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The Columbia Bowl

columbiabowl

For the Kentucky Wildcats, there are approximately eight gazillion 2016 schedule scenarios. I’m fairly certain that we’ll hypothesize roughly half between now and September. As we take our first glance at the upcoming season, the Missouri and South Carolina games scream of probable SEC wins but also have the feel of potentially devastating losses. Let’s take a look:

 

Southern Miss

The home opener has the makings of a message board dream. Returning to Commonwealth Stadium as an offensive scape goat, one-and-done offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson inherits quarterback Nick Mullens and his four thousand passing yards from 2015. Motivation, expectation and anxiety will be sky high for both Southern Miss and UK.

As the Jay Hopson regime begins in Lexington, the likelihood of UK win is medium to high.


At Florida

Several Florida defenders heard their names called in the 2016 NFL Draft. But, there is still elite defensive talent in Gainesville. The oft-transferred quarterback Luke Del Rio is attending his third school in four years. Bull Gator Jim McElwain is hoping that either Del Rio or grad-transfer Austin Appleby will develop into a quality replacement for the departed Will Grier. As the talent gap between the two teams has decreased, the Cats let the past two victories slip away.

With the Swamp effect in place, the likelihood of a UK win is medium.


New Mexico State

Win


South Carolina

Here’s where the schedule takes a curious turn. Exit Steve Spurrier and a talent level that produced an SEC East title and three consecutive eleven win seasons. Enter Will Muschamp with an average at best roster and a plethora of doubting Thomas’s still questioning the hire. Linebacker Skai Moore is the only returning Gamecock that you’ll likely remember. In Columbia, South Carolina the Muschamp era could get off to unremarkable beginnings.

Likelihood of a UK win is high; the significance of a W is immeasurable.


At Alabama

The defending national champions will be a tough out.

Likelihood of a UK win is low.


Vanderbilt

All I will say here is that if Kentucky loses to Vanderbilt at home, Mark Stoops will have far more pressing concerns than merely fighting for bowl eligibility. Last season’s extreme Nashville embarrassment should serve as ample motivation for revenge. Oh yeah, if a KSR visor is found in the vicinity of Vanderbilt Stadium, please return it to Kentucky Sports Radio Headquarters. Thanks.

Likelihood of a UK win is high.


Bye


Mississippi State

Dak Prescott is now a Dallas Cowboy. Dan Mullen has remarkably built a consistently successful program in Starkville. However, the notable Bulldog nine-win season streak could be in jeopardy.

Likelihood of a UK win is medium.


At Missouri

Columbia, Missouri is the midway point between St. Louis and Kansas City. For the BBN, it will serve as the site of a perilous game in a crucial junction of an imperative season. In other words, a term more defining than “must win”. 2015’s Cat fight saw Kentucky play at its season’s best. Barry Odom takes over the Tiger helm from Gary Pinkel who retired as the winningest coach in program history. Mizzou is coming off a 5-7 season with a roster that is teetering on being un-Missouri-like. Adding to the woes, Craig Kuligowski, considered to be the most respected defensive line coach in the game is now with Mark Richt at the U. Even though Odom is a pedigreed Mizzou man, year one has the writings of a typical transition season.

Likelihood of a SEC road win is medium.


So many scenarios, so few definitive forecasts. With a relatively new starting quarterback and glaring defensive line questions, the 2016 Wildcats are an unfinished novel. In its quest for bowl eligibility, wins in Columbia and at home against Carolina are both attainable and perilous.

Article written by Freddie Maggard

Former University of Kentucky Quarterback and Andy Griffith Fan Club President

11 Comments for The Columbia Bowl



  1. Blueblueblueblue
    8:35 am May 21, 2016 Permalink

    I don’t see Southern Miss being able to beat UK. I get they won some games last year, but they feasted on a really bad schedule. Add in the fact that they lost their HC and OC, and it seems likely this will be a big let down year for them.

    The most delusional pick in this article is that a win at Florida is “Medium”. Seriously? That is a Loss unless something strange happens (turnovers, key injury, multiple big special teams plays)

    I look for UK to win one of the games between Missouri, South Carolina, and Mississippi State, so 4 total wins during this stretch. Austin Peay gets you to 5 wins.

    Uh-Oh, to go to a bowl you have to win more than 2 SEC games OR beat Louisville – 5 win season, here we come!



  2. Blueblueblueblue
    9:24 am May 21, 2016 Permalink

    SOME THOUGHTS FROM A UK HATER:
    UK FOOTBALL SINCE 2010:
    – OVERALL RECORD: 25-48 (34% wins)
    – SEC RECORD: 8-40 (16% wins)
    – NON CONFERENCE RECORD (excluding Louisville): 16-3 (84% wins)
    – LOUISVILLE: 1-5 (16% wins)
    While the numbers are bleak, when you break them down, the picture gets even bleaker.
    The only SEC teams UK has beaten: Vandy (2), South Carolina (3), Ole Miss, Tennessee, Mississippi St.
    Non-Conference Teams UK has beaten: 64% of UK’s wins have come against very poor competition.
    – Akron
    – Charleston (2)
    – WKU (2)
    – Central Michigan
    – Jacksonville St.
    – Kent St.
    – Samford
    – Miami (OH)
    – Alabama St.
    – UT Martin
    – Ohio
    – ULM
    – Louisiana Lafayette
    – Eastern Kentucky
    Non-Conference Teams who have beaten UK:
    – Pittsburg (in bowl) Note that Pitt is the only power 5 non-conference opponent UK has played and they didn’t choose to play them.
    – WKU (2) — worth noting that as soon as UK realized WKU was going to beat them consistently, they immediately stopped playing them. Classic UK move. They do it in all sports.

    WHAT UK MUST DO TO BE BOWL ELIGIBLE CONSISTENTLY:
    – Win the 3 non-conference cupcake games each year, even if this means avoiding high quality lower-level competition — like WKU. These 3 games must be won at all costs (including buying out opponents that are unexpectedly good (Southern Mississippi)
    – Must wing 2 of 3 games against Vanderbilt, Missouri, and South Carolina each year. (with Muschamp likely to turn SC around, the Vandy / Mizzu games become must wins)
    – Must drop the game vs Louisville. It would be a PR nightmare, but it’s the right thing to do if your goal is to build your program. This allows you to schedule one more cupcake game, get 4 non-conference wins, and get into a bowl while only winning 2 real games (Mizzu / Vandy)



    • dshwildcats
      12:55 pm May 21, 2016 Permalink

      Blueblueblueblue,

      So basically, Kentucky needs to follow the same blueprint that Louisville followed to build it’s program for the nine years it spent in C-USA. Have the majority of your schedule loaded with “cupcakes” (Army, UAB, Tulane, Memphis, Houston, etc.), that practically guarantees you a winning season, and a bowl game. Sprinkle in a few quality football programs that you rarely ever beat (Penn State, Florida State, Michigan State, Oklahoma, etc.) so it doesn’t look too bad. But, use that sustained success from competing against sub-par competition every season to get better recruits, more national exposure, etc. Sounds like a perfect plan to me! Now, if we can get the SEC to agree to “water itself down” to the level of C-USA during the mid 90s and early 2000’s, Kentucky should be in business! Why don’t you get you get on the phone to Mitch Barnhart and Greg Sankey (SEC Commissioner) and pitch this idea to them, Blueblueblueblue??



    • Blueblueblueblue
      1:12 pm May 21, 2016 Permalink

      First of all, I don’t remember UofL having to dodge UK in order to get bowl eligible. You understand that UofL won 8 games last year in the ACC, a conference with a championship game team and a national champion in 2013? No question that SEC is better top to bottom than the ACC most years, but taking pride in that when you’re UK is kind of like a midget taking pride in having a tall brother.



  3. MakersMike
    12:21 pm May 21, 2016 Permalink

    Georgia

    With a first time head coach in Kirby Smart leading the way, and questions remaining at the quarterback spot, a dip in the win total seems likely. However, there is a considerable amount of talent returning to a program that won nine games a year ago, and many believe underachieved in doing so.

    Likelihood of a UK win is low

    at Tennessee

    Two heisman watch-list players in Jalen Hurd and Josh Dobbs and a whole mess of talent surrounding them. UT is poised for a 10 win season.

    Likelihood of a UK win is 0%

    Austin Peay

    Senior day and crucial must win. Cats pull though.

    at Louisville Cardinals

    UK will need speed on the outside to contain Lamar Jackson.

    Likelihood of a UK win is low



  4. dshwildcats
    1:27 pm May 21, 2016 Permalink

    Blueblueblueblue,

    Louisville did not need a win over Kentucky in those C-USA years to have a winning season/get bowl eligible. The conference they participated in was bad enough that they were pretty much guaranteed a winning season/bowl eligibility. You were the one talking about Kentucky being able to have winning seasons/bowl games by “watering down” their schedule. I just pointed out that your own program was able to get much better by following the same formula.

    BTW, go back and look at your own program’s success against the big time programs. Outside of a few marquee wins, Louisville hasn’t fared any better against the “big boys” of college football than Kentucky has. Louisville has 3 wins all-time against SEC schools not named Kentucky (Alabama in the Fiesta Bowl; Florida in the Sugar Bowl; and, A&M in last year’s Music City Bowl).



  5. Blueblueblueblue
    1:38 pm May 21, 2016 Permalink

    Fair enough. UofL had to hustle to grow, but now they’re at the big boy table and holding their own (still need to beat Clemson / FSU).



    • dshwildcats
      9:05 pm May 21, 2016 Permalink

      Blueblueblueblue,

      I respect what Louisville has been able to accomplish over the last 30 years with its football program. I grew up in Louisville following Kentucky, and Louisville football, in the early and mid 70s. I attended some Louisville games at Old Cardinal Stadium in the 70s when there were 10,000 people in the stands on a good Saturday night! Cardinal Football has definitely come a long way!

      To me, two huge factors are responsible for the success Louisville has had that Kentucky has not experienced. First, Louisville’s administration has invested in the program financially, beginning with the hiring of Schnellenberger in 1985. They have continued that financial commitment to the present time. Secondly, for one reason or another, Louisville’s coaching hires in football have worked out much better than Kentucky’s over the last 25-30 years.

      Now, I’m glad that Kentucky did not hire Bobby Petrino when he was looking to get back into college football (my season tickets would’ve gone in a drawer until he was gone). The guy has stuck it to friends, family and employers for years! That being said, there’s no doubt the man can coach. IMO, the last two Cardinals wins in the series (2015 and 2014) can directly be attributed to the fact that Petrino is a very good, experienced coach, whereas Stoops is still learning on the fly. Petrino is also very good at player development. He takes average players, develops them, and helps them reach their full potential, and beyond. Stoops and his staff have not consistently done a great job in this area so far. If that scenario changes over the next couple of years, there’s no reason that Kentucky can’t go toe-to-toe with Louisville from here on out.



  6. cats42301
    12:15 am May 22, 2016 Permalink

    Step 1 for this team is getting back the fans they lost last year because of certain players not giving their all and not giving the effort they should have. One thing you could always count on in most teams of the past was their effort, even during years we may have only won 2-3 games I always felt like the effort was their by most players. The last couple of years I have felt that way, no name calling but mainly a couple of WR’s. Until the fans feel like every player is giving his all the support will lag.



    • dshwildcats
      8:35 am May 22, 2016 Permalink

      cats42301,

      Very valid point! I know one WR in particular that I would’ve benched last season for his bad attitude and lack of effort. Hopefully Eddie Gran and Lamar Thomas have addressed that issue and it won’t be a problem in the fall. If it continues to be a problem, let him spend some time on the pine! Give me a kid like Charles Walker any day over this particular WR.



  7. dshwildcats
    8:47 am May 22, 2016 Permalink

    Blueblueblueblue,

    Not to nitpick, but Louisville actually won five games in conference play last season, not eight. But, I get your point! Louisville is holding its own in the ACC.