Thursday, October 18, 2007

Blog Swap, Kentucky Week

This season we're exchanging posts with blogs that represent each of our major opponents. For Kentucky, we are doing the swap with A Sea of Blue, an excellent Wildcats blog. The opinions expressed below are those of A Sea of Blue, our thoughts will be posted on their site. This post will remain at the top of the blog throughout the day Thursday. Look for newer posts immediately below.


Well, here we are, finally getting to face the Florida Gators on the gridiron -- as equals.

Wait, did I just say, "equals?" Yes, I believe I did, and it sounds strange even to me. So I think I'll paraphrase Richard Burton from Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds (you have to imagine the deep baritone):

"Who would have believed, in the early years of the twenty-first century, that Kentucky football was being watched by vast numbers of football fans? No-one could have dreamed that they were developing into a contender for the very pinnacle of the SEC. Few men even considered the possibility of championship football in the Bluegrass. And yet across the gulf of time, a team vastly superior to all others in its history regarded the Great Powers of the Southeastern Conference with envious eyes. And slowly... and surely... they drew their plans against them."

We have drawn our plans against you, and intend to defeat you at your own game. Just as Florida basketball humbled the mighty Kentucky Wildcats for the last two years, we intend to return that favor in Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday. It will be a great pleasure to do so.

It goes without saying for even casual watchers of SEC football that Florida has historically dominated the Wildcats. Several times in the last decade, Kentucky has challenged Florida both at home and away, only to be defeated in the end by the superior talent and skill of the Gators. Several times, maybe even most times, the Wildcats have been on the receiving end of a savage drubbing by Florida. But this year is not like those years.

Carefully, slowly but very surely, Kentucky has developed a football team that has demonstrated it is the equal of any team in the conference. The victory over LSU was not only impressive, it came in the most appropriate way possible -- stopping the most physical team in college football by being more physical than they were. It was a revelation to Kentucky fans, and a warning to the SEC that this year was not like the others when it comes to the Wildcats. Things are different now.

Victory is by no means the certain outcome of this contest, and we are aware of the Gators prowess. We are also aware that Florida has had two weeks to lick its wounds from the difficult loss in Death Valley, and that Urban Meyer sports a 10-0 record in his last ten games coming off a bye week. This, combined with the awesome array of talent and speed available to Florida has lead to us being an underdog in our own stadium, against a team whom we rank higher than in every poll . But we understand the role of underdog almost perfectly, because we are hardly ever a favorite.

1986 -- that was the last time a Kentucky team defeated Florida in Commonwealth Stadium. Ronald Reagan was still president. The Cold War was still being played out. The Channel Tunnel between England and France was still in the planning stage. It was the year of the very first observance of the Martin Luther King federal holiday. Lindsay Lohan was born. The space shuttle Challenger exploded, along with all aboard. I was fresh out of the U.S. Navy after six years. It was a long time ago -- two decades.

Of course, Florida doesn't own the longest streak against Kentucky -- that honor belongs to our neighbors down in Knoxville. But to put this in even further perspective, we have beaten LSU 6 times since the last time we beat Florida, and Georgia 4 times. So to say the Wildcats are due for a win over the Gators is an understatement of galactic enormity.

What is working for us? The Gator's youth defensively. Despite their talent, the Florida is very young in the linebacking corps and secondary. Kentucky has far superior talent in the offensive skill position to any team the Gator defense has faced this year. LSU's much more highly rated defense gave up 375 yards of total offense to us, and Florida's defense has given up more than that two separate times, at LSU and at *GASP!* Ole Miss.

On the other hand, LSU racked up over 400 yards against UK's defense, and that bodes well for the Gators. The Gators also have a dual-threat quarterback, something that UK has historically had difficulty defending against.

This is a contest of two teams having the same strengths -- scoring and moving the football down the field. It should be a remarkable game, and a great day for college football. But whatever the outcome for the Wildcats, win or lose, we intend to compete. The LSU team that defeated Florida found out that we were capable, perhaps to their surprise, but definitely to their woe. We will be waiting eagerly, Gators. Bring your "A" game, because this team will not back down.

To all Florida fans coming to Lexington, we hope you enjoy our fair city and the ball game. May the best team win.

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