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And so it begins: Kentucky vs. Southern Mississippi

GAME THREAD: It’s (Finally) Football Time in the Bluegrass!

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Florida
A lot of eyes will be on Boom Williams and JoJo Kemp this season.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Do you remember what it was like waiting for Christmas when you were a child? I do. I’d barely get done eating my vast Halloween haul, which was always surprisingly light in Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups despite getting them at every third or fourth house (You’re busted, Mom!), and then Thanksgiving would be upon us. From the second I saw Santa’s sled making its way down 6th Avenue in New York, I was instantly transformed into an Advent maniac. I’d make 8 or 9 lists of gift ideas and subtly post them all over the house so Santa’s helpers couldn’t possibly miss them. (My fave spot: Dad’s dopp kit, thoughtfully rubber banded AND taped to his shaving cream.) Aside from this somewhat OCD activity, I was suddenly angelic in my behavior towards everyone I met, in a belated attempt to get back in Santa’s good graces after 11 months of banishment to the naughty list. The fashion trend known as “Ugly Christmas Sweaters” was happily embraced. (And no one did ugly sweaters like the late 70’s/early 80’s, folks.) I sang Christmas carols at the top of my voice as the aforementioned Reese’s thief shuttled me hither and yon to whatever activity was on the schedule for that particular hour, and demanded that we read the Nativity story every night from alternating books of the Gospel. I liked Matthew’s version best, because of all the genealogy and fun names like Amminidab and Shealtiel. Mom and Dad preferred Luke, probably because Zechariah was a lot easier to pronounce, and because they felt it important to highlight the accomplishments of strong female characters on their children.

And after a mere 30 or so days of this insanity, Christmas arrived. My brother and I would alternately sneak downstairs about 20 times between midnight and 4 AM to see if Santa had shown up to eat his cookies and chocolate milk (my brother felt the least we could do to offset the taste of warm milk was make it chocolate flavored). After Santa arrived, we would continue our travels up and down the stairs to admire the presents and argue about when it was “safe” to blast our parents out of bed. (4:30 was generally considered reasonable) From there it was excited shouting (from us, not our sleep deprived parents), much celebrating as various presents were unwrapped and admired, and about 10 minutes before we realized that only one toy in the entire lot didn’t require the exact kind of batteries we didn’t own. Ah, memories!

The opening of College Football is basically the adult version of those wacky 30 days. It starts with Football Media Days, which is kind of like the most drawn out version of the Macy’s parade ever. Lots of cameras and media personalities, acts that are just happy to be there (substitute random high school bands for Derek Mason and Mark Stoops, and you’ll get the analogy), and everyone waiting for that all important man in crimson red to show up. Then there’s endless drawing up of lists detailing out exactly what each team is hoping to get from their players this season, and while no one calls it a naughty list, inevitably a few SEC players get called out for bad behavior in the off-season. (Sometimes, the NCAA even gets in on the fun and makes naughty lists of their own!) There’s a month of agonizing over every report from training camp, injury reports that send the faithful to their knees in despair, and if you’re very lucky, fun names to learn. (In fairness, there’s never been a better name than Mister Cobble, although Chris Blewitt could be a really strong runner up.) And when at last the Big Day arrives, fans debate on the best time to arrive for tailgating, there’s a lot of shouting and admiring of new fan gear, and someone will inevitably forget the battery charger for their phone.

Just like Christmas.

For Kentucky fans, the Big Day is here. We know the challenger - Southern Miss. We know the goal - VICTORY! We know that yet again, our Wildcats will struggle to rise above the challenge that is football in the SEC as they seek to obtain a prize that’s eluded them since 2010: a winning season, and a bowl game invite. It all starts with this game. This squad. This moment.

It’s Football Time in the Bluegrass. Let the celebration begin!