The times, they are a changin'.
For many years, Kentucky fans have had to put up with condescension from fan bloggers at other schools and comments from sportswriters that demean our football team and by extension, our university. Of course, it's hard to make a snappy comeback to a "you guys suck at football" when it happens to be true.
But not this year. Now, don't misread me -- I am not going to beat my chest too much here for a couple of reasons. The first one is that one or even two years of improvement does not make us the historical equal of the Great Powers in SEC football. Anyone who thinks it does is simply mistaken, or overzealous. We must own up to the reality of our situation, and that has been that we haven't been a good football team. This year, we are.
I can't really blame pundits, bloggers and sportswriters for being reluctant to jump on the Kentucky bandwagon. I remember back when Louisville began to significantly upgrade their program, and make no mistake, the same thing happened to them. Now, they are having a down year, but the reality is that the Louisville program is no longer a joke, or irrelevant. They may not play in the toughest football conference in the land, but when you see USF sitting up there at #2 in the nation, you can't deny the Bulls, and by extension the Big East, legitimacy if we are going to demand it for ourselves.
Speaking of legitimacy, by defeating LSU in Lexington in the biggest upset since the 1964 Ole Miss game, we have won over the vast majority of the fans of college football. Of course, there are a few holdouts who can't see past the last 30 years of futility and still think we are a flash in the pan, but those who follow the college game closely are beginning to realize that Kentucky is special this year. You don't beat a team like LSU anywhere without having some serious quality in your program, especially since there were no game-changing calls or injuries, except one -- Rafael Little being absent. That makes success against the Tigers all the more notable.
I thought I would look around and provide a few links to illustrate what I am talking about:
- Todd at Roll Bama Roll -- Read his Kentucky entry on his BlogPoll ballot.
- Doug at Hey Jenny Slater -- Read his Kentucky entry on his BlogPoll ballot.
- Jon at Fulmer's Belly
- The Sports Corner -- Look at his comments on LSU and on Kentucky.
Matt Deville, The Tiger Rag:
- GatorPilot, Orange and Blue Hue -- "Ain't your grandaddy's Wildcats. Not by a longshot. Yo, Cat fans: feel the `total respect' vibe emanating from O&B Hue. Okay?"
- VolFreak, Vol Nation.
- PhilipVU94, Save the Shield -- "No, what really stunned me was in Lexington, where Kentucky showed themselves to be a much better team than I've yet given them credit for."
Of course, there are holdouts (there always are, aren't there?) who just refuse to drink the "Kentucky deserves to be here" Kool-aid. First, and perhaps most predictably, is The Loathsome Troll Jeff Goodman. TLTJG knows that out-and-out dissing Kentucky is a credibility-loser for him, so he goes the route of LSU apologist, blaming the loss on Matt Flynn:
Whatever. I suppose, as Goodman articles go, this is pretty benign, and perhaps there a bit of me looking for something bad to say about him because, well, you know why. But anyway.
And the next one is Trev Alberts of CSTV. I give Alberts credit -- he really does try to drink the Kool-aid, but he just can't seem to swallow it, so he also turns into an LSU apologist:
I suppose saying that Kentucky's offense was just more than LSU had faced all year, or noting the fact that LSU has been dropping the football all year long was just too much for him. Or maybe he really just doesn't follow games closely enough to know that Early Doucet and Richard Dixon are the only truly reliable pair of hands on the LSU team, and one of them was out of the game.
Yes, Flynn threw a couple of bad balls, but at least 5 hit the receivers in areas where they should be caught -- except, as I say, they haven't been catching them all year (Update [2007-10-15 14:2:48 by Truzenzuzex]: I know I have it right when SMQ says the same thing). I guess when you are a quarterback like that, you get all the heat regardless of reality. But the truth is that Kentucky was in Flynn's grille all day long, and nobody throws really well under all that pressure. You want to blame somebody? Blame the offensive line, who was expected to dominate the UK defensive line. Didn't happen.
I give Alberts credit for a good effort, though. Sometimes, ingrained perceptions are hard to change.
Update [2007-10-15 13:37:44 by Truzenzuzex]: Here is a nice post from a blog I have never run across before. He makes some very sound points from a relatively non-partisan point of view.
Update [2007-10-15 15:17:32 by Truzenzuzex]: Can this guy be serious? UT vs. 'Bama the "best rivalry in all of college sports?" ** Sigh **