Taylor's Thoughts: The Twelfth Game

When the NCAA allowed schools such as Kentucky to schedule a 12th game, many programs didn't look for a big contract with a team featuring the same level of talent. For instance, instead of trying to piece together an impressive regional matchup with a school in the ACC, Big East or even the MAC, Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart and Rich Brooks sought out the state schools. Good move.

Since the rule was imposed, Kentucky has played Murray State and will take on Eastern Kentucky in its season-opener on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.

Playing the state schools is beneficial to both UK and the state programs, which normally travel beyond the regional landscape to get a hefty paycheck from a higher-ranked opponent in another division.

Teams such as Eastern don't have to jump on a plane to open the season, but instead, can get on the bus and be at the stadium in a hop and a jump.

Although most of those games tend to be a little one-sided, they are fun to watch and create some excitement. Many players on both teams have crossed paths in one way or another and many are friends.

The contest gives players at Eastern a chance to play against the flagship university to get a feel for what it's like to compete against an opponent in a higher division, not to mention playing in front of a large crowd to open the season.

The Colonels haven't pulled off a major upset, but did defeat Louisville when the Cardinals were a program struggling to fin its niche more than two decades ago. At the time, the Colonels were still in their prime, having won two Division I-AA National Championships in 1979 and 1982. Eastern was runner-up in 1980-81.

Eastern has played the likes of Cincinnati, Oregon State, Central Michigan, Vanderbilt and others since the turn of the new century, which likely wouldn't have happened if a 12th game wasn't added to the slate.

Kentucky should be applauded for giving Eastern a chance to visit Commonwealth to open a new campaign. The Colonels should savor the invitation and enjoy the attention.

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