The Bluegrass is buzzing ahead of a Big Blue weekend
In my lifetime I can not remember a bigger five days for UK athletics. It all kicks off on Friday night with the final exhibition game for the basketball team. It should be a nice test to prepare the team for the start of the regular season. Truth be told the most exciting thing about the game is that it will serve as the perfect pep rally for one of the biggest football games in UK history. Hopefully they take advantage of the opportunity and do something with the football team or members of it during the basketball game. The crowd would basically go nuts if Benny Snell or some of his teammates came out to pump up the crowd. As for the basketball game itself I expect the team to come out focused on defense. Cal was not pleased with how the Cats defended against Transylvania and this will be a chance for them to improve on that. A 30 point win against a better team than Transy should serve as a perfect way to hype up Big Blue Nation for Saturday.
Speaking of Saturday, it could go down as an epic day in Lexington. Things will kick off with the live filming of the SEC Nation show in front of the library from 10-noon. The show features Paul Finebaum, Laura Rutledge and former Florida great Tim Tebow. With all of the hype about the game I expect there to be a large crowd there to watch it. That will lead in perfectly to the match up with Georgia for the SEC east championship. Yes, you read that correct, the winner of the game wins the SEC east and will play in the SEC championship game in Atlanta. Mark Stoops has gotten Kentucky to a place that many doubted they could get to. Just playing in this game with everything that is on the line is a gigantic victory for Kentucky football.
Merely playing in the game is great and all but the Wildcats are not looking for a moral victory. They are coming to win on Saturday and Big Blue Nation needs to come with the same mentality. None of the “we are just happy to be here” garbage that some may use in an attempt to keep from getting their hopes up too much. No, this is the time to get your hopes up regardless of the cost that could come if they are not met. Kentucky football and its fans have lived in the cellar of the SEC for decades on end. If fans expect this team to act like they belong at the top of the league, then the fans have to do the same thing. If you walk into Kroger Field on Saturday hoping that the Cats keep it respectable, you need to give your ticket away and stay home. Walk in with the expectation of winning this game and cheer like you can make it happen. This team is doing things that could change the trajectory of UK football for years to come, but they need all the help they can get on Saturday.
As for the game itself, Kentucky can win this game. Odds makers have the Cats as nearly a 10 point under dog but they have not favored them in any of their big wins this season. Georgia is a good football team but they have flaws just like Kentucky does. They are shaky against the run which is something that could be a big issue on Saturday. Benny Snell has only been held to less than 90 yards three times this season. After it happened the first two times he bounced back with over 165 yards in each of the following games. I expect him to bounce back with another huge day on Saturday against Georgia. The Wildcats defense is one of the best in the country and they will make life very difficult on the Bulldogs. Josh Allen may be the best defensive player to ever play for Kentucky and he will be able to show it on the biggest stage on Saturday. Despite plenty of criticism, Terry Wilson played his best all-around game last week against Missouri. He threw for 267 yards and looked much more comfortable throwing the football than he ever has. If Kentucky can find the balance between the running game and the passing game I think the offense could take a big step forward. It will be a battle but it is one that Kentucky has the weapons to win.
The final part in the epic five-day stretch will be Kentucky vs Duke in the season opener for college basketball in Indianapolis. It will be one of the most hyped season openers in years because of the teams it features and the fact that both are ranked in the top 4. Some pundits have said that the freshmen class for Duke is possibly the best ever. It is a very good class but personally I do not think it is close to the best ever. For once Kentucky will be the more experienced team in this matchup and that should help them on Tuesday. We will break this down more as the game gets closer but I like Kentucky to win this one.
All in all it adds up to what could go down as a historic stretch in UK sports that will be remembered for years to come. Soak every bit of it in and if you pass someone on the sidewalk great them with a friendly “go cats” because this week we are all Wildcats!