Same Old Kentucky

November 3, 2018 was a day in Lexington, KY that I never really would have thought possible even last year. The Kentucky football Wildcats (ranked 9th) were participating in a game of real national importance. It was the game to decide the SEC East. A longstanding refrain from Kentucky football fans was that the goal was relevance in the national discussion. Yesterday that arrived. Along with that came the 6th ranked Georgia Bulldogs and a big heaping pile of reality.

The Wildcats, in front of a raucous crowd of about 52,000 Kentuckians and 10,000 Georgians who made the trip up I-75 North, were thoroughly outplayed by a really good football team. The Georgia Bulldogs, their loss to LSU not withstanding, are a team that is on the come up. They were a play away from winning the national title game last year and are rounding into form this year. No team, outside of Alabama and maybe Clemson, would feel great about their chances versus the Dogs. This is a team with elite athletes everywhere, speed everywhere, size everywhere…and that is the difference between really good and elite. Georgia scored early and took a 14-3 halftime lead and after the first drive of the 2nd half never really looked back. The final score was 34-17 and it was a score reflective of the game.

This Kentucky loss really seems to have bolstered a few random detractors (known and unknown) such as Pat Forde, who tweeted “Reality arrives in Lexington, Kentucky” and fans in the stands who lamented the Cats being thoroughly out coached and out hustled. “Same old Kentucky” is what I heard from a few walking out of Kroger Field. So, let’s look at these two statements and decide upon their veracity:

Reality has arrived in Lexington, KY”:

This statement has some truth. Look, I’m an unabashed Kentucky football fan. I don’t hide that but even I can admit when the Cats are outclassed. Georgia is a better football team. Kentucky plays that team twenty times and they may win 2. If the dream was College Playoffs then reality certainly did arrive. Sometimes reality isn’t all that bad though. The Wildcats are 7-2 with a great chance to win out. That would put them at 10-2 with a better than average shot at a New Year’s Six Bowl game. If you would have told me that reality after the trash can throwing, brawl inducing, performance versus Louisville last year I would have laughed at you. Tennessee at Tennessee is no easy endeavor and Louisville in the last game of the season could possibly be a trap game but the way the season has gone thus far the Cats should win both and handle Middle Tennessee who is sandwiched in between. Reality is Kentucky isn’t an elite program capable of vying for the playoffs but for this one year they are likely just one rung down on the ladder.

Same Old Kentucky”:

This is a ridiculous statement. Same old Kentucky would have lost 47-10 yesterday. Same old Kentucky would have lost to Mizzou last week. This team has some grit. The team leaders don’t accept mediocre. They fought until the last down yesterday. That’s progress. Same old Kentucky would be hoping to scratch out a bowl. The height of my football fandom with Kentucky was a victory over Clemson in the Music City Bowl about ten years ago. The most regular season wins in my lifetime? 8. Frustrated fans say crazy things…I do myself watching the games and sometimes I even tweet them but this team has proven itself to be far from “Same old Kentucky.” The next three games will cement this team as something different OR give this “Fellowship of the Miserable” type fans evidence to pounce upon. It will be fun to watch it playout. My view from the stands yesterday, along with many others who stayed until the end, is that this team is special and is laying the baseline for what could be new Kentucky.