Ah, it is that special time of year again for all of Big Blue Nation. No, I am not talking about the start of Basketball season. No, I am not talking about the perfect fall weather and Keeneland either. I am talking about that time of year when we all look up at the regressing SEC East and think to ourselves that we could make some noise this season!
This is now the third year in a row where UK Football has found itself near the top of the SEC East standings at this point in the season. Just last season there was some chatter about UK actually winning the East and even a national writer endorsing the ‘Cats as the future champs of the East and Atlanta bound!
Everything is falling into place in the SEC East. #UKSECEastChamps— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) October 12, 2014
Changing my SEC East pick to Kentucky cuz screw it.— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) August 28, 2014
Tom Fornelli, college football writer for CBS, picks Kentucky to win the SEC East. pic.twitter.com/B7jl6sBnDV— Not Jerry Tipton (@NotJerryTipton) October 8, 2014
Unfortunately, we all know how the last two years played out down the stretch so no need to fully rehash it, suffice to say UK finished 5th (below Vandy) last year, and 6th in 2014 after starting the season 5-1.
I say that to say this; if we cannot take advantage of the East's weakness this season, when can we?
The East is chock full of some terrible football right now, and we have three consecutive games against teams that are shells of their former selves. Mark Stoops SHOULD be salivating at the thought of being able to go 2-2 vs. Dak-less Mississippi State, Richt-less Georgia led by a true freshman at QB, Mediocre Missouri, and Tennessee.
If he does that and we finish 6-6, and go to a bowl; the season becomes a complete .180 from the ‘toxic' days following the Southern Miss embarrassment.
He also defines his career at UK as something much closer to Rich Brooks than Joker Phillips, as I wrote about here.
It is one thing to say there is an opportunity, but when you see it on paper along with the games we have all watched, it becomes more of a *should*, than a *could*.
We can start with where each team ranks in the entirety of the SEC to get an idea of how much of an opportunity it is. ESPN has a weekly Football Power Index that in my opinion is close to what KenPom does for College Basketball. If you ranked the SEC overall, top to bottom based on that, here is what you have (teams with color are remaining SEC games for UK):
It is pretty much a consensus that Florida and UT are the tops in the East... well, they would be the 6th best team in the West. I will repeat, the best team(s) in the SEC East would likely be the 6th best team in the SEC West; think about that for a second.
You could argue they (UT/Florida) are better than Ole Miss, but Ole Miss is scoring 40 per game. Florida's defense could probably slow that down and maybe pull out a win, but that is a big ask.
Tennessee is giving up 30 a game so unless they can beat Ole Miss in a shootout (unlikely) it is probably a pretty accurate assessment at this point in the season.
Looking at Kentucky's remaining 4 SEC games they are playing the #7, #9, #10, and #11 in the SEC based on the FPI Ranking. The truth of the matter is that if they do *not* go 2-2 in those games, Coach Stoops needs to be held accountable.
Kentucky's 2016 SEC slate is going to consist of the 5 worst teams in the conference (excluding themselves), 4 of which are home games, then 2 middle-of-the-pack teams in UT and Florida, and of course the juggernaut Alabama.
Winning 1 out of those final 4 SEC games and finishing 5-7 again... against that schedule... in Year 4.... Well, that should not cut it either folks.
Some people may not want to hear this... but this is the easiest conference schedule UK has had, maybe since I have been alive.
If UK does not go 4-4 or better in the SEC this year... when will we?