The Kentucky Wildcats are rightfully the butt of many SEC football jokes. The success of 2006-2009 seasons was a short time span, and also predated the heavy use of social media; thus largely rendering the achievements during this epoch as insignificant or plain forgotten in the public consciousness. Good times may be back, with today's somewhat misleading 20-3 victory over the Ohio Bobcats, Kentucky is 2-0 for the first time since 2011, and has looked impressive in the process. Kentucky won't have a winning record in the SEC, but the on-field improvement is evident under Mark Stoops and Co. The future is brighter.
An Ohio team that had looked impressive last week against Kent State, despite four turnovers, could only manage 223 yards of total offense Saturday. Kentucky's defense often swaps between 3-4 and 4-3 fronts with a heavy dose of nickel personnel. It should be susceptible to a power running game, but on Saturday, UK's front seven shut down a rushing attack that features two All-MAC interior offensive linemen. The strength of UK's defense is its secondary and pass-rushers, and they also played well, all of which resulted in Ohio's starting quarterback being yanked before halftime. The defense has caused six turnovers in two games.
Kentucky's bevy of talented youth at its skill positions was also on display. True freshmen Stanley Williams and Dorian Baker made explosive plays, as did sophomore Ryan Timmons, who had 10 receptions for 95 yards. Quarterback Patrick Towles went 17-of-31, and also ran for 59 yards, making everyone forget there was a quarterback competition this spring and summer. Kentucky has put up impressive offensive numbers the last two games, albeit against lesser competition, despite missing probable starting receivers Alexander Montgomery and Jeff Badet. Additionally, UK was missing certain starters in running back Braylon Heard, receiver Javess Blue, and offensive lineman Zach West on Saturday.
UK's biggest challenge yet comes next weekend when the Wildcats travel to Gainesville. UK's penchant for explosive plays won't be enough for Florida's strong defense, and they'll have to display a consistent ability to string together long drives while converting in short-yardage situations. Before the season started, the late September match-up against Vanderbilt was considered by UK fans to be the measuring stick for the season. Now, the more optimistic fans are ready to judge next week's Florida game as the bellwether. UK should not be the betting favorite next week, but they should challenge Florida and be far more competitive than in previous seasons. Anything less will be disappointing.
A four-win season seems almost assured at this point given UK's performances, but now the question starting to be ask among BBN: can an additional SEC win or two be stolen in a so far shaky SEC East?