Director's Commentary: Sorry for being an absentee blogger the last week or two, but I've Omaha'd a bit and have been working on something else that saps not only my time but a lot of my day's allotment of creativity. Rest assured, this is a temporary blip, and if it goes well, we'll all benefit.
Anyway, to the Bulldogs of Mississippi State.
As a sign of my solidarity with the team, I'm throwing out the old format of Smiting. I think there are five things Kentucky has to do to unseat the number one team in the country, none of which will be easily accomplished. That's kind of the point, though, isn't it? If it were easy, Louisville would've already done it. So, let's get started.
1. Start the game yesterday
To say Kentucky is prone to slow starts is like saying Indiana is prone to stupid pants and bad basketball and football and life. I said after the ULM game that a start like that against an SEC team not named Vandy would be more of a death knell than an alarm whine, and LSU proved me fantastically correct.
Stoops and the somehow-still-employed Craig Naivar outcoached themselves from the opening kickoff, providing a gust of wind to an LSU sailboat that just needed a breeze, and once they got that breeze they discovered a pristine diesel engine belowdecks and the Cats' fate was sealed. Forget about loose lips--slow starts sink ships, and as much as I hate to say it, this, if not fixed (it won't be until next year), will prove to be to be the fatal flaw to Stoops Team 2.
It's possible they can figure it out for a game or two. It is. The problem, though, with a youth-laden team, is the youth. Youth is unpredictable. Youth launches itself at an unwitting LSU player, blows him up and, down 31 points, gets up and taunts said LSU player. Youth may lead the team in receiving yet disappear in big games. Youth makes 55-yard field goals but misses from 25.
Fret not, though. Today's youth is tomorrow's SEC East Champion. So, whatever happens, stay behind this team--and tell them the game started yesterday so that by Saturday they'll be hitting their stride. They're young, they won't know any better.
2. Fix Ryan Timmons
I don't know if he's hurt or if he's in a funk or if he's suffering a crisis of confidence or if he's all three. But fix it. Timmons is a big play in shoulder pads. He's a home run hitter. But so far this year he's been too much Adam Dunn and not enough Miguel Cabrera. Sometimes it's okay to hit doubles into the gap. In fact, it's always okay to hit doubles into the gap. Like with youth, today's leadoff doubles are tomorrow's grand slams.
If I'm Neal Brown, I'm featuring Timmons this week against a Mississippi State defense ranked dead last in the SEC. Toss Timmons a few singles (not those horizontal, faux sweeps that take forever to develop, not ever). Throw him a quick slant. Throw him a quick out. Line him up in the Wildcat with JoJo Kemp and make it an option. Get him the ball and remind him what it feels like to consistently contribute.
3. Don't outcoach yourself
I alluded to it earlier. Stoops and Naivar, on that opening kickoff, which was so fancy I almost cried but instead just made another drink, came into the game dead set on out hatting the Mad Hatter. Les was all:
Dan Mullen damn near outcoached himself against Auburn. Up 21-3, with Auburn rudderless on the other sideline, Mullen called an ill-advised fake punt. It was a classic case of a coach out-thinking himself. While Auburn didn't take advantage of it, the call did serve as a vacuum which took the air out of State's sails (he's so nautical today). In other words:
Just keep it simple, guys. You're at home. State is coming off a bye. Pray they have a little rust, and if they do, don't reward them by reminding them they have a diesel engine belowdecks.
4. NO CLANGA
This one's for us, the fans. I understand the game is nearly sold out, if not completely sold out. A) It's about time. B) Get loud. Make this State team, which, let's be honest, isn't as talented as LSU, face seven kinds of hell, four of which are just you screaming and clapping and cussing. Yes, I understand State beat LSU, and yes, I understand I've been hard on the State bandwagon since that game. The truth remains, though, that this State team isn't as fast and not nearly as physical as LSU. They're maxed out, running at 110% capacity. LSU wasn't ready for them. Auburn mostly beat themselves. This will be State's first tough game on the road (assuming we can make it a tough game) since LSU. I'm telling you, they're ripe for the picking. If we don't get them someone else will, and I'll bet you dollars to cowbells they don't think it'll be us. Win and last week is forgotten.
5. Stay positive
This one goes for all of us. State will have their first offensive drive scripted, and they will execute it to perfection. After two weeks, they should know pretty well what our weaknesses are. With that and our inability to start a football game on time, I fully expect them to take the ball and score on their first drive, and maybe their second. This is okay. Remember that they're really a first half football team. Keep them off the scoreboard at the end of the half and coming out of the half, and we'll be right where we wanna be in the last eight minutes.
Nailed it. K