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The Morning After: Believe in Blue

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So much to be happy about this morning.  So much angst, frustration, so much futility is now little more than a memory.  Kentucky has finally, fully, and hopefully forever recovered from the hangover of probation suffered as a result of Hal Mumme's culpable negligence.

We may not have reached parity with Louisville yet, but this victory has given the Kentucky Wildcats a huge boost, completely eclipsing every other football score this Saturday, and will be the topic of much conversation when the new polls come out on Monday when we and the rest of the media debate the placement of the suddenly dangerous Kentucky Wildcats.

As tempted as I am to descend into schadenfreude this morning, I find that I don't have the stomach for it.  I am happy, and it would be impossible for me to write anything that would magnify the frustration that the Louisville Cardinal fans must be suffering right now, even in the least.  They, perhaps much better than we, understand the ramifications of this game.  And its ramifications to both programs cannot be understated.

For the Cards, that aura of invincibility, that swagger that they have carried around for the last four years is, at least for the moment, gone.  They find themselves in a position which they have not known for four years -- suffering a defeat at the hands of their most bitter foe.  Even worse, they suffered it with what was supposed to be their best team in history, a team with (in the view of many, at least) a legitimate goal of actually playing in the national championship game.

But those dreams are dashed, and the fact that their hopes were ripped away by a team that many Card fans truly despise is angst that cannot be magnified by my puny words.  I am happy for the victory, but not for their pain -- Kentucky fans are all too familiar with it, as are the fans of Michigan.

But there is much celebration in the Bluegrass this morning, and many hangovers to nurse.  I cannot even imagine how Rich Brooks must be feeling.  This guy has handled the heat of Kentucky fans, had one leg and two arms out the door early last year, and now finds himself in a strange place, a place that is normally reserved for the likes of Rick Pitino and Adolph Rupp.  An unusual confluence of events -- the long losing streak, the unexpected success of last season, the highly ranked bitter foe -- has placed Brooks in a position to be elevated into the pantheon of great Kentucky coaches.  

Perhaps Brooks will never have his jersey raised in Rupp Arena, but if he pulls off another bowl season on top of this, or beats, say, Tennessee, he will surely find himself revered among the Kentucky faithful, even the beginning of a legend if the success continues.

So what can we say about the big picture vis-a-vis this game?  Many, many things.  First off, Barnhart now looks like a genius for hiring Brooks.  Brooks (and to some extent, Barnhart) both look like geniuses for moving the game from the first game of the year.  And my fellow Wildcat fans, I can tell you that the odds of UK having defeated U of L in the first game of the season this year were vanishingly small.  Kentucky now looks, for all the world, like a team to be reckoned with in the East.  Florida, South Carolina and Georgia now must take seriously the prospect of playing the Wildcats.  I doubt if LSU is concerned, but they still must come here and face us.

So many things have happened over the years to keep this team down, and yet they find themselves, today, undefeated in three games against arguably the toughest schedule so far in the entire SEC.  Think about that for just a minute, and marvel.