This picture: Because Erin Andrews.
At 1-1, the first sixth of the football season has gone very much like what we expected. Not what we hoped, maybe, but there are probably few people who are genuinely surprised to see the record the way it is. When SEC play starts next week, the games will obviously get plenty tougher than they’ve been already.
Possibly the biggest “swing game” on the schedule, though, is tonight at 7 p.m. When Kentucky faces the Hilltoppers, they will be favored by only 4.5 points. That’s not a whole lot, considering we’ve beaten them by an average of 28 since 2009.
So what sort of impact can tonight have? Well, for a non-conference game, quite a bit. Reaching up and winning a game you weren’t supposed to can do a lot to prolong your coaching life. That said, little can end it more quickly than losing to a team you were supposed to beat while you’re already on the hot seat.
And speaking of the hot seat, whether we like it or not, Joker’s probably on it. According to non-Kentucky site AthlonSports.com:
Despite earning his first win of 2012, Phillips maintains the No. 1 ranking in Athlon’s coaches on the hot seat. The Wildcats fell behind 7-0 to Kent State but scored 17 unanswered in the first half to claim a 47-14 victory. Kentucky’s offense has shown some signs of life through two weeks, averaging 30.5 points and 456 yards per game. The next couple of games represent a crucial stretch in Phillips’ tenure, as the Wildcats host in-state foe Western Kentucky on Saturday and travel to Florida the following week. Kentucky can’t afford to lose to the Hilltoppers, while it’s also important for this team to show some progress against SEC competition.
A win likely won’t get him out of whatever scrutiny he’s under, but a loss could be the final straw. So what sort of game will we see tonight from Joker’s play-calling? Will he keep up the aggressive attitude with a couple trick plays? Will Rick Minter’s defense step up against a physical team? What about Morgan Newton? Will he see snaps as a Wildcat QB (or some other athletic position)?
Whatever happens, this game could set the stage for the rest of the season. A win, and things start looking up a little bit. A loss, and we’re in for a long conference slate.