Mark Stoops has a big problem on his hands, the negativity about his program has reached an all-time high. His football team has failed to produce much in the way of a winning football team even with the success that it has seen in the recruiting world. The last two years have played out in the worst way for a team that has shown itself to be building. Stoops has a record of 9-3 during those 2014-2015 seasons in the first 6 games of the year and a 1-11 record in the last 6 games in those two years. In now his 4th year at Kentucky, he has a team that raced out to a big lead against Southern Miss only to squander the lead and lose in embarrassing fashion. I predicted in the off-season that we would win that game and this is my quote exactly "I expect this one to be a high scoring game with Drew Barker and company coming through with the win. It’ll be interesting to see where our defense is along with our O-Line. Also, can Boom Williams be the star that UK Football needs." It was a high scoring affair, the defense and offensive line both showed they were not where they needed to be, and Boom did not prove that he was a star. Moving on to the Florida game, I said "This game could be very interesting for Cats fans." and interesting is one way to put it. Fans have lashed out at players (not a good look), coaches (I myself did this), and even our Athletic Director. It wasn't that we lost that gets everyone so upset, it's the fact that they showed absolutely zero will to win by anyone not named Jordan Jones. He has been the bright spot for Kentucky in the first two games this season totaling 28 total tackles and leading the team in that category.
So, what needs to happen from this point forward to get rid of the plaguing negativity that looms over this program?
I have a few ideas on what could help turn around the perception of the program but it starts with beating teams that we should beat. So far, Coach Stoops is 14-24 against the spread according to teamrankings.com. That means we aren't playing as competitive as we should against teams that are perceived to be better and not blowing out teams that we are better than. So far this year we are 0-2 with some opportunities to turn that around by beating South Carolina, Missouri, and Vanderbilt and playing Alabama, Mississippi State, and Tennessee close. If we finish the year playing competitive football we might be able to swing this stat to longer be the worst in the SEC against the spread.
Another thing that needs to happen is the realization that our success as far as football is concerned is not measured by one or two games. In the sports world there have been many stories about a team that isn't where they need to be in the beginning of the season only to turn it around and have a magical finish to the season. These teams are usually remembered very fondly and it's not impossible for that to happen to us. Assuming Kentucky wins the two games it should win against New Mexico St. and Austin Peay. We need to find 4 more wins to go to a bowl game. I could see them winning or losing any of the games on the schedule except for Alabama (that games is possible to win but only like .1 % chance). So, if we do beat South Carolina, Missouri, and Vandy all we have to do is have one upset win. Out of the four games left I'd say the highest chance for a win would be against Mississippi State. It's possible for us to beat Louisville as well but we will have to see what they do against an actual opponent this week.
Fan support has declined a little after the surge of optimism after the Stoops hire in part due to the 2-10 first season Stoops had. It also is the case that our schedule has three marquee games that are at home every other year and we unfortunately don't have a strong home schedule when Florida, Tennessee, and Louisville are all on the road. Having South Carolina, Georgia, and Mississippi State at home is okay but not as much of a draw as the former threesome. Maybe a good way to counteract the in conference schedule being a little unbalanced is to play some tougher nonconference games. We could open up a home and home series against a Big Ten school which would help in recruiting and could get us another game at CWS that will draw some more support.
All of these ideas are not necessarily original or out of the box. So, let me know if you have any ideas on how to turn around the culture of negativity that surrounds the UK football program! I think this fanbase has it's fair share of ‘weirdos’ that could come up with something unique that could really make an impact!