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1st and Goal Part 1: Can you guide Kentucky to the College Football Playoff?

Make decisive choices in crucial moments of games to lead UK to a championship!

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Citrus Bowl - Kentucky v Penn State Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Have you ever watched your favorite team run a play that fails miserably and shouted at the TV, “Why on earth did you run that play?! It never works!” and proceeded to see them lose?

Or have you ever urged your team to go for two to win it all at once rather than kick the PAT to force overtime? If you were coaching and calling those plays, there’s no way your team would’ve lost those games, right?

Well, here’s your chance to find out as head coach of the 2040 Kentucky Wildcats, calling those very plays when victory lies ever so close!

The game is simple. You are the head coach of a Kentucky squad 20 years in the future, and answer one question for each game of your season. Some, like the one against Eastern Michigan, are very easy. Others, like your season finale against #5 South Carolina, are incredibly hard. The most important thing to remember, though, is your choice will be remembered by your fans for a long time, and that’s not always a good thing.

“But how do I know which choice is right?” you might be asking. “It’s impossible to know before running a two-point conversion whether it will work or not.” While that is true, each question has roots in Kentucky’s football history. Some are more obvious than others, but, for example, if you notice that in a big game in 2017 that a Wildcats’ opponent tried one choice and failed, or UK tried one choice and it worked, or vice-versa, then the same will happen here.

The play UK attempted to best so-and-so in the big game that worked will also work here, and the big play so-and-so tried against UK that worked will also work here. Or, if it failed it will fail here, etc. The key is to figure out which matchup is being referenced. Vast stores of UK nerd-knowledge you’ve been aching to use will be put to the test as you try to take Kentucky to the College Football Playoff. Most games alluded to are also recent (2000-2019).

So, no pressure! You’re facing Indiana on September 1st, 2040 at Kroger Field, now renamed Stoops Stadium. Answers will come in Part 2.

Week 1: Kentucky (?-?) vs. Indiana (0-0)

It’s a crisp, cusp-of-autumn afternoon in Lexington as the renewed Kentucky-Indiana rivalry kicks off your season. After a disappointing loss in the December 31, 2039 Twinkie Bowl last season, your fans want to get the bandwagon rolling once more against a rival.

The Hoosiers start out hot, jumping out to a 14-0 lead, but your quarterback Jim McDonold ties things up 21-21 going into halftime. IU strikes back with a pair of field goals, putting them up 27-21 midway through the fourth quarter.

Your team drives into Hoosier territory, but is stuffed on 3rd and 7 on the IU 14-yard line with 4:12 remaining. Do you try to kick a field goal and hope to get a stop? Or, do you try to convert on 4th down in hopes of soon reaching the end zone and taking the lead? Neither is guaranteed to be successful, but only one will bring home the W in Week 1.


Which play will you choose?

This poll is closed

  • 44%
    Attempt the 32-yard field goal
    (71 votes)
  • 55%
    Go for it on 4th & 7
    (88 votes)
159 votes total Vote Now

Week 2: Kentucky (?-?) vs. Eastern Michigan (0-1)

Your team is ready to head into SEC play with a win but overlooks a feisty MAC team and finds themselves up a mere four points late in the fourth quarter, partly due to a fumble on the first play of the game. Eastern Michigan has the ball and trails 20-24 with only three seconds remaining. They are about to run a play from the UK 47-yard line, searching for the end zone with a desperation play. What do you tell your defense to do?


What do you tell your defense to do?

This poll is closed

  • 93%
    Defend the deep ball
    (140 votes)
  • 6%
    Defend the run
    (9 votes)
149 votes total Vote Now

Week 3: Kentucky (?-?) @ Ole Miss Rebels (2-0)

The sun has set in Oxford, Mississippi and the home crowd is rocking as they host your ‘Cats for the kickoff of SEC play. Scoring starts off in your favor as you take a 7-0 lead, but things head south for the rest of the half as the Rebels score 17 straight to go up 10. A third quarter TD cuts your deficit to three, but a pick-six turns it back to double-digits.

Your kicker, Tortellini Ethelburt, then adds a field goal to your total to bring you within seven. After recovering the ball off an Ole Miss turnover-on-downs, your quarterback drives your team down the field and punches it into the end zone with 0:37 left. The score is now Ole Miss 24, Kentucky 23. Should you kick a PAT to tie the game and hope for overtime? Or, should you roll the dice with a two-point conversion to bring home the W in one fell swoop?


Will you go for two or kick the PAT?

This poll is closed

  • 59%
    Kick the PAT
    (83 votes)
  • 40%
    Go for the two-point conversion
    (57 votes)
140 votes total Vote Now

Week 4: Kentucky (?-?) vs. #24 Florida (3-0)

I’m sure you’ve been waiting for this one. The pressure is on as your ‘Cats host their trickiest rival in game two of SEC play. This one won’t be easy. Florida has one of the top defensive lines in the nation, and their quarterback can put up points in a hurry. Tickets have sold out for the UK home opener on a perfect, autumn SEC Saturday night.

With a clever, almost lateral pass your team takes an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Gators manage to tie it just before halftime. The scoring is stagnant for most of the game, until the Gators take the lead with a shot to the end zone with 10:13 remaining in the 4th quarter. Things look bleak as your offense comes up empty again and again, but a scoop-and-score sends the crowd into a frenzy as the game enters overtime with both teams all knotted up at 14-14.

In OT, you receive the ball first and complete a pass, along with a quick run, to reach the Florida 17-yard line. It is 3rd & 2. Should you trust your passing game with this one? Or should you let your running back move the chains? The difference between 1st and 4th down could be the same as between winning and losing.


Which play will you run?

This poll is closed

  • 24%
    Short passing play
    (32 votes)
  • 75%
    Short running play
    (98 votes)
130 votes total Vote Now

Week 5: Kentucky (?-?) vs. #19 Missouri (3-1)

The SEC grind rolls on as the Missouri Tigers come to town for your fifth game. Both offenses fry up points like burgers, running the scoreboards up to 45 total points as Mizzou heads to the halftime locker rooms up 24-21. After trading points back and forth, a 35-yard pass to the pylon gives your ‘Cats a 38-31 lead. The Mizzou quarterback, a Heisman hopeful, isn’t done yet, however. Tying the game with 7:44 to go, he marches the Tigers down the field to 1st & Goal with 1:45 to go. Without a stop your team will need a miracle to win. How do you set up your defense?


How do you set up your defense?

This poll is closed

  • 48%
    Defend the run
    (60 votes)
  • 52%
    Defend the pass
    (65 votes)
125 votes total Vote Now

Week 6: Kentucky (?-?) @ Georgia (3-2)

If your ‘Cats squad has made it through the first five games unscathed, then this might be the opportunity to seal a bowl berth early. If not, know well that easy games in the SEC are few and far between. Your offense scores a field goal early but then shuts down for the next two quarters, trailing 14-3 going into the final period. A punt return for a TD injects life into your squad, though the failed two-point conversion attempt leaves you needing one more trip to the end zone to come away with a victory. The good news is that a pass interference call has put you on the UGA two-yard line. The bad news is that you only have time for one more play. Better make it count.


What will your final play be?

This poll is closed

  • 68%
    Throw a short pass to the end zone
    (85 votes)
  • 31%
    Hand it off to the RB for a short run to the end zone
    (39 votes)
124 votes total Vote Now

Your season is now halfway over but there’s still a long way to go! Check back next week for Part 2 of “1st and Goal: Can You Guide Kentucky to the College Football Playoff?” which will come with the answers to the Part 1 games, as well as the rest of the regular season. Part 3 will then bring you the answers to Part 2 along with the SEC Championship and the postseason. Good luck!