Kentucky Wildcats Football is Out to Pasture in the Bluegrass

By Brad Stephens
Dontavis Sapp – USA TODAY Sports

In a state known more for horse racing and basketball, the Kentucky Wildcats football team has become a collective persona non grata. Seriously, it could not be much worse for Mark Stoops right now. With an 0-8 conference record, a loss to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and coming in dead last in attendance in the league, the 2013 Wildcats were the geldings of the SEC.

Stoops stepped into a disaster in Lexington. The scorched earth left by the Joker Phillips era is still smoldering, and there are no 6-foot-4, 315-pound quarterbacks on the sidelines to step in and save the day. The Wildcats scored a league-low 118 points in conference play, which averages to a little more than 14 points per game. To put it in the most Southern of terms, “that dog won’t hunt.”

I do not see anything changing in 2014. Kentucky’s schedule contains the usual SEC East suspects along with the LSU Tigers and the Mississippi State Bulldogs from the West. Even with graduation and NFL attrition, most of these teams are far more talented in the two-deep right now, and their recruiting classes eclipse Kentucky’s by a considerable margin.

Only Vanderbilt, with the loss of head coach James Franklin, poses the possibility of being the Wildcats’ first SEC win since 2011.

The complete lack of an offensive identity in a more offensive-minded league will be the Wildcats’ undoing. In 2013, the offense finished last in first downs and third down conversions, not to mention the porous offensive line allowed a league-high 37 sacks. The two-quarterback system implemented by the coaching staff only served to destroy continuity.

Stoops needs to give the nod to Jalen Whitlow or Maxwell Smith and be done with it, unless freshman Drew Barker steps in and wins the job outright.

“Enjoy basketball season.” That quote is a snide insult thrown around by football fans when one SEC school defeats another. The Kentucky athletic department just approved a $310 million renovation to Rupp Arena, so this little barb means nothing to the fans in Commonwealth Stadium, if you can find any.

It is clear where the loyalties lie and the dollars go in the Bluegrass State. If Kentucky football continues this downward slide, the practice field may end up being John Calipari‘s personal golf course.

Brad Stephens is an SEC Football writer for Follow him on Twitter @bradstephens320.

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