Louisville, Memphis State and Cincinnati have been intwined in a triangle relationship for many decades and through multiple conferences. It’s a rivalry that hasn’t received the same noterity or exposure as Duke and North Carolina or Texas and Oklahoma but it is a rivalry that has brought out the vile from all three fan bases. It is also unique in that it envolves three teams.
Memphis State and Cincinnati are Louisville’s most played basketball rivals. Playing the Tigers 87 times, going 52-34, and they have played the Bearcats 97 times, going 55-42. Louisville and Cincinnati continued their rivalry into the Big East. While Cincinnati found their success in CUSA, the Cards flourished in the Big East. The Cards have won 8 of their last 13 meetings with the Bearcats and boost a 32-15 all time home record while Cincinnati is 33-21 at their place. They are 3-3 at neutral sites. The Cardinals beat the Bearcats for their second Big East tournament title.
The rivalries have also carried over to the football field as well. Memphis State actually dominated the series early, winning their first 8 games, from 1948-69. But the Cards have dominated the series since they defeated the Tigers for the first time back in 1970 and hold a 24-19 advantage overall. They first met on 9/25/1948 with a 13-7 final score. The Cards ended the Tigers 8 game win streak coming off of the Tigers largest margin of victory of the series, when the Tigers won 69-19 in 1969, with a 40-27 victory the following year. The Cards posted the largest margin of victory with a 56-0 win in 2010. The Cards are 20-5 since 1980.
Louisville and Cincinnati first met on the football field on 10/2/1929 in Louisville with the Bearcats winning 7-0. With that game, Louisville’s oldest football rivalry was born and so was the battle for the “Keg of Nails”. Fraternity chapters at both universities initiated the “Keg of Nails”, signifying that the winner is “tough as nails”. The trophy is a replica of a shipping keg for nails. Louisville actually lost the original keg during construction of office facilities. Like the Tigers, the Bearcats dominated the series early as they won their first 12 meetings with the Cards from 1929-69. Since a 17-17 tie back in 1977, the Cards have gone 18-14 and 6-4 in their last ten meetings with their oldest rival. The 28-20-1 all time advantage is held by Louisville.
This Thursday, 12/6, they will meet for the 50th time, and perhaps the final time, for the “Keg of Nails” in Cincinnati. Louisville has only played Kentucky 26 times in comparison. The Cards enter the game at 10-1 (6-1) while Cincinnati posts a 9-2 (6-1) record. It will be a battle for second place in the American Conference. However, should the Bearcats win and with a Central Florida loss this Saturday to SMU, they would be tied for first. Since Cincinnati and UCF haven’t faced each other this year, then the team with the higher BCS ranking would then recieve the confernces auto bid into a BCS bowl. First year coach Tommy Tuberville has his team playing very well, following some early season injuries, and have won 6 straight. Memphis State on the otherhand are 3-8 (1-6).
Louisville will have a lot to play for as well. Should they win, they will recieve a bid to play in the Russell Atheletic Bowl against an ACC oponent. If they lose, they would find themselves in the Belk or Pinstripe bowls. The problem for Louisville fans, with all of these bowls, is that they all are on 12/28, the same day as the Louisville and Kentucky basketball game. To accomodate the traveling fans, the Russell Athletic Bowl is already making arrangements for the game to be aired at the stadium before kickoff. The Louisville basketball team also has a game in Orlando, the site of the bowl, just three days later. Both teams will have a lot to play for. Both would like to have the “Keg of Nails” in their trophy case, perhaps permanently.
These three universities share a common bond and a storied rivalry dating back to the 1920′s. Through multiple conferences, they have come together, split up, then reunited only to seperate again. The American has allowed them to put the band back together for one last farwell tour as the Cardinals head to the ACC next season. Memphis and Cincinnati will still be together in the American. Memphis will be left with only Cincinnati as their main rival. Cincinnati still has their oldest rival in the Miami RedHawks and their crosstown neighbor Xavier. While the band may keep playing, I wonder how good it will be? After all, what is a band without its lead singer? How good is Queen without Freddie Mercury? The Stones without Jagger? A piano without Elton John? ZZ Top without the beards?
As it appears that Louisville will put the final nail in the “Keg of Nails”, they have scheduled a home and home basketball series with the Tigers in 2015 and 16. Louisville still has Kentucky on their schedule and will play Indiana in the 2014 Jimmy V Classic. On the football side, the Cards will open the next two seasons against Miami and Auburn. The ACC will add Notre Dame and has ensured the Governors Cup showdown with Kentucky by moving it to season end as part of the ACC/SEC challenge. The Cards have also agreed to a two game series with Houston in 2015 and 16. Though it isn’t the “Red River Rivalry” to the football world, it is sad for these three fan bases to see this triangle rivalry come to a possible end. Louisville fans can at least look forward to continuing newly forming rivalries with Syracuse and Notre Dame and future rivalries that the ACC might hold.
To me, this rivalry has seemed to be more for Memphis State and Cincinnati since the Metro and CUSA days. I have enjoyed the games with Syracuse, Notre Dame, Georgetown, UConn and the others and they have over shadowed Cincinnati. Duke and North Carolina and Florida St and Clemson will fill the void left be these two teams. It will be nice though to have the Tigers and Bearcats on the schedule from time to time though. The “Keg of Nails” is the one game that I wish Louisville could find room for on their schedule. Bearcats, this Thursday, lets do it as if it will be for the last time, winner take all. It very well could be.
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