Kentucky football is at a crossroads and I am nervous. Not worried. Not distraught. Nervous. What was once an automatic win on the pre-season prognosticator’s checklist has evolved into a very crucial game for the Wildcats. Eastern Kentucky rolls into Commonwealth on Saturday and I am not nearly as confident as I should be for such a seemingly pedestrian match-up. Why am I nervous? Let’s count up the reasons:
1) The Flu. Have you ever been sick? Like, really sick where you feel withdrawn, cold, and achy. Then you do something like stub your toe? Holy Snedegar does that hurt. The pain is like 1000x more intense because your body is already damaged. Imagine, instead of stubbing your toe, you get a helmet shot right to the kidneys. I can’t fathom that kind of blinding pain. That is what some of our best players are going to have to endure on Saturday.
2) Waning Fan Support. I was at the Mississippi State game and there were gaping holes all around the stadium. While there were plenty of die-hards cheering the Cats throughout, a pivotal game against an SEC school didn’t exactly pack the house. We have officially entered the distraction zone for the typical UK fan. It is cold. Holiday planning is interfering with game schedules. Basketball is firing up. High school sports are in full swing. There is a lot going on and weekends are packed. Many fans will look at a home game against an Ohio Valley team and figure they can sit this one out.
3) Overlooking An Opponent. . . Again. One of the things I love about the Rich Brooks era is that he has made UK competitive against some of the best teams in the nation. One of the things I hate about the Rich Brooks era is that after big wins there are inexplicable let downs against lesser talent. For every Auburn victory there is a Mississippi State loss. While I trust that the staff is working hard to make sure they don’t repeat the same mistake twice, it is difficult to ignore past trends.
4) Rust. I am going to go on record and say that if Trevard Lindley was healthy we not only beat South Carolina but we eke out a win over Alabama. His speed, tackling, and overall presence is that important to this team. That said, sitting out for an entire month is going to affect his play. He isn’t going to be able to do all the things he could before October 3. How he handles himself and what he can do will ultimately determine the outcome of this game.
5) Indiana. I mean, did you see EKU play toe-to-toe with the Hoosiers early in the season? If it weren’t for a goal line fumble by the Colonels, they very well could have a win against a Big Ten team on their resume. You can’t sleep on these boys from Richmond. They will be as fired up to play in Lexington as they were in Bloomington.
There are certain dangerous conditions that lead to upsets. An excited underdog with state pride and tradition visiting a team that is looking to get healthy and more cautious than hungry is volatile combination with upset potential. Ultimately, I think we will win but I am not confident.