VAUGHT: Ole Miss will be UK's key game

Don't let me ruin any of the anticipation for Sunday's Kentucky-Louisville game. No one is more ready for college football than me and it would be foolish to do anything to downplay this game. However, from my perspective, this is not the most important game of the year for Kentucky — or at least not going into the season.

Say what? No, I've not lost my mind. No, I've not taken a job working for Tom Jurich or Mitch Barnhart. Instead, I simply see the Mississippi game as the defining moment for Kentucky this year.

Now if the Cats play a spectacular game Sunday and upset No. 13 Louisville, I reserve the right to say, "I was wrong. You were right. Louisville made UK's bowl season." But what if Louisville, a huge favorite, does go ahead and beat Kentucky as even the most die-hard Big Blue fan would have to admit is a big possibility?

That makes Mississippi in week three the make-or-break game for Kentucky. Sure, I'm assuming the Cats would come back and beat Texas State Sept. 9. Then that would set the stage for the Sept. 16 game with Mississippi that will show if the Cats really are bowl-worthy.

If UK can beat Mississippi, a Southeastern Conference foe, it will have a legitimate chance to win six games. If the Cats can't beat Ole Miss at home, then kiss any bowl hopes bye-bye. Remember the Rebels struggled to beat UK last year. They have a new quarterback, but he's only been on campus a month.

If the bigger, stronger, deeper and more mature Cats can't win this game at home, then forget finding five wins in the remaining nine games to get to a bowl.

But let's go to one of my favorite Wildcats, receiver Keenan Burton, for confirmation on how important the Ole Miss game could be. "I would say I agree in that any game you lost last year is important because you have the opportunity to pay that team back. I feel like you have to put so much emphasis on every game to win. You should take every game personally and really not put a label on any one game," Burton said. "But it would send a message if we beat Ole Miss. I know we have not won a lot of SEC games in the past. That's something we could build on. That will make it one of the most important games on the schedule. But don't take that to mean that we can't beat Louisville because I still think we can."

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