You've got to hand it to Western Kentucky University athletic director Todd Stewart, who, for the third time this decade, has had a heavy hand in orchestrating a "home" game for the Hilltopper football team at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee -- the real home of the Tennessee Titans.
On Saturday afternoon, Western Kentucky hosts in-state rival Louisville in Music City.
That's pretty impressive, and the benefits of such an arrangement go well beyond the mere playing of a collegiate football game.
This arrangement offers WKU players and coaches a chance to showcase their abilities in an NFL stadium, it offers WKU fans the chance to make a short, alluring road trip to cheer on their team and make a weekend of it in an upscale environment, and it is greatly appealing to the thousands of WKU alumni in Greater Nashville.
Win, win, and win.
In terms of on-the-field results, Western has split the two games it has played in the home of the Titans -- both coming against the University of Kentucky.
In the 2011 season opener, the Hilltoppers lost a 14-3 decision to the Wildcats, who were fortunate to get out of town with the victory. Trailing 7-3, Western missed a golden opportunity to take the lead when quarterback Kawaun Jakes overthrew star tight end Jack Doyle, who was all by his lonesome and would have likely scored. UK sealed matters with a late TD, prevailing 14-3 before 24,599 fans.
Two years later, UK wasn't as fortunate.
In the 2013 season opener, the debut for Bobby Petrino at WKU and Mark Stoops at Kentucky, the Hilltoppers dominated play most of the way en route to a convincing 35-25 conquest of the Cats before a markedly larger gathering of 47,623. It was Western's second consecutive victory over UK-- the Tops won 32-31 in overtime in 2012 at Lexington -- effectively ending the series.
So, this time in Nashville it's Western and Louisville, a team that has had the Hilltoppers' number nine consecutive times on the gridiron since 1975, when WKU last defeated the Cardinals, 34-7, at old Cardinal Stadium at the Fairgrounds.
It's worth noting that each of those nine defeats occurred in Louisville, and it's a fact that the Hilltoppers haven't hosted the Cardinals in Bowling Green since Oct. 30, 1954, when Western posted a 25-7 victory over a Louisville team who had a quarterback by the name of Johnny Unitas.
This year's matchup is the first ever in the series (Louisville leads, 20-12) at a neutral site.
Granted, playing in Nashville probably doesn't provide the Hilltoppers the same advantage they would have if the game was in BG, but from the WKU perspective it's a whole lot better than playing the Cardinals yet again in Louisville. If nothing else, it takes U of L out of its comfort zone for the first time this season.
Both teams were very bad last season, when Louisville (destined to finish 2-10) rallied down the stretch to defeat Western (destined to finish 3-9) by a 20-17 margin. The Hilltoppers, in fact, outplayed the Cardinals most of the way, but Louisville was the better finisher and, ultimately, deserved to win the game.
In the wake of last year's respective disasters, WKU fired Mike Sanford and hired Tyson Helton from the University of Tennessee, and U of L fired Petrino and hired Scott Satterfield from Appalachian State.
Through two weeks of the 2019 season, there are compelling reasons to believe both programs have the opportunity to be significantly improved this fall.
Each will have another opportunity to prove as much on a very big stage this Saturday.