Earlier this morning, Andrew Cassady posted a link to Mark Story’s article in which Story declares that the Western Kentucky and Tennessee games are the two most important to win in Mark Stoops’ first season at Kentucky. These two games are very important for many reasons. For Story’s article, you can click here, but here’s my breakdown of why it is so important to begin and end the season with wins over these two teams, also playing with first-year coaches:
Why Kentucky Must Beat Western Kentucky:
All the positive momentum that Stoops and the staff have helped bring to the program takes a big hit and fans become disinterested way too early in the season, if Kentucky would lose their opener to Western Kentucky. A very loud (but not necessarily huge) portion of the fan base, would let their voices be heard, saying “I told you so” about Bobby Petrino. The fan base has been united from the very start with the Stoops hire, but if the Cats lose their opening game to Petrino, some fans will jump ship. A very small portion of the fan base, in my opinion, would start calling into radio shows, posting on message boards and lashing out on the KSR comment section about how we should have hired Petrino. Although the overly critical are usually a small portion of fans, they tend to make their voices be heard much louder. A much larger portion of the fan base would not jump ship after one game, but would become disinterested early in the season and start to turn most of their attention towards basketball. It’s important that Kentucky keeps the positive momentum going into the Louisville game and SEC play, and a win over Bobby Petrino and Western Kentucky is absolutely critical to keep the Big Blue Nation believing in the program.
What A Tennessee Win Would Mean to Kentucky:
Even if Kentucky is mathematically out of a bowl game in the final week of the season, it would be very important to end 2013 with a win at Commonwealth against Tennessee. A win may cap off only a four or five-win season, but even that is major progress from 2-10. The biggest reason why beating Tennessee would be so important is to keep the positive momentum going into Stoops’ second season. For recruiting to continue to improve and maybe even reach the “next level” of prospects, they will need to show that the program is improving and on the rise. Ending the season with a victory over Tennessee is the best way of proving that things will continue to improve. UK’s win over Tennessee two seasons ago did not have the same impact on recruiting that a win would have next year, because everyone knew Joker Phillips’ job was in jeopardy at that time. This time around, beating Tennessee would bring Kentucky into an off-season of even more recruiting success with confidence and swagger going into year two of the Mark Stoops era. Also, it would be a major hit against Butch Jones in his first season in Knoxville. Slowing down any growth that Tennessee may have under Butch Jones is beneficial for Kentucky in trying to eventually develop into a contender in the SEC East.