Yesterday was a banner day for the Kentucky football program. Top to bottom, we will probably be seeing more talent come into Lexington next year than any other year since rankings really took off. And that has been the trajectory of the UK football program since Mark Stoops took over. But it is still hard to know where to set expectations for a UK program that has more talent than ever but is looking at a 7 or 8 win season this year. Last year’s 10-win squad is almost certainly an anomaly, as it would be for almost any other program in the country. But we are also past the point of scratching and clawing to 6 wins and a low tier bowl and calling it a success. So where do we find the middle ground? Because despite our increase in recruiting success, the recruiting rankings still show us in the bottom half of the SEC. So you could argue most teams in the SEC still have more talent. So picking a win total is difficult to do.
But I think there is an easy place to land of where expectations should (and maybe already have) changed. Kentucky should, under no circumstances, be embarrassed by any opponent so long as this talent stream continues. Since Mark Stoops arrived, he has lost 17 games in 7 seasons by more than 3 touchdowns and another 8 games by two touchdowns or more. 25 games total, or over two full seasons of losses:
*Lost to Alabama by 41, Lost to Missouri by 31, Lost to Georgia by 42
*Lost to Louisville by 14, Lost to Florida by 17, Lost to Vanderbilt by 16
*Lost to LSU by 38, Lost to Georgia by 32, Lost to Tennessee by 34
*Lost to Mississippi St by 14
*Lost to Mississippi St by 26, Lost to Tennessee by 31, Lost to Georgia by 24
*Lost to Louisville by 14
*Lost to Florida by 38, Lost to Alabama by 28
*Lost to Georgia Tech by 15
*Lost to Mississippi St. by 38, Lost to Georgia by 29, Lost to Louisville by 27
*Lost to Georgia by 17, Lost to Tennessee by 17
*Lost to Georgia by 21
*Lost to Mississippi State by 15, Lost to South Carolina by 17
In each and every season that Mark Stoops has been here we have lost at least 2 games by 17 points or more. Those are what I would call CLUNKER games where we were overmatched. That should not happen again. And when it does happen, there should not be excuse making about injuries, weather, or the like. This team should have the talent depth to deal with all injuries and still be competitive in each and every SEC game. Yes that means in Athens against Georgia and yes that means in Gainesville against Florida. Anything more than a 14 point defeat should be considered a disappointment.
That is how the program should have progressed from 2013 and before to now. As UK football fans, we are quite used to beatdowns. We have set through many a pathetic performance, both at Kroger Field and in our homes. And in many of those beatdowns, we were defeated before the game even kicked off. We knew what was coming and was just had to accept it. That era should be officially over now. We should reasonably be able to expect victory or serious competition in every game we play. We should be able to stand on the field with the best teams in this conference and have a legitimate chance to win. Doesn’t mean we always will. We won’t. Also doesn’t mean we should win 10 games. Because we won’t. But we should be able to, at the end of every game, say to ourselves that we had a team capable of winning and they played that way.
Anything less is not moving this program forward.