Are you ready?

By Kevin Faris

Football weather has a certain sense, a certain smell. It is difficult to describe, but it feels not cold, not cool, but a bit nippy. It smells like leaves and beer, and the sun is out, but not too bright. Like Lexington was a couple of weeks ago, which only served to play havoc with my internal football clock and somehow it’s now Labor Day Weekend and University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville will be playing. The 2004 edition of the UK Football Wildcats is ready to take the field. I am not sure whether to be excited or scared.

The best thing that can be said about UK’s 2003 season is that it is over. The first year of the “Rich Brooks Era,” also known as the “Fire Ron Hudson Era,” was full of bitter losses (UL, Florida, South Carolina, Vanderbilt) and unfulfilled expectations (J-Lo’s constant weight issues, the underperforming offensive line). With one year under the belts, the coaches and the players have to be looking forward to putting to rest a lot of the disappointment that has hung over Commonwealth Stadium like Eeyore’s cloud for the past few years. But can they do it? Is a bowl possible? Is winning four games possible or should UK fans prepare for the return of Curry-esque beatdowns from the toughest conference in college football? Let’s look at the season….

Game 1: Louisville. To say that you “hate” Louisville is like saying Bill O’Reilly “hates” Al Franken. Of course it is true, and much more and much deeper than most people will ever know. Sometimes this supposition arises: “If you had the chance to date Jennifer Garner, but you found out she was a die hard UL fan, would you do it?” The answer is no. Prediction, a replay of 2002, when a highly-thought-of UL team crashed and burned into the Papa John turf. UK 1-0 and the Faithful are happy.

Game 2: Indiana. Enjoy this series while you can, it will be going on hiatus soon, with an undetermined return date. But no one will miss it. A win here, the Cats are now 2-0 and people are calling into to talk shows to discuss possible bowl bids and whether Rich Brooks should receive a contract extension. Bring on the Gators!!

Game 3: Florida. Gator Coach Ron Zook gave one of the greatest press conference answers of all time after losing a bowl game his first year. During a game-winning drive, he called for a trick play, taking the ball out of the hands of Rex Grossman, his Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback. When asked why, Zook simply answered, “That’s a good question.” So, here’s another one for you Ron, when will UK beat the Gators? Answer: Not this year. The talent of the Gators will finally outweigh the “Zook is a dumbass” factor. Cats are 2-1 and the reservations to the BCS Title Game are put on hold.

Game 4: Ohio. This is Ohio University, not Ohio State University, which is very good news for UK. This is the first of a three-game homestand and is also the “Throwback” game, as the Cats will be wearing uniforms from days gone by. Unfortunately, they will not feature the extremely old school leather helmets. Cats win, easy. 3-1.

Game 5: Alabama. If UK is smart, they will pull out all the good luck stops for this game. Bring back Craig Yeast! Bring back Tim Couch, if his recent performances as a back up for Green Bay are any indication, he should be free. Remember the spirit of 1997!! But, the Cats will not sweep the three-game homestand. 3-2 and now we start to wonder what Tubby’s up to.

Game 6: South Carolina. The bounces always seem to go South Carolina’s way during the course of this series. This year’s no different. Why does Lou Holtz get all the breaks? Simple, he used to coach at Notre Dame and God likes him better. Sound crazy? Well, if you go with the “God doesn’t like UK” it really does explain a lot about UK football over the last 50 years or so. 3-3 and the bowl season is in jeopardy.

Game 7: Auburn. Have you ever seen a classy, sleek Cadillac? No, well look closely and you will see one cruising through the UK defense. The Tigers’ Carnell “Cadillac” Williams is twice as good as any running back on the Cats roster. Unless the Auburn President has another secret meeting with the most-trustworthy coach in the business, UL’s Bobby Petrino, the Tigers will win. 3-4 and the “Fire Ron Hudson” rumbles are starting to be heard.

Game 8: Mississippi State. One of the best stories in college football this season is Sylvester Croom, the first African-American head football coach in the SEC. It really is sad that it has taken this long and if there was any justice in the world, the Bulldogs would have a miracle season and win the SEC. Sadly, they stink. UK is 4-4 and several people start to wonder why the only African-American UK’s athletic director Mitch Barnhart interviewed was a hastily arranged affair that quite possibly occurred after the job had been offered to Brooks.

Game 9: Georgia. If you have no other plans this weekend, come out to Commonwealth and watch a possible National Champion. UK does not have a chance. 4-5 and maybe it is time to watch a replay of that UK v. UL game, just for fun.

Game 10: Vanderbilt. Also known as Vengeance Bowl 2004. After the goal post ripping victory in Nashville during the 2003 season, the Cats HAVE to assert themselves over this intramural team. They won’t lose, 5-5 and going into the UT game for a chance to go to a bowl.

Game 11: Tennessee. Do you really think this is the year? While nothing would be better than finally beating the Big Orange, it is not going to happen. 5-6, and no bowl. But, at least UK doesn’t have a back up QB named Jim Bob Cooter. UT does.

Wow. The Cats will go 5-6. So here’s the caveat. If the Cats lose to the Cards, which is actually more likely to happen than a Cat victory, then the prediction changes to 3-8, with another loss to either Mississippi State or Vandy. If UK goes 3-8 with a loss to UL and one of those teams, then it will be a long season for Barnhart, Brooks, and Co. Or perhaps a short season, since they could possibly be out of jobs. Regardless, football weather and football season is here, and if the Cats stink up the joint, we always have high school football. n