For many, a trip to Oxford, Mississippi to play Ole Miss is a chance to see the beautiful sights in the Grove. For others, it is a trip into the Old South and a college town that somehow produced the great Gregg Doyel. But for the UK football team, Oxford will be the location that determines what kind of season the Cats can create in 2010. As Joker Phillips said today in his press conference, if you want to have a special year, you have to win this game. It is really that simple. Ole Miss is one of the two worst teams in the SEC this season, has lost to Vanderbilt and Jacksonville State and is as ripe for the picking on the road as they ever will be. If you are going to take down the Rebels, this is the season to do to it.
Even more importantly however, this they type of game that a team attempting to rise in the SEC must win. For Kentucky to become a top-tier team, or even a team that is ranked 4-8 in the conference consistently, it has to look at games against teams in Ole Miss’s position this year and say, “that is one we will win.” The Cats have three games coming up at home, two of which(Auburn and South Carolina) are against potentially the 3rd and 4th best teams in the league. Games like that are difficult to win and will require top-level performances, amped up crowds and all the energy the Cats can muster. But games against Ole Miss need to be looked at not as givens, but as games that are ripe for the taking. Winning against a team that lost to Vanderbilt should be assumed if you are going to become a legitimate consistent SEC performer and the Cats must show this week that is what they are.
The Gators loss was embarassing, but not crippling. A loss in Oxford will be crippling. The Cats could still find a way to scratch out six victories, go to the Liberty or Music City Bowls and have another fun time in Tennessee come Bowl season. But the program will not have taken a step forward and will instead be treading water. But win the game in Oxford, and the possibility for a very good season still exists. Oxford will be beautiful and the Grove will be scenic, but that isnt what matters most on Saturday. The Cats must win…if not, the countdown to basketball will begin.