These predictions are based on the belief that Kentucky MUST get to a bowl this year. Horse hockey. Kentucky doesn't have to have a bowl game this year, not that they won't. They just do not have to have a bowl game for Mark Stoops to keep his job.
There are two main reasons I say this. First, is the tremendous job he and his staff have done in bringing in talent and depth. Second, is the fact that he will be given time for the new facilities to work their magic.
Think about this. If Stoops leaves, Vince Marrow and the others on his staff will be gone as well. And, Erik Korem will also likely follow Stoops wherever he goes. So, do you think that Mitch Barnhart is going to let a coaching staff that has created more excitement than any other go because he didn't get to a bowl in his third season? Rubbish. Kentucky will be willing to lose, not only Mark Stoops, but one of the nation's top recruiters in Vince Marrow because we don't go to a bowl? Do you know what "Fat Chance" means?
While Kentucky should show significant improvement this year, it isn't the critical year. Normally, a coach gets five years to build his program unless the program is falling apart at the seams like under the Joker Phillips regime. Remember, Bill Curry had seven years to develop something in spite of "The Fellowship of the Miserable." Blame the fans was the mantra back then.
If you'll recall, AD C.M. Newton told unhappy UK fans to find another team to cheer for. Consider the difference between the Stoops first three years and Curry's. In Curry's first two years, Kentucky went 4-7 in 1990 and 3-8 in 1991 compared to 2-10 and 5-7 under Stoops. In Curry's third year, he went 4-7. Stoops enters his third season and is expected to go to a bowl? The reason I ask that question is Curry inherited a Jerry Claiborne team that went 5-5 while Stoops inherited a team that went 2-10 before he arrived. Curry's best team had a 6-6 record and he followed that with a 1-10 record.
Obstacles for Stoops to overcome are great. Kentucky hasn't had a winning SEC record since the 1977. Since 2002, Kentucky and Vanderbilt are the only teams who have not won an SEC-E title. Florida has won six titles, while Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina have won two each. In three years in the conference, Missouri has captured two SEC Eastchampionships. Since 2002, Florida has won 78% of their SEC Est games while the rest have winning percentages of:
South Carolina 57%
Newcomer Mizzou has won 67% of their East games in three years.
Another consideration is the dynamics of the SEC East are changing. Florida is no longer the power they once were under Steve Spurrier and Urban Myer. While Spurrier has taken South Carolina to never before seen heights, he will be retiring soon. Coaching changes at Florida and South Carolina will not produce quick results.
There is no question that Florida is rebuilding under Jim McElwain. A new staff and different philosophy requires buy in from the players. That takes some time. Kentucky is going to have opportunities to end the streak until McElwain gets his systems in place. The same can be said of South Carolina once Spurrier leaves.
We've seen the results at Vanderbilt when James Franklin left for Penn State. Derek Mason did not have an easy transition in his first year and his Commodore squad isn't expected to show much improvement on the field in year two. Georgia has under-performed under Mark Richt and there has been a section of UGA fans who have high expectations that haven't been met. They've not won the SEC-E since 2012 and Missouri has shown the Bulldogs can be beaten with lesser talent than Georgia's.
Developing players is a top priority for Stoops and who better to get players ready than Erik Korem? If you read Tyler Thompson's article on Erik Korem, you know that conditioning isn't a problem at Kentucky and won't be as long as he's at UK.
My opinion is that Tennessee under Butch Jones, Missouri under Gary Pinkel , and Kentucky under Stoops are the programs on the rise in the East. The rise by Kentucky hasn't manifested yet, but the recruiting says it is coming. For those who are too young and those with short memories, check this out:
Note the trend lines for three and four-star players. Also, the number of two-star players has declined significantly. Remember, Rivals doesn't pay any attention to Kickers/Punters and other players who don't attend their camps. For example, UK DL commit Jaquize Cross (a 247Sports 3*) and K/P Grant McKinnis (a 247Sports 4*).
Kentucky received the following commitments just this past week:
2016 Rivals (5.7) 3*DT Kobie Smith (flipped from NC State)
2017 (5.6) 3* QB Mac Jones
2017 (5.6) 3* WR Russ Yeast
2017 (5.5) 4* RB Mike Warren
2017 (5.7) 3* DE James Hudson
2018 NR WR Jermaine Eskridge
Note: Rivals has not rated any 2018 recruits, but 247 Sports has him as a 4* and projected Eskridge as a 5 star as a senior.
2016 consensus 5* DL Rashan Gary has let it be known that he wants to visit Kentucky before making his decision. He doesn't have a UK offer, but still wants to take a look at KENTUCKY!
All this within a seven day period.
So, Kentucky is going to get rid of this staff for not going to a bowl after the 2015 season? If you believe that, come on down here to Florida where you can get property backing up to a half acre water retention pond and pay premium money for "waterfront" property.