By now, we all know that the Kentucky Wildcats football team is 6-1, ranked 12th in both the AP and Coaches poll, and on track for a possible historic season.
So far, this season has been one of the most exciting seasons of my lifetime, and I’m sure your lifetime as well. Like me, I’m sure you have been checking all of the weekly bowl projections and even dates of specific bowls just in case the Cats make it there.
The Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Peach Bowl have been mentioned as possible suitors for Kentucky, which is pretty awesome to think about since the word Kentucky is very rarely used in the same sentence as any of these bowls.
But before we get to making New Year’s plans to head to a sunny bowl game, Coach Stoops and the Cats have to take care of business.
Kentucky’s next two opponents have made for some interesting games over the last several years. Let’s start with Mississippi State.
The Bulldogs usually present a challenge for the Wildcats, despite Kentucky’s lopsided 24-2 victory last season in Lexington. The all-time series is tied at 24-all if that tells you anything.
Dating back to 2015, the home team has won every game in the rivaled series. This is a very important game for Kentucky to prove that it can win on the road against a quality SEC opponent, at least more quality than South Carolina, who’s given Vanderbilt a run for being the worst team in the SEC.
The Wildcats will need a balanced offensive attack and strong defensive effort to end the series home team win streak Saturday when they face the high-powered Mike Leach offense led by quarterback Will Rogers, while the defense is no slouch either. In fact, the Bulldogs rank higher nationally in total defense (28th overall) than they do in total offense (50th).
Now, let’s do what fans do and get a bit ahead of ourselves.
After Mississippi State, Kentucky plays host to the Tennessee Volunteers, who will be coming off a much-needed bye week after two tough losses to Ole Miss and Alabama. The Volunteers have impressed most people this season, especially considering they have lost 25 scholarship players since last October.
Josh Heupel has done a good job not letting his inaugural season as Head Vol go to waste. As far as Kentucky goes, they have beaten Tennessee twice during the Mark Stoops era (2017, 2020). The last time the Wildcats were putting the finishing touches on a historic season in 2018, they traveled to Knoxville as the 11th ranked team in the country and took a good ol’ fashioned butt-kicking, 24-7.
You might ask, “what’s his point?” Well, my point is that these next two games are quite possibly the biggest two-game stretch in recent memory for Kentucky football. Win these two, and UK is on track to finish 11-1, which would be the first one loss regular season since 1977.
They would also be in great shape for a New Year’s Six bowl and might even be talked about by some as a contender for the final playoff spot. If Kentucky drops one of these games an amazing and historic season is still there for the taking, but it wouldn’t compare to if Kentucky can come out victorious in both.
Here’s to a good week and a Kentucky victory!