Kentucky football: 5 things Wildcats need to do to prevent BBN from flipping to hoops
It’s that time of the year. UK basketball is within 2 weeks of its opening game. But while UK football is out of the SEC race, there’s plenty of football still go to. Will BBN stay tuned in?
The difference could be a 5-6 season with a bowl win as opposed to a 3-7 season if the fans just tune it out. What do the Wildcats need to do to keep the fan base dialed in? Here’s 5 things they should shoot for.
1. Take care of business
Yes, South Carolina beat Kentucky last year. But Vandy and the Gamecocks are 2 of the weakest teams in the SEC, and Kentucky needs to take care of business against both of them. Again, a 4-6 season in the SEC-only world would likely still earn UK a bowl bid in a decent postseason game. But lose to Vandy on Saturday … or to Carolina in a few weeks and that probably all fades away.
2. Throw the ball
No, nobody here is calling for Air Raid, Mark Stoops edition. But Kentucky isn’t just last in the SEC in passing (118 yards per game), they’re way behind 13th-ranked Tennessee (by 56 yards per game).
It was one thing to not throw the ball last season with Lynn Bowden. But finishing the season like Kentucky has played it so far is going to mean another recruiting class where all Kentucky’s offensive coaches can do is solemnly declare that they’ll throw the ball next year.
It becomes a self-defeating situation. Kentucky won’t throw because it doesn’t have the playmakers outside. But if they don’t throw more, they won’t be able to recruit the playmakers outside.
Whoever plays QB, whoever the ‘Cats can use to get open in space, they really need to discover a 200 yards per game level of passing.
3. Don’t play to not lose
Florida and Alabama are fast approaching. Only the most severe optimist would give UK more than a very, very long shot of a chance in either game. But here’s the thing: How Kentucky plays those games might matter as much as the expected end result.
Georgia had an ugly offensive day in Lexington, but Kentucky’s clock-eating game-plan left UK watching the clock run out in a 14-3 deficit.
So those games against UF and Bama represent an opportunity. If Kentucky loses by 40, few in college football will blink. But if Kentucky could pull off the upset, it would be a season-defining victory. It’s unlikely to come via 2 yards and a cloud of dust.
4. Play the young guys
Kentucky has a bright future. It’s not the time to get behind running a bunch of seniors out there without a good reason. More Chris Rodriguez, less A.J. Rose. More Mike Drennen, less Josh Ali. Maybe even more Joey Gatewood and/or Beau Allen, less Terry Wilson. Nobody is blaming the veterans or saying to sacrifice playing your best players. But where there’s no discernable difference (or in some cases, it’s actually tilting against the veteran), play the young guys. Let’s see the future in store for Big Blue Nation.
5. Keep picking off passes
It’s been pretty simple for UK this season: Force turnovers, look pretty good. Don’t force turnovers, look pretty sloppy.
The good news is that the UK secondary has been an excellent group since a Week 2 toasting from Matt Corral and Ole Miss. After that game, Kentucky had no interceptions in the first 2 games.
They’ve had 11 picks in the 4 games since, which places UK 2nd in the SEC in that category (behind Arkansas).
Kelvin Joseph in particular has been a standout, and if he can keep showing improvement, maybe UK can finish the season near the top of the SEC in scoring defense — which is actually where the Wildcats are right now. Snagging some picks could keep the Florida game close, for instance.