After the win at Tennessee 2 weeks, the talking point about the UK football program that you would hear most often is that Kentucky has cleared the hurdle that was Tennessee and now the final hurdle was Georgia. And how when the Bulldogs come to Lexington, they should be on alert. And then the Cats laid an egg against Missouri and it seems like there is a little extra turmoil now within the program. Things feel a little uneasy right now and that is not a good combo with a very good Georgia team this weekend. But yet, many are still claiming that UK has climbed all of these hurdles and now UGA is what is last, and in connection to that winning the SEC East.
This current mentality has me reminded of the show The Newsroom, which aired on HBO. And in that show, there is a famous monologue that Jeff Daniels makes in the very first episode about American Exceptionalism. The link to the clip is below but the basic idea is that Americans have convinced themselves that they are the best country in the world despite the fact that we rank 1st in basically nothing of note except military spending and imprisoning our citizens. It’s this idea that if everybody within a group, in this case Americans, all say something, sometimes you don’t actually see that it isn’t true.
Now that is television and all entertainment but I think it has some merit. I think it’s a speech about group think and how it can actually distort the reality of the situation. And it kind of reminds me of the current state of the UK football program. We have all convinced ourselves that we are legit football program nipping at the heels of college football elite. We beat Florida in Gainesville. We won 10 games and beat Penn State. We won at Tennessee. We’ve arrived, right? But the reality of the situation connects to what Daniels says there about America:
Are we a great football program? No. But we can be.
I think what Mark Stoops has done so far is truly incredible. He has created the framework for Kentucky to be considered a great football program. He has solidified a recruiting base. He has made us a challenge for each and every SEC opponent. But at this point in his tenure, we are hanging our hats on individual wins and 2018. But it seems like Kentucky is not piecing it all together consistently. They have a great win over Tennessee and then throw a clunker to Missouri. In 2018, they blow a game against Tennessee. The reality is Mark Stoops has won 46 games and lost 47 at Kentucky. He’s won 22 SEC games and lost 39. And even if you take away the opening 2-10 season, he’s still just 44-37 with a 22-31 SEC record. Point being, we are not piecing together wins and seasons. We are currently dominating MOMENTS.
Now back to the hurdles. Of course beating Georgia is a gigantic hurdle and I don’t know if this is the year to get over that one. But I think it is likely Stoops will find a way to beat Georgia at some point in his tenure. That’s not the hurdle that great football teams should aspire to though. How about these hurdles:
-Beating at least 2 of 3 of Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee in the same season. Piece together 2 great wins. The last time Kentucky did this: 1977.
-Undefeated at Home for a Season. Kentucky has lost at least 2 games at home every season except 2018 under Stoops. Protect your home turf.
-Win the SEC East. Duh.
-Lose zero games to the SEC West. Kentucky has done this one time: 1993.
Those are just a few and you should notice a trend there for me. I don’t list beating one singular opponent on any of my hurdles. Do we want to consider this program legit? We have to be able to piece together wins over the course of the season, and then piece seasons together. We went 10-3 in 2018 and followed it up with 8-5 and now 2-3.
The program is good. The program is stable. The program is in good hands. And the program has good players all down the line. But are we great? We are not. But we could be.