Saturday, November 29, 2008
I'd look for a couple of things today. It is almost a foregone conclusion that the Cats will come out flat and dig themselves a hole. We are so used to doing so that if we can somehow stay in the game for the first quarter and a half, things should get interesting. UT will try to hop on us early. I'd look for a trick play, a fake punt, and most of all, I look for UT to go with Eric Berry at QB in a Wildcat package early and often. It has little to lose by going this route since passing has been such a Achilles heel.
I don't see our offense putting up many points so staying close will mean our defense showing up. Jeremy Jarmon is out for the game, which nullifies a lot of our chance to put pressure on a shaky QB. Pity that.
My guess is we will see Mike Hartline in this game at some point. It would help to give him some confidence going into an extra month of practice the whole team could use to get better. If he already has his head elsewhere, this will be a wasted month for him. I am still not sold on Cobb as a fulltime starter, and I don't think Brooks will be inclined to start another true freshman at QB next year.
Finally, I think there is a Lane Kiffin factor at work in this game. Reading between the lines, UT AD Mike Hamilton wanted to wait until after today to announce Kiffin's hiring. At some point this week, Kiffin started trying to hire retread assistants and let the cat out of the bag. I'm sure that the Volunteer players would love to send their coach out a winner. I wonder if the unfortunate timing of the Kiffin announcement will have the team turning the page a couple of days early. One thing is for sure, UT brass and their wonderboy new coach botched this, big time.
On a side note, UK's basketball win makes for a near doubleheader today on ESPN 2. I am not sure if this is a good or bad thing. Time was, our Basketball team did not have to settle for playing at midnight to get a game onto ESPNU and not even getting to play on the flagship station for a tournament final.
Friday, November 28, 2008
My long drive and visit with the people here has convinced me of one thing. I'd never want to live anywhere other than the south. There are a lot of reasons. I think you know one of them. Free babysitting. But one other is the college football.
I view this weekend's SEC slate with a different perspective. After all, I am in Alabama during the Iron Bowl and surrounded by my wife's rabid LSU fan uncles and cousins. Should make it fun. Lets look at some of the games, starting with today's.
Ole Miss and Mississippi State face off in the Egg Bowl at 12:30. As rivalry games go, this one doesn't have much sizzle. Yet, the game has been played 104 times since 1901, and seen its share of fun. Last year, Mississippi entered the fourth quarter up 14-0 only to crumble and lose 17-14, putting the final nail in coach Ed Orgeron's coffin. Now the tables are turned. Sylvester "The Walrus" Croom is on the hot seat, though last week's win against Arkansas may have kept the wolves at bay for now.
Incidentally, was there ever a coach in more over his head than Orgeron? He should be a cautionary tale for any AD looking to quick fix his football program by hiring the "hot coordinator". Ole Miss got it right, from a football standpoint at least, this time. In contrast, I don't think Croom is in over his head, I just think he has a difficult job. The few remaining Rich Brooks detractors should think about how hard it is for MSU to string together even two decent seasons before poo pooing what Brooks has done here.
Today should be a coronation. Ole Miss hasn't been to a Bowl since the Cotton following the 2003 season. It plays for a return trip today. The Rebs have won four straight, including a beatdown of LSU last week. Jevan Snead is the real deal and should be throwing it all over the yard today. Speaking of Jevan, I'm glad to see he is now on Bill Simmons' Reggie Cleveland All-Stars list. I saw Ole Miss play for the first time about three weeks ago, and lets just say I was floored when I saw Jevan for the first time. If you don't know what I am saying, click the link.
Arkansas heads to LSU today for a 2:30 CBS kickoff. I'll dub this one the "Our former coaches are now coaching better SEC teams" Bowl. Let me reiterate that the family reunion is lousy with LSU fans. Ryan Perrilloux has been roundly cursed all weekend. Jenni's Uncle Fred put it best; "someone handed the kid the keys to the castle and he decided he didn't want them". I am not sure that LSU would have contended for the SEC title with Ryan, but I do know that terrible quarterback play has completely undone what should have been a very good team. Parenthetically, I've refrained from mentioning the five picks I saw Perriloux throw in a Division 1AA game a month or two back. Uncle Fred had another good take on LSU's season, "everyone, I don't care who you are, lets up a little bit after a national championship. Even Saban did it."
Arkansas has two quarterbacks named Dick and a coach that is one. Geoux Tigers!
Jesus, this is longer than I planned. Look what happens when I actually have time to write. Let's move to the two big SEC games on Saturday. (I'll have a UK-UT specific post out later today or Friday.)
Florida at Florida State. As between the Tide and the Gators, Florida has the tougher test leading up to the SEC Championship Game. If Urban Meyer's squad wasn't playing so out of this world, I'd hesitate to even call this a stumble game. Florida State is 8-3 and still playing for a lot. If Boston College loses to Maryland, FSU heads to the ACC Championship game. Playing at home against a team it hasn't beaten in several years, they should be out for blood. Still, I cannot see this being a great game. FSU dual threat QB Christian Ponder has had some good numbers against ACC defenses, but I don't see him getting off against Florida's. They'll put up some points, but won't be able to handle the Gator's team speed or Mr. Tebow. 42-21 sounds about right.
Auburn at Alabama. In contrast, this is a true stumble game. Auburn needs to believe that you can throw out the records when blah blah blah, because that is the only chance it has to win this. If you watch ESPN, you know Auburn has won this game six straight times. Here is another amazing streak of 6. ALABAMA HAS NEVER WON THIS GAME IN TUSCALOOSA, another 6-0 blanking that dates back to 18 freakin 95 (for 90 years, this game was played in Birmingham). As far as the current win streak goes, it is important to note that only twice did Alabama come into this game with a better team (2002 and 2005) and both times it was only marginally better. So the streak is only an indication of how far the Tide program fell in recent years. It is safe to say they are back. Is this the best team in college football? Probably not. But on November 28th, it controls its own destiny, the only D1 team that can truly say that. Lets also not forget, this game has Shreveport implications for our beloved Cats. ROLL TIDE!
Without going into every other game, here are a couple of things to look for as far as Bowl implications. A Vandy win over Wake combined with a South Carolina loss to Clemson might muddy the waters for the Outback Bowl. An LSU win combined with an Mississippi State upset over Ole Miss would send LSU to the Cotton Bowl, and could freefall the Rebs all the way to the Liberty if other things broke wrong.
Hope everyone had a good Turkey day. Enjoy the long weekend.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Some columnists are making noise that the Tennessee job may scare top coaches away. Expectations are high, and the SEC East is a hornet's nest to step into. You are the AD. What is your pitch?
Tennessee has the biggest stadium, the best facilities in the country, is the only national program in the SEC (defined as playing a national schedule and recruiting as such), and plays in the best conference in America. So Tennessee recruits itself. Now, that doesn't mean a coach won't have to work hard to get the best players, but we don't need to turn water into wine here. We just need to point out what already exists. If any coach can't see that pretty quickly then I don't think they need to be in Knoxville.
Despite the letdown against Wyoming, Phil Fulmer reportedly has the support/sympathy of his team and many at the school. What is Volunteer nation's overall feeling?
Phil Fulmer is a fatherlike figure. Watching him cry at the press conference was like watching your dad cry. People are sympathetic and like him. But they don't like him enough to keep losing to Florida. I think the vast majority of fans felt like it was time for a change.
It cannot be explained by superior talent alone or else UK would have many such streaks, so how exactly does a school beat another 23 years in a row?
I have a ton of UK friends who are my age (29) and can't even remember a time when UK beat Tennessee. Neither can I. Three things jump out at me about this streak:
1. Tennessee is typically better. How many times out of these 23 games has Kentucky been favored? Maybe once (2007 by a point or so, I can't remember but I know that line was close)...maybe not at all. Compare that to how many times UT has been a double-digit favorite. 2. Tennessee, perhaps more importantly, is typically deeper. By the time this game gets played in late November (for most of these years it was the final game of the season for both teams) attrition has eliminated some of UK's best players. I think the scheduling differential exacerbates the talent differential. (ed:this is a crazy good point)
3. There's something to be said for the idea of losing not entering into UT's players heads. Psychologically they expect to win and don't even think they might lose. In a close game this can be pretty significant.
Who is the one player Cats should ought to fear the most?
Eric Berry. I think he's the best defensive player in the country. He plays defense and he might be UT's best offensive threat this season. Even while playing defense. This is not hyperbole. If he gets a pick against the Cats he'll set the all-time record for NCAA interception return yards. As a sophomore. He's a Heisman candidate next year if UT has a decent season. I really believe that.
UT looked good manhandling bowl bound Vandy on Saturday, which has me wondering; was this season's failure the result of a lack of talent, schematic problems, or just an unfortunate series of events? Even as a huge UCLA fan (I went there for undergrad) I have to say that was the flukeiest loss a team could have. Did that game just set a bad tone that the Vols couldn't shake?
Looked good? Would we have had to pass for 15 yards instead of 21 to look bad? I thought our offense looked positively antediluvian. Each week we've gotten worse on offense.
You're right though, the UCLA loss was crushing. In particular because I think Jonathan Crompton never settled down and played like UT expected him to play at quarterback. From then on he was pressing.
Talent isn't the issue. Dave Clawson's offense is. UT's defense has played well enough to win the SEC. Truly. The offense has not played well enough to win a state football championship. As a result Dave Clawson's offense has to go down in history, and I truly believe this, as one of the most epic failures in SEC coaching history. This is an offense that was one of the tops in the league last season and returned everyone: the whole line, the top six receivers, the top three running backs. The only change was Erik Ainge leaving. No one foresaw this offensive failure. No one.
A weird year in the SEC, with few traditional powers having down years. Was this truly a down year, or just a testament to how much better Florida, Georgia and Alabama were than everyone else?
I think what we're seeing is that as the SEC becomes more NFL-like in terms of top to bottom competition (everyone keeps getting better) each year. So quarterback play, just like the NFL, becomes more important than ever and determines who is truly good. Look at the SEC this year. Alabama, Florida, Ole Miss, and Georgia all have proven/good quarterbacks. After that there's a tremendous drop-off. The bottom 8 teams in the league have the worst quarterbacks in my memory and as a result those teams have looked bad at times. Next year could be really strange since Jevan Snead may be the only person coming back who is proven. Does that make Ole Miss an early favorite in the SEC West? Amazingly, yes.
Have you had a chance to visit Lexington in October since your book was written? You really should.
No, I haven't. I've been on the road now for three consecutive seasons. 2006 for Dixieland Delight, 2007 for the book tour, 2008 for the new one that I'm writing, On Rocky Top, and now I'll be on the road again, probably, for the book tour in 2009. So the fall has been pretty tight. I'll get up there sometime. I promise. Keeneland is calling.
Admit it, even as a UT fan, doesn't Rocky Top sometimes get old?
No, never. Every time I hear it, the hair stands up on the back of my arms and I'm ready to run through a brick wall. It never gets old. At least not for me. Now the girly wooo that has emerged? Well, sometimes that can get old.
Monday, November 24, 2008
How could this happen? Its not likely but let's look. Six conference champions plus Utah will assuredly play in the BCS. Right now, the other three teams would be the SEC Championship Game loser, a second team from the Big 12, and USC. A conference cannot send more than two teams, so there are several eligible (top 14 in BCS) teams right now that will not make it. The teams that could conceivably take a spot from an at-large candidate listed above are Ohio State, Boise State and TCU. Economics dictate that the Mid-major teams are out. So, basically Ohio State, at 10-2 and done for the year, is the only team that could upset the apple cart.
If Florida and Alabama get through this weekend unscathed, smooth sailing. A loss by one would not, of itself do the trick. Assuming that one team loses this weekend, but wins the SEC Championship, that team would go to the BCS Championship and the Sugar Bowl would probably still pick the other. If Florida were to lose out, it would be 10-3 and conceivably ranked behind Ohio State. Would the BCS take a three loss at-large team? It did last year, Illinois. That is the only time it has happened, though. I should also note that an Oregon State loss to Oregon would slide USC into the Pac-10 slot and, because Oregon State is not an at-large candidate, open up a spot. The SEC has yet another out, in that Georgia would still be sitting at a likely 10-2 and inside the top 14. A lot would have to happen for the SEC not to get 2 teams in.
The bottom line is to cheer for Florida and the Tide next weekend, eat some turkey, and book those Music City Bowl tickets. The scary part of this discussion? Whether UK wins or loses this week will probably make no difference in its fate. This is information a team that has come out flat in its last two games would be better off without.
More as the week progresses.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Clay coined the genius phrase "Bama Bangs". Bama Bangs are the Trumpesque hairdo sported most famously by Alabama QB John Parker Wilson, but originally brought to prominance by Wilson's little brother Ross and his Hoover High School teammates in the killer first season of MTV's reality show Two-A-Days.
In any event, I look forward to getting Clay's take on the SEC season, the upcoming game, and Tennessee's year.
Raycom has UT-Vandy, which began at 12:30. I am actually more interested in watching this than I am the UK-Delaware State basketball game. (UK looks good, up big at half. They've finally found a team they can beat it looks like). Vandy is looking for gravy after clinching a postseason shot for the first time in 26 years. A win and they go into next week's game at Wake Forest with a good chance at the Chick-Fil-A Bowl and an outside chance at the Outback. This game has a couple of implications for UK. Vandy is solidly above UK in the pecking order after last weekend's win. That can only change if Vandy loses out and UK manages to beat UT next week. Conversely, it will be interesting to see how the Vols come out today. Obviously, it looked like they folded the tent last week with a loss to Wyoming. UT throwing in another stinkbomb would auger well for our chances next week.
The SEC game of the week kicks off on CBS at 3:30 with Ole Miss visiting LSU. For a couple of weeks now it there has been no fluctuation at the top of the SEC bowl picture. I haven't posted full predictions recently, in part, to avoid sounding like a broken record. Ala. and Florida to the BCS, Georgia to Capital One, LSU to Cotton, South Carolina to Outback. Ole Miss has a chance to insinuate itself into the picture today. The Rebs have won three straight, and LSU has not exactly struck fear in the hearts of men recently. An Ole Miss win would effectively take UK out of the Chick-Fil-A picture.
Florida host The Citadel. Nice scheduling guys.
Arkansas heads to Mississippi State in a game not even ESPNU would touch. Sylvester Croom looked like he had turned things around last year for the Bulldogs, finishing 8-5 with a win in the Liberty Bowl. Now he is fighting for his job. A loss here would be a nail in the coffin. Arkansas is still playing for a chance at a bowl, at 4-6 with LSU coming to town next week. A Mississippi State win today would guarantee UK its now all but guaranteed third straight bowl.
As I hit send, UT and Vandy are in a scoreless tie early in the second quarter. Tennessee is knocking on the door with 1st and 10 at the Vandy 11.
Enjoy your weekend.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
1. UK might be 6-6. South Carolina was 6-6 last year and didn't get to go to a bowl. We may not go to a bowl. Here are all of the things that would have to happen for UK to not go to a bowl this year. Auburn beats Alabama on November 29th. Arkansas wins out by beating Mississippi State on the road and LSU at home. The SEC does not get two schools into BCS bowls for the first time ever. One of those things could happen. Two would be incredibly unlikely. Three would be like Joe Bob Briggs' third jackpot in Casino, which ultimately led to Sam's downfall. The odds against it are infinitesimal. It just cannot happen.
2. The Music City Bowl will not take UK for a third straight year. Hogwash. This isn't about spreading the wealth or getting bored. It isn't even about what the teams in the SEC want. Its about money. Making some pretty standard assumptions about the close of the season, chances are the Chick-Fil-A Bowl will be picking between Vandy and Ole Miss. Whoever is left will likely be in a Liberty/Music City hotchpot with UK. Oxford, Mississippi is an hour and a half from Memphis. You cannot throw a rock in Memphis without hitting an Ole Miss grad. The Liberty will have a clear preference for them. Conversely, it is unlikely that the Music City Bowl would want Vanderbilt for its game. They'd be leaving so many hotel rooms open that bowl committee members would not be able to show their faces at Nashville charity events or masquerade parties where the piano players play blindfolded for a year. Actually, that is not a well constructed joke since no one shows his face at a masquerade party. Anywho. . . . .
None of this is to say that UK is really a lock for the Music City Bowl. Other things could happen. If Auburn or Arkansas get bowl eligible, things get dicey. Auburn is admittedly a long shot. Arkansas, one never knows. It should win next week against Miss. St. A home date at LSU ends the season. Don't forget, if Arkansas doesn't upset LSU in triple overtime in the last week of last year's SEC regular season, UK is probably in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Arkansas obviously doesn't have the team it did last year, but then again, neither does LSU. If Arkansas wins out and we end up losing to UT, that could be our ticket to Shreveport.
Also, I could be overestimating the extent to which the Music City would be repelled by Vandy. It has a national reputation and alumni spread out all over. Maybe the city would see the team's first bowl in 26 years and some sort of super homecoming. We'll see.
3. Billy Gillespie coaches basketball. A total fallacy. I'm watching ten talented guys on the floor, five of whom appear to run an offense, talk to one another, play defense and avoid committing silly turnovers for fear of being taken out of the game. The other five, not so much. One of these teams has been practicing together for a month. The other seems like a group of guys who met at the gym and called next. I digress.
On a final note, since I predicted the final record of every SEC final team three weeks ago I am a whopping 17-1 on picking games involving an SEC team. The only miss I have is UT's loss to Wyoming. It is all written down on a sheet. If you don't believe me, you can glean most of my close picks by reviewing that post.
Music City v. Wake
Music City v. Florida State
Liberty v. Tulsa
Liberty v. Houston
Chick-Fil-A v. North Carolina
Monday, November 17, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
There were complications, though. My friend Joe talked me into transferring to L31 to fill a requirement we both needed to graduate. We started in an upper division Stats class that would have fit the bill, but left when a group of students in the 20 person class laughed and asked what we were doing there. We walked out before the German TA who taught the class showed up. The Stats class, for all its perceived difficulty and faults, met at 2:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It had final quarter senior appeal.
In contrast, L31 this was a MWF8 class, the likes of which I'd never before fathomed scheduling. Since every weekend at UCLA started on Thursday, Joe and I took it as given that we would attend no Friday classes. We would instead buy cute but studious A-Chi-O Julie C. coffee every Monday and Wednesday in exchange for Friday note taking. Unfortunately, most of my weekends at the time started on Monday, and I didn't make any 8 am classes, let alone those on Friday. Joe bought a lot of coffee that quarter. UCLA, for all its virtues, was not exactly an attendance requiring campus environment.
We soon learned logic was not a class you could BS your way through, which is to say it was outside my major. Tests consisted of 3-4 proofs, requiring 30-50 steps, and there was no partial credit. You either executed a proof correctly, or you got a zero for the problem. My first quiz yielded a zero. My second was not much better. With a week left to go in the quarter, I was practicing my $5000 speech to my parents about how I had to go back to LA for three months to finish school with no real plan for lodging. To take one class. Not good times.
Tomorrow the Cats face their Logic 31. Vandy is reeling. We are playing for the choicest rewards our budding program ever gets. The game is at home, on national television. Our crowd may be more sparse than usual, but at 8pm with all this on the line, it will be oiled and loud. VANDY LOST TO DUKE AT HOME TWO WEEKS AGO. Kentucky has finally shown some signs of life on offense, and with Randall Cobb at the helm should be able to move the ball and put points on the scoreboard.
In short, this should be a chip shot. But when a chip shot comes with a host of ramifications, it becomes much more than a chip shot. This is Logic 31, a small but thorny obstacle that has ruinous potential.
Strangely, these teams were in the exact same position a year ago when the game was played in Nashville. The Cats had six wins and were trying to improve their lot. Vandy was looking for a bowl eligibility attaining win. (You may have heard Vandy is 0-17 in such games since 1982). The game was ugly, physical, and chippy. We won, but having been there, I concede the game could have gone either way. Tomorrow will be nothing less. Yes, Vandy has lost four in a row. But Bobby Johnson isn't coaching a bunch of preppies who are going to concede this game. This will be a nasty, scrappy team. This team has beaten Auburn and South Carolina at home, and Ole Miss on Oxford. Lets face it, Vandy has three wins better than any one of ours.
In the beginning of the year, I counted Vandy as a win and hoped that we could split what I thought were the 4 "tossup" games. Now we've gone 3/4 on the tossups (Go Cats), and I want gravy. Despite its early season success, Vandy is who we thought they were. Lets get after it.
By the way, I passed Logic 31 with a hook plus and did not have to sleep in my car the following quarter (the long story is amusing). I have to think the Cats can do the same.
We'll be in the KET lot tomorrow. Starting early to stay warm. Go Cats!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
If Bennett's name sounds familiar, here's why. A two time head coach in the NFL, he played football at UK under both Blanton Collier and Charlie Bradshaw, and was later an assistant for Bradshaw's infamous Thin Thirty team of 1962. (I didn't know this when I got up this morning, thanks Google). This leads me to wonder, could this guy have not lobbed us a bone last year?
Reading between the lines, it looks like UK is a/the front runner to take the SEC spot, but only if it takes care of business. He calls the UK-Vandy game the biggest on the selection committee's board this week.
Is there a better gig out there than being a bowl "scout"? Let's face it, 98% of a bowl committee's decisions are dicated by records, well established economics, and most importantly, the selections made by the games ahead of them in the pecking order. Yet, as we speak, fatcat businessmen all over the country are flying to great college football games and getting the hardcore VIP on someone else's nickle. Do they come back to meetings and say things like, "Bob, their crowd was really into this one. Plus, seeing Randall Cobb in person tells me more about the Cats than I could tell watching the game in my living room. I met several people who'll stay at the Ritz and eat at Morton's every night. I see dollar signs with these UK folks, Bob. I'm telling you, getting the Cats down here would be a great call". C'mon.
I'm not naive. These trips are about schmoozing with the ADs and University Presidents, not about "scouting". Still, being a bowl scout is a fatter boondoggle than being a summer associate in a large law firm. Which is to say, it is quite fat.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
This is the Saturday after Thanksgiving and I will be in Gulf Shores, Al, with family. Assuming the game is not on national TV, I'm screwed out loud. My game experience will be limited to ESPN.com's deliberately outdated (to get you to pay Insider dollars) updates and an occasional scrolled tidbit from a below average ACC crapfest I don't care about.
Before you say "Raycom", forget it. Raycom is committed to the Egg Bowl in Oxford the day before. The heretofore mediocre but reliable network will have no Saturday telecast. CBS will televise the Iron Bowl, with what we hope will be an Alabama over Auburn SEC West coronation. Any other SEC telecast on the 29th will originate from the ESPN family of networks, and is totally discretionary. The SEC competes with all manner of other conferences for what games will be televised. The odds of our potentially irrelevant game getting prime consideration are shorter than Seth Greene.
If you thrive on trying to figure these kinds of things out, but have a life (I know, these venn diagrams don't actually meet), this becomes a problem. As much as I love to keep up with the SEC, keeping up with everyone else is impossible. I have no way to handicap whether this game will be on TV so that I can watch it. Given what might be on the line that day (or night, who knows) this is completely unacceptable. The best resource when faced with this dilemma is a random LSU blog that shows all nationally televised games and those yet to be picked up. I have to give this guy credit. He does his homework. If nothing else, this blog gives me a framework from which to base silly assumptions. That's good enough.
Hopefully UK beats Vandy this weekend, setting up a UK at Tennessee mercy fest on ESPN2 at 8pm on the 29th, riding bitch to UVa.-VaTech on the primary network. It must help that it will be Fulmer's last game.
These are the things an obsessive Cat fan can think about, in addition to contemplating the waxing of Vandy's candy ass.
UK is coming off of 6 good offensive quarters, a good showing against a ranked team, and is at home. Hopefully overconfidence is not an issue. The fact is, if UK does beat Vandy this weekend, it will stand as the season's signature win.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
If this doesn't materialize, the SEC could have only 7 teams in the mix, after having 10 last year. This would cause a lot of hand wringing among bowl committees, and would leave either the Music City or Liberty without an SEC team. Enough about the poor SEC, lets talk about the fortunate Cats.
Quick and dirty fresher course. Assuming the SEC has two teams in BCS games, the #3 SEC team goes to the Capital One Bowl, #4 and 5 to the Cotton and Outback Bowls. The Chick-Fil-A Bowl gets the next team. The Music City and Liberty then co-exist with the #7 and #8 picks. The Independence Bowl gets #9 and Pizza Web Site Bowl the tenth and final. If there are not enough teams bowl eligible, these bowls are SOL, and it appears this year they will be.
Only eight bowl teams means that even if UK does not win another game, Shreveport and Birmingham are out of play. If the seventh and eighth spots are held by UK and either Vandy or Mississippi, we'll be back in Music City. Geography. Vandy in Nashville might fill seats, but not hotels and restaurants. Ole Miss is an hour and half from Memphis, so they'd be the clear Liberty Bowl play.
If there is no eighth team and we are the seventh team, we would have our choice between the Liberty and Music City, in theory. However, the Liberty Bowl pays out $200,000 more to the conference of each of its participants. I am not clear on whether the decision would therefore be made for us by the Southeastern Conference.
Assuming Florida, Georgia, Alabama, LSU and South Carolina have the top five spots wrapped up, our competition for a spot in the Chick-Fil-A bowl is Ole Miss. Neither team really has the inside track. At 5-4 and 3-3 in the conference, the Rebels would seem to have the easier path to seven wins, but a tougher road to eight. This week Lousiana-Monroe comes to Oxford. The Rebs finish the season at LSU, then at home in the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State. So, barring an upset one way or another, Mississippi should finish 7-5. Oxford and Lexington are about the same distance from Atlanta. If the teams finish with identical records, Ole Miss will have a better SEC record by one game. On the other hand, Atlanta is the city most familiar with the level of fan support Kentucky brings. The Bowl Committee knows this.
The only other school in the mix for the Chick-Fil-A is Vandy, which could still finish 8-4. Provided we win Saturday, they are for sure in the rearview mirror.
If you dare to dream, a scenario could get us into the Outback Bowl. First, UK would need to win out. Given that Vandy and UT have combined to win one game in the last month, this is certainly not outside the realm. Then, the crosshairs fall on South Carolina. The Cocks are 7-3 with games remaining at Florida and Clemson. Clemson is a mess with no head coach, but did win at Boston College two weeks ago. Since South Carolina beat us head to head, it would probably need to lose both games for us to have a realistic chance at the bid. We would then have identical conference records, our overall record would be better by a game, yet USC would hold the head to head trump card. The Cats would be coming off two wins, the Gamecocks, two losses.
Music City v. Georgia Tech
Music City Bowl v. Miami (Fla.)
Chick-Fil-A v. Florida State
Chick-Fil-A v. Wake Forest
Chick-Fil-A v. North Carolina
The plot has thickened and the plot is this: UK is in a race with Mississippi to get to Catlanta on New Year's Eve. Much, much more shortly.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
* Yes, I was disappointed. I was Catatonic for a good fifteen minutes after the game. There are no more moral victories for UK football fans. After beating the No. 1 team in the country last year, we have to assume that all games are winnable. Especially when we play at home. This sucked, there is no question.
* That said, some might be tempted to deem the turnover with :46 seconds left, on the opponent's fifteen yard line "old Kentucky". I beg to differ. We didn't lose that game, Georgia won it. Demarcus Dobbs is 6'2" and 266 lbs. He jumped two feet in the air and intercepted a pass with one hand. Dude made a play.
*Watching Randall Cobb break down on the sideline after throwing the fateful pick was nothing short of heartbreaking. If UK did not have Randall Cobb on the roster, it would have lost that game by 30 points. Chin up kid.
*The Rich Brooks embrace of Cobb after this play encapsulates why college football is king. Right now, there are regular season NBA highlights flashing across my TV. How could a sports fan care about a regular season NBA game with scenes like this playing themselves out across the country each weekend?
*The story of the game was the scoreboard. How in the world did we score so many points? How could we do so and not win?
*As usual, my pregame prediction was blown out of the water by halftime. Still, I had one angle of the game right, i.e. that we would struggle to cover both AJ Green and Mohamed Massaquoi with Trevard Lindley. Since Trevard was out for the whole second half we could not cover either one of them. This was the difference in the game.
*The stakes were a lot smaller, but Stafford to Green with two minutes left did look eerily like "The Catch".
*Now we know how Arkansas fans felt three weeks ago. As Bill Simmons says, this was a stomach punch game.
*A perhaps unfair rhetorical question surfaces this evening. What would our record be if Cobb had started at quarterback from the outset?
*Who is the freshman of the year in the SEC? Julio Jones and AJ Green are amazing receivers. They've put up good numbers. If I already had John Parker Wilson or Matthew Stafford on my roster, I'd pick from those guys in a heartbeat. With the Kentucky Football roster as it otherwise is, there is no guy I'd rather have shown up on campus this year than Randall Cobb.
*Tennessee's loss to Wyoming ensures a losing record, no bowl, and consequently that UK's trip to Neyland later this month will be Phil Fulmer's last game as Tennessee's coach. We would be the favorite if that game were played tomorrow. Knowing that a great many Vols fans are still in national championship winning Fulmer's corner, the finale will be an emotional day in Knoxville. Even if they throw in the towel at Vandy in two weeks (as they apparently did today), expect UT to be ready to play on the 29th.
*UT's loss, combined with Arkansas losing to USC, mean that mathematically no more than 10 SEC teams can get to a bowl this year. So, we've clinched a third straight bowl. If anyone gives you the "six wins doesn't mean we are necessarily in a bowl" crap this week, direct them to me.
*I can no longer project a loss to Vandy. Could we lose? Sure. But a betting man would go with the Cats, Cobb, and the pony backfield.
*Right now, I can find no reliable information on whether Lindley's injury will impact next week or the rest of the season. I'll assume that no news is good news.
*Alabama took care of business. The now set in stone SEC Championship will, barring an upset in the interim, be a de facto national semifinal. Penn State losing was a big relief.
*Your friendly UK Football blogger is searching for a parking pass for next week's game.
For the second soul killing day this year, I am missing a home SEC game. As with South Carolina, this was my own decision based on family goings on. So, I'll be checking it out on Raycom.
The game today really boils down to the Cats being able to contain the Bulldogs on defense. We are likely to end up with somewhere between 7 and 13 points. Our chance to win the game is if Georgia does too and somehow its number is less than ours. Georgia presents some problems for the Cats. With stud freshman AJ Green and steady senior Mohamed Massaquoi, Georgia basically has two All SEC caliber receivers. Trevard Lindley cannot cover both, so the rest of the UK secondary will spend the day in the crosshairs. I haven't mentioned Knowshon Moreno yet. Knowshon has had 7 good games this year and two bad ones. Not coincidentally, Georgia sits at 7-2.
Earlier this season, Georgia found the end zone only once in a 14-7 win at South Carolina, a game that could have gone either way. Moreno and Stafford both had decent numbers, but there were no home runs. If we can make tackles today and not allow any long plays, I think we have a chance in this game.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
For a B game during that time slot, the theoretical running diary blogger could check out another upset special/toe stub tilt, Ohio State and #24 Northwestern. How NW could be in the Top 25, having lost to Indiana two weeks ago, is anyone's guess. But hey, there it is. What will we be missing during that hour? Arkansas trying to keep it's bowl chances alive by upsetting South Carolina. You want more? There is also Tennessee testing its fight or flight response with what was intended to be a guarantee game at home against Wyoming. These games, alas, are not on television. Seriously, ESPNU could not have picked up the Ark-USC game?
Of course, 3:30 brings the CBS- SEC game of the week, Alabama at LSU. I had this game circled from day one in the SEC season, thinking that LSU would have the leg up in the West because it got to play this game at home. Of course, Alabama is still undefeated, and LSU now has two losses, including at home to Georgia a mere two weeks ago. So this didn't work out the way I planned. Still, this game has huge SEC and National Championship implications. If Alabama wins out, it will be in the BCS Championship game. A loss here would put it on the bubble, almost completely out of the picture. Win or lose, chances are Bama is playing Florida in the SEC Championship game. Should Alabama lose this Saturday, it would not only constrict its own chances of playing for a national title, but conceivably Florida's as well. In the human polls, an 12-1 Florida team might need the push of having beaten a #1 to get to the promise land, especially if Penn State wins out and Texas does the same, culminating with a win in the Big-12 Championship game. LSU could sink the whole ship at 3:30.
For a 3:30 B game, how about a match between UK's last 2 Music City Bowl opponents, both of whom could be back in there against us this year? Florida State ostensibly has a full compliment of players back, not cheating on Internet tests, and is 6-2. Clemson is a disappointing 4-4, but like several marginal ACC teams, could get bowl eligible and more with this game, Duke and South Carolina at home, and a trip to UVa still on the slate.
Of course, the second most important game of the day involves UCLA hosting Oregon State on Fox Sports Pacific (I get this on Insight, do you?) at 6pm est. If my 3-5 Bruins can pull this one off, a bowl is within reach. I'll spare you southeasterners the further details.
To tide a blogger over at 7 is a Big East contest with Cincinnati heading to West Virginia. The Big East is interesting. Barely a major conference, its eight members get to play 5 non-conference games. By this time in the season, when most conference races are crystallizing, the Big East remains a free for all. Half the teams have only played three in-conference games. Cinci had a huge home win against then #23 South Florida last week. Things will get tougher against the Big East's only undefeated in conference team in Morgantown.
The marquis game of the day pits #9 Oklahoma State at #2, and newly anointed flavor of the week, Texas Tech on ABC at 8. We'll see how Texas Tech does as a frontrunner and how good of a team T. Boone Pickens has bought himself at OSU. Needless to say, this is the first in a series of Big 12 games that have big implications for the National Championship and of course, the SEC chances of getting a team into it.
If this game gets boring (Texas Tech might run them out of the yard) I'd check on the Vandy at Florida joint on the Deuce. Watching Vandy get spanked might give me some good vibes for next week. If you are Catholic, or just like shitty football, I suppose you could check out Notre Dame at Boston College on ESPN during this time slot. But if you didn't go to one of these schools, and still choose to watch this, I reserve the right to ride you unmercifully.
A running diary for 12 hours of football is an ambitious thing. It would take an absolute warrior to pull it off.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
I am a little disappointed in me here. The Bowl Projections and weekly game previews are too easy to fall back on, and I'm certainly less humorous than usual while discussing a topic I'm surprisingly passionate about. Somehow I can find humor in fighting with jackasses about six figures of other people's money, but not in a game involving a "ball" that isn't round. Weird. My excuse is a lack of spare time occasioned by a demanding day job. My wife has been really good about giving me space to do this, but the time is still limited.
In any event, thanks for reading, and I'm about to redouble my efforts.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Music City v. Virginia
Music City v. Miami (Fl.)
Music City v. Virginia
Chick-Fil-A v. North Carolina
Chick-Fil-A v. North Carolina
Some interesting picks. Right now, there are 6 SEC teams in the mix, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, South Carolina and UK. With games against Louisiana Monroe and Mississippi State still to play, and five wins, Ole Miss is a virtual lock. No one else is a sure thing. Many of these predictions have only one other team, either Vandy or Tennessee, making it. That would suck for the SEC, which would leave two bowl slots unfilled. Vandy would appear to be in the best shape, needing only one more win. Tennessee would need to win out. I predicted a week ago that it would do so. This was before today's announcement that Fulmer would step down at the end of the year. UT could react to this in one of two ways. Here is hoping it chooses to go into the tank, culminating in a season ending home loss.
I hear Tampa is nice this time of year.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
More about how proud I am of this team, that could just as easily be 3-6, tomorrow.