John Clay: A Kentucky football believer steps forward

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistAugust 31, 2012 

  • Tennessee at Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30

    TV: ESPNU

    Records: Kentucky 2-9 (0-7 SEC); Tennessee 4-7 (1-6)

Tickets being the buzzword of this Kentucky football pre-season, it's time for me to put in my order.

Give me one ticket for the Crazy Train.

I'm the one person nuts enough to believe these 2012 grid Cats will be better than the so-called experts predict.

Given the schedule, Joker Phillips' club could be improved and still sulking at home for the holidays again this year.

Something tells me, however, that this is the year Phillips gets it back on the rails.

Let's go for a ride.

Sept. 2 at Louisville: Two factors work to Kentucky's advantage in this year's Governor's Cup. No. 1, Louisville is a heavy favorite. No. 2, college football doesn't allow pre-season games. The first week can be a strange week. Stop one on the crazy train. Kentucky 21, Louisville 20.

Sept. 8 vs. Kent State: A first-week upset will springboard the Cats to a gouging of the Golden Flashes before a big(ger) crowd at Commonwealth Stadium. If the Cats experience a Cardinal clocking, they could struggle in this game before a large gathering of empty seats. I've already gone with the Sunday shocker. So week two: Kentucky 31, Kent State 14.

Sept. 15 vs. Western Kentucky: Word out of Bowling Green is the Hilltoppers believe they can win this game. Their crystal ball is a bit cloudy. Kentucky 20, Western Kentucky 10.

Sept. 22 at Florida: Yell leader Will Muschamp needs to get his Gators in gear after a less-than-enthralling debut season. The bad news for UK is that new offensive boss Brent Pease will have had time to iron out his quarterback issues. Florida 38, Kentucky 10.

Sept. 29 vs. South Carolina: Steve Spurrier returns to the stadium where he experienced his first bitter taste of defeat — to Kentucky anyway — two years ago. The Ol' Ball Coach destroyed UK 54-3 last year. The margin won't be quite as ridiculous this time around. South Carolina 17, Kentucky 3.

Oct. 6 vs. Mississippi State: MSU has been watching the detectives this pre-season with NCAA investigators sniffing around Starkville. That's usually not a good sign. Second stop on the crazy train. Kentucky 24, Mississippi State 14.

Oct. 13 at Arkansas: I remember the first game John L. Smith coached at Kentucky, as the U of L head coach, when he lost 68-34 to Tim Couch, Craig Yeast and Co. Afterward, Smith said his players played like girls. He apologized. No apologies this time. Arkansas 34, Kentucky 17.

Oct. 20 vs. Georgia: Mark Richt's Bulldogs should repeat as SEC East champs, even minus gun-toting running back Isaiah Crowell, booted off campus over the summer. Richt's teams are notorious underachievers, but this edition will achieve a win in Lexington. Georgia 28, Kentucky 21.

Oct. 27 at Missouri: This might be the most interesting game on the UK schedule given this is Missouri's initial year in the SEC. The Tigers surely see this as a game they can and will win. Missouri 29, Kentucky 16.

Nov. 3 vs. Vanderbilt: If I'm Joker Phillips, I do nothing all week but show my team video of UK's 30-point loss last year in Nashville. Then I hope I have to dive out of the way when they charge out of the locker room and onto the field. Third stop on the crazy train. Kentucky 22, Vanderbilt 20.

Nov. 17 vs. Samford: Sorry, but even without Andrew Luck, Stanford will be too good for the Cats. What's that? You say it's Samford, not Stanford? Oh. Kentucky 31, Samford 7.

Nov. 24 at Tennessee: Matt Roark isn't walking through that door so look for the Vols to climb back atop Rocky Top where this rivalry is concerned. If Tennessee loses, however, Bobby Petrino will be motorcycle shopping in Knoxville. Tennessee 23, Kentucky 13.

That means the Cats will pull into the station with — drum roll, please — a 6-6 mark, a bowl bid and probably a contract extension for Phillips.

Crazy? Maybe. But as Ozzy sings, that's how it goes. We'll see how this ride goes.

John Clay: (859) 231-3226Email: jclay@herald-leader.comTwitter: @johnclayivBlog: johnclay.bloginky.com

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