The Black Hole of Sports is over, Big Blue Nation. Our patience is about to be rewarded. Let’s get this show on the road. No more boring Saturdays spent playing golf (badly). No more refreshing your browser every two minutes for Kentucky sports news—ANY Kentucky sports news—for your fix on all things Big Blue (carpal tunnel syndrome hurts, doesn’t it?). We made it. The doldrums are in the rearview mirror. It feels like the Griswald Family finally making it to Wally World. Cue the “Chariots of Fire” music and me running in slow motion toward Commonwealth Stadium on September 5th. Personally, I kind of feel like Lando Calrissian flying out of the Death Star at the end of Return of the Jedi. Even though The Millennium Falcon was almost engulfed by flames, Lando and his weird looking co-pilot saw the light at the end of the tunnel before they were consumed. We also destroyed the most powerful weapon The Empire possessed, but that’s a whole other story for a whole other time (in a galaxy far, far away). Our bus, BBN, is the Millennium Falcon. My point is, friends and family and beloved brethren, the dark days are over and Kentucky is back in action. We made it to our final destination. Disembark and get your game on. The sometimes crazy, always tumultuous ride over BBN’s summer has everyone excited to break out the ol’ pigskin, anxious to perfect the new chili recipe for tailgating, argue about what kind of offense Coach Cal will run, and prepare to wake up our livers from the summer hibernation in anticipation for craft beer and choice bourbon. Get ready to go up one belt loop, folks. Get your buffet eating pants out of winter storage. It is game on!
I have predictions and opinions aplenty, BBN. Enough of the pregame and my color commentary. I am tired of it, too.
Proving yet again I am the world’s worst/best procrastinator, my belief in Patrick Towles as Kentucky’s quarterback was proven minutes ago when he was named the starter. It feels so good to be so right.
As a caveat to that correct prediction, do not sleep on redshirt freshman Drew Barker. Reports out of camp suggest the deciding factor in favor of Towles was experience. To me, that sounds an awful lot like Barker’s talent level is even. Barker has the talent to be a star in the SEC. He will see action this season, but his time will come. Stay out of trouble, kid!
Kentucky 34, Louisiana-Lafayette 10: Stoops Troops come out guns blazing in their home opener in the brand spanking new and shiny
Commonwealth Stadium. Shannon Dawson’s new offense puts the points on the board and the Wildcats take care of business to go 1-0. Honestly, this game scares me to the bone. The Ragin’ Cajuns have an NFL-caliber running back, a potent offense, and a returning team that won nine games last year. I just can’t see our boys in Blue overlooking them.
South Carolina 23, Kentucky 18: Given Steve Spurrier’s history against Kentucky, I can’t pick UK to beat The Ol’ Ball Coach two years in a row. It hurts my heart, but I just can’t. I do believe Kentucky’s talent level is equal with South Carolina’s for the first time in over a decade. If this showdown were back in Lexington, I would pick Kentucky, but winning on the road in the second game of the season is too tall of a task. We can’t forget that Kentucky’s last win on the road in the SEC was four years ago. Too much going against Kentucky to pick them for a victory.
Kentucky 21, Florida 17: I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t predict this a Kentucky victory. If the Wildcats can’t end college football’s longest losing streak this season, it will never happen. I am not joking. Florida has question marks at quarterback and offensive line. After last year’s heartbreaker, Kentucky will never have more confidence to take down the Gators than this season. Expect the most raucous Commonwealth Stadium since Rich Brooks and Andre Woodson upset the top ranked LSU Tigers way back in 2007.
To reiterate: If Kentucky doesn’t beat Florida to go 2-1 early in the season, it is never going to happen. Ever. Mars will be colonized, a new wheel will actually exist, cancer will be cured, robots will be among us, and in the year 2129, Kentucky STILL won’t have beaten the Gators if it doesn’t happen this year.
Missouri 27, Kentucky 23: For two years, I have picked Kentucky to knock off Missouri. For two years, I have been very, very wrong. Pick against the Tigers at your own peril. The job head coach Gary Pinkel is doing at Missouri is one of the most unappreciated stories in college football. Not only did he bring Missouri out of The Big Twelve and into the rough and tough SEC, he has won two SEC East titles in a row. What he has accomplished is not a fluke. Anybody that says otherwise is wrong.
I will attempt the biggest “Daily Double” in recorded Central Kentucky history, hitting up both The Breeder’s Cup at Keeneland and the Kentucky vs. Tennessee game on October 31st.
I will fail in my quest for “Daily Double” immortality, and fail miserably. When my body is discovered by the cleanup crew somewhere in a Lexington bar the next morning, the coroner will wonder how I could have survived as long as I did with my blood consisting of bourbon, Fireball, Five Hour Energy, Red Bull, beer, Monster Energy Drinks, White Castle burgers, and Waffle House hash browns. Medical science will be baffled by chemicals in my body that have not been identified by modern science. Speak kindly of me at my funeral party. Always remember, I died doing what I loved.
Kentucky 45, Eastern Kentucky 17: All right now, boys. Play nice. These two teams don’t like each other very much. That proof of hatred was online for the world to see this summer, as Drew Barker was allegedly sucker punched by ex-UK defensive lineman Patrick Graffree after a night of bar hopping in Richmond during the offseason. Plus, ex-UK running back/current EKU star Dyshawn Mobley will be running with abandon with a chip placed squarely on his shoulder. Take care of business, fellas. Take the high road and beat the crap out of the Colonels ON the field.
The annual Summer Pickup Basketball Games All-American will be Derek Willis. It’s a tradition unlike any other, BBN. Every year, we hear rumors of dominating play from one player during pickup games that no one expects. In the tradition of Matt Pilgrim, Josh Carrier, and Brandon Stockton, I give you Willis. The 6’-10” sophomore from Bullitt East will be given every opportunity to get quality minutes this season. Let’s hope the hype we will undoubtedly hear rings true.
Auburn 35, Kentucky 28: Count me as a believer this game will be a battle that will be decided late in the fourth quarter. The Tigers might be #1 in the country when they come to Lexington for Kentucky’s first nationally televised ESPN game. The stadium will be rocking and dreams of upsets will be in our heads, but Auburn’s offense is other-worldly and flat out weird. Head coach Gus Malzahn runs a fast paced attack most teams have trouble defending, but I expect Kentucky’s offense to come out firing. Whichever team wins the turnover battle gets the victory. This game can go either way.
American Pharaoh will win The Breeder’s Cup and become the most famous racehorse in history. Talk about watching history in front of your eyes. Honestly, I am a casual horseracing fan. I go to Keeneland to watch beautiful women under the cover of my cheap Target sunglasses. The Bloody Marys are quite delicious, as well. I bet small because I don’t understand how to read a racing form. It looks like a combination of Latin, pig Latin, and ancient Sanskrit combined with numbers. I am still baffled. I think it is alien technology.
Kentucky 31, Mississippi State 27: The Wildcats and the pride of Starkville have fought toe-to-toe the past three years. Last year, Patrick Towles had his coming out party as UK almost upset the #1 ranked Bulldogs in Lexington. Mississippi State has Heisman Trophy candidate Dak Prescott back under
center, but despite his talents, the Bulldogs lost a ton of talent on both sides of the ball due to graduation. Those annoying as hell cowbells will be ringing, but I’m calling a Kentucky upset and their first SEC win on the road in years.
Public Service Announcement: Don’t go to Starkville. Ever.
Tennessee 34, Kentucky 31: Dear Lord, please take away my hatred of all things Tennessee. I feel like my loathing of everything Volunteers is starting to affect my health. I don’t like their players. I don’t like their coach. I don’t like their colors. I don’t like their fans. All this inner angst doesn’t change the fact Butch Jones has Tennessee restocked with SEC talent. The Vols are the trendy pick to win the SEC East. Our Wildcats will be game, but UT kicks a late field goal for the win. Never forget this about Tennessee football: they are low down. They are dirty. They some snitches. This is a mantra for all of us to live by.
Georgia 45, Kentucky 24: This is Kentucky’s biggest challenge, and rightfully so. Offensively, the Booooo-Dawgs are loaded with running back Nick Chubb and enough depth to fill all the lifeboats the Titanic had. Winning in Athens is never easy, but this year, it might be next to impossible. Too many weapons for the Wildcats to pull off the upset. Athens is pretty awesome, though. Make the trip if you can.
Boom Williams will be an All-SEC running back by season’s end. The sophomore from Georgia has NFL-caliber speed and explosiveness. He gets a hole, he sees the hole, and BOOM he is gone. See what I did there? Anyway, Williams has the opportunity to be Kentucky’s best running back since Rafael Little. If he stays healthy, there’s no reason why he can’t be one of the tops at his position in the conference.
Kentucky 34, Vanderbilt 7: Thank you, Vandy, for your smoldering crash back to planet Earth last season. Now stay that way. Go back to being, you know, VANDERBILT. Kentucky has more talent and depth at every position in this match up. Kentucky wins big. Celebrate by hitting up Broadway in Nashville and honky tonk your face off.
Kentucky 135,121, Charlotte -4: This is UNC-Charlotte’s first year as an FBS program. This game will be ugly and the Wildcats will roll big. Their mascot is the 49er. I thought the Gold Rush was on the west coast. So much for my history degree. This will be the game we see Drew Barker and the future of the offense. God willing, he’ll get plenty of snaps in what should be a blowout.
Kentucky 42, Louisville 38: Last year’s heartbreaker will be this year’s triumph. Bobby Petrino’s Dirty Birds lost eight players to the NFL draft and questions abound at quarterback. This is a karma win for Kentucky and a huge victory for Mark Stoops and the future of the program. Plus, I hate Louisville. I have no objectivity here.
Kentucky goes 7-5 and is bowl eligible. Cue Kool and The Gang. It’s time to get our “Celebration” on. Let’s get weird. Somebody grab my butt and I’ll start the conga line.
Win or lose, whatever bowl game UK goes to, anticipation is at an all-time high for 2016. All the young talent Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow has put together is one year older, coming off the program’s first bowl win since the 2009 Liberty Bowl. Recruiting, already at an all-time high, gets even better because Kentucky is actually WINNING. Patrick Towles enters the season as one of the best quarterbacks in the country. The new facilities are the envy of the college football world. All Kentucky football prayers start to get answered.
I start having panic attacks when I think about how far the program has come and how far it could go. This will include my sudden unemployment, talking to my invisible friends, dying my hair red like Mark Stoops, pleading with Vince Marrow to just hang out with me, and yelling “I AM YOUR #1 FAN!” to an empty Commonwealth Stadium every time there’s a full moon.
Expect to hear a lot awesome talk about Tyler Ullis, Mychal Mulder, Isaiah Briscoe, and Jamal Murray. All four have been reportedly impressive over the summer. Unlike other John Calipari teams, Kentucky’s backcourt will be leading the way. He won’t have seventeen seven-footers to pummel the opposition with this season. Will the Dribble Drive offense make its return? Will Coach Cal imitate the “small ball” system the Golden State Warriors used to win the NBA title? Remember, there is nothing more important come March Madness than a strong backcourt. UK should have that in spades.
Expect to hear a lot of crazy talk about Skal Labissiere. No, he is not the next Anthony Davis. No, he is not the next Karl Anthony-Towns. No, he is not the next Nerlens Noel or Willie Cauley-Stein or Sam Bowie or any other big man in Kentucky basketball history. Labissiere will be the best version of himself: an offensively gifted seven-footer with three point range that is a good rebounder. Yes, he will be a star. Yes, he will a lottery pick and could be the top overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Just keep your expectations in check and don’t forget big men take longer to develop than any other position in basketball.
Big Blue Madness will continue to be biggest showcase in all of college basketball. This is shocking, said ‘No One Ever’. Let’s hope Drake doesn’t air ball his first three point attempt. That messes with a guy’s swagger.
Unlike previous years, Coach Cal will have at least two commit-ments for the early signing period. I have no idea who they will be, but I guarantee they will be awesome. The 2016 class is loaded with talent.
Kentucky (along with Duke) is in the position to “pick” which prep All-Americans they want, as opposed to “recruiting” who they want. Opposing coaches won’t be able to use Kentucky’s platoon system of 2015 against Coach Cal any longer.
We’re in for the best of times, Big Blue Nation. Cherish it. Don’t let it pass you by. The state of Kentucky athletics is at an all-time high. Celebrate, but I hereby outlaw The Chicken Dance. It’s just plain stupid looking. Cheers to you and yours. Let’s get this ball rolling!