We've spent much of our time here at A Sea of Blue lamenting the current state of the Kentucky Wildcats' season, and abandoning hope of going into the Swamp hand handing the Florida Gators their first defeat at the hands of the Big Blue Nation since 1986 in Lexington.
To give you an idea of how long it has been since Kentucky last defeated Florida:
- Current coach Joker Phillips had been out of UK for just over 2 years;
- Not only had none of the current team even been born, most of their parents probably weren't even married yet.
- Chernobyl happened;
- just became heavyweight champ;
- Space shuttle Challenger exploded;
- Haley's comet returned (comes around every 75 years);
- Vinny Testaverde won the Heisman;
- Lindsey Lohan, Usain Bolt, and Lady Gaga were born;
- Top Gun was the top-grossing film;
- Martin Luther King Jr. day was first observed as a federal holiday;
- ET2(SS) Glenn Logan separated service from the U.S. Navy (a historic event if there ever was one, and a great loss to the the U.S.S. Olympia (SSN-717) as well as the submarine force) at the ripe old age of 29.
Okay, that was then. This is now. Florida looks just as unbeatable, by Kentucky's current team at least, as they ever have. But unlike last year when UK really never had any chance at all to defeat the Gators, even with the help of Commonwealth Stadium, this year they do have a chance.
Why? Because unlike last year, Kentucky can at least score. What they can't do is stop anyone from scoring, or at least, they haven't done so yet. But despite all the jokes and negativism that we have had at Kentucky's expense on A Sea of Blue this week, that commentary was mostly, in my case at least, a coping mechanism to keep me from pulling out what little hair remains attached to my soon-to-be-ancient head. Not that I mind losing it, you see, but I have found that ripping it out from the roots is not a painless process, and having big areas of missing follicles... well, let's just say that some friends have ... commented on it.
Truth be told, though, I'm a die-hard fan of the Wildcats and desperately want them to succeed, and contra my claims that I harbor no hopes for them this weekend, in fact I do. Kentucky is not totally unfortunate offensively, although they are young. Although Florida is, as always, a good team, the fact is that they are hardly an offensive juggernaut, having put up as many as 30 points only once this year (versus the Tennessee Volunteers last week). In fact, Florida is only 68th in scoring offense, somewhat behind Kentucky's ranking of 57th.
Where the Wildcats have to worry, of course, is defense. The Gators rank a hearty 32nd in scoring defense, and Kentucky, as we probably know by now, is a not-so-stellar 76th. Kentucky may well score 20 or more points on Florida, but if their defense isn't significantly better, they will allow 30+ and possibly ++ or even +++. That, if you can't read my code, ain't good.
However, Florida fully expects to come out and easily handle Kentucky, and you can hardly blame them for that. They have beaten two teams that are significantly better than UK on paper on the road, although they didn't impress at home against the Bowling Green Falcons. If, as one of the Gator writers intimated, Kentucky and Bowling Green are about equivalent, you could say that alone is reason for optimism, since Bowling Green gave the Gators a game.
In reality, I think UK is better than Bowling Green, and Florida week 4 is better than Florida week 1. Hubris and looking past Kentucky are the biggest enemies of a Gator victory, but not the only ones. We know that occasionally, inferior teams can rise up and play very good football, and combined with mistakes that can sap the will of the opponent, like penalties, upsets can happen. Florida happens to be one of the most penalized teams in Division I, and Kentucky one of the least.
So pardon my hope, O ye who have surrendered it. I've regained mine, because it's nearly game time, and if you can't bring yourself to hope for victory against all odds, you might want to move to Cleveland.
So look at the bright side. Kentucky could win lots of ways:
- UK could get ahead and a meteor could crash into the earth, ending all life as we know it;
- Aliens could land in the Swap and establish a base while UK is ahead;
- Florida could take one look at our team and laugh so hard they pull their collective hamstring, and have to forfeit;
- Tennessee, having lost so many in a row to the Gators could invade the stadium en masse and cause a riot that forces the game to be called;
- Billy Gillispie could fly in, take Will Muchamp hostage, and practice the team beyond human endurance, enabling an easy UK victory;
- The President could declare martial law in the middle of the game while Kentucky is ahead and in the second half.
But there are ways that Kentucky could win that don't involve planetary calamity, forfeit, criminal activity or political intervention:
- Florida just might take Kentucky for granted, enabling a close game that UK wins with superior offense;
- The light could come on in Kentucky's defense, and they could play the game of their lives;
- A combination of penalties in the red zone and a sharp Kentucky offense keeps UK in the game, and the win on a last-second trick play Joker Phillips shamelessly rips off from Willie Taggert.
Hey, it could happen. Let's have a little hope around here.