Cats' streak-busting chances

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJune 30, 2009 

Over the past three seasons, the unofficial motto of University of Kentucky football coach Rich Brooks has seemed to be, "We're doing things that haven't been done around here before."

In 2006, UK beat Georgia for the first time since 1996. The Cats went to a bowl for the first time since 1999. Kentucky won a bowl for the first time since 1984.

The 2007 season brought a win over a top-10 foe (Louisville) for the first time since 1977. It brought an upset of a No. 1 team in the country (Louisiana State) for the first time since 1964. It brought bowl wins in consecutive years for the first time since the 1950 and '51 seasons.

Even last year's 7-6 slog included Kentucky's first-ever win over Bobby Petrino; a third-straight winning season for the first time since 1954-56; and a UK bowl victory in a third consecutive year for the first time in all the recorded history of all mankind.

The bad news for The Long-Suffering UK Football Fan is that Kentucky's post-Bryant run (more or less) of pigskin mediocrity means that embarrassing streaks of Cats football futility remain alive in 2009.

Yet, as you'll see below, the good news is that Brooks and his seventh UK team should have a viable opportunity to add in significant ways to Kentucky football's recent streak-busting bent.

The streak: In the modern history of the Kentucky-Louisville pigskin rivalry (since 1994), the Cats have never beaten the Cards three years in a row.

The skinny: On paper, Kentucky should win this game, but a warning to UK fans: The modern Cats-Cards football series has been filled with unexpected turns in fortune.

At 0-2 against UK, Steve Kragthorpe could go a long way toward getting a restive U of L fan base off his back by pulling the upset in Lexington.

Big Blue Breakthrough chances: High.

The streak: Since Adam and Eve were sampling apples in the garden, Kentucky has never won bowl games in four consecutive seasons.

The skinny: The Cats figure to be favored in five games — Miami (Ohio), Louisville, Louisiana-Monroe, Mississippi State and Eastern Kentucky. A road game at Vanderbilt figures to be a toss-up. Win those six, Kentucky is bowl eligible for a fourth straight season.

Given the realities of human nature (and fan base psychology), I wonder whether UK backers would wind up disappointed, even a little restless, if the Cats won a fourth straight bowl but did so without breaking through the 6-6, 7-5 regular-season ceilings of the past three years?

Big Blue Breakthrough chances: High.

The streak: It is seared into the soul of every LSUKFF: Kentucky has not beaten Tennessee in football since 1984.

The skinny: Driving through Knoxville late Saturday night, I heard a radio station running the following promo: "Another station play more continuous country than us? As likely as Kentucky beating Tennessee in football."

Ouch.

Kentucky should have a strong chance to end 24 games of Orange-induced embarrassment in 2009. In the first year of the Lane Kiffin era (error?), UT's prospects look strikingly common. Plus, by the time the Vols come to Lexington on Nov. 28, Kiffin might be too tuckered out from continually committing (secondary) NCAA violations to do much coaching.

Then again, the UK mental block when its comes to beating the Rocky Toppers is larger than Mount Everest.

Big Blue Breakthrough chances: Moderate.

The Streak: Kentucky has never beaten a football team coached by Steve Spurrier — 0-for-16 all-time.

The Skinny: "Steve Superior" has been more like "Steve Mediocre" over the past two seasons (13-12) at South Carolina. Even the scholars from Vanderbilt — Vanderbilt! — have beaten him two in a row.

But one thing has never changed from The Head Ball Coach's fun-and-gun days in Gainesville: Even the sight of his visor on the opposing sideline seems to tie Kentucky in knots.

With the game in Columbia, I don't see much likelihood of that changing this fall.

Big Blue Breakthrough chances: Low.

The streak: Kentucky has not had a winning record in Southeastern Conference games since 1977.

The skinny: You have to get to five league victories to shatter this barrier. The schedule doesn't set up well for the Cats doing so in 2009.

UK is apt to be favored in only one conference home game: Mississippi State (the other three are Alabama, Florida and what could be a toss-up game with Tennessee).

Even if the Cats beat MSU and UT, they would still need three road wins from among South Carolina, Auburn, Vandy and Georgia to get to five.

Big Blue Breakthrough chances: Low.

The streak: Kentucky has not beaten Florida in football since 1986.

The skinny: Tim Tebow. Urban Meyer. Tim Tebow. Eighteen of 22 starters back from a national championship team. Tim Tebow. The prospect UK might have to (gulp) try punts. Tim Tebow, Tim Tebow and Tim Tebow.

Big Blue Breakthrough chances: Lower than a well-digger's shoes.

As you read this, 67 days until the Cats kick off the 2009 season.

Reach Mark Story at (859) 231-3230 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3230, or at mstory@herald-leader.com. Your e-mail could appear on the blog Read Mark Story's E-mail at Kentucky.com.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service