If this is the end, what a ride it has been. A ride full of chaos, of animosity, and of entertainment.

I remember it all during my lifetime.  And even the moments that preceded my consciousness seem like vivid memories from the stories I’ve heard.  Since 1929, Louisville and Cincinnati have met to battle for the Keg of Nails. A large number of fans will claim that Kentucky is Louisville’s most fierce rival – and they would be right – however, the history between those two teams pales in comparison to the history that Louisville and Cincinnati.

I remember Cincinnati stomping on the Cardinal Mascot at midfield and finding out why that is a bad idea.

I remember Cincinnati winning four straight against Louisville and embarrassing them en route to a BCS Bids.

I remember Muchie Leguax making silly comments.

I remember Bilal Powell, Devante Parker going 64 yards, Brian Brohm – somehow, someway – managing a victory and creating perhaps his final magical moment at Louisville with a victory over the Bearcats.

In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, ‘It was all beautiful and nothing hurt’.

This is the part where Conference Realignment is awful.

This is the part where money, TV negotiations and everything in between break up long-term rivals. In this case, breaking up teams that have met since World War I. It’s depressing, at least, for me.

This is the part where it all ends or so it seems.

“I’d like to continue playing this series in the future,” Head Coach Charlie Strong noted in Monday Press Conference. “But I know it would be tough.”

Reading between the lines, I’ll go ahead and say this pair won’t be meeting in the future for some time. Louisville’s schedule next season will already include the likes of Florida State, Miami, Notre Dame and Kentucky. That leaves Louisville little leverage to schedule such a formidable opponent as the Bearcats.

That’s unfortunate.

For decades whatever conference home Louisville found, whether it was the Missouri Valley, the METRO, Conference USA, Big East, and now the American Athletic, Cincinnati followed. With Louisville’s departure to the ACC in 2014, that train – for the time being – has appeared to come to stretching halt. However, in the world of the constant moving pieces in the NCAA, these teams could play in the same conference once again, but for now this is the end.

These teams have created so many  fantastic memories over the course of a decade. On Thursday it appears that they are poised to create another great and possibly final memory. For Cincinnati, it’s an opportunity for a BCS bid if the chips fall their way. For Louisville, it’s a chance to cap off a 11-1 season – it’s third one-loss season in seven years. It will also solidify Louisville being selected for the Russell Athletic Bowl in December. While a Russel Athletic Bid isn’t what most had in mine for the Louisville Cardinals in 2013, it is certainly still a respectable bowl game.

But never mind those issues.

The stakes, bowl games and whatnot, are secondary to the real prize. The Keg of Nails may finally find a final resting place after Thursday Night. A trophy that has shifted hands countless times will undoubtedly end up in Louisville or Cincinnati for the foreseeable future. A group of Seniors that have played only for four to five years, will decide where a trophy lands that so many in the past have fought for. For Louisville, for Charlie Strong, that’s plenty of motivation.

“We’re not gonna put in a closet,” Strong stated as he chuckled referring to the Keg of Nails. “We’ll be displaying that one in the trophy case.”

Here’s to one final, wonderful memory on Thursday Night. I suspect after Thursday night, I’ll find myself once again saying ‘I remember when…’.

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Chris Hatfield

Residing in Louisville, KY (via Bardstown, KY). I write things about Louisville Sports. Sometimes you'll like them. Follow me @_ChrisHatfield Email me at chatfield60@gmail.com

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