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1st and Goal (Part 3): Can you guide Kentucky to the College Football Playoff?

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

Alabama v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/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. In Part 1 you played the first half of the season, and in Part 2 you played the second half. In this article you will do the postseason. Some games in Parts 1 and 2 were easy, like Eastern Michigan. No game is easy now.

“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 if you notice that in a big game in 2017 or whatever 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 tried 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 CFP. Most games alluded to are also recent (2000-2019). The only exceptions are the CFP games themselves, as they allude EXCLUSIVELY to 2019-2020 Bowl games.

So, no pressure! Add up the answers to Parts 1 and 2 to figure out your win total, then view the standings below to find out whether you’ve made the SEC Championship game and what postseason fate awaits you. Good luck! I’ll post the answers to Part 3 about a week after the release so no one cheats :)

Answers to Part 2:

1. Vanderbilt: Throw a pass to the end zone: Jim McDonold nails the pass to send the game to OT, where he throws another one to complete the comeback. Victory! (Implied hint: 2015 vs Eastern Kentucky)

Vanderbilt: Hand it off to the RB: Stuffed! Sweaty linemen absorb the RB two yards short for a hard loss. (Implied hint: 2015 vs Eastern Kentucky)

2. Texas A&M: Pass to end zone: Burtilak gets loose and hauls it in. Touchdown! The Aggies try to retaliate, but you pick them off in the final minute. What a win! (Implied hint: 2010 vs South Carolina. Y’know, Randall Cobb?)

Texas A&M: Short pass to the 1st down marker: Sorry to say it, but that’s not going to work. The defense picks the pass off and hold on for the win. (Implied hint: 2010 vs South Carolina)

Texas A&M: Hand it off to the RB: Stuffed! You lose. (Implied hint: 2010 vs South Carolina)

Texas A&M: Kick a field goal: Fans scratch their heads as you try to erase a five point deficit with a three point field goal. Then you miss. (Implied hint: 2010 vs South Carolina)

3. LSU: Throw a pass to the end zone: The passing game has been off all day and it shows again as the D picks you off. You never recover and lose the game. Tough luck. (Implied hint: 2019 vs Arkansas)

LSU: Hand it off to the RB: Fumble! You lose. (Implied hint: 2019 vs Arkansas)

LSU: Run with it himself: McDonold guns the engine and takes off, breezing by defenders to punch it into the end zone for good. ‘Cats win! (Implied hint: 2019 vs Arkansas)

4. Tennessee: Run it himself: Alas! The BBN tried this 21 years ago in 2019, and it didn’t work then either. Stuffed! You lose. (Implied hint: 2019 vs Tennessee)

Tennessee: Throw a pass: Burtilak Bertlesman’s defender gets ready to pick you off but tripped on his untied shoelace as your star receiver catches it standing up. The BBN laughs at Tennessee for years as you wiiiiiiiin! (Implied hint: 2019 vs Tennessee)

5. Louisville: Throw a pass to the end zone: Bowden drops back, looking to pass, fires, TOUCHDOWN! CAUGHT BY JOSH ALI TO TIE THE GAME! Or, y’know, the same thing 21 years later with Jim McDonold and Burtilak Bertlesman. And, of course, the rest is history. (Implied hint: 2019 vs Virginia Tech)

Louisville: Run it yourself: If you’ve already read what happens if you pass then you know what’s coming. Stuffed again like a Thanksgiving turkey! You lose. (Implied hint: 2019 vs Virginia Tech)

6. South Carolina: Attempt the 53-yard field goal: When things look bad, Tortellini Ethelburt comes to the rescue as he nails the 53-yarder and puts you up for good. When it’s all said and done you’ve toppled the #5 Gamecocks 40-34 in an absolutely wild game. (Implied hint: 2017 vs Missouri)

South Carolina: Hand it off to the RB: Stuffity stuffed stuffed. Sorry, but their D is better than that. You lose. (Implied hint: 2017 vs Missouri)

South Carolina: Throw a pass: He catches it, but it’s short. Not much was there and a field goal was really your only way of getting points. Tough luck.

Final SEC Standings:

(These standings do not include games played against you. Add those in yourself to see where you landed.)

East: South Carolina (6-2), Vanderbilt (5-3), Florida (5-3), Georgia (4-4), Tennessee (3-5), Missouri (2-6), Kentucky (?-?)

West: Alabama (9-0), Texas A&M (7-1), Arkansas (6-3), Ole Miss (6-2), LSU (5-3), Auburn (4-5), Mississippi State (1-8)

SEC Championship Game: Kentucky (?-?) vs #1 Alabama (12-0):

Qualifications: Kentucky must have gone at least 8-1 in the SEC or 7-2 with a win over South Carolina

If you wanted Bama, you’re about to get Bama. A win here guarantees a berth in the College Football Playoff, so no pressure. If you’re 11-1 or 12-0, then you’re sitting pretty. At 10-2 or worse, this will make or break you. Get ready.

The Tide strike first four minutes in, but a determined UK drive evens it up 7-7. A Tide-TD and field goal make the lead 17-7, but a Tortellini 28-yard chip-in cuts the deficit to ten. Bending without breaking, you go into halftime down 23-10 after two more Alabama field goals. The third quarter is all ‘Cats, as you bring the score to 23-20, but with 7:56 to play Alabama goes up 10 again. In order to win the championship, you will likely need to score two more touchdowns and not allow the Tide anything more than a field goal.

You grab the first TD with 4:06 remaining with a 1-yard run, and your stout defense forces a punt with 2:19 to play. This is your chance. The decisive play comes at 4th & 3 on the Bama 44. A field goal is out of play. As with so many times this season, the decision has come down to running or passing. Which one will keep the drive alive this time? Which Mark Stoops game asked this question in similar circumstances?

Poll

What will you do?

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    Throw a pass
    (21 votes)
  • 40%
    Hand it off to the RB
    (14 votes)
35 votes total Vote Now

GEICO Bowl: Kentucky (?-?) vs Utah (7-5)

Qualifications: 6-6, 7-5, or 8-4 record.

The Geico Bowl may not be much, but it’s better than nothing, so here you are if you finished with four, five, or six losses. The Utes are pumped to be playing too, especially since the GEICO Bowl takes place in the Talladega Superspeedway infield!

You score first with a 2-yard pass, then surrender 17 straight points. After another score, it’s 17-14 going into halftime. The Utes add 10, but your Wildcats manage to cut it to six going into the 4th quarter. Then two timely field goals tie it all up for OT.

In the first OT you receive the ball first and snag a TD, but so do the Utes. Then in the second OT, they kick in a 38-yard field goal, but you answer once more. Eventually something will have to give.

It’s now 3rd & Goal at the Utah 7. You need to keep the touchdowns coming to win this game. What will you do? Only one play will work. Will you be sacked, picked, stuffed, or scoring?

Poll

What will you do?

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    Throw a pass to the endzone
    (31 votes)
  • 45%
    Hand it off to the RB
    (26 votes)
57 votes total Vote Now

Sugar Bowl: Kentucky (?-?) vs #15 Texas (9-3)

Qualifications: 9-3, 10-2, or 10-3 record

Now this is a bowl! One of the two New Year’s Six bowls not part of the 8-team CFP, the Sugar Bowl is an honor for any team, especially one who likes free Dairy Queen. As usual, it’s in the Superdome.

Texas scores first to make it 7-0. Then you answer with one of your own. Then nothing happens until the fourth quarter. Knotted up 7-7, you only have one more chance to score, and it is right now. It’s 1st & Goal at the Texas 7. There’s 8:04 left, but it’s taken you two-and-a-half quarters to get this close, so this is the moment to take the lead. Your quarterback play has been uncharacteristically shaky tonight, but usually when I give you the option to “Hand it off to the RB” it doesn’t go well. Which play will give you the lead and the win? Which past UK game does this represent?

Poll

What will you do?

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    Throw a pass to the endzone
    (31 votes)
  • 45%
    Hand it off to the RB
    (26 votes)
57 votes total Vote Now

CFP Quarterfinals: Kentucky (?-?) vs #7 Oregon (11-2)

Qualifications: 11-2, 12-1, or 13-0 record

This is it: the big time. The CFP. Who’s in? UK’s in, and for the first time ever. The Oregon Ducks await you, fresh off a Pac-12 Championship. You’re playing in front of 75,000 in the Seahawks’ dome, the (supposedly) loudest indoor stadium in the world for the Orange Bowl. You’ve come a long way, but there’s still a ways to go if you want to claim that trophy (and remember, these CFP games are representative of particular bowl games from last season, NOT Kentucky games!).

The Ducks open the scoring with a 35-yard field goal, and later adding a TD take a 10-0 lead into the 2nd quarter. Then after nailing a 44-yard FG, your ‘Cats complete an endzone-to-endzone passing play to tie the game! After trading scores and another Ducks’ field goal, you go into halftime down 20-17.

Late in the third quarter, you tie it with a field goal, and then you trade passing touchdowns in the 4th. But, yet another Ducks’ field goal puts you on the brink of elimination with only 6:00 to do. There’s 0:53 left and 25-yards separating you from the semifinals. Will you win the shootout? Only one way to find out, and only one right answer:

Poll

What will you do?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    Throw a pass to the end zone
    (15 votes)
  • 35%
    Kick a field goal
    (10 votes)
  • 10%
    Hand it off to the RB
    (3 votes)
28 votes total Vote Now

CFP Semifinals: Kentucky (?-?) vs #3 Michigan State (13-1)

Qualifications: Victory in Quarterfinals

Now you’re playing in Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Chiefs, and for this year, home of the CFP. The Michigan State Spartans await you, their only loss of the season to Ohio State.

With some superb playmaking, your team takes a 16-0 lead before Sparty trims it to 16-14 at halftime. They take a 21-16 lead early in the 3rd, and with 1:47 left take a 29-23 lead. It’s time for some heroics. There’s 0:43 left. It’s 2nd & 7 with 23 yards to go. I hope you don’t suffer the same fate as another team in a similar position in 2019.

Poll

What will you do?

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    Throw a pass to your star receiver
    (18 votes)
  • 35%
    Run a trick play
    (10 votes)
28 votes total Vote Now

CFP Championship: Kentucky (?-?) vs #2 Alabama (14-1)

Qualifications: Victory in Semifinals

It couldn’t go down any other way. All roads to the championship go through the Tide. Well, here they are. And they’re angry. You’re playing in the infield of Indianapolis Motor Speedway in front of 200,000 fans (a lot of them in red). The iconic CFP trophy is visible in the flagstand. Go get it! You can do this!

Midway through the first quarter, Jim McDonold hits Burtilak Bertlesman to put your Wildcats on the board with a 7-0 lead. After the defense picks the Tide off, McDonold throws a 40-yard bomb to make it 14-0! Fans in Lexington are starting to dream. Bama answers to make it 14-7, but McDonold runs it in himself to extend the lead to 21-7. Then it really becomes a shootout. Bama scores a TD, then you make a field goal. Then Bama scores another TD. Then McDonold hits Burtilak again. Then Bama makes a field goal. It’s 31-24 at halftime!

As amazing and beautiful as the championship’s first half was, the second begins exactly the opposite. Punts, fumbles, and missed field goals abound like moles in a backyard, and the Tide start to close in as time dwindles down. You trail 31-34. There’s 1:37 left in the 4th quarter. Jim McDonold is playing the game of his life. It’s 1st & 10 on the Bama 24. One play, one (right) choice, one championship. C’mon, you can do it! Beat the Tide and win the national championship!

Poll

What will you do?

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    Throw a pass to the endzone
    (13 votes)
  • 10%
    Kick a field goal
    (3 votes)
  • 14%
    Run a trick play
    (4 votes)
  • 10%
    Hand it off to the RB
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Punt
    (0 votes)
  • 17%
    Do the triple option
    (5 votes)
28 votes total Vote Now