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How Kentucky Football Compares to Fellow SEC Programs

Kentucky fans have given a lot of thought over the past few years to the state of our football program relative to others in the SEC. With a five-game win streak against South Carolina, a four-game win streak against Missouri, and a three-game win streak against Vanderbilt, we’ve surely come out of the bottom tier. With wins against Florida and Mississippi St. in last year’s 10-win effort, we started asking questions about whether our ceiling was too low—whether we might not, at some point, be able to move up yet another echelon. Mark Stoops is the only coach in the country to have matched or increased the previous season’s win total in each of the last five years, and his team’s mediocre performance Saturday looked a lot better in light of the dreadful performances of Tennessee, Missouri, and Ole Miss.

So, it’s fair to ask, what is the state of the program in comparison to the other 13 SEC football teams?

The rankings below come from a simple formula considering five factors: performance (win totals over the last five years), trajectory, stability (the tenure of the athletic director and head coach, plus a consideration of the program’s overall legacy), facilities, and recruiting. Performance being the most important, it was ranked on a scale of 1–15. Trajectory was ranked on a scale of 1–5. Everything else on a scale of 1–10.

The results show the Cats solidly in the second tier, distancing themselves from former fellow cellar-dwellers Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, and Arkansas, and quickly gaining on the likes of Texas A&M, Florida, and Auburn.

14. Vanderbilt Commodores: 20/50

Performance: 6/15
Trajectory: 3/5
Stability: 2/10
Facilities: 5/10
Recruiting: 4/10

It’s not surprise the ’Dores find themselves in last place. While Derek Mason has done a good job steadying the ship, the mediocrity has continued, and unfortunately Vandy doesn’t have the stability to weather even one or two bad years.

13. Ole Miss Rebels: 25/50

Performance: 9/15
Trajectory: 1/5
Stability: 1/5
Facilities: 7/10
Recruiting: 7/10

The Ole Miss football program is a dumpster fire. If the performance and recruiting categories were limited to the last three years, they would’ve even come in behind Vandy. No stability, horrendous trajectory, and a thoroughly unpromising start on Saturday against Memphis. This program is in trouble.

12. Arkansas Razorbacks: 25/50

Performance: 7/15
Trajectory: 1/5
Stability: 2/10
Facilities: 8/10
Recruiting: 7/10

Arkansas is in a very similar place as Ole Miss—just without major recent NCAA infractions and sanctions. Plus, they managed to win their opening game Saturday, albeit in a massively underwhelming faction. We’ll give them the slight nod over the Rebels at number 12.

11. Missouri Tigers: 26/50

Performance: 9/15
Trajectory: 2/5
Stability: 4/10
Facilities: 6/10
Recruiting: 5/10

Missouri at number 11 might seem a little low, but they have simply been too inconsistent and too unpredictable. Two seasons ago Barry Odom was almost relieved of his duties halfway through the season, their defense is terrible every single year, and this season—which came with high expectations—started with a dud. Missouri rounds out the cellar-dwellers.

10. Mississippi St. Bulldogs: 28/50

Performance: 10/15
Trajectory: 2/5
Stability: 3/10
Facilities: 6/10
Recruiting: 7/10

Again, Mississippi St. might seem undervalued at number 10, but I don’t think so. The Bulldogs have a new AD, a new head coach, and no real legacy or tradition to fall back on in the case that they have a couple of bad seasons. Moreover, the facilities are near the bottom of the SEC, and the recruiting is normally down there as well. A couple of eight- or nine-win seasons would be a great start for Joe Moorhead, but without that, I don’t love where the Dogs are right now.

9. Tennessee Volunteers: 29/50

Performance: 9/15
Trajectory: 2/10
Stability: 4/10
Facilities: 7/10
Recruiting: 7/10

If Mississippi St. seems undervalued at number 10, Tennessee might seem overvalued at ninth. They. Just. Lost. To. Georgia. State. I get it. But if we’re being honest, Tennessee has been able to continue to recruit at a high level even through head coach turnover and through inconsistent seasons. Saturday may have been the program’s all-time low point, and Pruitt may not be the guy to get it done. Nonetheless, Tennessee still has some modicum of tradition that will sustain them through this prolonged lull.

8. South Carolina Gamecocks: 32/50

Performance: 8/15
Trajectory: 3/5
Stability: 4/10
Facilities: 10/10
Recruiting: 7/10

After Saturday’s loss, we shouldn’t expect South Carolina to win more than five games this year, and if that is the case, we should expect them to have a new head coach next year. Nonetheless, Carolina has some of the finest facilities in the nation, they’ve continued to recruit well, and they’ve thrown in a couple of solid seasons in recent years. They top tier three: the mediocre.

7. Kentucky Wildcats: 36/50

Performance: 9/15
Trajectory: 5/5
Stability: 7/10
Facilities: 9/10
Recruiting: 6/10

Kentucky comes in at the bottom of tier two: the good-not-great programs. No team in the country is on a better trajectory than the Cats right now, as evidenced by last year’s 10-win season. The facilities are now just about as good as any in the country, and recruiting is on the same trajectory as on-field performance. Nonetheless, we could be a Florida St. 5–7 season away from losing Mark Stoops and starting nearly from scratch. Kentucky is in tier two for now: the next few seasons will determine how long it will last.

6. Auburn Tigers: 36/50

Performance: 11/15
Trajectory: 2/5
Stability: 6/10
Facilities: 9/10
Recruiting: 8/10

Auburn, like Kentucky, comes in at 36/50, but the common sense factor lands the Tigers at number six. While their tradition is as rich as any SEC program, the trajectory has been wobbly at best, and it seems the majority of fans have had their fill of Gus Malzahn. This year’s schedule is daunting, and if the Tigers could get to double-digit wins, it would go along way for this program.

5. Florida Gators: 36/50

Performance: 10/15
Trajectory: 4/5
Stability: 6/10
Facilities: 8/10
Recruiting: 8/10

Florida is the third team coming in with 36 total points. Dogged by inconsistency and a high turnover of coaches, Florida seems to be on the right track. Everyone knows Dan Mullen is a heck of a coach, and it would be no surprise to see the Gators provide a legitimate challenge to Georgia for the East, maybe not this year, but in years to come.

4. Texas A&M Aggies: 36/50

Performance: 10/15
Trajectory: 3/5
Stability: 5/10
Facilities: 10/10
Recruiting: 8/10

Texas A&M tops the slew of teams at 36 points. While this may seem a bit surprising, they have been more consistent than Florida or Auburn, have recruited better than Florida and Auburn, have arguably the best facilities in the country, and now have a top–10 coach in Jimbo Fisher.

3. LSU Tigers: 39/50

Performance: 12/15
Trajectory: 3/5
Stability: 5/10
Facilities: 10/10
Recruiting: 9/10

LSU tops the list of good-not-great programs, and they’re teetering on the edge. They’ve performed notably better than any other SEC teams not named Alabama and Georgia over the last five years, have famously impressive facilities, consistently recruit in the top 10 nationally, and have a legacy nearly unmatched in college football. Yet, Ed Orgeron still seems to be teetering on the edge of fan support, and until he can finally dethrone Alabama in the SEC West, they’ll remain in tier two.

2. Georgia Bulldogs: 46/50

Performance: 14/15
Trajectory: 4/5
Stability: 9/10
Facilities: 9/10
Recruiting: 10/10

Who’s the only program that can pose a legitimate threat to Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide? Kirby Smart’s Georgia Bulldogs. The Dogs are legitimately out-recruiting Alabama at this point, and only seem to be getting better every year. Buy stock in Georgia.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide: 48/50

Performance: 15/15
Trajectory: 5/5
Stability: 8/10
Facilities: 10/10
Recruiting: 10/10

Where to nitpick with Alabama? They have a new athletic director and Nick Saban is getting close to 70-years old. So, there is a world in which Saban retires before 2025, and some unlucky person gets to try to fill his shoes. Aside from that scenario, Alabama is here and here to stay.

Article written by Taylor Combs

15 Comments for How Kentucky Football Compares to Fellow SEC Programs



  1. THATcatFAN
    7:27 pm September 2, 2019 Permalink

    Man it sucks for Tennessee, they were pretty close to upsetting Georgia state?



    • Looother
      9:22 pm September 2, 2019 Permalink

      Upset? Tenn was heavily favored to beat Ga State…



    • runningunnin.454
      9:26 am September 3, 2019 Permalink

      That could be a joke, Looother. Maybe, ya think?



  2. backwoods
    8:02 pm September 2, 2019 Permalink

    Georgia state just wanted it more.



  3. mashburnfan1
    8:22 pm September 2, 2019 Permalink

    It was Ga State Super Bowl and the refs fault, that is what our basketball team fans use as an excuse for every loss.



  4. mashburnfan1
    8:35 pm September 2, 2019 Permalink

    So seriously Taylor what makes you, and others, think Stoops will go to FSU? I really think the only place he would leave UK for is OSU or if he has a desire in the NFL. He is close to home, family seems to like it here, money is good and will get better, this is his program that he built from the very bottom up {with a great staff}. At FSU he will always be compared to what Bowden did while here he has the chance to be the best ever, and if he keeps going at this rate will be the one all future coaches will be compared to. Here he has a chance to create his own legacy and how great would it be to have only been HC at 1 place your entire career {that is so rare and would mean he was one of the greatest ever if it were to happen}. I know that is reaching but he has done it the right way, building quality depth and people. Why can’t he continue it, the hard part was getting quality players to go to a team that most of them did not even know had a football team. He did that and now he is in on top talent and if he keeps winning the very best will be wanting to come here.



    • WKY Cat
      8:39 pm September 2, 2019 Permalink

      It’s easy mashburn. Money



    • Kernel Sanders
      8:52 pm September 2, 2019 Permalink

      Money is right. Taggart’s buyout is $17 million after this season



    • dbcline1
      12:57 pm September 3, 2019 Permalink

      Very well stated! He has did it all the right way while learning his self to be a first time HC. I believe we will win a min.of 8-9 games again and possibly even 10. The football cats are not the cats of old!



    • dbcline1
      12:59 pm September 3, 2019 Permalink

      He would really have no better place to go IMO! And in yours as well it seems. He is building this and starting to make more n more money so why would he leave?!!! If I’m him I’d stay put!



  5. JASUN74
    9:15 pm September 2, 2019 Permalink

    I doesn’t make any sense to me when people say Stoops would go somewhere else. Why?? Florida State is whoever their coach is, just like almost every other College team. Good Coach-Good program!! Kentucky is in the SEC, the best conference in college football, so why in the hellllll would he want to go anywhere else. He’s getting 5 million plus a year and has a home here now. Mark Stoops is Kentucky’s Coach until he retires if he wants and it sure seems like he’s enjoying himself. Ohh yeah he’s also winning!!



  6. satcheluk
    9:54 pm September 2, 2019 Permalink

    The people questioning why Stoops wouldn’t go to FSU are delusional. It’s about the ceiling and the ability to win a national championship. If you could go to a school with multiple national championships, get paid more, head a team that recruits 10-25 spots better in an avg year AND go there to return them to glory.

    He has elevated UK to a very good job, but there’s no way he’s winning a NC here. Too many hurdles. In the ACC, it’s just one. Clemson.



    • dbcline1
      1:02 pm September 3, 2019 Permalink

      Yes and Clemson is a very big hurdle! And NEVER SAY NEVER! We were a lot closer in the UGA game than It appeared. ANY GIVEN SUNDAY!