Every week the folks over at USA Today rank the most miserable teams in college football and wouldn’t-ya-know-it the Cats made the list. The only team to top them was LSU who quickly went from playoff favorite to low-middle of the top 25. Just how miserable are things in Lexington? Here’s what the USA Today had to say:
2. Kentucky: On Oct 31, 2014, Kentucky announced that Mark Stoops’ contract had been extended to 2019 and his salary raised to an average of $3.6 million per year. At the time, Kentucky was 5-3 and feeling good about its progress, having just played a highly competitive game against then-No. 1 Mississippi State. Recruits were coming. Big-time SEC facilities were being built.
It felt like the Wildcats were on the cusp of breaking through to a different level, and with some potentially enticing jobs for Stoops coming open, athletics director Mitch Barnhart went ahead and locked his coach up with a real SEC-level salary.
Since that extension, however, Kentucky is 2-11 in the SEC and has completely fallen apart this season with five consecutive losses. Though some Kentucky fans were getting restless as this team blew opportunities early in the season to land significant wins, Saturday’s 21-17 loss at Vanderbilt was the moment the bloom officially came off the rose. Kentucky is 4-6 and will need to beat its rival, Louisville, on Nov. 28 to finish .500. That is not how Year 3 was supposed to go for Stoops.
This was a bowl game-or-else type of season. Of course, there is no “or else” for Kentucky because it pushed all its chips into the middle on Stoops last season and there’s really nothing else they can do but ride it out and hope progress comes in 2016. This year, however, has to the shake the confidence of the fan base because Kentucky had every opportunity to make this a good year and whiffed when it counted.
[USA Today: Misery Index Week 11]
I think Dan Wolken nails Kentucky’s situation perfectly. Kentucky had so many opportunities to do something special this season. They held Flordia, the SEC East champs, scoreless for the second half but could never find the end-zone and end the streak that haunts the fanbase. They had a reeling Auburn team at home in a crazy environment but dropped the game winner. They faced a Georgia team that was running off the rails, only to be given new life by the Cats. And they outplayed Vanderbilt in their house only to hand them the game on a silver platter. Disappointment doesn’t begin to describe it.
So now Kentucky has a two game season to keep the dream of the Stoops era alive. Without out a bowl game in year three will the class hold together? Can they keep the recruiting momentum of the past 3 classes going without much to show for it? Highly unlikely. Stoops could still find some success in the short term but without a bowl and continued high-level recruiting then that success is hard to maintain.
It’s sink or swim time for Kentucky football. Misery indeed.