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Taking stock of Kentucky's place in the SEC


After six weeks of football, now is a good time to take stock and see where we are this season, and what our future prospects may be.

With the 'Cats dropping their first game of the season in Tuscaloosa on Saturday, it's time to turn our attention to what lies ahead. First of all, let's take a short trip in the Wayback Machine to look at the five games I said I really wanted this year, and how we've done so far:

  1. Louisville -- Check.  Handed the Cards their second defeat in a row, and at their place.
  2. Alabama -- Fail.  We didn't get the job done in Tuscaloosa.  Enough said.
  3. South Carolina -- Next.  We need this one pretty bad.
  4. Arkansas -- A week from Saturday.  We need this one real bad.
  5. Tennessee -- We have a long time to wait for this one.

So Kentucky stands at 4-1, 0-1 and pretty much on target for the season.  So far, we have won all the games we were supposed to win and gone 1-1 on the other two.  The two very winnable games coming up now are crucial in terms of UK's bowl picture, which looks pretty good now, but will look much worse if we don't win at least one of the next two games.

South Carolina and Arkansas are both eminently beatable teams, and we get them at home.  USC played a much improved game against Ole Miss on Saturday, so they'll be coming into Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday with increased confidence.  Despite the score, Arkansas played a much tougher game against Florida than most people realize.  They are starting to show signs of improvement, too.  Unfortunately for them, they are about to go on a two game road swing to Auburn and Kentucky, and should drop both, although Auburn is so bad right now, they are actually vulnerable to another setback.

After the two game home stand, the 'Cats go on the road to sunny Florida and then to Starkville.  The Mississippi State game looks winnable, and we can hope MSU at least beats MTSU before we get them.  If they go 0-fer in the next three games, they will be like a pack of rabid dogs down there.  Here's hoping they get fed the week before we show up.

After that two-game road swing, we come back home for Georgia (which looks a little bit more winnable now than earlier) and Vanderbilt (which looks a little less winnable now than earlier).  Following that, we get a week off before we go down to Rocky Top for the season finale.

If we get one of the next two, then either MSU or Vanderbilt, we will be bowl eligible (but not bowl-assured) going into Neyland.  That would place our bowl guarantee squarely on that game, and I would hate to see that happen.  So we need to convert 3 out of the four games against USC, Arkansas, MSU and Vanderbilt, our most winnable remaining games, or pull an upset against Florida, Georgia or Tennessee.  The first seems a lot more likely, although the 'Cats have pulled off and upset of one of the SEC's top teams in each of the last two years.

It is conceivable, but not likely, that we could take all 4 winnable games remaining and upset one of the others (Tennessee seems the most likely candidate today) and wind up 9-3, shocking the world.  Right now, My money is on 7-5, though, with 8-4 looking much more likely if we manage to defeat USC.

Of course, it is possible we go on a slide now and struggle to reach 6 wins, or even fall short.  That would be a huge disappointment, as this team looks like it should easily eke out two more wins, even under a really bad scenario.  Right now, you would have to say that running off into the ditch doesn't seem likely.  Our remaining schedule is challenging, but certainly not brutal like Georgia's is.  The Dawgs have road games against LSU, Florida, Kentucky and Auburn back to back to back to back, and if they survive that, they'll be championship-worthy for sure.  Kentucky has a much easier road, and even though an SEC East championship is technically possible for the 'Cats, I'm not thinking in those terms.

So right now, in spite of a missed opportunity at Alabama, we are on schedule for realizing our goal of a third straight bowl appearance.  That's good news, but we still have to take care of business at home to do it.