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Bob Dixon

Agency Manager


Middlesboro, KY 40965


Go Big Blue!

SHANE SHACKLEFORD: UK Football Season Still Not Over Yet

For about 50 years and at least 30 years according to my bride, I have been an eternal optimist. I have always seen the best in situations and people and think positively when it comes to athletic endeavors.

Have I always been right? Nope. Not even close. Especially when it comes to the athletic teams at the University of Kentucky in Lexington known as the Wildcats.

In the most recent installment of the soap opera I like to call “Heartbreak at the Beer Barrel,” the Cats came up a little short yet again to the dreaded Tennessee Volunteers by a count of 33-27. Once again, our hopes were dashed at the foot of Rocky Top.

Oh, the grief! Oh, the pain!

The calls were heard from Paducah to Pikeville; season’s over, let’s get ready for basketball season.

But I, ever the optimist in blue, say wait Big Blue Nation. This season can still hold some level of positivity we can all take into Bowl Season 2023.

I will show you a path that this Kentucky squad can finish 3-1 in their last four dates to get to an 8-4 finish and a decent bowl berth over the holidays.

How, coach? What are you thinking? Are you crazy?

Work with me on this, Kentucky fan.

First, consider the following from Saturday night’s game. I wanted to see the Cats fight for 60 minutes against a top-tier SEC squad. I saw that. It wasn’t always pretty, but the fight was there.

Next, I wanted to see senior quarterback Devin Leary look like the guy we were all so high on coming into the season. I’ll take 28-39 for 372 yards and two scores any day.

Then, I wanted to see the defense get after Tennessee and pressure Vol signal caller Joe Milton III as much as possible. Two sacks and five pressures don’t sound like much, but we put pads on him for most of the night and that doesn’t always show up in the statistics. We also played as hard as we could against that speed offense and held up as long as we could.

The last thing I wanted was to see the UK rushing attack move the ball on the Vols. However, the Vols took that away by loading the box with seven defenders most of the night. Even with a star like Ray Davis, running the ball through that is difficult at best and impossible at times. I didn’t get that.

But three out of four in the coming weeks isn’t too bad.

Now, look at this path to eight wins with me.

The first stop is Starkville and Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are 4-4 and are without star quarterback Will Rogers triggering that Air Raid attack that always gives the Cats fits. In turn, the Dawgs have turned to former Vanderbilt quarterback Mike Wright and adapted more of an RPO system that fits his talents, but not so much the roster. I think the Cats contain him and MSU and win this Saturday.

The following week, the Cats, now 6-3, face Alabama in Lexington. I am a realist. I know the Tide will be heavily favored in the matchup, but I think that if the Cats can be competitive and hang around for most of the game, then a competitive loss to Bama isn’t a terrible thing.

Week three in November sees UK at 6-4 going to South Carolina. Usually Big Blue struggles in Columbia, but this USC squad is backpedaling into the end of the season, not surging like last season. The Gamecocks sit at 2-6 currently. They will be favored this week over Jacksonville State, but the other Gamecocks sit at 7-2 and have no reason to not think they could pull the surprise there. If USC survives against Jax State and for some reason loses to 2–7 Vandy, then the Cocks could be ready to pack it in this season. In any case, though, I see a UK win in Columbia behind a big day from Davis and Leary.

So we go into the 2023 finale at Louisville at 7-3. The Cardinals have been surprisingly good this season at 7-1 with a single loss to Pitt. But that loss is significant to Kentucky’s hopes of beating the Cardinals. In my eyes, the offenses mirror each other with both the Cats and cards featuring a veteran QB, a star running back, and a bevy of receivers. But Pitt did a great job making Uof L one-dimensional by being physical up front and aggressive in the secondary. The Cats can do this as well, and if they do and the offense remains competent, I’m taking UK in this one.

So there you have it. A path to 8-4. It's a very doable path that doesn't require much more than what would have been expected all season, plus it leaves a positive feeling in BBN going into bowl season.

I’ll take it, won't you?


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