LEXINGTON, Ky. - As I soaked in the game day atmosphere while stuck in traffic on the way to the stadium Saturday, it became blatantly obvious that Kentucky has never been more excited about its football team.
Hours later, it also became blatantly obvious that Kentucky is, and always will be, a basketball school.
Saturday's match lured ESPN's "College GameDay" to Lexington and set an attendance record for the Wildcats.
Before the game, you could sense just how excited the Kentucky fans were and how much they believed in their team.
But once the game started, I was left wondering if I was really in the same place.
That proud, hopeful vibe from the tailgaters certainly didn't transfer into the stadium.
Considering how important a game it was for the Wildcats, I expected the noise to be deafening. I expected the crowd to be intimidating.
I expected, well, a Rupp Arena crowd.
But while the Wildcats crammed more than three times as many fans into Commonwealth Stadium than a standing room only crowd at Rupp, the noise and intensity of the crowd was not even worthy of a comparison.
As the Gators drove into Kentucky territory, the crowd sat and watched politely.
As UF quarterback Tim Tebow strode to the line to call an audible, he was treated with a mild roar from the Wildcats faithful.
Don't get me wrong. When Andre' Woodson and the Kentucky offense drove downfield for a big touchdown, the crowd went nuts, or at least as wild as the Wildcats were going to get outside of basketball season.
But cheering after a score provides little to no home field advantage.
Having seen Kentucky fans in action for basketball games, I find it hard to believe that this group doesn't understand the concept of trying to fluster and limit communication for the opponent.
But when the public address announcer proclaimed "First dooooooown Kentucky!" every time the Wildcats moved the chains, he probably should have said, "wake uuuuppppp Kentucky."
The real telling sign, however, was what I saw after the game.
Has anyone ever seen what Tennessee or Alabama fans are like after a loss at home? How about a couple weeks ago when the Gators fell to Auburn?
That somber, depressing mood just wasn't present with Kentucky fans after the loss. I watched as theWildcats faithful exited the stadium the same way they'd leave a restaurant or a grocery store. They gave no indication that they had just witnessed a heartbreaking loss.
But I guess you can't really blame them, either.
Being competitive in football really came out of nowhere in a place that lives and dies with basketball.
While UF can yield an excellent atmosphere for both sports, it doesn't nearly have the longstanding tradition in any sport that Kentucky has in basketball.
So can anyone really expect Wildcats' fans to fall in love with another sport on such short notice?
Kentucky football being relevant is such a novel concept that the school didn't even have enough seats in the press box to accommodate the media for Saturday's game.
Perhaps the only way Kentucky will ever hold a true home field advantage, a la the other SEC powers, is if the school starts showing Wildcats basketball highlights during timeouts.