John Clay

Yes, it’s true: Kentucky football controls its own SEC East fate

Benny Snell: It’s unbelievable that UK football isn’t ranked

The fact Kentucky is 5-1 and not in the AP Top 25 isn’t sitting well with running back Benny Snell.
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The fact Kentucky is 5-1 and not in the AP Top 25 isn’t sitting well with running back Benny Snell.

That’s not a typo. So quit rubbing your eyes as if what you’re seeing you’re not quite believing, that right here two weeks into October, right there in second place of the SEC East football standings sit the Kentucky Wildcats. All by themselves.

Could it be? Yes, it be. After a wild conference weekend in which LSU climbed out of a 20-0 hole to shock Auburn 27-23, in which Ole Miss stacked 57 points on Vanderbilt and Texas A&M rightfully punished Florida for wearing those hideous “alternate alligator” uniforms — maybe the FBI needs to look into Nike’s fashion sense — with a 19-17 victory at The Swamp, Kentucky actually controls its own destiny.

Back off, sticklers. Yes, we know, no one actually controls his or her destiny, but you get the drift. Florida is now 3-2 in SEC play. After kicking back on its bye week to enjoy the mayhem, Kentucky is 2-1. If they were to tie, Florida would have the upper hand thanks to that sorry-to-bring-it-up-again 28-27 win at Kroger Field last month. After Saturday, however, UK leads the Gators by one in the loss column.

To be sure, Georgia leads all comers in the East. The Dawgs are 4-0 in the conference, 7-0 overall and darn good. As it did against Kentucky the week before, Missouri burned Kirby Smart’s team deep, hitting on not one but two 63-yard touchdown passes to tie matters at 21-21. Georgia promptly settled down and mowed down Mizzou 53-28.

In what will be a tough ask, Kentucky gets the Bulldogs on Nov. 18 in Athens. From a purely mathematical standpoint, however, if Kentucky could win its next four games — Oct. 21 at Mississippi State; Oct. 28 home to Tennessee; Nov. 4 at Ole Miss; Nov. 11 at Vanderbilt — and Georgia remains clean, the two would be playing between the hedges for the SEC East title.

One game at a time, of course, and Kentucky’s next task involves a different breed of Bulldog. Mississippi State stepped outside the conference to whip BYU 35-10 on Saturday. Dan Mullen’s team is now 4-2 overall and 1-2 in league play. After drilling LSU 37-7, State suffered back-to-back road flops against Georgia (31-3) and Auburn (49-10).

Mullen was 7-0 against Kentucky before watching Austin MacGinnis’ 51-yard field goal split the uprights at the horn for a 40-38 UK home celebration last October. Kentucky hasn’t won in Starkvegas since Rich Brooks’ 2008 team pulled out a 14-13 victory at Davis-Wade Stadium. The Cats have lost three straight since, including a 42-16 thumping by Dak Prescott and Co. in 2015.

Now, all of a sudden, Saturday shapes up as a monster game for the Cats. Or at least it could be. A loss won’t throw Kentucky completely off the tracks toward a standout season. A win, however, could open the door toward something special.

After all, Tennessee continues to be a hot mess. For the second straight game, Butch Jones’ Vols failed to score a touchdown in their 15-9 home loss to South Carolina. A Kentucky win at MSU on Saturday and an expected UT loss at top-ranked Alabama would make Stoops’ Troops a sure favorite over Tennessee for their Oct. 28 meet-up at Kroger Field.

After that, UK should be a home favorite against Ole Miss and a road favorite at Vanderbilt. Should all those dominoes fall in place, Kentucky would be 9-1 heading to Sanford Stadium to face Georgia’s Bulldogs with a trip to Atlanta and the SEC title game on the line.

Crazy? Starting Saturday in Starkville, we’re about to find out.

SEC football standings

East

SEC

Overall

This week

Georgia

4-0

7-0

Off

Kentucky

2-1

5-1

At Miss State

S Carolina

3-2

5-2

Off

Florida

3-2

3-3

Off

Tennessee

0-3

3-3

At Alabama

Vanderbilt

0-4

3-4

Off

Missouri

0-4

1-5

Idaho

West

SEC

Overall

This week

Alabama

4-0

7-0

Tennessee

Auburn

3-1

5-2

At Arkansas

Texas A&M

3-1

5-2

Off

LSU

2-1

5-2

At Ole Miss

Miss State

1-2

4-2

Kentucky

Ole Miss

1-2

3-3

LSU

Arkansas

0-3

2-4

Auburn

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