It doesn't matter anyway. We're going to play it at the end."
Tennessee has been UK's final scheduled game since 1953. The Wildcats have closed the regular season with the Volunteers every year since, with the exception of a 2001 make-up game against Indiana, rescheduled due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
"As has been noted, this game was moved at the request of the conferences and we agreed to do so," Mitch Barnhart, UK Director of Athletics, said in a statement. "Playing an in-state rivalry game on the last weekend is a popular tradition shared by many prestigious football programs. It will be an exciting way to complete the regular season with rivalry games against Tennessee and Louisville."
There was somewhat less excitement at U of L, which fought to preserve the opening-week slot for the game when Kentucky moved it to the third week in years in which it hosted.
"I have been a huge proponent that the (UK-U of L) game should be played as the first game every year," Louisville Vice President/Director of Athletics Tom Jurich said in a release. "I'm disappointed that it will not be our opening game in the future, but most importantly, we will continue to play the game. We'll support the move at the request of both conferences and we are very excited about our future in the ACC. I'm sure that fans across the Commonwealth will be pleased to see the series continue."
The changes don't stop with the Louisville and Tennessee games. Kentucky will host Vanderbilt on Sept. 27 next season. The two teams have played in November every season since 1953.
One thing remains constant: the Wildcats open their SEC schedule on Sept. 13 in Gainesville, which will mark the sixth consecutive season in which Kentucky has opened SEC play against the Gators.
UK's nonconference schedule will include Tennessee Martin on Aug. 30, Ohio University on Sept. 6 and the University of Louisiana at Monroe on Oct. 11. It will mark the first-ever meeting between Kentucky and Tennessee-Martin. The Wildcats last played Ohio in 2004 and ULM in 2009.