The University of Kentucky football team has visions of doing big things in 2010.
That's if, and only if, the Wildcats can take home the Governor's Cup for the fourth year in a row when they face archrival Louisville at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
Though they won't admit it publicly, the UK players have peeked ahead at the schedule, and they see the potential to, in former coach Rich Brooks' words, "climb the SEC ladder."
But if the Wildcats come out and drop the opener, all bets are off.
"If you're going to have a great year, either team, it's important to get this one," UK Coach Joker Phillips said. "Momentum has been the biggest thing to come out of this game, and it's important for both teams to leave this game with momentum to carry you through the season. I don't think either team can have a great year without this one. We both need the momentum."
"In this conference you've got to win every out-of-conference game, no matter who it is," senior defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin said. "Especially if it's a rival, we've got to win it even more."
The UK players made it clear, however, that the main task at hand is bringing that Governor's Cup back to the Nutter Training Facility. It would also mark the first time the Wildcats have won four straight in the modern series. U of L won all four games of the Bobby Petrino era from 2003-06.
"That's another thing that we can put under our belts," Lumpkin said.
Lumpkin doesn't want his class to be known for giving the trophy back to Louisville.
"I go look at it every day," Lumpkin said. "It's right there at Nutter in the glass case, nice and shiny. I'd rather have it there the next couple of years, even after I'm gone. It's a pride thing. It's a big game. You don't want to come in and see a blank, empty spot (in the glass case). You can have all the bowl trophies you want, but this is a big game. We want to bring that trophy back to Nutter."
The game also has huge implications on the recruiting trail. Both teams have commitments from several players from the Bluegrass, and they're still in the running for some of the remaining top prospects.
"You can tell recruits, 'Look, we're beating them,'" Lumpkin said. "If you're an in-state recruit, losing this game might change their minds a little bit. You don't want to go to the Kentucky school that's losing. You want to go to the one that's winning and representing the state."
"This game is important for recruiting and momentum," Phillips said. "I don't want to start off with a loss, and I know (Louisville Coach Charlie Strong) doesn't want to start off with a loss. We both understand (recruiting) is a huge part of having success in this game."
Though Kentucky has a three-game winning streak in the series, Phillips expects his team to be well-grounded.
"This team is not overconfident," he said. "We have a lot of guys that have been in games. I was looking at the numbers. We had five guys on offense that are returning starters, six on defense. It's not a lot. But the other guys that are starting have all played. We've got guys that understand not to be overconfident.
"Then you look at Louisville. They have nine starters on offense, 27 seniors, okay? We've got 12 or 13 seniors, so ... our guys will not be overconfident, I can tell you that right now."