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No respect for UK football going into 2018 season

Mark Stoops (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky has been to back to back bowl games under coach Mark Stoops and returns all-SEC running back Benny Snell, a veteran offensive line and more defensive talent than it has had in any previous season under Mark Stoops. So that has to mean more respect for the Cats in 2019, right?

No, it does not. Or at least not based on the 2018 preseason rankings put out by USA Today. The Cats are listed No. 73.

To put that in perspective, UK was No. 71 last year and after going to a bowl game and returning the players it is, one would have assumed the Cats would have been projected a lot higher this season.

Three UK SEC opponents — Georgia, Mississippi State and South Carolina — are all ranked in the top 25. Texas A&M is No. 31, Florida 53rd, Missouri 56th and Tennessee 66th. Kentucky plays all four of them.

Vanderbilt at No. 83 is the only SEC team on UK’s schedule ranked below the Cats.

Want more bad news? Louisville at No. 31 and Middle Tennessee at No. 63  are both ranked higher than UK. That’s eight teams on the schedule ranked above UK and shows the lack of respect for Stoops’ team going into next season.

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  1. Ouch! But it is about winning. And winning BIG when you should win BIG and getting better during the season as the season progresses. Hopefully this will be motivation for them. I’d be embarrassed AND mad both as a coach and a player.

    Let’s see what they do…Go Cats!

    1. I wish they would let you give the pregame pep talk BigHope

  2. UK has to earn some respect don’t they? They don’t have a good track record in doing that since Stoops has been at the helm. The Louisville loss last year, for example, was a mind blowing disaster that is not easy to forget. Yeah two bowl games the last two years, and two losses too. I say these current UK football coaches have too pick it up in 2018, particularly The OC and DC. Success breeds success. The 2018 schedule is tougher in my opinion than the 2017. Stoops and company have talent, but not overwhelming talent. Stoops must get it done in 2018.

    1. I think the Louisville loss and bowl loss probably lead to lack of respect for UK going into this season. Agree with you LarryPup

  3. This group of coaches probably recruit better than any coaches at UK in quite some time; however, they have not proven to be able to develop players, game plan, or adjust during the games as well as they should. In 5 years, Stoops still does not have more than 1, maybe 2 wins that I would call a major upset, and his teams are not even close to being competitive with the top 6-7 teams in the SEC. Until he proves it on the field, he has no reason to be surprised.

    1. Wins they have let slip away have really hurt

  4. One year ago, I believed the UK football program was ready to take a huge step forward, but rather than advance in 2017, it regressed in 2017. Yes, there was a 2nd consecutive bowl trip, but the quality of the play, and the inability to get W’s in games that were winnable resulted in slippage, ending with an ANE of 0.55 ppp, the lowest since 0.22 ppp in 2013, Stoops’ first year.

    The 2017 team averaged 25.5 ppg and gave up 28.2 ppg. The average for all SEC teams in 2017 were 29.5 ppg and 25.6 ppg. The very best SEC offenses (top 4) averaged 36.0 ppg, and the very best SEC defenses averaged 16.9 ppg. Alabama averaged 37.1 ppg and 11.9 ppg. Georgia averaged 35.4 ppg and 16.4 ppg.

    The UK offenses floundered again last season, but so did the defense. This is not a recipe for impressing anyone with football acumen. So, what is the basis of bemoaning a lack of respect? Respect is earned, it is not awarded, or granted.

    To be a top echelon SEC football program, teams must average 30 or more and hold opponents to 20 or less. I have published these simple criteria on this pages for years. It is a simple, undeniable truth. To compete for SEC championships, the number must improve further to mid 30s on offense and mid teens on defense. To compete for national championships, teams have been in the upper 30s and low teens to single digits on defense.

    When UK football can put together 2 or more consecutive seasons with 30 ppg or higher on offense and low 20s ppg or lower on defense, the respect will follow. Until that time, talk is cheap.

    One last point about schedule strength. Some have argued that these simple comparisons are not valid because of differences in schedule strength. Last year, which is not out of the ordinary, UK had the 4th weakest schedule in the SEC. Only Mississippi (68.37), Vandy (68.38), and Missouri (67.20) had weaker schedules than UK (68.55), but the top teams had schedules of Auburn (78.45), Georgia (76.74), and Alabama (72.98) each played schedules more difficult than the SEC average (71.51). Put the Cats into one of those schedules, and the final scoring averages would have been worse not better.

    Frankly, the 2017 UK team showed grittiness in its ability to get to 6 wins given the overall quality of its play.

  5. Well, I just found some unexpected “respect” Vegas opened with UK a 19 point favorite over Central Michigan for the opening game.

    I will take that outcome right now, and move on to Gainesville!!!!!!

    CMU has played 13 games in each of their last 4 seasons. They have finished with ANE values of 0.79 ppp in 2017, 0.09 ppp in 2016, 0.77 ppp in 2015, and 0.38 ppp in 2014. The Cats in those 4 seasons have finished 0.55 ppp, 1.210 ppp, 0.77 ppp, and 0.98 ppp. Based on the average Home Field advantage, the final ANE values, CMU would be a 1/2 point favorite in 2017, and UK would have been favored by 16, 3, and 10 points in 2016, 2015, and 2014.

    Based on trend analysis, going into 2018, I would make UK a 6 to 7 point favorite over CMU. Vegas is saying 19 points.

    That is respect.

    In about 3 months, we will find out if this respect is justified.

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