Nearly three months ago, a typist (blush) left unattended in front of a computer keyboard banged out a column in which he attempted his annual prediction of Kentucky’s football fortunes. A quick peek back at it will show that it wasn’t a complete failure, but there were blunders, to be certain. What happens in Knoxville Saturday just might make you forget about all that.
He started by taking dead aim at the fish in the proverbial barrel by picking the Wildcats in their season opener with Central Michigan. But then, wonder of longshot wonders, he predicted a victory for the Cats in Gainesville and an end to that long, miserable losing streak against Florida.
Things weren’t so rosy after that.
What followed, after the perfunctory mention of a win over Murray State, were predictions of three straight conference losses. Kentucky wouldn’t beat Mississippi State, he reasoned, because the Wildcats often struggle with a dual-threat quarterback.
All the Cats did was hold Nick Fitzgerald to 145 yards passing and 20 yards rushing in a 28-7 win, perhaps their most impressive victory to date, given the way the Bulldogs have developed lately into a defensive beast.
A loss to South Carolina would follow, he predicted, because it’s damned tough to beat an SEC team five straight times. Final: 24-10, Kentucky. The Gamecocks will have to wait at least one more season for their revenge.
He nailed the pick on the Texas A&M game, although it’s doubtful that back in August, he ever considered the fact that after 60 grueling, physical minutes, that game would be tied and the home-standing Aggies would need overtime to pull out the win.
When your faithful correspondent predicted success over Vanderbilt, there’s no way he envisioned a contest where the Cats would have to drive 80 yards for the winning score in the fourth quarter, Benny Snell carrying for 74 of them. But it happened and Kentucky rang up another W.
He saw the Georgia loss coming and foretold as much; it didn’t take a genius to realize that even though the Dawgs had lost some talent from the team that pushed Alabama to the brink in last season’s national title game, they were still plenty good enough to contend for the conference title.
What he couldn’t foresee, thanks to the earlier SEC losses he had predicted, was the “All The Marbles” element surrounding the UK-UGA affair – winner goes to Atlanta as the SEC East champion. *Sigh.* At least they had a shot at it.
So, Kentucky now has to find a way to put that disappointment squarely in the rear-view mirror on its way to the Land of the Orange. A 10-win season is still totally within reach, starting with a win over the Volunteers. It would be the first for the Cats in Knoxville since 1984.
For what it’s worth, your humble correspondent, during the steamy days of late August, predicted it would happen. The Vols are still feeling their way under first-year coach Jeremy Pruitt. They’re having as much trouble scoring as the Wildcats are, which is why the experts in the Vegas desert are predicting the two teams will combine for no more than 42 points.
So it might be an ugly affair, but when dusk settles over Rocky Top, it says here the Cats will own their second consecutive win over Tennessee. And THAT hasn’t happened since the Derrick Ramsey-led Wildcats beat UT in both 1976 and ‘77.
It also will be regular season victory number eight. (Your typist predicted a total of seven. Ooops…) State school math tells us Kentucky would need to take both of its final two games to reach the 10-win plateau it so deeply covets.
In August, the seer said those two wins would happen – that the Wildcats would beat both Middle Tennessee AND Louisville. However, there’s no way he could have known of the implosion the Cardinals have suffered this season, dying a little more each Saturday.
A scant 83 days ago, he wrote these words of the UK-U of L matchup: “This just might be a true toss-up, with both teams playing for credibility and bowl slots.”
There will be no post-season play for U of L. That’s one prediction you can count on. As for Kentucky, the Wildcats already have nailed down a bowl slot and they’ve earned their national credibility by pulling off a handful of upsets this season, en route to a Top 15 ranking.
Now, they’re playing for the slice of history that would come with victories totaling in the double digits. They need three more. Number one will happen at Tennessee, Saturday afternoon.
That’s what it says, right here.