To the surprise of some Kentucky football fans, the Wildcats opened as 18-point favorites over Vanderbilt. A spread that is now down to 17, Mark Stoops does not care what the numbers say. He remembers all too well what happened the last time UK was picked as the favorite to win a football game.
“We need to worry about ourselves and focused on our ourselves. The last time we went into a game as a favorite, we got our butts kicked from the beginning of the game until the end and everywhere in-between. We got totally and utterly dominated, so we need to worry about ourselves and getting ourselves prepared to play the best we possibly can,” Stoops said Monday afternoon.
Kentucky was a three-point favorite when they lost 20-10 at Missouri. UK only had eight first downs as they were out-gained by a wide margin of 421 to 145 total yards.
“I was not very happy with the way we played the last time we were a favorite. I don’t know if that has anything to do with it or where we were at in the season and what we were doing on the road, whatever. It doesn’t matter. We weren’t good enough.” Stoops continued, “Our guys need to continue to focus on ourselves; our energy, our focus, our preparation throughout this week and getting ready to play. That’s what I’m concerned about. I want to get better. I want to get better with every practice. I want to get better with every game.”
The Wildcats spent the bye week focusing on self-improvement, particularly on offense. As they turn to Vanderbilt preparation, Stoops sees a team that’s had success, just not consistently enough to win SEC football games.
“You look at this past game with Vandy, they had 478 yards to 200 against a Mississippi State team that can play some darn good defense. At Mississippi State is not an easy place to go. You can’t bank on five (Vanderbilt) turnovers, so they obviously played extremely well this past week and we gotta worry about ourselves and how we play.”
Coincidentally, the last time Kentucky was a double-digit favorite in SEC play was coming out of a bye week against a bad Vanderbilt team at Kroger Field. In 2018 UK has favored by 11 points, but needed one final laboring 80-yard touchdown drive from Benny Snell to break a 7-7 tie. In that windy night game Terry Wilson completed only three passes for 18 yards. The Wildcats’ offense cannot under any circumstances look like it did that night in 2018 or resemble the performance at Missouri or some UK fans might be throwing in the towel before the regular season reaches its conclusion.