Coming into this season, I expected Kentucky to get to seven wins and a bowl bid. Never in my wildest dreams did I see Mark Stoops making a serious run at the SEC Coach of the Year Award, but with a win over Georgia on Saturday, he has to be firmly in the conversation.
I know to some that this is an absurd notion, but with a win against Georgia or even Tennessee, Stoops will have done something that has not happened in nearly 40 years of Kentucky Wildcats football.
And that is to have a winning record in the SEC. Rich Brooks managed to go just 4-4 in the SEC just once, in 20016. And Hal Mumme did it twice, in 1998 and 1999. The last time that Kentucky had a winning SEC record was Fran Curci, who went 6-0 in 1977. I know the SEC East is down, but Mark Stoops has his Wildcats in a virtually uncharted area.
And of course, a 5-3 SEC record any other year is not going to create a SEC COY buzz, but there are not as many other candidates due to the fact the SEC is down this year.
In all reality, Nick Saban will probably take the award for another undefeated run and championship. Jim McElwain is another likely candidate for a SEC East title. Gus Malzahn and Ed Orgeron would also likely win the award if they can knock off Alabama. Kevin Sumlin will get some votes but after these coaches, you can not really make a case for another coach.
You can make a case for Mark Stoops just because of the historic precedence of a winning SEC record for Kentucky football. Even more, if the Wildcats can finish in second place in the East or in a tie for second.
I know a lot of people are critical of the Wildcat's schedule and are not impressed with Kentucky's season. The Vegas line is an indicator of this, but a win over Georgia is a good story, no matter who you are. And that win would start to open the media’s eyes as to what is going on in Lexington.
Keep in mind how this season started and the fact that Stoops has turned the season around and would have broken a six-year losing streak to Georgia or would have beaten Tennessee to get to five SEC wins.
That's a big thing for Kentucky football if Stoops can get to five wins and he would deserve some votes. Now, in my opinion, you can hand him the award if he can beat Tennessee and go 6-2. First things first though. The Cats need to beat Georgia this weekend.