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Kentucky Wildcats Morning Quickies: Football R-E-S-P-E-C-T Edition

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Kentucky fans have suffered through a lot of disdain for their football program, and most of it was earned the hard way. But that is changing under Mark Stoops.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 Belk Bowl - Virginia Tech v Kentucky Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, and welcome to the Tuesday Morning Quickies.

Respect. That is the word that all sports fans like to hear directed at their teams, particularly those who have been... shall we say... historical underachievers — kind of like the UK football program. Let’s make no bones about it — Kentucky has obtained the position of being largely thought of as a doormat in the SEC the old-fashioned way — they’ve earned it through lackluster recruiting, spotty performance, and an uncanny ability to lose games in the last seconds. It’s a deadly combination from a fan standpoint, and has led to Kentucky’s current dubious honor of being an SEC “basketball school.”

Under Head Coach Mark Stoops, that is changing. As with all things worth doing, changing the direction of a historically underachieving football program the right way takes time and painful experience, and Stoops & Co. have had plenty of that early on. But now, after seven seasons, Kentucky is finally in a position to earn something more than disdain. Ben Roberts has this latest story in which a number of local and out-of-state sports media folks are asked to comment on Kentucky’s pending season.

What we see, generally, are realistic assessments, but surprisingly few losing season predictions. In the fairly recent past, Kentucky rarely would’ve been picked to win more than two or three games in an SEC-only season. Nowadays, only a couple of writers, mostly rivals or those simply living in the past pick Kentucky to win fewer than five games, and the vast majority pick six or more. Here’s an example of each from non-Kentucky media types:

Pat Dooley, Gainesville Sun: 6-4 — I have Kentucky at 6-4 and that’s only because Mark Stoops will find a way to have a winning record. The Wildcats could even be a surprise contender in the East.

Adam Sparks, The Tennessean: 4-6 — Kentucky is no longer a likely win for SEC opponents. The Wildcats are a tough matchup because of their physicality and toughness, and they can thank Mark Stoops for that. The defense should be good. The offensive line will be physical, which should allow UK to run the ball well. That being said, the offense can’t be one-dimensional this season. Unless there is an upgrade at QB, I think the lack of a passing game leads to at least a couple of losses that could have otherwise been wins.

Now, it may seem to you that some of these comments, like the second one above, are out-of-touch considering what Kentucky brings back, but remember — old habits die hard. The tendency to sniff derisively at any Kentucky football team is well-ingrained in most SEC writers.

Taken as a whole, this looks to me like the kind of respect Kentucky has been working to earn under Mark Stoops. What remains now is to prove themselves worthy of it, and that, as Frank Zappa once snarked, is the “crux of the biscuit.”

Tweet of the Morning

I have to say, I’m speechless. Sometimes, your impact is greater than you think.

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