After having to depress you with the bad side of the ‘What If’ conversation, here is What Mark Stoops’ first season will look like if everything goes as planned, with a few nice surprises along the way.
– The Cats embarrass WKU at LP Field. Proving last season was a fluke, the Cats show their SEC superiority by beating WKU with ease. Jalen Whitlow shines brighter than most fans could imagine, racking up multiple TDs through the air and on the ground. Avery Williamson and the DLine force Petrino to abandon the run game with Antonio Andrews, relying on an inexperienced QB to man Petrino’s sophisticated offense. The DLine racks up sacks, shutting up any Petrino Lovers while starting the year off on a positive note.
– ‘Down Goes the Dirty Bird’. After having two weeks to perfect the offense, the Air Raid owns Louisville’s defense despite Charlie Strong’s background on that side of the ball. The Cats never stop Bridgewater, but slow him down by sacking him 5+ times. Late game heroics occur when an unlikely young secondary member gets an interception that sets UK up for the game-winning score. Just like the last time Louisville entered Commonwealth Stadium as a Top Ten team, the Cards leave with a loss and their National Championship dreams shattered forever.
– The Cats not only escape Murderer’s Row, but compete throughout. On a new high after a victory over Louisville, the Cats remain competitive throughout the tough stretch. With sell-out home stadiums, they are able to keep it close for the first half, but depth and a great running attack are too much for the Cats to prevail.
– Starting the 2nd half of the schedule off with a bang, the Cats pull off an upset in Starkville. Even if the Cats don’t pull off the unlikely upset against Louisville, I don’t think there’s a better game on the schedule for the Cat’s to steal a victory than MSU. UK has always let Mississippi schools get the best of them- even when they shouldn’t- but Stoops is going to change that. After going to work for nearly 2 months without much of a chance for winning, they will be hungrier than ever for a W. After facing adversity these Cats will have matured enough to make MSU look like just another team. Winning this game will set the tone for the remainder of the year, providing optimism for (dare shall I say it?) a possible bowl appearance.
– Needing two wins to become bowl eligible out of the last 4, UK takes down Mizzou at home and splits the games against the Tennessee schools, earning a bowl birth. While my season predictions get fuzzy here (because a lot hinges on that MSU win and the team’s health), they are the most important games of the season. Primarily because they’re the most winnable, but what these games will show the most is how much this team has grown. Will they give up, or continue to Attack Every Day? If they can maintain health and keep the positive attitude, there’s no reason these Cats can’t win more than they lose down the stretch.
If you think reaching a bowl game is completely impossible, don’t. The Cats need to remain healthy for anything crazy like this to happen. Despite not having much depth, there are still a lot of good tools in the shed for Coach Stoops. The talent is developing each day; with the right coaching and continued positive attitude the Wildcats can surpass even their wildest expectations this season.