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What are most important games this season for Kentucky football?

Terry Wilson needs to be able to lead UK to wins over Missouri, Tennessee and Vanderbilt this year. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky opens the football season Saturday and for months we’ve been speculating on how many games the Cats can win and what the biggest games of the year are.

Many have the home game with Florida Sept. 14 followed by games at Mississippi State and South Carolina as the key to the season. Win at least one and UK should be okay. Win two or three and the Cats would be great. Lose two or three and the season could be in jeopardy. That’s the logic many have.

Not me. My three biggest games are home games with Missouri and Tennessee followed by a game at Vanderbilt. Those are games 8-9-10.

My reasoning is that if UK gets off to a 4-1 or 3-2 start, then winning those three games could give the Cats another remarkable season. But if the Cats start 3-2 or even 2-3, winning those three games will be needed to get to seven or eight wins.

Beating Tennessee is never easy for UK. The Cats have four wins in a row over Missouri but many expect the Tigers to win at UK. And Vandy returns a ton of skilled players off a team that averaged 28 points per game last year. I don’t think winning at Vandy is a given like many do but I think winning at Vandy is something UK has to do to have at least a good season or maybe another special season.

And also I am a bit perplexed by the anxiety so many UK fans have about the opener Saturday against Toledo, a team that went 7-6 last year. Kentucky plays Eastern Michigan the second week and the prevailing thought is that will be a much easier game than the opener against Toledo. However, don’t forget that last season one of Toledo’s losses was 28-26 to EASTERN MICHIGAN.

Eastern Michigan returns seven of its top eight receivers and will likely start a quarterback who threw for over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns as a backup last year. But on defense they lost six senior starters and another junior to the NFL — and that includes the top two tacklers. They have a veteran secondary and are counting on junior college transfers to bolster the play at linebacker.

So while I have no doubts UK will beat Eastern Michigan, maybe just don’t count it as a gimme compared to Toledo.

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  1. I fall into the conventional thinking that the 3 game sequence with Florida, MSU, and USC is critical because if the team does not get through that sequence with a winning record (3-2 overall and at least 1-2 with those 3), their confidence will be shaken making the latter 3 game sequence (Mizzou, UT, and Vandy) less likely to be a successful one (needing to win 1 of the 3 to get a 6th win. However, getting to a winning record after 5 games should give the team the confidence they need to navigate the rest of their season successfully. I still see 8 or 9 wins for this team in 2019.

    As for the 1st two games, I agree EMU should pose more problems for the Cats than Toledo.

  2. How important is a winning record in 2019?

    Name the last UK coach to lead UK football to 4 consecutive bowl games?

  3. and only coach to do so?

  4. All of them, taking them one at a time. Stoops and UK need to get UT especially, for the UK fans.

  5. Is it Rich Brooks

  6. It is Rich Brooks, a decade ago, led the Cats to 4 straight, 2006-09.

    Coach Stoops can repeat this feat. I believe he will do that, and that is just the beginning of distinguishing accomplishments for Coach Stoops and this football program.

    It is also important to understand that no UK coach since Blanton Collier has had a winning career coaching record at UK. Not Fran Curci, Not Jerry Claiborne, Not Hal Mumme, Not Rich Brooks.

    Coach Stoops can into a NET winning record this season, and I believe he will do that despite his slow start.

    I know that Coach Stoops has his detractors, but he is building a real football program at UK from the ground up. The building process takes time and patience, and the build occurs one piece at a time. I don’t think UK football is out of the danger zone yet, and there will be more bumps in the road ahead. However, if UK and the BBN will stay the course with Coach Stoops, I am confident that he will finish this building project.

    I have said all along that UK has had a losing football program because the powers that be were content to have a losing football program. I am satisfied now that Mitch Barnhart has led to way to changing that culture at the very top and the commitment is in place to support Coach Stoops with facilities and staffing. However, one cannot build a real football program overnight, and this process is now entering its 7th season with Coach Stoops in a journey that will require 15 to 20 years to complete.

  7. It sure would be sweet to beat Florida, South Carolina and Tenn. –I’m so tired of hearing from all the talking heads that Kentucky will take a “step back” this season due to all the lost personnel that made it to the NFL. I hope Fla. thumps Miami big time and that we crush them badly so that I can hear all those twits say, “Fla. was over rated”. Please, please happen!

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