The Kentucky Wildcats have won three straight bowl games, defeated top notch programs in LSU, Georgia, Arkansas, Clemson, and Florida State, but the 2009 version of the Wildcats wants more.
Trevard Lindley, Micah Johnson, and Jermey Jarmon all spurned the NFL draft to return to Kentucky for their senior season and will help lead a defense that was key to the Cats' success last season.
For the Cats to have a successful season, the offense must improve upon their 2008 output. Mike Hartline comes into the season as the starter, but will be pushed by newcomers Morgan Newton and RyanMossakowski.
If the Cats want eight or more wins, the offense has to move the ball up the field better and keep the defense off the field more than they did in 2008.
The 2009 home schedule is a fan's dream, with Louisville, Florida, and Alabama playing in Lexington three straight weeks and Tennessee closing out the home schedule. Those four games are sure to be some of the biggest games Commonwealth has ever seen.
There will be four highlights to the home schedule for Kentucky football fans:
- The chance to see the Cats beat down instate rival Louisville.
- The chance to see what could be one of the greatest college teams ever in Florida and one of the greatest college players ever in Tim Tebow.
- Alabama only comes to town every five years, and very rarely do they come to Lexington when the Cats have a chance to win, but the Cats appear to have that chance this year.
- The chance to perhaps see UK end the dreadful 24-year losing streak to Tennessee.
If you take a look at the 2009 schedule for the Cats, five games will make or break the season for Kentucky, and if the Cats can win two or three of these games they might be looking at playing on New Year's Day for the first time in 11 years.
Now let's take a look at those games.
This is a game Kentucky must win if they want to improve upon 2008. Kentucky will have its only bye week of the season before this game, and with far superior talent there is no reason UK should not win this game.
Kentucky has won the past two meetings, including last years 27-2 beatdown. Will the Cats be ready for the Cardinals or will they perhaps be looking forward to Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators coming to town the following week?
Last year, Kentucky last was a fumble away from beating the Crimson Tide on the road. With Alabama losing their starting quarterback, running back, and best offensive lineman, this could be a game that, with a few good bounces, Kentucky could win. Kentucky has only beaten Bama one time in 80 years. Could they perhaps pull the massive upset in Lexington once again?
Kentucky has never beaten a Steve Spurrier coached team and has not beaten South Carolina since 1999. Going into Columbia will not be an easy task, but eventually UK has to get the Spurrier monkey off their back. Could this be the year?
Kentucky has not beaten Auburn since 1966 and have not won on the Plains since 1961, but if ever there was a year for Kentucky it is 2009. Following a 5-7 campaign, Auburn fired Tommy Tuberville and hired Gene Chizik. If Auburn's offense struggles like it did in 2008, I really like the chances of Kentucky getting the win.
With a 24-year losing streak to the Vols, this is the game that all of Kentucky wants more than any other game. Kentucky has had close calls, including a triple overtime loss in 2007, but can never get over the hump. With the loudmouth Lane Kiffin now at the helm, there is nothing UK fans would love more than a season-ending victory over the Vols.
This could be an excellent season for the Wildcats, but everything hangs on those five games. Win two or three and you ring in 2010 in sunny Florida, but win zero or only one and it could be Nashville or Memphis again, which would not be bad, but this football team and their fans want more in 2009.