We’ve seen this story before. The Cats start the season on a nice streak to start the season to only be brought back to earth by the middle of October. Each year, I catch myself saying, “No, this team is different. This will be the one to win 8+ games.” Well, here I am again drinking Drew’s Kool-Aid, because I am telling myself the same thing, this team is different.
For one, there is a definite chip that this team is playing with. When the Vegas line came out setting their win total at 5.5, I think this team took that to heart and took offense to it. When the Florida team talked the entire week about how they would continue the streak, the team took it personal and rallied around it. Good teams do that.
This team has a certain swagger about it. You saw it last week in the win over Florida, the quiet confidence about them. Other than last season, that was one of the first games in awhile against Florida that the players truly believed that they were going to win. Looking ahead, I think they can continue thinking that way. Other than Georgia, there isn’t a team that is 100% just better than Kentucky. That we can all agree on.
Benny Snell is a legitimate under-the-radar Heisman contender. Will he win? Probably not, but for a Kentucky player to even be mentioned in the conversation shows how far this program has come. Snell is one of those players that could legitimately carry this Kentucky team to multiple big wins the remainder of the season. As I mentioned previously, this team has both swagger and a chip on their shoulder and there is no player that epitomizes those more than Benny Snell. He knows that not only his team, but also himself is not being taken seriously and he definitely takes it personal.
Terry Wilson is showing signs of brilliance. The turnovers are still an issue and you can’t really say, “just take those away and look at the rest,” but for the sake of discussion lets do that. When you take those away, you see a legitimate dual threat out of the backfield. Wilson has torched each of the last three defenses with big touchdown runs. We can also sit and look at some of the great throws he has made especially in the Florida game. The touchdown passes to David Bouvier and Lynn Bowden were fantastic throws. While he is turnover prone, he is one of the first Kentucky quarterbacks in awhile that I truly believe could take over a game.
The defense is elite. My biggest criticism of Mark Stoops during his time at Kentucky has been the play of the defense. Stoops was supposedly a defensive savant; that had resurrected defenses wherever he went. That had just not happened here. Well now it has. This defense has multiple players that will have long careers in the NFL. If there is a game where Benny Snell and the offense are struggling to get going, I, for the first time in the Stoops era, have faith in the defense keeping us in the game.
I really hate looking ahead at games in the schedule, but I excite myself when I do. When I do look ahead, I see only one game that the other team just has more talent. When was the last time we could legitimately say that about Kentucky football?
With all of that being said, there are still a lot of really good football teams left on the schedule. One of which is coming to Kroger Field on Saturday. Each of these games is winnable. I did admittedly change my mentality on two games yesterday. If you would have asked me earlier in the season, I would have confidently told you that Vanderbilt would be an easy win and Louisville would probably be a loss. While I don’t think we will lose to Vanderbilt, I do think that team is better than a lot of people think and one Kentucky can’t look past.
On the other hand, Louisville is a winnable game. I was in the stadium cheering on my alma mater last night (Go Tops!) and watched them almost beat the Cardinals. Bobby Petrino has a lot of questions on his team that Kentucky really just doesn’t have.
Okay, I know you’re probably telling me to slow down and stop drinking the Kool-Aid, but you know what? I am going to do it. I know that we have seen this narrative before and each time realty has set in, sometimes it is fun to believe the best can happen. Optimism can be a fun way to look at things. Even though I tell myself every year the same thing, I really do think this year is different. How will it be different? I couldn’t tell you that.
Is different winning 8 games? Is it 10 wins? Is it a trip to Atlanta? Or is it just enough for a bowl win? If you ask me, I would be fine with any of those, but something tells me it will be a lot better than the latter. Why you ask? Well, like I’ve said, this team is just different.