It’s time once again to gaze into the crystal ball for the upcoming and long awaited football season. Even in Cat country there are a few (OK, very few of us) that actually think of football as our favorite sport. Especially now that Kentucky basketball has been rightfully restored to its prominent position; where’s the suspense in 30 win seasons?
When you follow Kentucky football you get poor press coverage, gut-wrenching losses, occasional NCAA sanctions, embarrassing losing streaks, barely southern bowl games and no respect ... but, you also get HOPE. There is no more loyal football fan base than the Kentucky football fan base. Recently, Kentucky was ranked 14th in the nation in selling out their stadium - not too shabby for a "basketball school".
Give me the excitement of Saturdays in the fall. Tailgating (if you’re lucky enough to attend a game), College Game Day, x’s and o’s, HDTV, nachos, barbecue, beer and a whole day to enjoy 857 games on 50 channels (who won that Otterbein vs Wartburg game?).
But I digress, its time for my annual irrationally exuberant prognostication for this year’s Kentucky Wildcats.
Game 1 - University of Louisville at Papa Johnny On The Spot
Joker couldn’t ask for a better start to his head coaching career. The Cards fumble the opening kick-off, and UK quickly scores (Hartline - Matthews) to open the game. Several Louisville players are arrested on the sidelines for carrying concealed weapons while others slip into the stands and out the exits before the game is over. Charlie Strong later makes obscene phone calls to Kragthorpe. Final UK 35 - UL 3.
Game 2 - Western Kentucky at Commonwealth
OMG! Kentucky is a juggernaut! Well, maybe not, but WKU proves to be even less than advertised. In an effort to keep the game interesting Joker tells Hartline "Don’t throw any passes deeper than 10 yards" and Hartline responds "Heh coach, I’ve been practicing my deep 15 yard bombs, pleeeeeease!?!" Even so, the game get quickly out of hand and sends officials looking for the NCAA mercy rule (there isn’t one) and finish out the game. Locke runs for a mile, Cobb and Matthews log another mile in receptions ... and then the second/third/forth teams come in to start the second quarter and finish out the game. Final UK a bunch - WKU not many.
Game 3 - Akron at Commonwealth
Kentucky welcomes the University of Akron Zips to Lexington. Zips??? Yep, you’ll have to ask them where that came from. At first I thought it was their typical score coming off a stellar 3-9 season in the Mid America Conference but they scored in every game last year, averaging about 19 points. Joker does more player evaluations and reignites the QB discussion when Newton and Mossy both go 20 of 20 passing. Final UK 52, Zips zip. (Had to).
Game 4 - Florida at The Swamp
Oh, boy! SEC football, it doesn’t get any better than this. The previous week, Florida beats Tennessee like a rented mule and expects to do the same to the Cats before traveling to Tuscaloosa the following week to seek revenge on the Tide. As Keith Jackson would say, "Whoa, Nellie!". Even though Florida has a 852 game winning streak against UK, the team plays out of their mind and the game goes down to the wire. In the end, a phantom penalty eerily similar to the one against Arkansas last year hands the victory to the Gators. Urban Crier goes to the hospital with a nosebleed after the game and considers quitting coaching. UK 24 - UF 27.
Game 5 - Ole Miss at Oxford
Last year Ole Miss was pegged to be the surprise team of the SEC after their great performance against Texas Tech in the prior Cotton Bowl. They roller-coastered along to a 8-4 season record under the guidance of
First, he got the anti-Boy Scout, Jeremiah Masoli, to come in as quarterback then he signed AAA Bail Bonds to keep Masoli on the field.
Joker will immediately rattle the Ole Miss offense with eleven in the box wearing blue lights and badges to make sure Masoli just runs with the ball and forgets about passing. After a couple of possessions he’ll realize he’s not in the PAC10 anymore. UPDATE: With the NCAA judgment that Masoli is ineligible Ole Miss has gotten a refund on their retainer with AAA Bail Bonds and Masoli will now figure out how to get out of Oxford on the first available Greyhound. Coach Nutt will now promote any player that can read the playbook to starting quarterback and take the SEC by storm. Unfortunately for Ole Miss, the storm quickly peters out into one of those little annoying showers that are a mere inconvenience for other teams. With the ready made "we lost Masoli" excuse the Rebels attack their schedule like Don Quixote. Kentucky's defense will choke Ole Miss down while the offense goes about their business with a passing attack that has gate agents double checking Hartline’s ID for the return trip to Lexington. UK 35 - Ole Miss 2410.
UPDATE #2 (NCAA Reversal): Nevermind - go with the first effort. (Grrrrrr..) Joker will immediately rattle the Ole Miss offense with eleven in the box wearing blue lights and badges to make sure Masoli just runs with the ball and forgets about passing. After a couple of possessions he’ll realize he’s not in the PAC10 anymore. UK 35 - Ole Miss 24
Game 6 - Auburn at The House of Blue (Commonwealth needs a nickname)
Kentucky went into Auburn last year and made Auburn fans line up for hari-kari classes. Tiger fans said it was the worst lost in the history of Auburn football. Guess what? They now get to update their list as the overrated Tigers get stuffed. Malzahn’s offense goes nowhere with UK linebackers flying to the ball and the Tigers limp back to Alabama wondering what the hell just happened. Offensively, the passing attack continues to hum with Mossy and Newton also getting reps. Even our Newton is better than their Newton, FIGures. UK 30 - AU 16
Game 7 - South Carolina at The House of Black and Blue.
The 2010 "surprise" team limps into Lexington winless in the SEC after being beat by Georgia, Auburn and then Alabama prior to the matchup with Kentucky. Coach "Whos’ Garcia?" Spurrier has no magic left but tries to surprise the Cats by starting an unknown at quarterback - G A Magnus. (Actually he’s the quarterback coach for USC and played quarterback under Spurrier at Florida.)
Not much works for USC and Kentucky ekes out a 17-16 halftime advantage. Joker surprises the team and half time and pulls out black jerseys for the second half. The team enters the field, the fans go crazy and the team gets carried away with the adrenaline rush and kills USC in the second half. Spurrier announces his retirement during post game and disappears to play golf at Hilton Head. KY 65 - USC 16.
Game 8 - Georgia at The House of Happiness
Georgia enters the game having only been tested in week 3 against Arkansas and looking ahead to Florida the following week. But oh, how they forget history. Kentucky always plays Georgia well and
Pat Boone Mark Richt doesn’t have his dog pound up for the resourceful Cats. Joker reaches into his bag of tricks to show the fans several versions of the Wildcat, both young quarterbacks (Hartline injured again against USC), fake punts, onsides kicks, two point conversions and even uses a Sharpie to make up some new plays on Newtons arm. By the end of the game Georgia is totally confused on defense, an MIA is issued for A.J. Green, Uga morphs into a Cat and the seat of Coach Richt’s pants catch fire. UK - 28 UGA - 17
Game 9 - Mississippi State at Starkville
Kentucky’s quarterback controversy is child’s play compared to the mess at MSU. Coach Dan "I’m Outta Here" Mullen goes into the ninth week trying to decide who will start the game. It really doesn’t matter because two wins in a row against Kentucky ain’t going to happen. Joker has the team seeing red by the time they get to the aptly named "Starkville", taking no prisoners. First they manage to strategically hide all the cowbells which leads to a nationwide emergency call to all available proctologists then they go on to gain retribution for the 2009 debacle when MSU ran wild on Kentucky - "Watch the counter play!". Linebackers rise to the occasion and on offense, Kentucky’s running backs use 10 bottles of oxygen recuperating from frequent 40 - 80 yard sprints. UK 34 - MSU 10
Game 10 - Charleston Southern
Who? Well, anyway. They play a game, starters pulled after first play of game. Kentucky plays without pads and pick player positions out of a hat for the second half. Charleston then closes the gap a bit but the Cats ultimately prevail (of course). UK 42 - CS 21
Game 11 - Vanderbilt at The House of Delirium
Poor Vandy. After the previous weeks destruction from the Florida game, Coach Robbie Caldwell abandons the team to join the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. Luckily, they immediately find a replacement coach - Phil Fulmer. War breaks out in the state of Tennessee and the Vandy team is escorted to the Kentucky border by the Tennessee National Guard. Vandy makes a spirited effort but there is no focus as team members are making plans to visit local gun shops. (The visit is nearly mandatory since UT has SO much more experience in this field.) Kentucky plays an average game and keeps the ball rolling. UK 24 - Vandy 10
Game 12 - Tennessee at Dumpster City
Thanks to the bye week, enough time elapsed for the intrastate UT/ Vandy War to call a cease fire - after all, it’s football season! This is one we’ve been waiting for - Tennessee; the despised nemesis from the south, that hideous stadium you drive by on the way south, Orange, "Rocky Top", there’s just so much to hate. This is a great game to end the regular season, if we had to release all this hate in the middle of the season there would be nothing left for the rest of the season.
THIS YEAR THE STREAK ENDS. Kentucky puts together a game that is almost flawless. Initially the Cats come out a little over-hyped (big surprise!) and waste the whole first quarter shooting themselves in the foot. Thankfully, cooler heads prevail in the second quarter and Kentucky puts together an entire ESPN Top Ten reel. Running, passing, pancake blocks, reverses, smash mouth defense, interceptions, blocked punts - the game has it all. All the fans in attendance miss the whole fourth quarter due to being blinded by tears of joy. Cobb runs, receives, returns a punt and a kickoff and passes for touchdowns. National writers bemoan that he wasn’t on the Heisman watch list. Kentucky sends thank you bouquets to Lane Kiffan. UK 48 - Tenn 17.
With Florida loses to Alabama and Georgia, Kentucky wins the SEC East. Joker signs 30 year extension.
Aaaaaahhhh ... what a year! Bowling in warm weather. Pinch me.