Entering the 2015 Bye Week, the Kentucky football team was 4-1 and second in the SEC East. Our imaginations began running wild with the possibility of not only making an elite bowl, but potentially doing something UK has never done before – represent the East in the SEC Championship Game.
Even the craziest of the crazies knew that was a stretch, but many believed seven or eight wins could and should happen. The preseason expectation of “let’s just got to a bowl” had been replaced by “let’s win seven.”
The new expectation has led many to desert the team after three consecutive losses. It’s a shame. Winning seven regular season games would make this team one of the greatest team’s this program has ever seen, in only Mark Stoops’ third season. That is not an exaggeration.
Since joining the SEC in 1933, the Kentucky football program has had just 15 seven-win season. Six of those happened under Bear Bryant.
Kentucky’s 7-Win Regular Seasons
- 1946: 7-3 Bear Bryant
- 1947: 8-3 Bear Bryant
- 1949: 9-3 Bear Bryant
- 1950: 11-1 Bear Bryant
- 1951: 8-4 Bear Bryant
- 1953: 7-2-1 Bear Brant
- 1954: 7-3 Blanton Collier
- 1976: 9-3 Fran Curci
- 1977: 10-1 Fran Curci
- 1984: 9-3 Jerry Claiborne
- 1998: 7-5 Hal Mumme
- 2002: 7-5 Guy Morris
- 2006: 8-5 Rich Brooks
- 2007: 8-5 Rich Brooks
- 2009: 7-6 Rich Brooks
*Records include bowl game.
Blanton Collier had seven the year following Bear’s departure. In the next four decades, the Cats would only win seven games four times. Guy Morris preceded to get to seven with the help of Jared Lorenzen and Derek Abney. Rich Brooks could not have achieved it in his final season without Randall Cobb. Brooks coached the best team in my lifetime, Andre Woodson’s 2007 squad, yet would only get seven regular season wins.
Was it unrealistic to expect seven? Based on history, hell yes. Did the schedule favor the Cats more this year? Yes. However, comparing to the other teams to reach the seven-win mark, this year’s team would have overachieved more than any of the greats in the past.
The foundations of those teams were led by upperclassmen who had some of the greatest players to ever put on the Blue and White. Tim Couch was a Heisman Trophy Finalist. Jared Lorenzen broke SEC records for passing yardage AND had the SEC Offensive Player of the Year, Artose Pinner. Andre Woodson was one of the most efficient passers in SEC History and still holds the record for most consecutive pass attempts without an interception. His team had more than a dozen NFL players that we are still watching make plays on Sundays (Woodyard, Tamme and Stevie Johnson to name a few).
This team is almost entirely led by underclassmen, with Patrick Towles and Josh Forrest as the exceptions. Those underclassmen have won as many games this year as they did in the previous two. Their best work is ahead of them.
Even though this team lacks maturity and consistency from their playmakers, they can still overachieve and reach the magic number of seven by winning three of their last four. There’s still a very good chance they can fulfill the preseason expectation of “just make it to a bowl” by beating Charlotte and splitting the Louisville and Vandy games, two teams that are both beatable.
I understand the fans’ frustrations after two blowout losses. I’m frustrated, Freddie’s frustrated, and the team is more angered than anyone else. But that doesn’t mean this season is a wash. Mark Stoops’ massive undertaking to rebuild the program should be considered a success with a bowl game in year three. If they put the cherry on top with seven wins, you can call them overachievers.