By Joe Cox
The glass is still half full. Yes, UK’s 5-1 start has become a 5-4 start. Yes, being a factor in the SEC East is now a distant memory.
But there is still reason to believe in blue. There are three game left. This Saturday, at home against Georgia. Next Saturday, in Knoxville against a resurgent UT. And on November 29th, in the pizza palace at Louisville. Win one, and you’re bowl eligible. Win two and you’re guaranteed a winning season, probably a bowl game in a place you might actually like to visit, and a possible SEC coach of the year. Win all three and Stoops might get another contract extension this year.
The bottom line is that UK remains an 11-point underdog to Georgia. I suspect the Wildcats will be underdogs in all three games. They could well go 0-3. Which would be a shame—because there has been progress here. The light at the end of the tunnel has gone from a pinpoint to a big old approaching circle. And hopefully, there’s one upset, maybe even two, left in the ‘Cats.
Georgia suddenly looks a lot more vulnerable than they did last Friday. But let’s have a post-mortem on the Mizzou game, before we get into that.
Bud Dupree continues to shoot up the Wildcat record list. He had five tackles, with two and a half tackles for loss (one and a half sacks) on Saturday, and helped keep the UK defense in the game far longer than it probably should’ve remained.
The entire rest of UK’s run defense also deserves some credit. Yes, Maty Mauk made a play or two on them, but Mizzou was held to 3.5 yards per carry rushing, which should’ve been good enough to win.
Mikel Horton had a decent game, with 10 carries for 62 yards, thus further gumming up the UK backfield. Kentucky has four quality backs, but still hasn’t figured out how to use them. In any case, Horton is a young man with a bright future.
The buck has to stop with the head coach. Whether you blame him for the general lack of motivation from the ‘Cats or the bizarre offensive play-calling, the most puzzling decision was going for a conversion on 4th and 2 from the Mizzou 21 with UK down 10 and about two minutes to go in the game (and UK holding all three timeouts). Even if Patrick Towles had run for the two yards, UK was still 19 yards away from paydirt, and needing two scores. The proper call would’ve been to let McGinnis kick a 38-yard field goal, and then either onside kick or kick deep and play defense, trying to set up a touchdown.
Kentucky’s offensive line was putrid. They couldn’t establish the run (2.9 yards per carry) or protect for the pass. Missouri has some daunting athletes up front, but Kentucky failed to protect in a serious way.
Patrick Towles was not very sharp when he did have time. He rushed some throws and just flat missed some open receivers. There’s no questioning his talent, but Towles needs to put together some consistency in his play in the final three games.
WHERE ARE WE—SEC POWER RANKINGS
1. Mississippi State (8-0) The tough game that Arkansas gave the Bulldogs is yet another reminder that on any given day, anything can happen in this conference.
2. Auburn (7-1) Who knows? Gus Malzahn has got some Les Miles-style luck going for him. He’ll need it in the Iron Bowl.
3. Alabama (7-1) Better than Auburn, maybe better than Mississippi State. But hard to figure out.
4. Ole Miss (7-2) Two losses doesn’t end it. But it does mean you can’t lose again.
5. LSU (7-2) What’s that? Five straight SEC West teams. If Missouri is the best team in the East, it might be seven straight.
6. Texas A&M (6-3) Not playing well, but this is the also-ran tier.
7. Georgia (6-2) Losing games happens. Getting rocked by Florida was a shock. Georgia could kill UK on Saturday, or lose by 10. Neither would be shocking.
8. Missouri (7-2) I still don’t think this team is any good. Meh.
9. Arkansas (4-5) They’d win the East. Maybe easily.
10. Florida (4-3) You try to get away, they drag you back. I still don’t see Will Muschamp surviving… and in a year where he beats UGA and UT, that’s so strange.
11. Kentucky (5-4) Just one more win!
12. Tennessee (4-5) UT’s bowl hopes got off of life support. Josh Dobbs is playing so well you wonder why he didn’t play in the first half of the season.
13. South Carolina (4-5) Will the chance to kill of Muschamp revive this awful season?
14. Vanderbilt (3-6)
WHERE ARE WE GOING
Like everybody else in the SEC East, Georgia looks great one moment and awful the next. The Dogs’ best player, running back Todd Gurley, will be out this week for NCAA suspension after a mini-scandal concerning autographs. But don’t get too excited. This UGA team averages 6.0 yards per carry, and Gurley’s backup, Nick Chubb, has 725 rushing yards and six touchdowns to his credit.
One place UGA won’t blow people away is in their passing game. QB Hudson Mason is the dreaded game-manager. He’s only thrown three interceptions, but he’s not a big-play guy. UGA’s top receiver, Chris Conley, has 385 yards and three scores. UGA’s defense has just 18 sacks in eight games, but they have hurried opposing quarterbacks some 89 times. Either that’s a generous count, or the Bulldogs are getting a lot of near-misses. Interestingly, UGA is +13 on turnovers (mostly because the ‘Dogs have only lost five turnovers all year themselves). The last team to go +13 on turnovers, run the ball for 6.0 yards per carry and still not win their division is… probably nobody. That’s astounding.
The Dogs’ defense can fall into ruts, and their kick coverage offers UK a rare opportunity to hit some big plays. This is one of those “Who knows?” games. UK usually plays the Bulldogs tough at home, and anything can happen. That said, I’m going with the head pick and not the heart pick.
Georgia 38, UK 31
MY OTHER (COMPLETELY CLUELESS) SEC PREDICTIONS
I was 55-8 on the season, but last weekend, I went 3-4. So we’re down to 58-12. There’s not a single pick that was close. The worst? Well, I thought Georgia would murder Florida, and that Texas A&M would easily handle UL-Monroe.
Time to get it going again in Week 11!
Week 11 Predictions:
Georgia 38, UK 31
Ole Miss 45, Presbyterian 7
Auburn 42, Texas A&M 17
Mississippi State 45, UT-Martin
3Florida 31, Vanderbilt 17
Alabama 38, LSU 21