LEXINGTON — Leftovers and a look ahead at University of Kentucky football coming off a 41-7 win over Miami (Ohio) Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium ...
I doubt that I’m the only one wishing the Kentucky Wildcats had opened the football season against Miami (Ohio) instead of Western Kentucky.
Coach Mark Stoops’ Wildcats needed the confidence that a team as dreadful as Miami (not sure when I last saw a team that bad at this level) can bring rather than the opener against a very good WKU team coached by one of the very best coaches college football has ever seen.
I’m not suggesting Kentucky would be 2-0 had the schedule read: Aug. 31 — Miami; Sept. 7 — Western. But I think we’d be talking a 50-50 kind of deal had the schedule looked that way.
Whatever. I’ve gone four paragraphs now without uttering the operative phrase of this generation: It is what it is. So consider it said. I won’t re-visit it for at least a few more paragraphs. Promise.
The Miami game was vital for the psyche of the Wildcats and their fans because we saw significant signs of the frenetic pace of play Stoops and offensive coordinator Neal Brown hope to utilize. Not to mention a collection of young talent and athleticism that could be dazzling with any luck.
The Wildcats are in fantastic shape for the future in terms of speed and athleticism at the skill spots, especially at wide receiver. With seniors Raymond Sanders and Jonathan George gone after this season at running back, Stoops and company could use another runner or two in this year’s recruiting class, but that appears to be all but a done deal as I write this.
Quarterback is solid, or will be by next year, at worst.
More help is needed in the line on both sides of the ball, but there’s no reason to think that too won’t come to pass.
Franklin County graduate Ryan Timmons may be the most dynamic of UK’s current skill guys, — boy that’s arguable — with guys like Javess Blue, Alex Montgomery, Jeff Badet, Anthony Kendrick and Jojo Kemp on the roster.
And Jalen Whitlow isn’t exactly pedestrian at quarterback either.
This is looking more and more like an ideal spot for Timmons, by the way. His athleticism is dynamic enough to ensure plenty of opportunity for him to shine, but there’s enough talent around him to keep defenses honest.
I still see Timmons as Randall Cobb with speed, but the former Flyer is surrounded by more talented players than Cobb ever was.
Most of this talent is much too young to make Kentucky a bowl team this time around, but it’ll be fun to see how much these young guys can grow over the course of this season to set up UK for better days ahead.
And again, all this makes the confidence gained Saturday against Miami critical, given what lies ahead the next four games.
You can talk all you want about home field, or quote hopeful clichés like “throw out the records in a rivalry game,” blah, blah, blah ... I can’t see Kentucky coming within 30 of the Louisville Cardinals Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium (noon on ESPN).
The Cardinals have far too much experienced talent all over the field for them to fall to the Wildcats. UK could get a couple early turnovers, maybe break out for a quick strike or two, go up, say 14-0, 17-3 ... it won’t matter as long as Teddy Bridgewater is enrolled at the University of Louisville.
Not that the Cardinals are a one-man team. But Bridgewater is the straw that stirs this drink.
Still, now that we’ve seen at least flashes of exciting potential from the Wildcats, I can’t see a loss to Louisville, even a big loss, significantly deflating the cause of the blue and white.
I worry more about what will happen to UK’s psyche if the Wildcats lose big in the three games that follow Saturday — Sept. 28 home to Florida, Oct. 5 at South Carolina and Oct. 12 home to, gulp, Alabama.
“Obviously, no offense to Miami of Ohio, but our deal gets a little tougher after this,” Brown said Saturday.
I see the date with Florida as much more important in Kentucky’s big picture than the Louisville game. I also feel like Florida is the weakest of the upcoming quartet.
It helps that UK gets an open date after the U of L game. An upset of the Gators, or even a close loss, will make it much easier for Stoops’ young team to grow.
Kentucky will be no better than 2-4 after this murderer’s row, but then come three consecutive games that are relatively manageable: Oct. 24 at Mississippi State (open date after Alabama helps), Nov. 2 home to Alabama State and Nov. 9 home to Missouri.
Right now the season closing trio at Vandy Nov. 16, at Georgia Nov. 23 and Nov. 30 home to Tennessee, look like likely Kentucky losses.
But, who knows? If the Wildcats aren’t humiliated in these next four games and can win two of the next three, this could still be quite the successful season.