This Saturday, Kentucky takes on New Mexico State at home, and I’m not sure if they’ve ever been more in need of a cupcake game to ease some of the pain of the past two weeks.
Many fans have already thrown in the towel on the season, calling for Stoops’ resignation or firing, and pledging to not show up at Commonwealth for the remainder of the year as a method of venting their frustrations to administration, Mitch Barnhart in particular. As bad as it’s been thus far, however, I think it’d be best to give it another two weeks before jumping ship completely.
As bad as Kentucky football is right now, New Mexico State is (somehow) worse. NMSU is 7-29 over the past three seasons, and they don’t seem to be getting better anytime soon. They managed to pull off an upset on Saturday against in-state rival New Mexico, but the Aggies are rated as one of the worst teams in college football, haven’t been ranked or in a bowl since 1960, and as Freddie stated in his Jimmies and Joes post this morning, have absolutely no position advantages over Kentucky.
Their star running back Larry Rose, who has accounted for 2753 yards and 23 touchdowns on the ground in two seasons for the Aggies, has been listed as “very doubtful” for Saturday by NMSU coach Doug Martin. Aside from Rose, the Aggies really don’t have any legitimate threats to cause concern. It will take a catastrophe for the Cats to lose this game, even considering each of the past two weeks.
South Carolina, though they are obviously a much better program than NMSU overall, they still aren’t good. At all. Sure, they managed to win a 13-10 “thriller” over Vanderbilt (an equally bad program) in the opening night of college football, but make no mistake about it, they’re awful. A statistic UK fans will be drooling over as we head to week four is that USC ranks 125th in the nation in yards per carry at 2.46. A team that can’t run the ball against a team that can’t defend the run sure sounds like a wash to me.
South Carolina is banged up as a whole, but their offensive line is a complete mess right now. Starting right guard Donnell Stanley and right tackle Blake Camper are very unlikely to suit up against the Wildcats, and starting safety Chaz Elder is also out for the game as well. Before the season started, USC’s star linebacker Skai Moore was ruled out for the year with a neck injury, and the team’s health did nothing but deteriorate afterward. Beyond injuries, the Gamecocks are in the midst of a QB battle, leaving a huge question mark for the game next Saturday.
As bad as the last two weeks have been, these next two games should be huge opportunities to turn the ship around and get back to .500 before heading to Tuscaloosa in week five. After Alabama, you have both Vanderbilt and Mississippi State at home, and then hit the road to play Missouri. Five winnable games in the next six matchups. Steal one against Tennessee, Georgia, or Louisville (not likely), and then take your victory against Austin Peay, and there are your six or seven wins for a bowl game. The wheels are shaking, but they aren’t off completely yet, folks.
There’s legitimate talent on this team, SEC-quality talent to compete in the East. Mark Stoops will be taking over some of the defensive reigns from DJ Eliot, hopefully improving in that department. Eddie Gran said in his post game interviews that he’s taking the blame for Florida and is already back at the drawing board, promises to fix the problems on his end. If Stoops and staff haven’t lost the locker room, this season is not over. For now.
Will back-to-back wins against New Mexico State and South Carolina give the team some much needed confidence and kickstart the season for success the remainder of the year?
Better yet, will two consecutive wins bring a rapidly declining fan base back on board?