Kentucky Football: Return to Glory Part I -- Past and Present

As basketball news seems down to a trickle, it's time to look ahead to football season, and at where the Gridiron Felines figure to shake out in the SEC East.  My intention is to make this part of an ongoing series, starting from the 50,000 foot view and drilling down to individual players.

There has been a lot of talk, and some pretty good analysis done on the SEC lately.  We here at ASoB intend to join the party, and see if we are prescient enough to read the tea leaves for ourselves.  As usual, I will disclaim my football analysis skills by warning you, dear reader, that I am a basketball guy.  I am a casual football fan at best, and if that shows through, well, you have been warned.

Football, unlike basketball, has relatively few games, so the accuracy of any prognostication generally comes down to one or two games.  Last year, most pundits figured the 'Cats to show up with 5 or 6 wins.  That turned out to be a little low.

So let's take a look first at the past, and where we were last year compared to this year.

What a difference a year makes

Then

Last year about this time, the big topic around Wildcat land was whether we should fire Rich Brooks now, or wait until the end of the season.  As Kyle King of Dawg Sports put it in a Q & A exchange with JL, "Do you think the Kentucky A.D. believes Coach Brooks is on the verge of making the Wildcats competitive again or is he just keeping the chair warm until a better option becomes available?"

The money quote from JL's answer went like this:

Despite the fact that Brooks has not fielded a winner, I think effectively blaming him for other coaches' mistakes (probation) would be unfair and sends a "win now" message that a traditional SEC also-ran like UK cannot really justify. If no improvement is shown this season -- another 3- or 4-win season -- then perhaps talk of Brooks' ouster would be more realistic.

Now

You have to admit, JL's answer was excellent, and  suggested that Barnhart wasn't nearly as tone-deaf as many UK football watchers assumed.  Of course, talk of "Brooks is Barnhart's buddy" was everywhere, but in hindsight, quite simply, Barnhart was right and Brooks' detractors were wrong.  The 'Cats went 8-5 and won the Music City Bowl.


Then

Kyle King (I'm picking on ol' Kyle today) had this to say in a Q & A exchange with Swamp Ball:

As for the S.E.C. East, I am certain of only one thing: Kentucky will be abysmal. Other than that, who can tell?

How'd that work out for ya, Kyle?

Now

David Fox of Rivals.com ranks the Kentucky Wildcats 38th in the land.  Now, 38th is not exactly a team considered to contend for a BCS bowl bid, but it is light years away from 3-8 or 2-9.  Many light years.

It turned out that even this cautiously optimistic assessment by Sports Illustrated wasn't optimistic enough:

Everything is in place for Kentucky to show marked improvement this season because of significant experience at every starting position, except one receiver and one cornerback spot. Fulfilling that promise might be made easier with an accommodating schedule. If one of the two quarterbacks can establish himself as a playmaker, the Cats can take some of the pressure off Little and possibly push for a six-win mark and a bowl bid for the first time since 1999.

Will the ranking of 38th by Rivals be this year's SI.com?

Then

Jon at Fulmer's Belly was shocked -- shocked! to find Kentucky in second place in the SEC East.  So shocked, in fact, that he had to write it down more than one time:

Kentucky came into the game in second place in the SEC East.  In Second Place in the East.  In SECOND PLACE IN THE EAST. Sorry, I had to write it a few times to believe it myself.  Kentucky, bowl eligible for the first time since the industrial revolution, decided it would be a good time to try and make a run at beating Tennessee for the first time in 22 tries.

Unfortunately, history will record that Tennessee held on to continue that streak, which hopefully will end at 22 this year.

Now

Fulmer's Belly has begun to recognize that Kentucky is no longer a slightly more distant version of Vanderbilt:

Most other blogs out there try and give you a no nonsense approach to UT athletics - they read the numbers like ESPN or Govols.com do not do and cut through the bullshit to tell you guys some real stuff, and a lot of them do a great job at doing it. It's hard to look at some of the other blogs (click on any at the right) and find them talking about how good a team like Kentucky really is (well, wait til Thanksgiving) and that it's stupid to look past them. They cut past all that and tell you the opposing team sucks and why we should win. But that's not why we're here.

It remains to be seen if the "playahs" in the SEC east will take Kentucky seriously this year, if what we are seeing is merely rhetoric designed to ward off the overconfidence bug, or if Kentucky is actually worth taking seriously.  

Make no mistake, the Gridiron Felines have been pussycats to this league for a long time, and one good season will not undo years of abject suckage.  So if we see some scoffers out there about Kentucky's chances this fall, just remember -- we got that derision the old-fashioned way -- we earned it.

Now, let's earn some respect.

More NCAA backtracking on live blogging games.  Sue, C-J, sue.

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