On Matt’s post-game radio show last night, he said that the performance vs. Georgia was good enough that there won’t be a decision Monday morning concerning Joker Phillips, and I agree. Joker likely has at least two more games before any forward steps are made in the decision-making process, and baring another Arkansas-type showing, I believe he will finish the season. Joker’s only chance of being retained next year, most likely, is if UK would win all four of their remaining games. At 1-7, the prospects of UK winning 4 straight seems pretty unrealistic, but is it as far-fetched as it sounds?
The easiest portion of the schedule is here. You may be telling yourself that Western Kentucky was supposed to be easy, but they’ve turned out to be pretty good. Yes, Kentucky experienced their lowest of low moments just a week ago against Arkansas, but bounced right back last night and looked like an entirely different team. For the first time all year, UK now has a STRETCH of winnable games on the schedule and they follow a game vs. No. 11 Georgia in which some confidence was gained. I don’t like to use the term “moral victory”, but the team has to feel better going forward than they did on the flight home from Fayetteville, right?
Going into the season, not many considered a road trip to Missouri to be a winnable game. But just like Kentucky, Missouri enters the last game in October with zero conference wins. Vandy was another team thought to be on the rise heading into 2012, but they’ve been a disappointment and the Cats get them at home. You’d hope that I don’t have to think much about the chances of beating Samford, so I’m going to be confident and say that’s a win. Missouri, Vandy, and Samford = three winnable games. Maybe UK only wins one of these games, but they’re all very winnable.
That brings us to the final game in Neyland Stadium vs. Tennessee. Derek Dooley’s seat is just as hot as Joker’s, and the Cats may once again run into a Tennessee team in turmoil. As bad as things are in Knoxville, they still have better players at nearly every position. On paper, there is simply no reason why Tennessee should lose to Kentucky. But even Morgan Newton would have to be an upgrade over Matt Roark at QB. If we were able to win under the unlikeliest of circumstances a year ago, I don’t think you can completely count the Cats out of this one. Tennessee is just not a team you can trust to win any game at this point. I don’t trust that Kentucky can make the plays to beat a superior Tennessee team, but I think Tennessee could make the mistakes to give the game away. The winner of this game alone will not save anyone’s job, neither Dooley’s or Joker’s, but things could get interesting if either one of them ends the season on a four-game winning streak.
I’m not saying any of this will happen, but I’m saying it could. I’m not telling anyone to support Joker and the staff, either. All I am saying, is that whatever side of the fence you fall on regarding Joker Phillips, be prepared for this decision to not be as clear-cut as it looks right now. The schedule is set up for the Cats to be able to end the season on a strong note, and Joker has a puncher’s chance of staying alive even without a bowl game.