LEXINGTON, Ky. -- You can throw the records out the window when Kentucky and Ball State get together. OK, all joking aside (temporarily), here are five things to watch for in tomorrow's titanic struggle at Commonwealth Stadium:
1) AIR SICKNESS?
Last week, Kentucky's old "Air Raid" offense looked more like "Air Sickness." Granted, the previous regime didn't produce high-powered offense EVERY game, but you could usually count on a few points, if nothing else, from Shotgun Hal. UK's offense was shockingly lethargic last week and must improve immediately, or a long season is nigh. Ball State's Cardinals won't be anywhere near as good as the birds from Louisville, but watch tomorrow to see if the Cats can shift their offense out of neutral and get moving with some consistency. If it can't be done against Ball State, which team on UK's schedule will it be done against? Tomorrow's visitors aren't exactly the 1985 Chicago Bears. Or the 2001 Louisville Cardinals, for that matter.
2) BIG BLUE THRONG
Kentucky football fans are either the most loyal group in the United States, the most blindly loyal or just looking for a party in which to imbibe their favorite firewater. Yet there they were last Saturday afternoon, 70,000 strong, giving the Cats a hearty reception for the season opener one year after a miserable 2-9 season. The Cats then responded by laying an egg. The bluebloods will no doubt be out in force again tomorrow for a game against Ball State, a name that does not inspire much excitement. Win or lose, Kentucky fans deserve a tip of the hat. Check out attendance figures at places like Indiana and Louisville, and it's easy to see that UK's fan support, in light of its minimal on-field success, is remarkable. The Cats will likely have more fans on hand tomorrow for a game against Ball State than Indiana will for its Big Ten battles.
3) WHAT CONTROVERSY?
Cat coach Guy Morriss says there is no "quarterback controversy" between Jared Lorenzen and Shane Boyd. Maybe he should just call it a "quarterback dilemma." Either Lorenzen or Boyd needs to assume control and figure out a way to move the chains and lay claim to the job for the next three years. Until that happens, look for Morriss to throw both of them in the game until one "steps up" (this week's cliché brought to you by Thoroughbred Chevrolet). Ball State's defense should present Lorenzen and Boyd with ample opportunities to get something done. Pay attention tomorrow, because if Boyd plays well, he could find himself in the starting lineup next week at Indiana. Morriss knows better than anyone that UK is going to have to score a lot of points to win some games this year due to lack of defensive depth and mounting injuries. While we're on this topic, we have some words for Kentucky's receiving corps: Beat somebody and get open.
4) HOOK, LINE AND SINKER
We could have sworn we heard UK players telling the media last Saturday that they "overlooked" Louisville and entered the game guilty of over-confidence. But since we all know that hallucinations only happened in the 60s and 70s, surely this was a case of the media misreporting the facts and taking things out of context. It would be utterly ludicrous for a 2-9 team to enter a season thinking it was going to beat a team coming off a conference championship. Right? Apparently, the Cats are as a guilty as many of their fans in believing that membership in the SEC has its automatic privileges. It does not. Let's watch closely tomorrow to see if the Cats play with some desperation and intensity, even though this is a game they "should" win. Let's see if the Cats play as if they haven't won a game in 12 months.
5) FROM THE HOME OFFICE
Since Ball State is famous for counting David Letterman among its alumni, let's wrap things up this week with a Top 10 list of reasons that tomorrow will mark Kentucky's first win in one year:
10. Dave Ragone rode a bus out of Lexington a week ago.
9. So did Zek Parker and Deion Branch.
8. To make the sugarcoated, hometown optimism on the post-game call-in show on the UK Radio Network somewhat palatable.
7. Kentucky's coach can beat up Ball State's coach.
6. If Harley Davidsons and a pregame spelling bee won't get you fired up to beat these MAC birds, nothing will.
5. The Cats always win in September.
4. Did we mention that Dave Ragone doesn't play for Ball State?
3. Because you can't stop Derek Abney. You can only hope to contain him.
2. Famous UK alum: Tim Couch. Famous Ball State alum: David Letterman.
1. Two words: Ball State
EDITOR'S NOTE: The "Friday Five" is a new weekly feature for Big Blue Den produced by Brett Hait, our new contributing writer.