After Kentucky essentially secured bowl eligibility against Missouri two weekends back, the term “house money” was being thrown around in regard to the remainder of UK football’s season. The Wildcats are almost assured to participate in post season play with a win next weekend against Austin Peay, so the fanbase went into the Georgia game with low nerves and high enthusiasm. A win meant UK had a shot at an SEC East title, a loss wouldn’t cost the Wildcats a bowl bid. For once in who knows how long, fans were content.
As much as we told ourselves it wouldn’t hurt if Kentucky lost, we ended up being wrong. UK’s 27-24 loss to Georgia was a punch in the gut, there’s no other way to put it.
As Georgia inched their way down the field on the final drive and aligned themselves for a chip shot to win the game, we all sat there shaking our collective heads. It wasn’t the fact that UK lost the game, they lose to Georgia on a fairly regular basis. It was the way they lost that struck a nerve with fans.
If Jeff Badet catches the football on Stephen Johnson’s bomb, UK likely wins the game. Hell, even if he bats the ball to the turf, Kentucky’s offense stays on the field and gives the defense some much-needed rest.
If CJ Conrad doesn’t hold on Austin MacGinnis’ made field goal (and the kick isn’t blocked), Kentucky likely wins the game. At the very least, the game is sent to overtime, and UK has a fighting chance there.
If UK goes for the score on the final drive, rather than going with a conservative approach with consecutive runs out of the Wildcat, Georgia is forced to score a touchdown with limited time on the clock. Who knows how the game ends at that point?
Missed opportunity after missed opportunity, UK had every chance to win that football game, but far too many shots in the foot halted the Wildcats from reaching bowl eligibility. (For now at least.)
So where do we go from here, with a tough matchup on the road against Tennessee less than a week away?
Whether you want to believe it or not, UK has a legitimate shot to win in Knoxville.
Talent-wise, Tennessee has a similar roster to Georgia. Four and five-star prospects line the roster, but coaching and lack of team chemistry has forced major struggles on both sides of the ball. For a team that many believed would contend for the Playoffs to start the year, they’ve actually failed to look good at any point this season. They’ve nearly lost to garbage teams, and were dismantled against legitimate SEC opponents. Rumors are circulating that Butch Jones has lost the locker room, players are walking out, the program is just a mess. Like Georgia, the Vols have talent, but they are absolutely beatable.
Injuries will also absolutely play a major factor in Saturday’s contest. Tennessee is without eight starters for the season for either injury, dismissal, or transfer reasons. Nearly a dozen others are banged up in one way or another, questionable to play or at the very least playing this weekend at less than 100%. UK will be going against a bunch of second and third string guys, which certainly plays in the Wildcats’ favor.
Beyond injuries, starting quarterback Josh Dobbs is struggling to get anything going as of late. He’s a mobile quarterback, UK’s kryptonite, but he has been pretty awful against competant competition. I read on Twitter a few weeks back that he throws more bounce passes than NBA legend Jason Kidd, and after watching him struggle against South Carolina, it was easy to see why. Through the air, he just doesn’t have “it,” and has a bad case of fumblitis when he’s pressured in the pocket or decides to run the football. I was terrified of going against Dobbs to start the year, but I think UK’s defense can contain him on Saturday.
Defensively, Tennessee has shown the inability to defend the run against SEC opponents. They’re giving up roughly 192 yards a game on the ground, and in their last three SEC games, have given up over 100 yards to five different rushers. Kentucky, averaging 271 yards on the ground in the last four contests, will have a field day in that aspect. If UK can combine for 200 yards on the ground on Saturday, they will win the football game.
The game is on the road in a hostile environment, Kentucky is historically bad against the Vols, and they maintain a pretty talented roster. I get it. Instinct tells us to assume the worst, though I’d argue that narrative should change.
UK failed to reach bowl eligibility last weekend, but don’t count out the possibility of that changing on Saturday.