Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron
The Ole Miss game is crucial. No, I am not the first to come up with this notion. In fact, Coach Brooks, in his lovable Walter Matthau-like fashion, bristled this week as reporters repeatedly asked him about just how important the game is for the Cats. Nonetheless, the point is valid. In fact, I’ll take it a step further. If UK does not win this game, Rich may want to go ahead and place a call to his realtor, because he will not be gracing the Kentucky sideline next Fall.
It is not so much beating or losing to Ole Miss that is critical here, but instead where the game is positioned on the schedule. Brooks did not make many friends with the crushing opening week loss to Louisville. In fact, the rumor was out there that a loss in week two would mean no Rich Brooks in game three. The jackals were pacified somewhat with a solid performance against Texas State, but that was no more than a Band-Aid. The fan base needs a legitimate win against an SEC school. In come the Rebels, who appear to be just what the doctor ordered. If the Cats can get past them, they will be above .500 for the first time in the Brooks era and 1 and 0 in the conference for the first time since the late 1980s. (sobering numbers.) More importantly, the following week brings an all but impossible task at Gainesville, before a homestand that includes winnable games against Central Michigan and South Carolina. If Kentucky goes into those games at 1 and 3, and loses either, Brooks might not make it through the fall meet at Keeneland.
The good news is that this game is winnable. Ole Miss is 1-1, and coming off a whipping at the hands of Missouri. Their talent level is not vastly superior to Kentucky’s, and assuming we avoid another Saturday monsoon, Commonwealth should be relatively packed. If Kentucky can avoid Brent Schaeffer running wild, they should be able to pull it off. Of course, we said the same thing last year when we headed to Bloomington.