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When we think of Kentucky football, the first thing that would usually pop into your mind is “When does basketball season start?”. But as we’ve seen throughout the years in Lexington, Mark Stoops has turned something that was once an afterthought, to now being ranked 12th in the country and folks have started to hate their success. Now, I am not saying this success will eventually lead to an SEC championship appearance, but at least they are on the right track.
As for that championship appearance I just brought up, that’s going to be hard, not gonna lie. But even the fact that we are talking about Kentucky having a chance at locking up a 2nd place finish in the SEC East this weekend should be the next step. It would take the Wildcats starting to recruit at the level Georgia is, or partially. See, the good thing about the eastern division is most of the time it can be a crapshoot at the top. Now, this year is a different story because of how good Georgia is, but that shouldn’t takeaway what Kentucky is trying to do this season. But Mark Stoops has laid the groundwork for 9 to 10 win seasons to happen regularly, no matter what the schedule looks like. But how long will Stoops stay at Kentucky and try to keep battling Georgia, Florida and Tennessee? We’ll answer that another day.
Going into their game this weekend against Mississippi State, the Wildcats have an opportunity to clinch their second winning record in the SEC since 1977, as the other came in 2018. Think about that stat for a minute, then continue reading. There is another milestone that Mark Stoops is chasing this season. If Kentucky wins Saturday night, it would give Stoops 56 career victories, leaving him just four wins shy of tying Paul “Bear” Bryant for the school’s all-time winningest coach. If he can pull that off, then his legacy will be set for life.
But, there’s one thing this team must continue to do and not give folks the opportunity to degrade what they’re continuing to build. They have to win a game like this against Mississippi State, no matter what. This football team has been through the ringer over the last decade, but not giving away wins to teams you should beat, especially if you think you’re worthy of being ranked 12th in the country.
There are already numerous motivation points for this team playing Mississippi State at night, in Starkville, but I do wonder if Stoops can break 0-4 losing streak on the road against the Bulldogs. Also, let’s not forget that Kentucky hasn’t won in Starkville since the 2008 season.
He can rely on his players, because they are good. The offense has all the tools it needs to make State’s life a nightmare. Will Levis will get Josh Ali back this weekend at wide receiver, to go along with the super talented Wan’Dale Robinson. This should only help open things up down the field more than what we’ve seen over the past few weeks. Also, you’ve got Chris Rodriguez and Kavosiey Smoke in the backfield, so figure out a way to use them as a two-headed monster. What I am saying is that Kentucky has all the right pieces on offense to win a game like this on the road, especially with how they’ve played so far this season. Sorry, I don’t care for the Georgia game stats, as everyone has had problems with them.
Let’s not forget how the defense has gotten them to this point in the season, led by players like Josh Paschal, DeAndre Square, Jordan Wright and even Josaih Hayes. This group has bailed the Wildcats out of some troubling situations this season, including the entire defensive unit.
Here’s where I am going with this, so hear me out.
If Kentucky wants to be talked about on a national level, on a frequent basis, then games like this should be all the motivation they need. It doesn’t matter Kentucky was a .5 point underdog when the game opened, which has changed now by the way, according to FanDuel. What matters is how this team plays on a weekly basis, with consistency, which they have a chance to do Saturday night.
If Kentucky wants to be taken as a serious threat in the years to come, winning games against teams like Mississippi State should become the norm.