By Ira D. Combs
Tri State Sports Media Services Inc.
Normally, when you come off back-to-back two-win seasons, you are rarely involved in what is called a “Trap Game” by the coaches and media especially at Kentucky just four games into the season.
However, it is Kentucky where its large and blindly loyal fan-base Big Blue Nation has a history of taking its football team from the outhouse to the penthouse in just a couple of weeks.
The Cats are coming off an open week (which historically is also bad news for UK) plus after arguably the team's most gut-wrenching difficult loss since the “LSU Hail Mary Game” and then add the fact that the opponent is Vanderbilt, which is glaringly obvious the Commodores have regressed from recent historical success by biblical proportions to the point they had to scratch and claw to beat UMass at home. If that’s not enough to set the scene for Saturday's 12:00 noon kickoff (SEC TV Network), then throw in the fact that UK is one play away from being 3-0, and one of the most discussed surprises in college football to date, and you have folks what the coaches call the classic “Trap Game” for UK football, something they haven’t experienced in quite some time.
Now UK has not only all the above to consider but the next week after Vandy is a very beatable still highly-ranked South Carolina team and what would be sweater than to be 4-1 with only Louisiana Monroe standing in front of a 5-1 mid-season record.
If you don’t think the just mentioned scenario isn’t floating thru a few minds this week across the Commonwealth and at the Nutter Training Center, then you’re a very naïve sports fan, and Mark Stoops and his coaching staff has the week to change that mind set and put a more respectable mind set in the UK players' heads of the Vanderbilt Commodores.
To add even more uniqueness to this particular game is the fact that the next three games on the schedule are in the friendly confines of CWS (Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Louisiana Monroe) and the Cats will undoubtedly be favored in two of them and the other game with South Carolina all of a sudden doesn’t seem so invincible with the quick advancing development of this young UK football roster and South Carolina’s so far to date inept defense and special teams.
So UK better make hay during this first half stretch as the old saying goes because the light at the end of the second half regular season tunnel is a hard-charging locomotive stocked full of SEC Top 25 studs LSU, Georgia and now the Mississippi State Bulldogs, who just may be the Kingpin of the SEC West when all is said and done plus the year-ending blood baths with rivals UT and Louisville.
Now here is where I kind of contradict myself from comments earlier in the column when I preached about this Saturday being a “Trap Game.” In my humble opinion, this UK roster is finally set up to handle a little bit of star gazing because they finally have some playmakers, especially on offense, and are developing some each game defensively as well. I think this team will run the table on this upcoming three-game homestand because they are basically better across the line on both sides than Vandy & ULM both.
As for “The Old Ball Coach” and his gimpy “Gamecocks,” I think CWS and Big Blue Nation will be the difference in that game plus they may just be the most overrated team in the nation. Spurrier basically said that himself in his post-game comments at Vandy. You don’t lose six starters to the NFL and keep on keeping on especially on the road in the SEC, eventually the competition will show your weaknesses like A&M did and Vandy almost did. That’s why I see UK football setting at 5-1 heading into the second half of the 2014 college football season.
Now that second half, well as an old wily mountain coach by the name of Doyle Troutman used to say “the jelly is spread a little thicker,” better strap up a little tighter and hang on.
October Shaping Up For Special Month Both In Ky. And Across South
One of the special things that UK football has always brought to the Commonwealth sports fan is those beloved Saturdays when we can all visit the Keeneland race track on a beautiful fall afternoon and then take in a UK football game during the evening hours, that is, when the TV and SEC executives don’t spoil the party with 12:00 noon kickoffs. However, surely with the new UK football picture and with UK opponents the first & last Saturday of October being Top 25 teams the kickoffs for those games will be in the late evening prime time slots, won’t they?
You never know when TV money is the culprit but I’m betting the South Carolina and Mississippi State games will be late Saturday evening kickoffs, if not Saturday night, and undoubtedly will be two of the top three largest crowds of the season at CWS. The largest crowd at CWS will be the Georgia game in November because they historically bring more fans than anyone other than possibly UT and Louisville which both are away this year.
New college football AP poll for this week has eight SEC teams ranked in first 17 slots of Top 25 with six of the eight teams being from the SEC Western division. Only Missouri is not involved and they were in Top 25 for two of the first three weeks. I can’t see Alabama & Auburn both being undefeated when they meet in the Iron Bowl this year as Western division is just to big of a gauntlet to run thru unscathed even for those two SEC kingpins.
You can go online to www.combsbrothersonkysports.com for more coverage of UK football & basketball as well as KHSAA football and basketball. You can also follow me on your twitter account at @combsbrothers5.