Dean Legge / Dawg Post

Legge's Thoughts: 2016 Kentucky Preview

HOOVER, Ala. – Here's a look at Kentucky coach Mark Stoops and the Cats heading into the 2016 season.

Last season: 5-7, (2-6 SEC)

Last game vs. UGA: UGA 27, UK 3 in Athens

Series Record: UGA leads 54-12-2

Last five meetings vs. UGA: UGA 5, UK 0

Most memorable Georgia win: 1978 – Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! Rex Robinson kicks a game-winning field goal as the Dawgs pull a tough win out in Lexington at night. 

Most painful Georgia loss: 1988 – In Vince Dooley's final season, Georgia is upset and taken out of the SEC race after a difficult loss to the Cats. Had Georgia won the game Dooley would have retired with a share of the SEC crown. Honorable mention to Georgia's upset loss in 2006. 

Legge’s Take: It feels like Mark Stoops has been on the cusp of breaking through at Kentucky into SEC East relevance since replacing program-killer Joker Phillips. It has felt like the Cats have been moving forward under Stoops, but in three years of SEC play, Kentucky has won four conference games. 

Joker Phillips won four SEC games in three years as well. 

Not great. 

Back-to-back 5-7 seasons are hardly indictments of Stoops’ time in Lexington, but the endings of the last two seasons have been filled with losses - often lopsided losses. In the last two years rom the middle of October on,  the Cats have combined to go 1-12. 

Enter the usual joke about Kentucky basketball here. 

The reality is that Kentucky - like Vanderbilt, Missouri and South Carolina (when they are not competitive) - is in a difficult spot. Like the above schools, the Cats don’t play football in a talent-rich state. They are sandwiched between football-crazy Tennessee and Ohio, so many of the top players in the Commonwealth leave to play elsewhere anyway. 

But in my lifetime, Kentucky football has been about a failure of imagination. With the exception of a few very productive years at the end of Rich Brooks’ run in the 2000s, Kentucky has been a kitty that’s been a little too accommodating. Even those Kentucky teams failed to ever get to the nine-win mark. 

If Kentucky would get very serious about football, they could be competitive in a way that Missouri and South Carolina have been - or at least they could approach that level. But that seems out of the realm of possibility where the green grass is blue. 

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