In the recent history of sports, there have been many great spoilers...
1993: The Los Angeles Dodgers defeat the San Francisco Giants in game 162 to give the NL West to the Atlanta Braves in the last real pennant race.
1996: The Ottawa Senators defeat the defending champion New Jersey Devils on the final day of the season to vault the Tampa Bay Lighting into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in their history. (A personal favorite of mine.)
2007: The Florida Marlins defeat the New York Mets 8-1 in game 162 to give the Philadelphia Phillies their first playoff berth since 1993. Two weeks earlier, the Mets led the Phils by seven games.
And now, Gator fans can only hope this happens...
2007: The Kentucky Wildcats defeat the Georgia Bulldogs and Tennessee Volunteers to give the Florida Gators the SEC East title.
But do the Wildcats, their own hopes at the SEC East already gone, really have a chance to win over the next two weeks? We asked Truzenzuzex at the fantastic Kentucky blog A Sea of Blue if Gator fans should start looking at hotels in Atlanta.
Kentucky defeated Georgia last season and only lost by five to Tennessee. Is it possible UK sweeps these last two games?
Truzenzuzex: It's certainly possible, especially in the SEC where almost anything seems possible. What works against the possibility of this happening are two things: First, the emergence of Knowshon Moreno at tailback for Georgia. Moreno's emergence has really helped Georgia's offensive balance, and permitted Matthew Stafford to really mature into a first-rate SEC quarterback.
Second, Georgia's defense is stepping it up big time. In this 4-game winning streak, UGA has upped their tackles for loss against SEC competition from 15 yards to 37.5 per game, and their sacks are up from .75 to 3.75/game. The best way to beat UK is by stopping the run, and the Dawgs are kind of schizophrenic in that area. If UK can run the ball, Georgia won't be able to get to Woodson, and things could go badly for them.
With respect to Tennessee, we haven't beaten them since the Napoleonic Wars. I don't know if we have any idea how to actually do that. What gives me some hope is the fact that the Gators rang up some serious points on the Vols. If we can score like Florida did, I don't think the Vols are good enough offensively to win the game in Lexington.
Against Georgia, can UK stop Moreno? Or will they have to win in a shootout?
Truzenzuzex: We haven't stopped anybody on the ground this year, and there is no real reason to believe we can stop Moreno. What we can do and have done is keep teams from scoring on every possession, and that's about the best we can hope for against Georgia. Our D-line is much more healthy than it has been at any time during the year, so maybe we'll get a bit more from them than usual.
The Cats best hope is almost always a shootout. If we can run the ball, Georgia will be in a lot of trouble because that will open up the vertical pass, and Georgia's secondary isn't exactly the strongest in the SEC, although they are reasonably good. But if the safeties have to cheat to stop the run, it could get ugly. Georgia's offense is improving, but I don't believe it has improved enough to win a shootout with UK.
Andre Woodson was unstoppable against UF, who is 12th in SEC pass defense. So what will he do against 11th place UT?
Truzenzuzex: Well, it depends on how we run the ball. Unlike last year when the Cats had to throw to move the ball, Kentucky has a much more diverse offense now. Anytime you can run the football effectively, the passing lanes open up, particularly verticals, because the safeties have to be aware of the run. We have 3 big-time deep threats in Stevie Johnson, Keenan Burton and Dickie Lyons. Any of these guys can burn you if they don't get 100% of your attention.
Tennessee, like Georgia, has to stop the run in order to give their secondary a chance. If they don't, Kentucky can score, and Kentucky scores really quickly from anywhere on the field.
If Kentucky wins, it will make UF fans happy, but do they need to win out to have a "successful" season?
Truzenzuzex: No. For us, a successful season has already occured. Anytime UK can win 3 games in the SEC, 7 games overall, be headed to a post-season bowl and be respected by every team in the league in football, they have had a successful season, at least until we develop a winning tradition in the sport. Kentucky fans have not experienced enough success to be too cocky or have sky-high expectations -- we know we have to earn every scrap from every team in this league, and that developing a winning football team is not something that happens with just two good years back to back.
Winning on the road in the SEC is a difficult thing to do. It will be difficult for us to go to Athens and win. It will be difficult for UT to come to Lexington and win. Of course we would love to win 8 or 9 games and possibly wind up in a BCS bowl. But we also know that's a pretty long shot.
Finally, if the Cats win out, I've offered UK free Gatorade for a year, a fruit basket, and our men's and women's basketball teams to finish behind Kentucky. Is there anything else I should include?
Truzenzuzex: Haha. Well, maybe you could hold a drawing for an all-expenses paid trip to Gainesville for the Kentucky-Florida basketball game January 19th. It gets kind of cold up here, and lots of UK fans would love the opportunity to become snowbirds for a weekend in January and watch our basketball team school the Gators. We owe you a couple there.
Our big thanks to Truzenzuzex for enlightening us. We raise a glass of Gatorade up I-75 in his honor. Also, please visit A Sea of Blue to follow the Cats in their quest to destroy the hopes of the Black Jerseys and the Vols.