Overlooking Eastern -- Can UK Win Two More SEC Games?

I'm going to do something here, for the sake of discussion, that the team cannot afford to do -- assume a win versus Eastern Kentucky.  If that assumption is wrong, the rest of this discussion is still relevant, and would become urgent.  So let's do the uncharacteristic, just for the sake of conversation.

The quick answer to my lede is, "No."  No because UK has to play perennial powerhouse Georgia on the road.  No because Tennessee looks like it is rising, having played Alabama and Florida tough, beaten Georgia and South Carolina.  No because Vanderbilt may be finding answers to season-long questions.  No because, well, UK fans are all down in the mouth about the lousy, confusing performance against Mississippi State that took away any momentum that may have been building up in the program to that point.  No, because UK is...well, UK.

But I refuse to accept that.  This team has, as is usual this time of year, been riddled with damaging injuries including its only All-American candidate, Trevard Lindley, who has been out for a month.  The starting QB, Mike Hartline is down and most likely out for the year, being replaced by true freshman Morgan NewtonDerrick Locke is likely out this week, and Micah Johnson is far from 100% and may also sit.  Offensive lineman Jake Lanefsky is lost for the season.  Kentucky is banged up big time.

In spite of all that, this team has shown a lot of potential this season, and the biggest problem has been continuity from game to game.  Part of that has to do with the quarterback situation, but Lindley's absence has also been a big factor, especially when it comes to confidence in the defensive secondary.  But despite all that, the Wildcats have not been out of any games this year except Florida, and have proven that they can play very clean and efficient football.  That portends well for the rest of the season.

Kentucky must go down to Nashville to face Vanderbilt, and whether they go at 5-4 or 4-5, Vanderbilt looks to be a must-win. Vanderbilt has been vulnerable this year, and this weekend they have to go down to the Swamp to face Florida.  Like Kentucky, Vanderbilt is getting banged up, as they have not had a bye week since the very first week of the season, and won't get one until the season is over.  That's even uglier than UK's situation, which had the bye after its very first game.

Georgia is vulnerable.  T. Kyle King of Dawg Sports explains, in numerous posts (all of which you should read, because he is one of the most knowledgeable football fans in the SEC) why the Dawgs have struggled so this season.  In my opinion, Georiga and Auburn are virtually two sides of a coin with no tails on it -- they are the same (forgive me, Kyle, I am aware of your Auburn loathing).  If UK can defeat Auburn on the Plains, they most certainly can do the same to Georgia between the hedges.  It will be difficult, and require Phillips, Brown and Brooks to call a proper game (unlike the recent abortion vs. MSU), but Georgia is a game that we can, and arguably should, find a way to win.

Finally, Tennessee.  Tennessee has had some good defensive games and is near the top of the league in defense, but they are only middle of the pack in offense.  Now, if UK is going to let Montario Hardesty run amok on us like Antonio Dixon did, then we have no reason for optimism.  But if Lindley and Johnson are back at or near 100% for that game, and we are other wise reasonably healthy, we have a shot at the Vols.  Tennessee is very inconsistent this year, and is fully capable of throwing in a clunker.  UK is also capable (although we have yet to see it at home) of playing really good football.  I don't think this game is any less winnable than at Georgia.

So could UK win out?  Well, yeah, I guess so, but I think beating UGA and UT back-to-back, even if Kentucky somehow manages to remain healthy, seems like a long shot.  But I don't think beating Vanderbilt and one other SEC foe left on our schedule is all that improbable.

So I suggest we stop nay-saying, and get behind this football team.  They deserve it, and they desperately want to earn the trust and respect of UK fans.  A big part of that requires the fans to let go of the past and embracing a new way of thinking -- we demand the team have a winning attitude, yet too many UK fans refuse to have one as though it makes some kind of sense to demand an attitude of the team they are unwilling to embrace themselves.  We ask these young men to put themselves out there on the line every weekend.  Shouldn't we at least be willing to risk disappointment by staying positive?

Think of it this way -- unlike the players, at least you don't have to worry about getting your eye gouged out, and that should be worth something.

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