Last Thursday's loss to Mississippi State was the first time that I actually felt like I had been socked in the gut after a game this season. While the Wildcats left a lot to be desired in the areas of execution, run defense and quarterback play, they were still close to their first SEC win in their last twelve tries. When was their last conference victory? 11/26/11: the day Matt Roark broke the curse of the Volunteers. Since that game, it's been mostly frustration with a moral victory sprinkled in here and there.
Kentucky won't get another opportunity at an SEC foe until next week as Alabama State comes to town this Saturday night.
Mark Stoops was not in the mood to talk moral victories last Thursday night; in fact he dismissed them outright during his postgame press conference. Stoops is looking for results in the form of wins, not in "we almost got that one" excuses. Stoops continued his fire-breathing by publicly calling out Jalen Whitlow and his personal handling of his ankle sprain, "I see it as a guy that's leading a program in the SEC and I see other SEC players banged up and leading their team to victory, don't you? That's what we need to do."
Max Smith may have seen his last start of the season and possibly even his last minutes after a woeful performance against the Bulldogs. Stoops and Neal Brown are now saying that true freshman Reese Phillips may be the next guy up as the backup quarterback to Whitlow. Stoops said of Phillips:
He's always done a nice job of managing the game, going back to the spring game, all the scrimmages he's been in, the scrimmages we did this year during the year. He takes care of the football. If nothing else, if we get ourselves with certain plays and checks and run‑pass options, if we just execute the call, we give ourselves a chance. We're not even doing that at times, and that's frustrating, let alone throws or different things. It's just putting ourselves, putting our team in a position to be successful with decisions. I think he does a nice job of protecting the football, and I think he does a nice job with his decision making.
With all of this frustration and calling people out going on, it's a perfect time for a match up against a team like Alabama State.
Saturday, November 2nd: Alabama State Hornets (6-2, 6-1) at Kentucky Wildcats (1-6, 0-4)- 7:30 PM
This should be a win, plain and simple. Alabama State is coming from the SWAC and has losses against Jacksonville State and Jackson State. I'm not sure if they have bad luck against teams with "Jackson" or "State" in their name, but I do know that the Wildcats should have no issues with the Hornets.
Kentucky hasn't tasted victory since the second week of the season, and while we have seen improvements, one of the major knocks on this team is that they still don't know how to win a football game. They will maybe get their last best chance at a win on Saturday.
What we need to look for as fans is the quality of quarterback play, execution, desire, and effort. The Wildcats haven't lacked in the desire or effort categories this season and they have shown positive flashes at times in quarterback play and execution.
#9 Missouri will be waiting for Kentucky next week. A victory will give the Wildcats an emotional boost that will hopefully them into their next SEC battle.
Kentucky Wildcats 48-Alabama State 17
The Vols came into Alabama on a wave of confidence. After all, they had just defeated the then #11 ranked Gamecocks at home in a 23-21 victory. The week of the game against ‘Bama, Butch Jones called the Tide "The Red Team" and did his best to pump up his Vols heading into "the rivalry". Well, nobody told "The Red Team" that Tennessee was good enough to be their rival, and they unceremoniously dispatched the annoying Orange Team 45-10 in Tuscaloosa. Now Tennessee is back on planet earth and are looking up at yet another SEC road game against yet another top ten ranked opponent.
But maybe they have something to be hopeful about as Missouri dropped what looked like a surefire win against the same Gamecocks that Tennessee upset. After going down 17-0, the Fighting Spurriers rallied in the fourth quarter and scored 17 unanswered points. They won 27-24 in double-overtime after the Tigers kicker missed a field goal. In short, Mizzou absolutely collapsed. Does this mean that the Tigers really aren't as good as we wall thought, or has USC been underachieving the whole time? Whatever the case may be, the Tigers BCS hopes can ill afford botching another home game against an SEC East foe; especially one that is viewed as inferior as Tennessee.
I'm calling for a hangover and an upset here.
Tennessee Volunteers 32-Missouri Tigers 25
National Game of the Week: Saturday, November 2nd: #7 Miami Hurricanes (7-0, 3-0) at #3 Florida State Seminoles (7-0, 5-0)- 8:00 PM on ABC
The Hurricanes and the Seminoles have been played each other 57 times since 1951. FSU leads the series 31-26 all time. Never in the history of the rivalry has the point spread been so lopsided. The Hurricanes are getting 22 points and that should be absolutely ludicrous since they are ranked #7 in the BCS. But if you look at the match up, Vegas may be on to something.
While Miami is unbeaten, they remain so by some of the slimmest of margins. They barely bested unranked Wake Forrest last week 24-21 in what some say was a trap game as they looked ahead to their big game against the Seminoles. They also had trouble downing 2-5 North Carolina and defeated a floundering Florida team by only five points. The ‘Canes have been winning, but it's been ugly.
Contrast that with Florida State, a team that has been absolutely obliterating their competition. They have been averaging 56 points a game and only giving up 13, good for third and fourth best in the FBS in those respective categories. Their coming out party was when they blasted then third ranked Clemson 51-14. Freshman quarterback Jameis Winston has been putting up video game type numbers and belongs in the lofty company of guys like Manziel and Mariota. Their offense is scary and their defense is just as terrifying. Mark Stoops left NFL caliber guys for Jimbo Fisher; they are big, fast, disciplined and strong.
Florida State is for real. The Hurricanes have been hanging around with the cool kids and are about to get booted out of the BCS party.
Florida State Seminoles 50-Miami Hurricanes 24
Last Week: My Wildcats just barely let me down and Mizzou choked away a win at home. I went 1-2 as the Ducks did defeat the Bruins. I'm 14-7 in my picks thus far for the season.