Now that the dust has settled on the underwhelming performance against Louisville on Sunday, the agonizing waiting game begins. The best way to avenge a disappointing loss is to replace the memory, or at least soften the blow of the memory, with something positive. The best thing that could happen to Kentucky football in the immediate future is a rallying point for not only the players, but the fans as well. Unfortunately, the schedule set up doesn’t provide much of an opportunity for a confidence-boosting rallying point anytime in the near future. Well, at least not until September 29th when South Carolina comes rolling into town.
Kentucky could very well sport a 2-1 record after 3 games. Wins against Kent State and Western Kentucky are certainly within reach. Kentucky is supposed to win those games though. If Kentucky plays well and destroys either or both of those teams– “that’s what SEC teams are supposed to do to Sun Belt and MAC teams.” If either game is close, negativity will continue to stir because, “SEC teams are supposed to crush Sun Belt and MAC teams.” If Kentucky happens to lose either of those games, talk of a rallying point almost becomes moot. A full on meltdown could be in the cards if Kentucky doesn’t find themselves sitting at 2-1 in the next two weeks.
If Kentucky’s offense shows well again against Kent State and Western Kentucky, it’s hard to compare the defensive resistance to that which they will face over the course of the rest of the season. If Kentucky’s defense puts out a positive performance (and boy do they ever need one…), it will be hard to get overly excited due to the level of competition. Questions will fly about whether or not the defense is actually improved, or the teams are just less explosive/talented on offense. Without question, positives can be taken from these games, but will they be convincing enough to hold people over?
Kentucky will have a hard time proving much in those 2 games, at least to the fans. And then…they travel to Florida. I’m not saying Kentucky can’t pull a major upset over a Florida team that is in a bit of a slump (by their standards) lately as well. If the game were being played in Lexington, I would feel more comfortable giving Kentucky a chance. The game will be played in the Swamp though, and that’s a place where Kentucky has not been able to muster a win in years. The odds are simply not in Kentucky’s favor.
Kentucky could provide fans with a glimmer of hope with a strong performance in the Swamp. Anything short of a win though won’t completely do the job.
Perhaps one of the most crucial 2-game stretches on Kentucky’s entire schedule comes when they host back-to-back SEC games in Lexington against South Carolina and Mississippi State. In the past, both of those teams have been potential SEC wins for Kentucky–especially when played at home. Winning either of those games would be huge for Kentucky’s chances of reaching 5 wins, or even more importantly, keeping the hopes of a bowl game alive.
So the question becomes, is there any scenario in which Kentucky could provide a rallying point or a major positive step until the South Carolina game? Is the amount of time until that game, 3 weeks, simply too long of a stretch to wait for the potential to see this Kentucky football team make big steps forward? I think the amount of time spent “waiting” will make that 2-game stretch with South Carolina and Mississippi State almost a “must win at least one” type of scenario for the Wildcats. Extending the waiting game another week beyond those games, or 2, or 3, or 4 would be difficult to rebound from, especially for the more restless portion of the fan base.