Your leading tackler. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
This past Saturday saw the Kentucky Wildcats put a hurting on FCS opponent the Jacksonville St. Gamecocks 38-14. It wasn't perfect by any means, but we'll take it. Here are five thoughts leading up to this weekend's contest against the Mississippi St. Bulldogs.
1. What does it mean? I'll tell you Sunday. Obviously Saturday was a feel good day for the Cats. Coming off a brutal three game stretch and a bye week, the offense finally saw some success and perhaps found an identity, as we ran for an unheard of 340 yards. Of course, the downside of playing and FCS foe is that the results are sort of unreliable. Its hard to tell if it means anything. As of today. Come Saturday night, the impact of the game will be apparent. Is Kentucky going to come out with some swagger and play the way we thought we were capable or will they instead curl back into a ball offensively? It is impossible for me to say what I think will happen. One this is for sure. . . .
2. Vegas is not impressed. UK has opened up as a 10.5 point (Bull)dog for this weekend's tilt. To put this in perspective, Auburn is favored by the same spread at home against Ole Miss. So, Vegas believe it is still looking at the same team that lost its three SEC games by a combined total of (say it with me now) 137-20. Of course, Mississippi State hasn't won a game in the SEC either, and its non-conference schedule is as soft as a baby's butt. The Bulldogs played Auburn and South Carolina tough (losing at Auburn on the final play, in fact) but needed overtime to get past Louisiana Tech. Ultimately, Vegas has to look at results. It bears mention that it lost 14-12 to a team that beat Kentucky 54-3. The money line on Mississippi State is -380, meaning you'd have to wager $380 on the Bulldogs to win $100. That seems awfully high to me.
3. Martavius. I was happiest for Martavius Neloms on Saturday. Neloms is third on the team in tackles with 49, but hasn't quite adjusted to playing Safety and has had some tough times this year, especially in deep coverage. The sophomore pulled a Honey Badger impression, causing and returning a fumble for a touchdown. Better get on the bandwagon for this kid, because come 2012, he is your best defensive player. I'm excited for his last two years. Last week I used this space to talk about Winston Guy. I think it bears mention that he has, at least temporarily, passed Danny Trevathan in tackles with 79 compared to 77. They are still ranked 1 and 2 in the SEC.
4. Blackout. I called for it before the season started and I'm calling for it now. A night game. It is Halloween weekend. A win would get the Cat's season back on track in a big way. We need a push. This weekend's game needs to be a blackout, not just for the fans, but for the players. I want to see black uniforms. If Maryland is willing to come out of the tunnel looking like the knights of the round table every week, shouldn't we be able to wear some black? C'mon Joker. C'mon MItch.
5. After all this. After everything that UK has been through this season, all it needs is a home win against a team with a losing record and no conference wins to its credit, and the ship will be almost righted. If the Cats prove they can beat a below average but capable SEC team at home, suddenly 3 of the last four games look winnable. Of course, that is still a big if (see point spread and money line above). If nothing else, the win against Jacksonville State gave the true fans of the program some hope that things could be quasi normal again. I'd like to beat Vandy and Ole Miss and take a crack at Tennessee. That seemed impossible two weeks ago and now it doesn't. But if it is going to happen it starts with a good showing on Saturday. And if Saturday is truly a good showing, Kentucky will have a chance to win.
That happens, and people are showing up for the Ole Miss game next week. Beat the Mississippi schools, and Nashville turns into Kentucky south on November 12. The Cats could very well build up momentum.
Of course, the converse is also true. If UK lays another egg on Saturday, I think the student body and general public pull the plug on the rest of the season. No one expects Kentucky to beat Georgia this year or Tennessee any year, so suddenly we're playing what most will see as a dead man's hand in terms of getting to a bowl or to a winning record. This may be the most important conference game of Joker's career thus far. Lets see how we react.
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