Before we get to this week's game against Vandy and Kentucky's exciting 30-13 win over Ole Miss, I'd like to take a minute to say how sickened I am by what is going on at Penn St. right now. If everyone, from the University President on down, does not lose their job over this, it will be a travesty. Anyone sticking up for Joe Paterno in this situation needs to take a look at the facts. That is if reading them doesn't make you sick at your stomach.
1. The Vanderbilt Commodores are 13 point favorites. What's up with that? I realize that Vandy has played tough in losses to Florida (26-21), Arkansas (31-28) and Georgia (33-28), but their only SEC win (like ours) is against hapless Ole Miss, and they certainly haven't looked like world beaters at any other point in the season. The Vandy offense is now a different breed with Jordan Rodgers under center, but Rodgers hasn't been perfect. His numbers, in fact, aren't all that different from Max Smith's. Do I agree that Vandy should be favored. Absolutely. But by double digits, when they haven't beaten us at home since 2003? I dunno.
2. Max Smith. Of course, Smith was the story of this weekend's win against the Ole Miss Rebels. Starting his first game as a true freshman, Smith shook off some early dust to throw for 286 yards in a comeback win. Mary Story said it best in the Herald Leader on Sunday. Smith's performance finally gave UK fans some hope that we have something to build on going forward. I agree, but I'd add one caveat. As I watched on Saturday, one factor in the game stood out among all others. Ole Miss is epically, historically, unmistakably bad. That might be one of the worst SEC teams I've ever seen play, worse maybe than last year's Vandy squad. As far as Smith goes, I wouldn't get too fired up yet. Lets see how he does this weekend before we go crowning him a savior.
3. Believe. It's funny how things work out. I have to admit, at some point during Saturday's game, I gave up all hope. Ole Miss looked like the Keystone Cops, yet were holding a 6-0 lead. Kentucky had one defensive play where despite quadruple coverage and seemingly no fewer than 8 Kentucky players batting the ball down, the Rebels still came up with a first down catch. UK scored on an 80 yard drive running nothing but effective counter plays, THEN DIDN'T RUN ANOTHER COUNTER FOR TWO QUARTERS. Punts from the Ole Miss 38, 38(again) and 41 drove me bananas and it was all cascading down on me. I swear I was done.
Then a funny thing happened. The fourth quarter came, we went for it near the 40, ran a couple more counters successfully and La'Rod King got loose. Now, all of a sudden I'm right back in. I'm heading down to Nashville on Saturday in hopes that we can pull off this win and at the very least be playing for bowl eligibility when UT comes to town on November 26th. When it comes to UK football, I can't help myself.
4. Picking nits. If there is a gripe about Saturday's game it has to be the total inability of our defensive backs to make plays of the football. For the second week in a row, our guys covered their men very well, but either got turned around, our jumped, or simply didn't put their hands up. It is maddening. With Winston Guy moving essentially out of the secondary, we had to expect a dropoff in our playmaking ability. But guys like Anthony Mosely, Cartier Rice and especially Randall Burden have seen a lot of snaps against a lot of very good receivers. If the Cats are going bowling, those guys are going to have to ball out from now on.
5. Cats' Bowl Prospects. When I renew my SEC Bowl projections later this week, the Cats will not make the list. But a bowl isn't out of the question. Presuming a loss at Georgia, Kentucky can still make it with wins this weekend and against Tennessee. The possible destinations? About what you'd expect. I'll go over it in more detail as it gets closer, but a 6-6 Kentucky would likely land in the Music City or Liberty , with a outside chance at a Gator invite if everything breaks perfectly. If UK beats Vandy Saturday, I'll bust out all the scenarios playing in my head.