As we have mentioned in this space before, more and more pundits are finding it hard to overlook the 2007 Kentucky Wildcat football team. But it isn't only the "experts" that are starting to buy into the position that UK may no longer be a walkover. The Big Blue Nation is noticeably less skeptical than anytime in recent memory.
Of course, we could chalk up that optimism to cognitive dissonance and a stubborn refusal by the Wildcat Faithful to face reality. Still, it's hard not to be optimistic when you consider that Andre Woodson is becoming the almost-unanimous pick for the best quarterback in the SEC. Ryan Ferguson, who writes for the AOL Fanhouse and is a Florida fan, names Woodson "simply the best". The Tennessean agrees.
Story after story is starting to appear in the local press to help us believe, saying things like limited injuries could lead to a strong season, and Louisville-biased writers such as Eric Crawford of the Courier Journal assuring us we have a reason for optimism. The Tennessean even goes so far as to tell us that they can't pick a winner in the SEC East that includes the defending national champ.
But do we really have reason for optimism? Many more jaded football fans are skeptical. Saturday Soundoff appreciates Kentucky's improvement, but says that our killer schedule and weak defense doom us to a close-but-no-cigar season as far as a bowl is concerned. Sunday Morning Quarterback gave us this detailed examination of Kentucky back in March, and very little has changed since. He think that we are we are 4-8 worst case, 7-5 best case. Split the difference, and we wind up either 6-6 or 5-7, which puts us either barely bowl-eligible or sitting at home for the holidays.
Wildcats Thunder, ever the optimist, looks at our defensive backfield recently in some depth. It won't take you long to see how little experience we have there, even if we have upgraded our athleticism. He says we may have the most improved DB in the entire SEC, but given last year, we could be twice as good and still be very bad. The defensive line has similar issues. Only our linebacking corps looks anywhere near SEC quality on paper, and our depth there is not the greatest.
Bottom line -- we have reason for optimism, but as we have discussed before, we have so many unknowns that we must really temper our excitement. If the O-line gives Woodson time to throw, if the D-line can stay healthy and improve, if the DB can prove itself against SEC quarterbacks and receivers then, and only then, will we have a chance to pull another surprise 7-5 season. 8-4 looks completely impossible on paper, but if we assume all the other stuff, we can't rule it out with the potency our offense should bring.
A lot of "ifs". A lot of "buts". But for a program that is returning from a decade of futility, I'll take them with pleasure.