Turkey Hunter’s favorite band on this week’s opponent
After eleven consecutive Saturdays of football, the Cats finally get a week off before traveling to Knoxville for the season finale on November 27th. This would seem to be a significant advantage for the Cats as they will get the benefit of two full weeks to heal up and to prepare for Derek Dooley’s Vols. Tennessee, on the other hand, must travel to Nashville for a showdown with Vanderbilt. (Which is admittedly tantamount to a pseudo-bye.) Still, even for an opponent as undermanned as the ‘Dores, Tennessee must spend this week actually preparing for that contest, while Kentucky can look ahead. But will the time off and extra practice reps be enough to stop the madness of a quarter century of Rocky Top futility?
Over the last ten seasons, Kentucky has played seventeen games following a bye week. In that time, the extra work and rest has produced a five and twelve record. And the five victims of Kentucky’s post-bye dominance? Louisville, Western Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Indiana. Not exactly murderer’s row.
Even more disconcerting is Kentucky’s history against the Rocky Toppers following a bye week. Three times in the last ten years, Kentucky has entered the Tennessee game under identical circumstances to that it finds itself in this season: a bye surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday. In each of those years, optimistic Cat fans talked of how the additional rest would level the playing field against the Vols. It didn’t. Kentucky lost all three of those games, with only one being even remotely competitive.
Kentucky is not alone in their post-bye week struggles. Nine Southeastern Conference teams have enjoyed an off week to this point in the season. (Auburn, Georgia and Kentucky are all off this week.) The cumulative record of those teams in the game following their byes is just four and five.
So the moral of the story appears to be that bye weeks have minimal statistical influence on the outcomes of games that follow them. Does this mean Kentucky can’t win in Knoxville in two weeks? Should they all just go to Dollywood instead? Not at all. Despite Tennessee’s improved play of late, they remain vulnerable. The numbers simply indicate that rest and extra film work does not automatically generate better blocking or tackling. If Kentucky is to finally provide some relief for its long-suffering fans, it will be accomplished by the players on the field, not the schedule makers.