IRA COMBS: Will Wildcats Hit a Wall After a 5-1 First Half?
By Ira D. Combs
Tri State Sports Media Services Inc.
Don’t let the headline fool or confuse you but I feel it is a valid question that must be ask at this point and it will be very interesting to follow over the next 1 ½ months.
Now the good news, the first half of the 2014 UK football season is behind us and it ended up being a very exciting and successful 5-1 (which I astutely predicted four weeks ago) but with it comes bad news. The second half starts this Saturday at tradition-rich and extremely talented LSU (7:30 ET on SEC TV Network) and the remainder of the second half schedule is definitely more challenging and with only two of the six games in the friendly confines of CWS. Plus to make it just a little more difficult those lone two homes are against presently the No. 1-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs and the No. 10 Georgia Bulldogs, two of the nation's most talented teams.
But more importantly and even better news this week is the fact that the national pollsters who cast the votes to determine the image and quality of college football teams to the public have gained a little more confidence in “Stoops Troops“ this week. The Associated Press and the coaches USA Today polls have granted UK 37 and 36 votes, respectively, this week in consideration for Top 25 status.
In the famous words of Mark Stoops immediately after the South Carolina win, "We've only just begun."
It’s been a long standing tradition for the UK fan base to begin talking about bowl scenarios on where the Cats can receive a bowl bid just a little too early in past seasons but with five wins already earned this year and only six wins needed to earn a bid and only halfway through the season you can expect the talk to ramp up each week as we go through the second half of the season. The SEC has a bowl affiliation with 10 different bowls plus there is a possibility that at least one, if not two, SEC teams could earn a spot in the new four-team playoff system. ESPN prognosticators continues for the second week in a row to project UK to be in either the Duck Commander Independence Bowl or the Birmingham Bowl.
While it does realistically appear UK football is headed back to the post season, the remaining six games will be extremely difficult to navigate some wins out of. I can’t see UK football falling flat on its face the second half and not pulling out at least one win to qualify. On paper, it appears the games on the road at Missouri, Tennessee and Louisville are the three most likely places to pull some wins from but I seriously doubt UK will be favored in any of those SEC battles. This week’s game at LSU and the lone two remaining home games with Miss. State & Georgia are a bit daunting for the Cats to manage, in my opinion.
But as we all know football games are not played on paper, and my opinion while it has been spot on recently has many flaws on record over the years. Having readjusted my thoughts after the initial two games to a 5-1 mid-season record, I’m going to make one final adjustment to my original preseason prediction of 6-6 to a final record of 7– with those final two wins coming at either Missouri, Tennessee or Louisville.
Wouldn’t it be a nice holiday present for Stoops and his Wildcat football team along with Big Blue Nation to all get together for a few days down in sunny Jacksonville, Fla., for the Taxslayer Gator Bowl? Let’s all start sending our letters to Santa this week and hope it all comes together with a spot in the post season anywhere but the state of Tennessee or Birmingham.
Two Special UK Basketball Events Coming Up This Week Thursday & Friday
This week is a very special week for John Calipari’s men's basketball program. You could say it is the official unofficial start to the UK basketball season because on Thursday the extremely large statewide media contingent that covers UK for all the respective media entities, including print, TV, radio, and sports specialty type services, from Pikeville to Paducah will be there. This particular event is held annually in mid October and is closed to the public. But make sure you tune into your favorite TV station for the evening edition at 6:00 Thursday and your favorite Web site late Thursday afternoon for some good coverage of the day's activities with Coach Cal and the entire team. Also, you can get a lot of info on Cal’s message to the media group by going online to twitter around 2:30 p.m. The location for this event will be a combination of certain Memorial Coliseum areas and the Joe Craft Center practice facility.
The second big hoops event of this week is, of course, the always popular Big Blue Madness festivities held for the 10th consecutive year at Rupp Arena. On Friday, doors will open for those lucky ones who have tickets at 5:30 p.m. and the night's festivities start at approximately 7:00. Those not lucky enough to have tickets can watch all the action live on ESPNU, ESPN3, or www.ukathletics.com. Only the www.ukathletics.com and ESPN3 media outlets will carry the entire night's festivities from 7:00 to its end. The folks at ESPNU will only show segments of the special night at Ru