Mark Stoops and Will Muschamp go together like orange juice and toothpaste. Watching one say a nice thing about another puts a bad taste in your mouth, unless the compliment is accompanied by passive aggressive undertones.
At Monday’s weekly press conference, Stoops met questions about South Carolina’s head coach with disdain.
Q: Since Muschamp arrived at South Carolina, do you feel the program’s evolved a certain way? How do you think their program has progressed since he got there?
“I really don’t spend time concerning myself about his program. I don’t mean to be an idiot, I just I don’t know. I’m not worried about his program really.”
That response was not so different than when he was asked at last year’s SEC Media Days if the team had circled the meeting with South Carolina on the schedule. “I don’t need South Carolina to motivate me,” Stoops said. “I am not worried about what they’re doing.”
Back to today’s presser:
Q: What’s the difference between Jake Bentley and Ryan Hilinski?
“They’re different people. They’re different guys. I don’t know. I mean, I don’t coach them. Both talented. Both big arms. Both do certain things well.”
That question did get Stoops to provide some coach-speak about how South Carolina is in fact a good football team.
“You look at the way South Carolina played at home against Alabama, they had I wanna say 92 plays and played with great tempo and really moved the ball quite well against an awfully talented team. I’m sure they’re a lot like us in that they went on the road last week and didn’t play their best. I’m sure they’re anxious to get back home and play a good game and get back to doing all the good things they did. I guarantee you they’re the best 1-3 team in the country. There’s no doubt about that. They’re a talented group and they’ve got very good players.”
I don’t think Mark Stoops meant that to be a passive aggressive shot at 1-3 Tennessee, but I know for a fact that comment infuriates Muschamp’s few remaining supporters to understand how far they’ve fallen.
The annual meeting between Kentucky and South Carolina has transformed into a rivalry of sorts, even though UK has won the last five. Some of it’s the nature of the games. A lot of it has to do with the coaches. Mark Stoops will never admit it, but I believe he resents the love Muschamp and his teams get from the media, even though Kentucky has more SEC wins and three more total wins since Muschamp became South Carolina’s head coach.
The fans and players have enjoyed UK’s recent success over South Carolina, but the last five years will not matter Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium. Reeling from losses on the road, each team is desperately trying to change the conversation about their programs before a much-needed bye week.
If all goes according to Stoops’ plan, this time next week South Carolina will be the best 1-4 team in the country.