Network Talking Heads love to use the phrase “Upset Alert”. The make upped ones can be seen and heard proclaiming alarming prognostications to provoke fan bases and at times try to prove an intellectual point. Some Heads are very good at this, others waste oxygen. Question remains, is Kentucky on upset alert in its opener against Louisiana Lafayette?
Complicated answer, yes and no both apply. Prior to game week I’ll provide an in-depth and understandable scouting report on the Ragin Cajuns, but to answer the upset alert question we first have to take a step back and analyze recent history.
In Mark Stoops’ inaugural game against Bobby Petrino and his band of merry Hilltoppers, the Cats were outmanned across the field. From my nearly melted Nashville seat, one pre-game look at the Toppers led to a feeling of trepidation mixed with a healthy dose of humility. WKU had better and more developed players at many positions. WKU was more athletic, faster, skilled, and just plain better for the lack of a better term. Result was an 11 point Kentucky loss that could have been much worse. ULL beat that same Western team by 17 in Bowling Green. In 2013, a mythical UK-Lafayette match-up would have been ugly and that’s coming from an optimistic homer viewpoint.
In 2014, another mythical matchup between the Cats and Lafayette would have been considerably closer but I’m still not confident if I would have declared UK a preeminent favorite. ULL again would have been more experienced with developed talent and considerate depth advantage. Coming off back to back 9-4 records including two bowl wins is the basis of my theory as is the objective eye test. For some reason, I’ve watched their last two bowl games and have been impressed with ULL’s intensity, coaching, and team speed. Folks, this was and is a very good football team. Don’t be logo fooled.
September 5th 2015 is right around the corner. Newly renovated Commonwealth Stadium will open its doors to the BBN whose last viewing was embarrassing as the Georgia Bulldogs demolished and demoralized the home team. Thru three years of the Stoops’ regime, 15 is the first I’d consider UK a favorite. A close favorite but still a favorite. ULL lost defensive linemen to the NFL and will enter the game with two new co-defensive coordinators and a team with recent history of struggles against the pass. With questions of who will rush the passer and also who will cover receivers, this game could be a timely and welcome scenario for Shannon Dawson’s debut. Defensively Kentucky will face a SEC caliber running back, one that will most likely be a Sunday player in Elijah McGuire. But, with a new quarterback and unproven receivers, a one dimensional day sets up nicely for a defense that limped across the 2014 finish line. A defense I might add that needs a fast start and a boost of three and out confidence.
All this means is that Kentucky’s collective personnel is to the point in which a game against a quality 9-4 Sunbelt team is winnable. That my friends is year three improvement. Those that think my sky was falling rants were nonsense, please see above 2013 UK-WKU-ULL scenario. Mark Stoops has clawed his way through a personnel conundrum to have his team in a situation to beat a quality opening game opponent.
I don’t think UK is on upset alert but surely that term will be thrown around by hair sprayed Heads. Should there be Nutter Center summer concern? Absolutely. This game could go back and forth. But Kentucky should win, how it wins will be more telling with a demanding early SEC schedule to navigate.