There is a school of thought in psychology (known as the pleasure paradox) that holds that a healthy dose of uncertainty is what makes life enjoyable.
If this is true, the 2009 college football season in Kentucky ought to be a doozy. Uncertainty is the theme that courses through my Top 10 Kentucky college football storylines for 2009.
10. Lindley's business gamble. Trevard Lindley, Kentucky's senior cornerback star, surprised nearly everyone when he opted out of this year's NFL Draft after being projected as a late first round or early second round pick. As a result, the senior from Hiram, Ga., starts the 2009 season ranked as the No. 1 cornerback in the nation by the venerable Phil Steele.
Should he live up to that hype, Lindley could play his way into the top half of the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. If he has a disappointing year or — heaven forbid — gets hurt, his return to college could be costly.
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9. A Lexington product leading U of L? In the modern history (since 1994) of the Kentucky-Louisville football rivalry, no Lexington high school product has played quarterback for the Cards against the Cats. (Nor vice versa for that matter).
So if former Lexington Catholic standout Justin Burke — the North Carolina State transfer — can win the U of L quarterback derby this fall, he will achieve a notable Governor's Cup first.
8. Who follows Mr. Holland's opus? In his final two years as Eastern Kentucky quarterback, Allan Holland led the Colonels to back-to-back OVC championships. With the Wake Forest transfer lost to graduation, the leader to replace him appears to be a very different kind of QB.
Where Holland did his work with his throwing arm, the fleetness afoot of Ballard High product T.J. Pryor, a redshirt freshman, should allow EKU to run more of a read-option package.
7. Can Derrick Locke come back? On paper, the UK offense has precious few (Randall Cobb, Alfonso Smith) proven playmakers. Which is why the return of tailback Locke from last season's major knee injury/surgery would be huge for the Cats — that is, if he comes back as the speedy player he was before.
6. Can WKU run (even a little) with the big dogs? This will be the first season that Western is a fully accredited member of the football bowl sub-division. After failing to beat even one FBS foe (0-10) last season in its final transition year, can David Elson's Hilltoppers — being picked last in every Sun Belt Conference ranking I've seen — get some major-college wins on the board in 2009?
5. Is 11 unlucky for Kentucky? In UK's drive to go to a bowl game for a fourth consecutive year, the schedule does not appear to be the Wildcats' friend. Kentucky opens against Miami (Ohio), has an open date, then plays 11 straight games.
With many of the so-called "winnable games" at the back of the schedule, will the Cats be too physically beaten up to take advantage?
4. Will U of L take the 'Long' way? With the poor man's Derby City Duo of Victor Anderson (St. Xavier) and Doug Beaumont (Male), Louisville has quality playmakers around which to build. But to really get its offense revving again, U of L needs senior wide receiver Scott Long and his big-play ability to return to form after last year's injury-riddled season.
3. UK's 'Mike check:' A year ago, Mike Hartline was the starting quarterback in six Kentucky wins, including one of the most stirring comebacks in school history (Arkansas) and a bowl win (East Carolina). Yet, a fan base grown spoiled by the fancy passing of Couch, Lorenzen and Woodson never warmed to game-manager Hartline.
Now, with heralded freshmen signal callers Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossa kowski on campus, can Hartline play well enough to stave off a quarterback controversy? Does UK have any hope of winning with a true freshman under center if Hartline doesn't?
2. Is there life after Jeremy? When Kentucky's standout defensive end Jeremy Jarmon was suspended for his entire senior season after testing positive for a substance banned by the NCAA, it left the Wildcats with only one returning starter (tackle Corey Peters) on its defensive line and zero proven ends.
For Rich Brooks and crew, I fear that could prove the difference between a bowl trip and being home for the holidays.
1. Is Krag the drag? Steve Kragthorpe inherited a Louisville program coming off a 12-win season (2006). In the two years since, he's won a combined 11 games. Which explains why the U of L head man is at the top of all those pre-season lists of coaches on the hot seat.
Kragthorpe could take a giant step toward cooling the seat — and launching his team toward bowl eligibility — with an upset at Commonwealth Stadium Sept. 19.