So we go the first one…thats over. Going into the game, Kentucky was expected to win by virtually everyone (except slobbering Lou Holtz) and thus preventing a loss was in some ways more important than actually winning the game. The Cats did just that, got victory #4 in a row and are now ready to take off into the great unknown of the season. The question now remains just how good of a season can this team have? From a talent standpoint, this team seems in the same general ballpark of the last three. They are better on offense than last season, but likely a tad bit behind defensively. However, the schedule is much more favorable than in past years and some of the traditional powers are either not on UK’s schedule (Alabama, LSU, Arkansas…potentially the three best teams in the SEC West) or are not as good as their usual version (Tennessee, Ole Miss). So if ever there were a year to make a bold move in conference, this would be the one. Here is how it stacks up:
Certain Wins: Western Kentucky, Akron, Charleston Southern
As Ole Miss showed us yesterday, a team can lose any game on a given day, but UK has to believe that these three games represent “wins unless you completely fall apart and embarass you and your family.” The best of the teams is probably Akron, who lost yesterday to Big East bottom feeder Syracuse 27-3 at home. These games should put the UK victory total up to four.
Very Likely Loss: at Florida
I know that believing you can win every game is important and my hope is that UK players go into Gainesville in three weeks and pull out a shocker that we can celebrate for years to come. But when you look at the schedule, a win against the Gators is unlikely, especially on their home field.
This leaves the Cats 4-1, with these seven remaining:
UK will be Favored: Vanderbilt, at Ole Miss
After the loss to Jacksonville State, Ole Miss seems headed in a negative direction and these two teams likely hold the award for worst two squads in the SEC this year. You cant be certain to beat either, and seasons have been derailed by Vanderbilt and schools from Mississippi before. But if you want to make a move in the SEC, you have to win these games…it is that simple. The coaches and players know this, and hopefully can do it. Win both of these and you are still in a bowl game.
Steal One on the Road: at Mississippi State, at Tennessee
The “rivalry” UK has had with Mississippi State has been an odd one. Two of the last three years have seen UK lose silly games on their home field to a team that they outclass, but cannot seem to beat. However the two other years have seen solid UK performances on the road, that have locked up bowl berths in crucial games for the team’s season. Mississippi State is a LOT better and could make some noise this season, but you have to think the game is winnable. We cant predict wins against Tennessee when we have lost 25 straight. But if there was ever a year to steal on in Rocky Top, this is the one. Win one of these two, and you are golden.
Two of Three Big Ones at Home: Auburn, South Carolina, Georgia
The tale of the tape for this year will be shown in this three game home stand in October. All three of these games will likely see UK as the Underdog (Auburn could be a tossup from Vegas). However, all three are winnable and the crowd will be loud for each of these contests. Win none of these games and you are going to the Liberty or Papa Johns Bowls. Win one and you are likely headed back to Nashville. Win 2 or more, and a special season could await. If they can pull out 2 of these 3, a 9-3 season could exist…and a trip to the Outback Bowl in Tampa or even the Capital One Bowl in Orlando along with it. That would be a tremendous accomplishment for this team and would be a great goal for the Joker Phillips group to strive to achieve.
As you can see, the possibilities are there. Unless the team breaks down completely, they should win 6. Seven would be an average year and eight would be very good. But the possibility for nine is there…and with it, the best winning season for UK football in my lifetime. It can happen Operation Win….lets get it done.