Welcome to Week Two of the 2014 college football season, and the A Sea of Blue Virtual Tailgate. Today, the Kentucky Wildcats will entertain the Ohio Bobcats of the Midwestern Athletic Conference (MAC), a big step up from the FCS UT-Martin team the Wildcats routed last week. This game will tell us a whole lot about Kentucky on both sides of the football, as the Bobcats are coached by Frank Solich, one of the better coaches in all of college football.
We’ll get more into the football later. First, let’s get our tailgate on.
Since this is an afternoon game, our cocktail for today will be something classic for warm-weather football:
Mint Juleps! (via jthetzel)
Ours won’t be quite this fancy, but you get the idea. Plenty of bourbon, simple syrup (or just some sugar dissolved in water) bruised with some mint. Mix together in a glass chock full of crushed ice, garnish with mint and voilà!
For our appetizer, one of my personal favorites:
fried pickles (via stu_spivack)
Nothing to these babies, just egg wash, flour, and a deep fryer. If you want a twist, use corn meal or even panko bread crumbs.
For our main course, since this is an afternoon game, another game day classic:
Spicy Buffalo Wings (via rick)
Yes, this is one of the great classic tailgating foods. I like mine very hot — usually, with Mango Habanero sauce if I go to BW3’s, but if not, with a pretty spicy sauce. Frank’s hot sauce is the gold standard for making the sauce, but I like to add a little more heat with Tabasco or some Sriracha hot sauce. Mmm, tasty.
And with that, we need some crunch, and what better crunch for a tailgate than:
Spicy potato chips (via T. Carrigan)
Yes, there’s no reason to cut the heat yet. Spicy potato chips with a bit of cayenne pepper to give them that nice, gentle burn.
With all that heat, we’re gonna need something to put the flames out:
Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat (via @joefoodie)
Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat is a great summer ale in the style of Belgian White ale, and it is one of the more delicious summer ales you can get. As it’s still a bit hot outside (and inside after all that spice), we need something refreshing, cooling, and not too bitter. This one ticks all those boxes.
Finally, desert. Let’s see, what kind of desert would fit with a classic tailgate? I know:
Tailgate grill S'mores (via sanchom)
How can you go wrong with toasted marshmallow, chocolate, and graham crackers? That’s right — you can’t.
Okay, now that we’re fed, let’s talk football. Today’s game is eagerly anticipated by the Big Blue Nation after last week’s stylish demolition of FCS Tennessee-Martin. Even though Braylon Heard and Javess Blue will not likely be available today, junior Rashad Cunningham will be back off of his one-game suspension, so that will help ameliorate that loss. In relief of Heard, I think Josh Clemons and Jojo Kemp are likely to have a big game, and Mikel Horton showed his potential last week, and I think we’ll see more of him. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Stanley "Boom" Williams make some noise in this game.
The two burning questions for me right now are:
- Is our offensive line really as good as they looked last week, and;
- Can our defensive line show up this game?
The O-line looked great last week, both in pass protection and in run blocking. The D-line was the obverse — they looked vulnerable to even a smaller set of linemen, did not clog up the running lanes and really did not play well at all. If this is all they have, we are going to need to outscore everybody in a shootout to win.
Another question mark, for me, is can Kentucky stop the mobile quarterback, Derrius Vick, that Ohio will start against us. Typically, Kentucky has struggled with mobile quarterbacks, and as I told Larry Glover yesterday on Larry Glover Live, I think Kentucky’s increased defensive team speed will be a really big factor in helping them cover this particular problem. We will see today.
This game should be much more competitive than last, but if Kentucky can continue to play explosive offense, it could wind up almost as lopsided as last week. If that does happen, the SEC will take notice — oh, they won’t worry, but they will notice. After back-to-back winless conference seasons, I can’t think of any margin of victory that will cause concern among the SEC.
Enjoy the game. Will has generously offered to do the post-game thread, and I’ll work up a complete postmortem later. I’ll be at Churchill Downs today, but I will be able to see the game and offer a few comments between bets.