I always try to keep things real with you, Big Blue Nation.
I am not one for much overstatement or exaggeration. When it comes to Kentucky football, more times than not, I have to reign myself in from unrealistic expectations and temper my enthusiasm (with bourbon) so I don’t crash land into the murky depths of depression and Rocky Top playing on repeat. I can (and often do) convince myself Kentucky could beat the New England Patriots on any given Saturday in the fall. I tell myself if THIS happens, or if THAT happens, our Boys in Blue can beat all comers from every conference in the land. “Bring it on, Bama! You, too Oregon! Oh, Auburn, you can’t hold our jockstrap in Commonwealth Stadium!” are just a few of my most embarrassing inner monologue rumblings. I can be delusional, but that same delusional optimism is what binds me to loving UK football more than UK basketball.
(Yes. I wrote that. I have two children in my life—UK football and UK basketball. I love one more than the other one. Sue me.)
I am almost forty years old, BBN. A very spry, crafty, and devilishly handsome forty years old, I might add, but that’s a story for another time. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had my heart broken by Kentucky football more times than Hal Mumme called a passing play during The Air Raid. The Danny Wuerffel to Chris Doering last second touchdown pass. The LSU Bluegrass Miracle. Every time I’ve had to smell Volunteer fans stinking up my tailgates. Haunting memories, all of them. UK football is my cross to bear, but I wouldn’t trade any of that hurt or those tears for where I believe UK football is going right now. Kentucky FINALLY has a coach in place for the long term in Mark Stoops, a guy that seems to prefer building his own powerhouse at Kentucky than taking over a powerhouse someplace else. It’s been three years since he moved to Lexington, showing across the board improvement each passing year. But as people say, that was the past. What are you doing for me now?
This is why I believe the 2015 Kentucky season is the most important year in school history. I know that might be the sort of overstatement I swore to stay away from. This time, I really believe it. I’m trying my best not to be the type of hypocrite people loathe, like most politicians, but my gut is telling me it’s the truth. What makes this season the most important for UK football since Bear Bryant roamed the sidelines? Let me count the ways.
A new Commonwealth Stadium—your prayers have been answered. SEC football is an arms race for best stadiums and facilities. Kentucky is sending the message they are serious about football in Central Kentucky. A winning season in a new home will go light years towards UK’s football commitment towards the future, especially with eight homes games on the docket. A losing season in a new stadium? Well, that’s not good. Not good at all.
The fruits of better recruiting labor—in the words of 21st century poet laureate Lil Wayne, let’s hope Coach Stoops “starting enjoying them while they’re still ripe”. Kentucky has never put together three consecutive recruiting classes like these. UK has SEC size, SEC athletes, SEC depth, and with the High Performance strength and conditioning program in place, it’s time for wins. Moral victories count as much as getting a trophy just for playing.
If Kentucky is ever going to beat the Florida Gators, it has to be this year. The specter of college football’s longest losing streak needs to end. Now. Quickly. Decisively. The country will take notice that Kentucky is a team they don’t want a part of.
The SEC is down this year. With former SEC coaches like Urban Myer at OSU and James Franklin at Penn State, the Big 10 (which actually has eleven teams and makes me giggle every time I say that) is seeing a resurgence. The Big 12, with the high-flying attacks from TCU and Baylor added to a rebuilding Texas, is stronger than ever. THIS is the year UK football can finally break through in the SEC.
We have Patrick Towles. I believe he’ll be the best QB in the SEC by season’s end.
Seriously, for the love of God, beat Florida. For realsies.