Is it basketball season yet at UK?
The Bottom 10 inspirational thought of the week:
I tried so hard to pretend, dear
That losing you meant nothing to me
But 'til you're mine once again, dear
Make believe is all my life will be
Ah-ah, ah-ah, ah-ah
The joker, though he seems happy
Because you have found someone new
But somewhere deep inside beneath his strange disguise
The joker is crying over you
-- "The Joker," The Hilltoppers
Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips put on a brave face, and his demeanor betrayed no hint of desperation, but even he can't deny what the Bottom 10 can see clear as day: the inexorable crawl toward antipathy creeping up on the Commonwealth after the Wildcats' 32-31 overtime loss to Western Kentucky on Saturday.
Through sheer tenacity, and with a bit of trickery, the Hilltoppers secured a triumph for directional schools, who are so often dismissed as little more than a Homecoming Weekend garnish to satiate the appetite of State U.
With a game-winning 2-point conversion -- on a trick play, no less! -- WKU turned the tables on its tormentors, earning the Wildcats the coveted No. 5 spot in this week's Bottom 10.
"WKU red is the new blue," proclaimed Hilltoppers head coach Willie Taggart. The Bottom 10 is willing to indulge in such hyperbole, if only this one time. After all, we're talking about a program that endured a 26-game losing streak during its FBS transition.
Surviving growing pains such as those entitles Western Kentucky to enjoy a little taunt while toasting its newfound success. Heck, the Hilltoppers ought to sing songs to commemorate their Lexington achievement, just as the pop band of the same name did in Bowling Green 60 years ago.
If there's a silver lining for Kentucky fans, it's that there are only 23 days until the first official basketball practice! That's right, it's never too early for college basketball in Lexington, a hoops oasis in SEC country. Tickets for Big Blue Madness are available on Saturday, which is probably a good time for Wildcats fans to start diverting their attention away from the gridiron. UK's upcoming schedule is as follows: at Florida, vs. South Carolina, vs. Mississippi State well, you get the idea.
Phillips knows better than most that legacies in Lexington are built from bricks made of orange rubber and nets. He played football at UK when men's basketball coach Joe B. Hall was undertaking, quite successfully, the unenviable task of succeeding the legendary Adolph Rupp. The Wildcats named the building after the latter; on Tuesday, they unveiled a statue to honor the former.
Given that precedent of idolatry, there's no telling what's in store for current coach John Calipari at the rate he's going. A statue might not be enough. They may as well name the place after him (eat your heart out, Nick Saban).
In the meantime, get in line, because tickets for Big Blue Madness will go fast. And dream no more dreams of football futility, UK fans, a new season on the hardwood will be here soon enough.
The Pillowfight of the Week is Wyoming at Idaho.
With apologies to Steve Harvey and The Hilltoppers, here is this week's Bottom 10.
ESPN.com's Bottom 10 RANK TEAM 2012 RECORD COMMENT 1. Colorado 0-3 Where did it all go wrong? Or, better yet, how does Colorado even go about making it right? Fresno State had 516 yards in the first half. Thirty-five points in the first quarter. It all added up to a 69-14 loss. Colorado players and its president are circling the wagons around head coach Jon Embree, and they want Buffs fans to join them. ("Only you can make this world seem right. Only you can make the darkness bright.") 2. UMass 0-3 UMass might play its home games in an NFL stadium, but its house will never seem as big as Michigan Stadium did on Saturday, when the Wolverines fine-tuned their performance ahead of their date with Notre Dame in a 63-13 win. On the bright side, the Minutemen, having opened the season with three BCS opponents, can put the episode behind them and settle into MAC play Saturday against Miami (Ohio). ("No use trying to forget you, cause I realize, that I'm trying to forget you with tears in my eyes.") 3. Memphis 0-3 After ending the first half with a touchdown drive to cut Middle Tennessee's lead to 10 points, Memphis fumbled the opening kickoff in the second half, leading to a Blue Raiders touchdown and putting the game out of reach in a 48-30 loss. Momentum can be a tricky thing to master. So is getting to the quarterback. The Tigers have yet to record a sack. ("I thought I could buy happiness. I was so blind. For the things I bought, they never brought peace of mind.") 4. UNLV 0-3 UNLV's first three games, all played at home, comprised of an FCS opponent and two BCS teams with 12 combined wins over the past two years. The losses came by a total of 14 points. The Rebels' schedule only gets less forgiving, so they might come to rue the time in the season when opportunity knocked, and they didn't answer. ("Nothing else for me to say, and so I'll close. But by the way, everybody's thinking of you.") 5. Kentucky 1-2 Joker Phillips could use a KO of an SEC heavyweight in the worst way. The only thing that could make Kentucky's current state more unpalatable would be the sight of an undefeated Louisville team led by a QB who's an early Heisman candidate oh, never mind. ("If I didn't care more than words can say. If I didn't care would I feel this way?") 6. Idaho 0-3 Bad things can happen to ill-equipped teams venturing into Death Valley on a Saturday night, and Idaho fans would be forgiven for worrying about the Vandals' safety during a visit to LSU. Idaho put forth a good showing -- for one half, at least -- before being swept aside in a 63-14 loss, the Tigers' 40th straight regular-season nonconference win. ("Dear, I thought I'd drop a line. The weather's cool, the folks are fine.") 7. Eastern Michigan 0-3 Eastern Michigan's defense is allowing more than 6 yards per carry. The Eagles allowed a 200-yard rusher against Ball State and Akeem Hunt needed just four carries to rack up 106 yards for Purdue in Saturday's 56-16 win. Here's thinking that Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell is enjoying watching this week's game film. ("Move it over, buddy, there's plenty of space. When we get boppin', we can't stop.") 8. Wyoming 0-3 What a difference one player can make. Wyoming QB Brett Smith accounted for 695 of the Cowboys' 871 yards through their first two games -- a respectable loss at Texas and a narrow defeat to Toledo. His absence due to a concussion was felt Saturday, as the Cowboys were bested by the Cal Poly Mustangs of FCS 24-22. Will he return in time for Saturday's game at Idaho? ("One look and I forgot the gloom of the past. One look and I had found my future at last.") 9. Houston 0-3 Houston's air-raid attack carried it to 13 wins last season, including one over UCLA. How the Cougars' star has fallen. David Piland was slinging it like Case Keenum, but five of his 60 pass attempts went to Bruins defenders in a 37-6 loss. A late touchdown prevented Houston from being shut out for the first time in nearly 12 years. ("A fallen star, that's what you are. The twinkle in your eye came from the sky.") 10. UAB 0-2 UAB surrendered 501 yards to South Carolina as the Gamecocks celebrated Steve Spurrier's 200th win. The Blazers have one more mountain to climb before entering the cozy confines of C-USA play. Unfortunately, that mountain comes in the form of Ohio State. ("Although there are oceans we must cross, and mountains we must climb, I know every gain must have a loss.")
Waiting list: Kicking; Hollywood besting Silicon Valley; Utah field rush I; Utah field rush II; Arkansas capitulation; Ole Miss tackling; Virginia Tech fundamentals; USF turnovers; Louisville's fourth-quarter focus; Wisconsin's field goal fortune.
Conor Nevins is a college football editor for ESPN.com.
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