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Touchdown in the land of the Delta Blues

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OK, the correct lyric is "touched down in the land of the Delta Blues in the middle of the pouring rain", but in the interest of football, I borrowed a bit from Marc Cohn's hit, "Walking in Memphis".

By the way, if you're going to watch UC in the Liberty Bowl against Vanderbilt Dec. 31 (www.catstix.com) you can more than likely catch that song a time or three at Silky O' Sullivan's dueling piano bar on Beale Street.

Memphis is a fun town and speaking for most Bearcats of modest income, it was a blessing to be chosen for the Liberty Bowl and not another game that was rumored.

It simple terms, in this economy, bowl games should be within reasonable proximity to fans unless it's a BCS bowl and then it's out of your control.

Rutgers SHOULD have went to the Pinstripe Bowl, it's cheaper for their fans to get there. Likewise, UC and Louisville fans can get to Memphis and Charlotte relatively easy.

As it turns out, air and hotel fare in December is far from cheap and UC going south rather than east is probably worth thousands of fans.

We're stubborn Midwesterners.  We'll hop in the Chevy and drive south in a heartbeat, but digging for airfare, contemplating cabfare and paying inflated rates for cramped city hotel rooms really throws us for a loop.

I like New York, but I'll pass on Ryan Seacrest and the feeling of a sardine on Times Square for Beale Street and the "Kings" (Elvis and B.B.) on New Year's Eve.

Memphis brings a lot of fun memories for me from covering football and attending Great Midwest/Conference USA basketball tournaments. The one exception is the infamous Kenyon Martin broken leg game, but we got to hang with Bob Huggins and Charlie Spoonhour that night, so it wasn't all bad.

It's got history (Sun Records, Graceland, Loraine Motel, Stax Records) and ribs (Rendezvous, Corky's, Jim's,etc.).

My first night there years ago we went to a Bulls/Sonics NBA exhibition at the Pyramid and then had dry rub ribs at the Rendezvous where many of the Bulls were.  Corie Blount was on the Bulls, Dontonio Wingfield on the Sonics.  Phil Jackson was smoking cigars inside the Peabody Hotel (where they march ducks on a daily basis).

Beale Street is essentially a cleaner Bourbon Street.  Less smut and dirt and a little more walking room.

Then, there's Graceland.  You go the first time for yourself.  Every other time is to watch others. I have now been three times and enjoy it's historical and hysterical value. I recommend the Platinum tour and a peanut butter and 'nana sandwich afterward.  Word of warning though, don't try on the Elvis sunglasses in the gift shop and take a picture, the cashier gets cranky.

Personally, I'm looking forward to being back in the Liberty Bowl Stadium where I did six games on radio. The Tigers used to keep a live, caged Tiger on the field and entered the field to Elvis' 2001 Space Odyssey theme.

While UC lost four of the six against Memphis there, the last in 2003. the 2001 game stands out as the most memorable (some of you more experienced fans may agree).

Somewhere around the Memphis 30-yard-line, Gino Guidugli stood with an unlikely fourth and 19. I was preparing to conduct one of those not-so-fun losing interviews with Rick Minter going off the field.

Instead, Gino heaved the ball to midfield and receiver Jon Olinger (Jonny O) went up and found it. It's been 10 years, but it seems like Gino went to Olinger about three more times, the last in the endzone in the final seconds.  UC pulled out the improbable win, 36-34.

I was told at UC's basketball game at home, the crowd went nuts as many had their radios tuned to the football affair in Memphis.

Hopefully, the Bearcats will have a similar result on Dec. 31.  Actually, a little more breathing room would be nice.

A word of caution...don't look at Vanderbilt's record and think the game's in the bag.  There's a reason your national championship game features two SEC schools. You have to be honest with yourself and recognize a strong league with strong opponents.

However, UC looked much improved with Munchie Legaux at quarterback in the final two games.  Plus, if Zach Collaros can go, that changes strategies and makes everything different.

It's not too far a reach to say that UC would've been in a BCS game had Collaros not been injured against West Virginia. 

More than anything, I'm looking forward to a bowl game with all of the focus on preparation and the players.  I think the glamor and pizazz of the Orange Bowl left UC shell-shocked. In the Sugar Bowl, UC lost a coach, gained a coach and were coached in the game by a guy leaving for Buffalo.

I think Butch Jones observed those moments and is ready to seize the moment in Memphis. Touchdown in the land of the Delta Blues!  TCB!  Take care of business on the field and then it's, "Elvis has left the building!"

Thumbs up to sequined white jump suits. Thumbs down to white helmets.

I'll see you in the Jungle Room.

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