This weekend is the game I circle every year, our beloved Wildcats play those hated Vols. For me, the Tennessee game is akin to the Louisville game for most UK fans. Where I grew up the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry was hardly a discussion, it was all about UK or UT. I grew up with a group of seven where two of us were card-carrying members of the Big Blue Nation and the other five were Vols for life. This made for many an intense argument, sometimes over the most miniscule of advantages we could possibly leverage.
I remember once nearly coming to blows over me bragging about Dennis Johnson playing high school football as a second and third grader. Unfortunately the internet was in its infancy at that time so all I had to prove the astonishing feat was an Athlon preview magazine excerpt.
Living in Knoxville for the past eight years means the Tennessee week has always been a nerve-wracking one for me. Although it has been fun to have a variation of the below conversation play out all week:
- Me: "What do you think about this weekend?"
- UT Guy: *Some variation of worried about the game/UT will lose/UT will win*
- Me: "I wouldn't sweat it, I can assure you we will not be playing a wide receiver at quarterback this weekend so you're safe."
- UT Guy: *Smirk/Look of disdain*
I cannot help but milk that for all it is worth and it still gets some good play here.
Back in July, I wrote an article asking if the Big Blue Nation was ready for seven wins this season. I still think that comes true, albeit not the way I originally thought. I thought we would be 6-4 right now with a loss this weekend and a closeout victory in Louisville. I still think we beat UL, especially given their unfortunate quarterback situation. However, I also think we come to Knoxville and do what has not been done since 1984.
On paper, UT is a team on the rise with a new quarterback who set South Carolina on fire and has an extra week to get ready for a defense that gave up nine touchdowns in nine completed drives to Georgia. We were saved by the bell twice or it could have been 11 for 11 on the day for the Dawgs.
UT also will have a sold out Neyland Stadium behind it. When Neyland is rowdy, it is one of the toughest places to compete, much less win. Tennessee also has a bevy of playmakers at its disposal. Josh Dobbs is the proverbial Kentucky nightmare in a mobile QB. Jalen Hurd has steadily come along and no longer looks like a true freshman. They have playmakers on the outside as well with Von Pearson and Pig Howard split wide along with Ethan Wolfe at TE.
Add to the equation Kentucky is a team that is seemingly in regression mode with BAD losses in three of its last four games. Kentucky seems to be a talented team that is starting to wear down due to lack of depth. All of these factors seem to point to a not so tough UT win... but not so fast my friend.
Sometimes you have to go with your gut and this weekend just feels to me like one of those weekends where the following has the chance to take place:
- Dobbs comes back down to earth and shows why Justin Worley beat him out in the spring
- The UT offensive line reverts back to one of the worst in the conference (numbers do not lie)
- Kentucky is due for a well-played game; I am not talking about a "close" game... I mean a well-played game up to our potential.
- The offense builds on last week... yes, UGA embarrassed our defense, but the offense was actually very solid and had a lot of positives to build on
- Bud Dupree and Za'Darius have a field day. They should both see mismatches all day long.
- One of our running backs has a breakout day... how overdue are we for someone to step up here
- Jordan Swindle goes the entire game without a false start!
- Neil Brown pushes all the right buttons. I am guilty of being a twitter coach as most of us have been. However, Brown is due one of those games where everything hits on all cylinders and our offensive efficiency numbers skyrocket. The result would be beautiful football
- Special teams become a positive factor. This may be the most overdue aspect of the game, we are due one of those games where we block a punt or run a kick back.
Lord knows I have been wrong on many occasions and will be wrong on many more but for me, I think this weekend is going to be a great weekend for UK fans all around. One thing is for certain, win or lose we are undoubtedly headed in the right direction and I am not sure anyone else could have came in and put us in a position to be a contender in year three.
Enjoy the highlights of that last UT win below: