It’s time for the annual cupcake game in the Commonwealth. This year the Samford Bulldogs from the mighty Southern Conference of the FCS come to town to battle the Cats. The Bulldogs boast a 7-3 record on the season, having beaten the likes of Furman, Gardner-Webb, Western Carolina, and most recently Wofford and Elon. Losses come to Georgia Southern, Appalachian State and Chattanooga, all of which have winning records in conference. Their regular season finale against Kentucky will be their one and only game against a Division I opponent.
Because Samford has played zero opponents outside of Division II, it is difficult to draw too many comparisons between the Bulldogs and the Cats. But if you want to think about it like this: Samford is ranked just outside the Top 25 in the FCS poll, receiving 33 votes — good for No. 27. Kentucky is ranked No. 97 in the complete FBS poll. So assuming you tack on the No. 1 FCS team to the bottom of the FBS poll, there are a little over 50 teams that separate Kentucky from Samford. It’s not perfect science, but it is something to think about.
Kentucky’s offense has completely bottomed out as one of the worst in college football. Both the running and passing games rank in the 100’s nationally. Southern Mississippi hasn’t won a game yet, but they still rack up 160 yards on the ground per game. Kansas is one of the lowest-ranked teams from a major conference, and they can rush for 213 per game. Even New Mexico State, ranked dead-last in Division I at No. 124, has a respectable passing game with 245 yards per.
Fans shouldn’t expect a loss to Samford, especially considering all the outside factors that surround Joker Phillips and the team. However, Samford is not a bad team just because it plays in the FCS. Last season against Auburn they put up 338 yards of offense in a 19-point loss. All things considered, one would hope all of that SEC talent that has been brought into the program is enough in itself to overwhelm the Bulldogs.
The biggest question surrounding the buildup to the game is what kind of reaction the team will get on Senior Night, and how Joker Phillips will be treated by the Commonwealth crowd. Attendance, as most well know, has been downright pitiful as the season has regressed into nothing. But now that fans have been rewarded with a coaching search, it seems a large number of those once calling for Joker’s head feel for the man who has dedicated 22 years to the Kentucky football program. The #PackCommonwealth movement began on Twitter, and is trying hard to spread around the Big Blue Nation. We will wait to see what kind of impact is had on Saturday.