Mark Story

Five days from opener, 25 reasons to watch

Andre and the Playmakers have taken their show to the pros.

After a season and a half of un-Kentucky-like returns, the national sports media is predicting a return to football irrelevance for UK.

History suggests they'll be right.

But the past does not have to be prologue to the future.

Here are 25 reasons The Long-Suffering UK Football Fan has to be jazzed about Kentucky's 2008 season.

25. The Kentucky defense has, for a Kentucky defense, an unusual bounty (Jarmon, Kelley, Lindley) of star-caliber players.

24. Rich Brooks. Wouldn't it be something if the coach that 97 percent of Kentucky (myself included) doubted was the one to take UK football where it hasn't been in more than five decades — to three straight winning seasons?

23. Red Towels in Commonwealth. It's going to be fun to see Western Kentucky visit Lexington (Sept. 27) to play UK in football for the first time ever.

22. One final year to watch the bundle of fearlessness that is Dicky Lyons Jr.

21. One final year to listen to (and enjoy) the unpredictable verbal stylings of Dicky Lyons Jr.

20. Kentucky-Louisville 2008 may lack the pre-game buzz and star power of Kentucky-Louisville 2007, but nobody can say this year's edition of Cats-Cards lacks intrigue. Who knows what's going to happen?

19. Another season to watch Trevard Lindley make magic in the secondary.

18. Oct. 11. A viable chance in Commonwealth to see UK beat a (Head Ball) coach it's never beaten (Steve Spurrier 15, Kentucky 0) and doesn't like.

17. We find out if Derrick Locke is anywhere close to as good as he looked last season as a true freshman.

16. Every time you think of UK's high-profile 2009 quarterback commitments, Ryan Mossakowski and Morgan Newton, you can thank the pigskin gods again that Tennessee turned on Randy Sanders.

15. Oct. 18. A viable chance in Commonwealth to see UK beat a coach it's never beaten (Bobby Petrino 4, Kentucky 0) and doesn't like.

14. Brad Durham vs. Arkansas. You don't often have reason to watch offensive guards — but how hard do you think the former Rockcastle County star will play against the coach who pulled his scholarship offer to Louisville?

13. You see if this is the year that Micah Johnson lives up to all his high school hype.

12. You'll get a good read on Joker Phillips — if Kentucky fields an effective offense after such dramatic graduation losses, Phillips will have shown he is a heck of a coach.

11. Mike Hartline. We find out if the Ohio product can live up to the increasingly exacting standard (think Couch, Lorenzen and Woodson) for Kentucky quarterbacks.

10. Every time Braxton Kelley (or DeMoreo Ford or Randall Burden) makes a play, you can thank the pigskin gods that Joker Phillips found LaGrange, Ga.

9. Oct. 25. If the Kentucky defense can slow down Tim Tebow, it might cost the Florida QB another Heisman Trophy.

8. Randall Cobb. One of the most anticipated freshmen at Kentucky in years — and nobody even knows what position (QB or receiver) he will predominantly play.

7. Another year to watch Jeremy Jarmon bring the lumber on opposing quarterbacks.

6. Nov. 8. If the Kentucky defense can slow down Knowshon Moreno, it might cost the Georgia back the Heisman Trophy.

5. You'll get a good read on Steve Brown as defensive coordinator — on paper, there's no reason that UK should not, at long last, field an effective defense in 2008.

4. If Kentucky does lose to Tennessee this year for an embarrassing 24th straight time, there's all but no chance it will be as painful a defeat as last season's four-overtime heart ripper.

3. You may know early how the season will go: The last three times (1978, '85 and 2000) Kentucky was coming off back-to-back winning regular seasons, it failed to win its opener and went on to losing years.

2. We find out if the recent success of Rich Brooks & Co. was due to a special class (Woodson, Burton, Tamme, Little, Woodyard) filled with playmakers or because UK is at long last a football program on the rise?

1. Six wins could mean the Independence Bowl — and what could be better than December in Shreveport?