Thursday, October 30, 2008
For those engrossed in such matters, Mississippi State is favored by 2.
Junior Tyson Lee has started the last four games in place of last year's starter, Wesley Carroll. He has acquitted himself well with a 114 overall qb rating. Workhorse RB Anthony Dixon, who is listed as a junior but suits up for what I swear is his sixth year, has been solid with the exception of a seven carries for five yards stinkbomb against Auburn. Anthony has gained 80 or more yards five times this season. At next year's game at UK, Dixon will do the victory lap in his, "player whose name announcement causes the most confusion in Commonwealth Stadium" tour.
MSU has been schizophrenic on defense. After throwing sloppy dice against Georgia Tech and LSU, it held Vandy to 107 (god as my witness) total yards a couple of weeks ago.
Mississippi State also boasts a more pessimistic "fan" blogger than me. http://www.mstatesportsblog.com/ . Dude is calling for "changes". Man, even if your team sucks, you are a scant one year from not sucking, and your team sucked perpetually before that. Get over it. That said, yes the blog is more sophisticated than mine. Its about the written word, people. Not all the bells and whistles.
Give me a break, its my first year.
Enough of my insecurity. Let us bottom line this thing. This is an "imminently winnable game", as I am fond of saying. The key is Randall Cobb getting us off to a good start. The offense hasn't had a first quarter touchdown since Little Bill in "Boogie Nights" had his dignity. First blood or even a 10-0 lead would look pretty sweet early on. The game is on the road, but we have had a pretty good record against bad teams on the road since 2006. I feel good about this one. I feel $25 to Insight for the pay per view even though I cannot watch the fourth quarter live good. Of course, that I feel good is reason to fly to Vegas and load up on the Bulldogs. So we'll see.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Today, we get this gem from recently demoted quarterback and heretofore solid citizen Mike Hartline: "No one ever expects to win a starting job and then lose it because guys around him aren't performing the way they should. It's disappointing, but it's best for the team, and I'm a team player. And that's just the way it has to be."
Team player, eh?
This sad lack of self awareness has been surpassed only once in my conscious presence. My first year in law school coincided with the 1995 Governor's Race, when luv guv Paul Patton emerged from a crowded pack of Democrats to win nomination and then election. Thanks to Trey Grayson, then a budding politico law student and now our Secretary of State, each candidate for Governor came to the school and spoke at various times. This included one John "Eck" Rose, a then State Senator from Winchester. Eck gave a speech reminiscent of John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King. Only the opposite. With the possible exception of the monuments mentioned, these were his exact words. "You'll never see a hospital named after Eck Rose. You'll never see a school named after Eck Rose. You'll never see a playground named after Eck Rose. Because Eck Rose has no ego." Nothing like watching at 70 year old white guy giving a speech, the central premise of which is his lack of ego, while referring to himself in the third person more often than an NFL wideout.
Mike, apologize, say you didn't mean this. Do something. Your offense hasn't helped you out much, true, but you are barely cutting it. Be a man. Keep your head up. One game does not a career make. You've all the time in the world to prove yourself again. Especially since the guy who replaced you has a ticket to the NFL wrapped up in playing a different position. Don't poison the well by sidebusting your teammates now.
1. Alabama (8-0 overall currently, 5-0 in SEC play currently)
(12-0, 8-0 final)
2. LSU (5-2, 3-2)
3. Ole Miss (4-4, 2-3)
4. Auburn (4-4, 2-3)
5. Arkansas (3-5, 1-4)
6. Mississippi St. (3-5, 1-3)
1. Florida (6-1, 4-1)
2. Georgia (7-1, 4-1)
3. South Carolina (5-3, 2-3)
4. Vandy (5-3, 3-2)
Here are the assumptions/close calls/angles I went with:
1. UK takes the new QB momentum into Starkville this week and gets a win. They do not win another game. The Vandy thing was the toughest call in the conference. Truthfully, this was based more on a gut feel that UK seems to be a bowl eligible, but not 7 win, team. I cannot see Vandy losing 7 straight to blow their 5-0 start and not even go to a bowl. It is the game the Commodores seem most likely to win to prevent that from happening. Further, assuming things play out like I predict to that point, UK will already be in the bowl picture and Vandy will need the win. It will be cold, and assuming the Cats already have a sixth win, the game will not be particularly well attended. If we need this game for six wins by then, all bets are off. Bottom line is, I think UK gets to 6-6 one way or the other.
2. The records assume Tennessee will lose at South Carolina this week, then rattle off three straight to back door their way to bowl eligibility. That includes a win in Nashville, which is the closest thing to an upset I really have in these picks.
3. Mississippi State will not win another game.
4. Auburn loses at Ole Miss this weekend in what is a huge game for both schools. Here is something interesting. My scenario has three SEC teams at 6-6. Switch only the outcome of this one game, which is totally plausible, and we then have five 6-6 teams.
5. Florida wins the Worlds Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
6. Alabama wins at LSU.
Assuming this is how things shake out, the bowl picture will look something like this:
Alabama and Florida would both play in either the National Championship, Sugar or some other BCS Bowl depending on outcome of SEC Championship and, of course, other games around the country.
Capital One: Georgia
Outback: South Carolina
Chik-Fil-A: Ole Miss (The Bowl Committee would be free to select a 6-6 team listed below over the Rebels if inclined. Ole Miss fans are jacked about their new coach and will show up for this bowl, which makes them the the play here.)
After this, things get fuzzy with UK, Tennessee and Vandy in the mix for the Music City, Independence and Liberty Bowls. With the worst conference record and having, under this scenario, lost to both of the other schools, UK could be looking at Shreveport. The Papajohns.com Bowl would not have an SEC selection left and would have to take a Sun Belt team.
What does all this mean for the Cats? With all the potential mediocrity, a seven win season would ensure a pretty nice bowl spot, maybe even a trip to Atlanta. UK could go into Tennessee on 11/29 at 7-4 with New Year's Day still in play (Don't believe me? Comment and I'll explain how). As Jeff Probst would ask, "Worth playing for?"
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Let's examine what went so horribly wrong. First off, the deck was stacked heavily against us before the game even started. Florida, besides being a far superior team, was coming off a bye week and had extra time to prepare. To say the Cats came in banged up is an understatement. Even setting aside Lyons and Locke, who we have to learn to live without, we had a ton of injuries. The defense was without Myron Pryor. All three starting linebackers played, but Micah Johnson was clearly not himself. Marcus McClinton didn't start, and I am not clear as to whether, or how much, he played.
The game ended, effectively, when the Gators blocked the second punt. The defense, which has been so stalwart all year, was exposed by Florida's blinding team speed, and of course the offense was its usual self. The special teams gaffes, while embarrassing and backbreaking, were not surprising. We have now had four field goals blocked this year, one of which may have cost us a game and another which nearly did. To say nothing of the UT game last year. Steve Ortmeyer has to go.
All this said, the only real negative takeaway was our heretofore legit defense giving up 63 points. The rest of the bad stuff we already knew. My guess is that the defense can regroup if it so chooses. Hopefully we'll be able to heal some this week. And, lets face it, Florida has some athletes the likes of which we won't have to face in the coming weeks.
The most intrguing question now is whether Brooks will pull the trigger and start Randall Cobb at QB. Yesterday proved that Norfolk State was no fluke. To argue that the offense is more effective with Hartline in the game is to ignore every shread of evidence to the contrary. In addition to being a run threat, Cobb is a more accurate thrower on any route over five yards. Brooks says Hartline knows the offense better. Who cares? What good is memorizing a bunch of plays that don't work?
The casual fan may have been surprised when Hartline started the second half. I was not. Brooks has already been accused of showing him near blind loyalty. I was not in that camp before, but will be if a change doesn't come next week. For now, lets give Brooks the benefit of the doubt and say that returning Mike to the game was more about maintaining his confidence than it was about giving us the best chance to make the game respectable.
The drive for a third straight winning season and bowl eligibility comes down to two questions. First, does Brooks continue to go with his gut and stick with Hartline, or does he hand the keys to the talented freshman? But more than anything, our chance at a good year hinges on this; Can the Cats get amnesia and play as if yesterday's trip to the Swamp never happened?
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
*I actually did something I never do last night, which was to check out some message boards on UK football. I try to avoid this because I want to come up with my own angles and also because I don't like reporting that isn't based on fact. That said, here are a couple things I feel like passing on. Whether they are true is not something I can personally vouch for. Since I am not a real journalist, I can do this. First, after the interception with five minutes to go, Cobb and Hartline talked on the sidelines briefly, then Hartline called the entire offense over, without coaches, and huddled the team on the sideline. What he might have said is anyone's guess. Also Micah Johnson apparently came off the field with his leg dragging behind him in the fourth quarter. Trainers tried to cut his shoe off, and he would not let anyone touch him because he wasn't going to quit playing. Johnson reportedly finished the game while barely able to walk.
*This led to the best comment I read. A thread started with the premise that Johnson shouldn't play against Florida to avoid further injury and be ready for Mississippi State (recall I said the same thing, for about the same reasons, before the Alabama game). A responder said, in essence, "if you think that Micah shouldn't play, I suggest you go tell him yourself. Let me know how that goes for you." Johnson is one of the unsung stories on the team this year. When healthy, he's been an absolute beast, and every bit the player he was supposed to be coming out of high school. Plus the kid is a warrior.
*I posted this on John Clay's blog recently when talking about the Cobb-Hartline quarterback situation, but I think it bears repeating here:
I will say this. For a guy who has taken so much abuse this year, Hartline sure has stepped up when it mattered. When we needed a TD to save an embarrassment against MTSU, he marched us down the field and got it done. Against Alabama, he threw his best pass of the night when it looked like all hope was lost. This week, same thing, times two. If he, or maybe it is our entire offense, could play like this all the time, all critics would be silenced.
*I do think this is a better team with Hartline taking most of the snaps at QB. I'd still like to see Cobb used for more than a drive or two especially when things get stagnant. Even though Hartline is usually not the problem, there are times when things just need to go in another direction. The staff could also exchange them within the same drive every once in a while, which we did on at least one occasion against South Carolina, but not at all against Arkansas.
*It would be literally impossible for a college freshman to handle this situation with more class than Randall Cobb has.
*We are 24 1/2 point underdogs at Florida this weekend. That seems very high to me. I realize we haven't played an offense like Florida's all year. Yet 24 1/2 points is more than we have given up in any one game. All year.
*This is the time of year when I start thinking about where the Cats might go to a bowl. Actually, I think about this year 'round, but now is when the situation crystallizes a bit. Nowadays, I am put in the sometimes uncomfortable position of rooting against SEC teams in their non conference games. Sometimes in the conference games I'll root for an outcome, then realize a week later that the script has flipped, and I should have hoped for the opposite. Non conference games are great because this never happens. This weekend offers three. On Thursday, Auburn goes to West Virginia in a game it should lose. Saturday, Vandy gets a visit from Duke, which is back to earth at 3-3 after starting 3-1. Vandy should win. Truthfully, the Commodores are one team I have a hard time rooting against, but from a record and geographic standpoint, its the outcome that could impact UK the most. Middle Tennessee visits Mississippi State in an upset special. This would stick an absolute fork in MSU's season right before we arrive there next week.
*WLEX reported last night that Myron Pryor will miss the Florida game and that none of our starting linebackers practiced yesterday. Damn Vegas and their smart oddsmakers.
*Marcus McClinton sealed the game with his fourth interception of the year Saturday, taking the team lead over Trevard Lindley. Marcus has a ways to go to catch Jerry Claiborne, who set the UK single season record with a whopping 9 in 1949.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Even without a team in the National Championship, I think the SEC still gets 2 teams in the BCS, which won't effect the rest of the picture. More Fearless Predictions next week.
To the tape:
ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach
Liberty Bowl v. Tulsa
ESPN.com's Bruce Feldman
Papajohns.com Bowl v. West Virginia
Independence Bowl v. Colorado
Music City v. Maryland
Chick Fil-A v. Boston College
Sunday, October 19, 2008
The rest, as they say, is history. (Funny how this sentence is cliche even with its qualifier). Here is the funny thing. I don't feel the least bit bad about missing it. There is no question in my mind we would have lost if I'd stayed in my seat. And yes, I know that is a load of crap and that I am one of about 10,000 guys saying that right now. I still believe it, though.
What a poetic ending. The whipping boy throws two TD passes to the guy the whole crowd wants to replace him. They get to enjoy it together. Hearing Cobb and Hartline talk about it in the postgame show. . . . well, lets just say that their moms raised two good kids. I'm welling up. Did I mention how much I love this stuff?
Who knew Cobb was going to wear Dicky's number? Special. I cannot wait to hear the backstory on that.
Anyway (ok, I'm calming down now) as I wandered to my car on Waller, I heard the first touchdown. I started texting Big Z and Jenni called her mom. I witnessed Jenni talking to her mom, stopping dead in her tracks and asking, "no flags? no flags?" and I knew it had happened. By the time we got to our car, all that was left was the part of every game UK fans dread. We ended up listening to the last two minutes on the radio with a bunch of high schoolers, screaming and high fiving. If nothing else, I knew it made for a good story.
So yeah, I am a crappy fan and I dread returning to my seats for fear of ridicule next time. But hey, we won. Tomorrow (today actually) I will make hotel reservations in Nashvegas, Memphis and Birmingham.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Five days ago, Arkansas had lost its previous three games by a combined score of 139-31 and had nothing to show for the season but two last second wins over weak opposition.
Where UK has gone since then is well chronicled. Arkansas went down to Jordan Hare stadium and laid a home loss on previously ranked Auburn. Did Arkansas catch lightening in a bottle here, or is this a performance that will replicate itself? A close look at the situation is warranted.
Like UK, Auburn is mired in a pretty poor offensive season, but boasts a good defense. Last week may have been a fluke in that the Tigers chose to blow out their offensive coordinator mid-week. That had to be a distraction. Yet, UK has had to deal with distraction this week, between an emotional, potential season killing defeat, and losing one of its senior leaders in Dicky Lyons for the season. How we bounce back from that could tell the tale.
Auburn lost the game because they could not score much on offense and could not contain Arkansas junior running back Michael Smith.
I am not sure either of these maladies necessarily will snag the Cats. The 22 points is the least Arkansas has given up all year. Louisiana Monroe and Western Illinois scored more. Arkansas has played against some hefty offenses (Texas, Florida, Alabama), but they have given up a ton of points. To the extent Kentucky is going to be able to score the rest of the year, they can do it on Saturday against the Razorbacks. Auburn was killed by three interceptions, a 76 yard drive that resulted in no points, and a short missed field goal. It also gained a paltry 193 yards. We gained more than that against South Carolina, which has a great defense. Minimizing mistakes will be key for the Cats. Hopefully we do this and we'll be alright there.
Whether we contain Smith is another matter. This is hard to predict. He is coming off a career game, but has been pretty productive all year. Glen Coffee of Alabama ran wild on us, but other than that, UK has allowed no other 100 yard rusher this year, and only one runner has eclipsed 50 against us.
Contain this running game, and I don't think Hog's quarterback Casey will do Dick. . I mean, I don't think Casey Dick will accomplish much.
All that said, I don't see enough scoring for this to be anything but a close game. Hopefully we can have a couple of decent offensive drives early and seize control.
Incidentally, I kicked myself early in the week by calling UK a three point favorite before the lines came out. After reportedly opening at 11 and going down to 9 1/2 by the time I noted it in my blog yesterday, the line is now down to 7 1/2. I bet it is a 5 by gametime.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Alabama (Still has to win at LSU, which I now believe the Tide will be a favorite to do.)
Florida (The road to the SEC Championship game still rolls through the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party)
Kentucky (I am assuming only home wins against Arkansas and Vandy, for a final 6-6 record. I do not see any team below this point getting to seven wins. The Liberty and Music City could be picking among three 6-6 teams. Liberty will be tempted to take a 6-6 Ole Miss in this spot. If so, I'd assume we'd freefall past the Music City to the Independence.)
Tennessee (Unless UT's proximity cuts against them. Query: Would Vol's fans get in their cars to go home, or stay in one of Nashville's overpriced, mediocre hotel rooms? It is New Year's Eve.)
At large (Right now I project MSU, Auburn and Arkansas all to finish 5-7 and out of the soup. There are a million ways this could change, but right now I don't see the SEC getting 10 teams bowl eligible unless some big boys get upset.)
Monday, October 13, 2008
John Clay raises an interesting point in his blog today. If the Cats put Cobb in at quarterback, he has one fewer receiver to throw to than Hartline. With Dicky gone, I'd venture to say that receiver is by far the team's best. You can put Cobb back there, but if he has no one to throw to, every team is going to put 9 guys in the box. As George Clooney uttered so famously in, Oh Brother Where Art Thou, "We are in a tight spot."
This is a grim day in Wildcat country.
I could draw one of two conclusions from the lack of change. The first is that I am totally overreacting about Saturday's loss, and it isn't nearly the death knell I'm making it out to be. The second is that these experts have 119 teams to worry about, and I only have one. So, they are just not as in tune to how this loss, the lack of progress on offense and the injury to Lyons impact our season. A win against Arkansas will help me make up my mind about that. A loss and you can bet we will drop off of most, if not all, of these lists.
My SEC predictions will come later in the week.
ESPN.com Mark Schlabach
Music City v. Georgia Tech
ESPN.com Bruce Feldman
Pizza Web Site Bowl v. West Virginia
Independence v. Colorado
Chick-Fil-A v. Wake Forest (NBC has us ahead of Vandy in the pecking order. I realize that we still get to play them head to head, but come on. They've already won three games in the conference with four to go. I think this is a reach.)
Papajohns.com v. South Florida
Sunday, October 12, 2008
I have a lot of thoughts about the game yesterday. As you might guess, few are positive.
I've been praising Coach Brooks and his staff for the better part of three years now. But as Justin Timberlake might say if he were in a parody on SNL, "lets get to the real, real, real". Kentucky displayed all of the hallmarks of a poorly coached team yesterday. They were lined up wrong on defense, allowed a blocked field goal on what looked like a totally botched blocking scheme, had too many men on the field and were caught off guard by South Carolina lining up in a tackle eligible formation. The offensive staff was not able to push a single button to make anything happen. Instead we insisted on doing the same things that weren't working. Even when we did show some ingenuity, sending Cobb behind center with Hartline in the game, the offense checked out of the called play, gave USC an eternity to adjust, and totally spoiled the element of surprise.
Lets get real about one other thing. This offense is bad. It is kind of like my golf game. Every aspect, even those that are seemingly unrelated, stinks. I cannot drive, chip, hit middle irons, lag putt or putt from up close with a damn. Not one passable skill out there. The Cats have four running backs, none of which are SEC starting tailbacks. Hartline is shaky at best. The offensive line was supposed to be the strength of the team. Instead, they've suffered so many losses that the same five guys have not started more than one game together. If you've ever played offensive line, you know this alone creates problems. Even when healthy, though, they weren't impressive.
Which brings us to the receivers. Wow. Last night, my Dad and I went to see EKU play Jacksonville State. As an aside, JSU is quarterbacked by LSU refugee Ryan Perriloux. He could have been playing in the Swamp last night on the second biggest college game of the day. Instead, he was throwing five interceptions at Hanger Field. I gotta say, I felt bad for the guy. Anyhoo, I can tell you that I would trade UK's wide receivers for either JSU's or Eastern's. Even if I had to throw in Lyons. (More on him in a minute). I know what you are thinking, different level of competition, none of those guys could have played at UK, you are a nut and a negative nelly, and on and on. Here is the thing though. You can have the best 40 time, be tall, strong, rangy, tough, all of these great things. But if you cannot catch a football, you aren't much good as a receiver. Those guys were catching balls at their shoestrings, balls that were over their heads. . . .they were running under balls and catching them over their shoulders. We have none of that.
USC proved how important it is to have multiple good receivers yesterday. Here is what happened. Trevard Lindley could not cover everyone. So on critical third downs in the fourth quarter, Garcia found guys not named McKinley against our less talented DBs.
Yesterday was bad for more than just the lack of offense and the loss. Dickie's injury is devastating, for all the reasons just mentioned. Of course, it would be hard for the offense to be much worse than it was the last two games, so how much he is missed remains to be seen. Other bad developments came from around the SEC as two future opponents which were henceforth dead men walking resurrected their seasons by beating top 25 foes. If Arkansas can win at Auburn, it can certainly win here. If Houston Nutt's squad does so, they are 4-3 with two SEC wins, and still playing for a bowl. What looked like a near lock will now open as around a UK -3. Also, Mississippi State beat Vandy, which I guess cuts both ways as a predictor of future Cats outcomes.
Barring a pretty sizable upset, UK is going to have to beat 2 of 3 of Ark, Miss. St. and Vandy to go to a bowl. With a defense this good, it can be done. Whether it will is a different matter.
I said earlier in the week that USC was almost a must win game. The loss has set the stage for Bobby Petrino to bring his Razorbacks in here October 18th. On a beautiful Keeneland October evening, with the Homecoming King and Queen and 65,000 spirited faithful looking on, one thing is for sure. A loss Saturday and our beloved Cats become the dead men walking.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
The Spurrier factor cannot be ignored. UK needs to beat this guy. Last year should have been the year, but four turnovers, two ran back for scores, doomed us. Two years ago at home was close. Interestingly, the loss came only one week before the 49-0 loss at LSU, which is often cited as the point when our program turned around.
The teams are evenly matched. Both squads have great defenses and offenses who've had uneven performances. USC, even on the road, is a one point favorite. This has a lot to do with QB Chris Smelly having played the game of his life last week, throwing for 327 yards at Mississippi. Still, there are reasons why Spurrier won't settle on him. Neither team boasts a bad loss (USC has lost by a touchdown at Vandy and at home against Georgia). Both have played some cupcakes (For the Gamecocks-Wofford, UAB, and what was on that day an abysmal North Carolina State team). This would be the season's best win for either team.
So, as I said, the stakes are pretty high.
The key to the game for the Cats is to not allow Smelly to get comfortable. If Smelly stinks, Superior is going to grab the hook and start playing musical quarterbacks. Meanwhile, if we can sustain a couple of drives and put some points on the board, things could get tense over there. If their offense can play in rhythm, even if they don't score like the did against Ole Miss, then we may be in trouble. Truth be told, I don't see either team scoring a ton. We need to avoid silly turnovers and penalties.
I am excited as it looks like Micah Johnson and Randall Cobb are both going to play Saturday. Even if Cobb doesn't get a snap at quarterback, I'd like him on the field. I'm sure Hartline feels the same. He has to be better than the other young wideouts we have out there.
Pretty pumped about this one. If anyone has a score prediction, post it as a comment.
Thanks to John Clay of the Herald-Leader for giving me the heads up yesterday that this would probably be the case.
I was going to have to bid my Phoenix Room tickets (purchased for my wife's 10 year law school reunion) adieu, as there was no way I was missing this game. As it is, I am just going to have to contend with a very long day for this 37 year old body. Isn't that what Homecoming is all about?
Monday, October 6, 2008
LSU (Still think it is the favorite at home against Alabama. Has other tough games in the meantime, though. If any one of LSU, Alabama, Florida or Georgia was to run the table (only one can) that team should end up in the national championship.)
Florida (This is a hard call. Almost have to assume that they beat LSU this week, beat Georgia, and then lose to LSU in the SEC championship game.)
Alabama (Again, predicated on a loss to LSU. Not sure what would happen if they have one loss, and Florida has two, with one being the SEC Championship)
Vandy (They've earned it. I know people are poised for them to freefall, and it may happen. From where I sit, however, Vandy could easily end the season 9-3.)
Auburn (Even with no offense, it looks like it could be an 8-4 season for them. If the Cats win on Saturday, they can start to look to Auburn as a possible team to beat out in climbing the ladder. The 8-4 assumes that the Tigers can win at West Virginia and at Ole Miss. Not locks.)
South Carolina (I have them and Ole Miss flip flopped this week because of USC's win. This would flip things geographically and probably send UK to the Liberty Bowl)
Here are this week's updated UK bowl projections from around cyberspace.
ESPN.com Mark Schlabach
Music City v. Georgia Tech
ESPN.com Bruce Feldman
Pizza Web Site Bowl v. West Virginia
Independence v. Nebraska
Chick-Fil-A v. Wake Forest!
Papajohns.com v. South Florida
Its interesting how many of these sites still have Tennesse going to a better bowl than us. Many have South Carolina ahead of us as well. This could change next week. . . . .or not.
First off, if you are ever in the French Quarter when a UK game comes on, you can probably do better than the Checkered Parrot. A lot of TVs, but poor service and a lot of channel surfing while you are trying to watch the games.
As for the game itself, the most positive sign was that we showed a toughness that no one was sure was there before. We took some hard hits, we hit hard. Hartline made some mistakes, he came back and played hard. Tony Dixon was replaced, he stayed on the sideline and cheered his teammates. The Cats don't just have a good defense, they have a defense that can keep them in almost every game this year.
That said, there were some negatives. The Cats didn't get better this week. They had a lot of predictable mistakes. The receivers outside of Lyons still cannot catch the football, Hartline is an otherwise solid QB who has a tendancy to let the ball slip out of his hands, Tony Dixon did not perform like a first-string running back and Lonas Sieber remains whatever the opposite of clutch is. Finally, lets not kid ourselves too much about this being a three point game. Alabama is a much better team that could have very easily won this game by 17.
Moving forward, I talked in the beginning of the season about the importance of the next two games. As things have shook out, the games are, in fact, real important. South Carolina's win against Ole Miss gives them a quality win and no bad losses. They are a pretty good team. This game lets UK know where it really is. Are we a good team with a tough schedule who could finish 7-5 or 8-4, or are we a below average SEC team who, by virtue of an easy non-conference schedule could get to 6-6? The next game against Arkansas is looking more like a must win. The Razorbacks are a mess. If they come in here and lay one on us at homecoming, particularly if we've already lost to USC, the season is on ice.
I am anxiously waiting to hear from Raycom whether this game is going to be moved up to 12:30. Like a lot of people, I have Keeneland plans that day. It will be a wild atmosphere in the stadium if the game can remain at 7.
There is so much more to write about this week, including and injury update and (of course) bowl projections. So I'll make that the last word for today and have more posts upcoming.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Brooks said they would possibly be available "if needed". I am not sure what that means. When set to play the country's #2 team on the road, aren't all good players "needed"? Does he mean that they'll be playing only if the game is close in the second half? I think so and here's why.
As I've said many times before, I am a pessimist, so take what I am about to say with that in mind. Here it is, though. I'd rather these guys didn't play. Our chances of beating Alabama on the road are pretty small to begin with. Having these three is good, but who can say with any certainty whether it gives us more of a chance to win?
The schedule watchers have had the games of October 11th and 18th circled on the calender since well before the season began. A sweep of these games is imminently doable, will ensure bowl eligibility, and set us up for what could be an intriguing final five games. Anything that jeopardizes our chances in those games isn't worth it in a contest we have little chance to win. So, while I am not going to be called on to give the Cats a motivational speech any time soon, I think I'm right.
Brooks likely agrees, which is the real reason you'll see Lumpkin in the game, but not Cobb or Johnson.