It’s no secret that when you have lost to the same team 26 years in a row, your fan base has to get excited about something headed in to year 27. At some point, something’s gotta change. And with Kentucky having an almost entirely new program this year, and Florida not being as dominant as they have in the past, perhaps this is the year where the changes take place. So let’s look at the biggest change on Kentucky’s side between this year and the past – the coaches – and how the situations they’re in might just end up being the X factor.
As one caller said this week on the show – how a coach prepares and improves his team during the bye week can say a lot about the job he is doing. We have all been impressed with Stoops so far, but mostly for what he has done off the field. Losing to Western and losing a closer-than-expected-for-a-few-quarters game to Louisville doesn’t set the world on fire, but we’re competing. And that’s a huge change in and of itself. But now comes a good time to see what Stoops & Co. can do with a little more time to prep for an opponent.
To get an idea for how the defense and offense might be prepped for tomorrow, let’s look at how Stoops and Brown have handled bye weeks in their past jobs.
First, let’s look at Stoops history at Florida State.
In Stoops first year at FSU, 2010, they had a bye week right before playing a Russell Wilson lead NC State team. While FSU ultimately lost the game, they held NC State to their third lowest point total of the regular season and turned the Wolfpack over twice.
In his second year, they actually came out and kind of laid a clunker, giving up nearly 400 yards to an average Wake Forest team. Nevertheless, immediately after that loss, the Seminoles finished the season winning 7 of 8.
Last year FSU had a bye before playing at Virginia Tech and ended up winning 28-22. While giving up nearly 300 passing yards, they pretty much shut down the Hokies run game and recorded two picks and a fumble. VT turned around and won their next three games, with 400 yards against Boston College.
Now let’s see how Neal Brown’s Offense has historically performed after a bye.
In 2010, the Raiders had an early bye after their third game, and headed to Iowa State. Texas Tech lost the game – but it wasn’t because of offense. The Raiders piled 38 points on a fairly decent Iowa State defense, which ended up being the third most points that defense would give up in the season.
2011 is kind of hard to count in this thought exploration. The bye came in week two, and their next opponent was New Mexico. Nevertheless, Neal Browns offense scored 59 points behind 624 yards.
In 2012, Texas Tech once again had a bye week before heading to Iowa State. This time they won, amassing 400 yards in 77 plays on the road.
I will be honest, when I started collecting this data, I was hoping it would show more positive change than what it resulted in. But what it does show is either an above average performance, or at least average one. And sometimes that’s all you can ask for. With the exception of the Wake Forest game in 2011, the coaches units never came out and disappointed, or came out unprepared and laid an egg. At the end of the day, a bye week translated to a prepared team. If Kentucky wants to have a chance at upsetting Florida tomorrow, that’s going to be key. Any huge mistakes or disappointments on either side of the ball, and an upset may be out of the question. The domino’s are stacked for Kentucky – the Cats just have to focus, be consistent, and execute. Something these coaches have proven they can do with an extra week to prepare.