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For Stoops and UK, First and Last Games Could be Most Important in 2013

December 2012 graduates. Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics


Earlier this morning, Andrew Cassady posted a link to Mark Story’s article in which Story declares that the Western Kentucky and Tennessee games are the two most important to win in Mark Stoops’ first season at Kentucky. These two games are very important for many reasons. For Story’s article, you can click here, but here’s my breakdown of why it is so important to begin and end the season with wins over these two teams, also playing with first-year coaches:




Why Kentucky Must Beat Western Kentucky:

All the positive momentum that Stoops and the staff have helped bring to the program takes a big hit and fans become disinterested way too early in the season, if Kentucky would lose their opener to Western Kentucky. A very loud (but not necessarily huge) portion of the fan base, would let their voices be heard, saying “I told you so” about Bobby Petrino. The fan base has been united from the very start with the Stoops hire, but if the Cats lose their opening game to Petrino, some fans will jump ship. A very small portion of the fan base, in my opinion, would start calling into radio shows, posting on message boards and lashing out on the KSR comment section about how we should have hired Petrino. Although the overly critical are usually a small portion of fans, they tend to make their voices be heard much louder. A much larger portion of the fan base would not jump ship after one game, but would become disinterested early in the season and start to turn most of their attention towards basketball. It’s important that Kentucky keeps the positive momentum going into the Louisville game and SEC play, and a win over Bobby Petrino and Western Kentucky is absolutely critical to keep the Big Blue Nation believing in the program.




What A Tennessee Win Would Mean to Kentucky:

Even if Kentucky is mathematically out of a bowl game in the final week of the season, it would be very important to end 2013 with a win at Commonwealth against Tennessee. A win may cap off only a four or five-win season, but even that is major progress from 2-10. The biggest reason why beating Tennessee would be so important is to keep the positive momentum going into Stoops’ second season. For recruiting to continue to improve and maybe even reach the “next level” of prospects, they will need to show that the program is improving and on the rise. Ending the season with a victory over Tennessee is the best way of proving that things will continue to improve. UK’s win over Tennessee two seasons ago did not have the same impact on recruiting that a win would have next year, because everyone knew Joker Phillips’ job was in jeopardy at that time. This time around, beating Tennessee would bring Kentucky into an off-season of even more recruiting success with confidence and swagger going into year two of the Mark Stoops era. Also, it would be a major hit against Butch Jones in his first season in Knoxville. Slowing down any growth that Tennessee may have under Butch Jones is beneficial for Kentucky in trying to eventually develop into a contender in the SEC East.


Article written by John Wilmhoff

Former beer vendor, college mascot and ESPN editor. This spring, you can also find me blogging about the Reds on Follow me on Twitter: @JohnWilmhoff

6 Comments for For Stoops and UK, First and Last Games Could be Most Important in 2013

  1. Eazy E or Eric Wright it's all the same
    6:36 pm April 21, 2013 Permalink

    Based on the above pic, it appears Stoops may have shed a few pounds. Or maybe it’s the black outfit that’s making him look slimmer.

  2. Jason
    7:02 pm April 21, 2013 Permalink

    I’ve been saying it for a while, i’ll bet anything we beat UT next year. Stoops takes rivalry games VERY seriously and UT should be pretty bad next year, and the players/coaches will no doubt want to end the season on that note.

  3. mudcreekmark
    8:11 pm April 21, 2013 Permalink

    I have been watching UK football for probably 45 of my 53 years. I have been a huge fan no matter the results. Almost all my life I always had that feeling that UK would find a way to lose a game no matter if we were ahead 14 going into the forth quarter and I also think the players had that same thought process. We had games that I knew and the players knew we had no chance. Rich Brooks changed my thinking, and more importantly the players thinking. By the time he left, UK was able to not only compete against any team in the country, but were actually winning some of those games. No longer when we were up 14 in the forth quarter did I think we would lose. No longer if we were down by 14 in the forth did I think we were going to lose. Brooks did something that I never dreamed would happen, he changed the thinking of a whole fan base and changed our program into one that we were proud of. It took Joker 3 years to destroy something that took 50 years to build. All I want out of this new coaching staff is to get me back to the point where I can believe we can compete and not be embarrassed in front of an entire nation when we play on ESPN.

  4. Maxwell
    8:16 pm April 21, 2013 Permalink

    Well said number 3. I agree with that 10%. Football was very exciting with Coach Brooks at the helm. I look forward to Coach Stoops getting things competitive again.

  5. Maxwell
    8:17 pm April 21, 2013 Permalink


  6. Unboltedharp
    6:58 am April 22, 2013 Permalink

    Western can have Pinocchio, he was a desperate hire. Since taking over what has he done? News from Western is quiet. Stoops on the other hand has a fan base excited and is getting recruits to believe. Three years of coasting downhill are over, Stoops has popped the clutch and has got the Big Blue Nation in gear for a fun ride!