COLUMN: Cats’ SEC hopes slim to none (likely none)


August 20, 2010 – Lexington, Kentucky, USA – Chandler Howard, Sports Editor of the Kentucky Kernel. (Credit image: © David Stephenson)

With UK’s anticlimactic loss to Georgia Saturday evening came a few metaphorical tears in the eyes of its followers. The Cats’ sloppy play gave way to the fact they will fail to triumph over their Southeastern Conference foes at the end of yet another season.

“We’re obviously disappointed,” UK tailback Raymond Sanders said following Saturday’s game against Georgia. “We were in the fight for the (SEC) East and we knew that we still had a chance.”

That small chance crumbled with the four turnovers UK gave up against the Bulldogs. The team now sits fifth of the six squads in the SEC East, but it is likely to run the table and finish with eight wins, which is something the team believes is liable to happen.

Only one of UK’s remaining opponents, Mississippi State (6-2), is above .500 on the season. In fact, its other three adversaries, Charleston Southern, Vanderbilt and Tennessee, are each 2-5 presently. UK must like its chances.

The fault is not all on UK for some fans believing it is underperforming. Beginning the season, it was expected to have one of the easiest schedules in the SEC, but it certainly didn’t play out that way.

Many followers thought if the Cats could pull out two victories against the four-team combination of Ole Miss, Auburn, Georgia and Mississippi State, it would be an acceptable season. Though UK is now 0-3 to that group, it still must face the Bulldogs this weekend. Going 4-4 so far, including the upset win over South Carolina, UK is OK.

Fans’ hopes were lofty this preseason, anyway. The Joker Phillips hype was overplayed and the young defense is still not established (or experienced) enough to rely on. It was the usual preseason excitement that a team builds up before each and every season. Like most outings, UK hasn’t matched the propaganda, but it’s unfair to say the team is lacking as a whole.

With a defense allowing the most points in the conference (253 total, which is 29 more points allowed than Ole Miss, which is 1-3 and last in the SEC West), the Cats clearly have room for improvement. They are one of only three teams in the conference to even allow more than 200 points so far this season.

UK’s offense is performing anything but poorly at this point in the season, though. It is currently ranked first in the SEC East, and second in the conference behind only Auburn, in total points scored. It has posted an impressive 278 points through eight games.

So, I won’t be the one to say I’m unhappy with the team’s performance.

But .500 isn’t a bad place for the Blue and White to find itself. Though it seems to be typical production the team is showing now, the Cats plan to keep fighting, as Phillips instructed from the first day of practice.

“We can still go 8-4, we still have a great team,” Sanders said. “We have a young team. We have to come out, play every game to start fast, stay fast and finish strong — that needs to be our motto… It’s so much more mental than physical.”