By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer
After Kentucky’s most recent 71-65 loss to Ohio State in Las Vegas completed a two-game sweep of the Wildcats by the Utah Utes and the Buckeyes, a question popped into my head. With all the hoopla surrounding the National Football Signing Day — and rightfully so — and the excitement leading up to the Belk Bowl after a banner year by some of the All-American Football Cats and the less than stellar start — again — by the basketball Cats, is Kentucky becoming a football school?
Hear me out. The basketball Wildcats are off to a less than impressive first 10 games this year with only one quality win against Michigan State. They also have a loss against a not very good Evansville Purple Aces team at Rupp Arena to go along with the two losses in Las Vegas.
The offensive play for this team has been, well, offensive, most of the time and down right bad in some games. The team has also struggled to perform consistently on defense in most games. Jerry Palm, the CBS Sports bracketologist, currently has Kentucky out of the NCAA Tournament field, although he acknowledges that John Calipari always seems to get his players to rise to the occasion come March.
Contrast that weak start by the Cats and the ho-hum type atmosphere that seems to surround this Wildcats basketball team with the “big smile, feel good type personalities” of Lynn Bowden Jr, Max Duffy and the entire offensive line along with Eddie Gran and Mark Stoops and one feels a totally different vibe towards football than one does towards basketball.
Now, I realize that all that could change quickly. Meaning, UK Basketball could beat Louisville on Saturday, rip off several wins in the SEC and all of a sudden fans all over the Commonwealth would be feeling great about this year’s Cats.
But even if that happened it couldn’t dampen the good feelings that have been created by a football team that gave maximum effort down the stretch, found a way to gut out some big wins by sheer determination and create an opportunity to place themselves into a position to achieve a big bowl win to finish the season and create great expectations for 2020.
It’s not often that fans are talking about UK Football 12 months a year but it’s starting to happen. Kentucky is becoming a football school. If Mark Stoops and Company can continue to recruit at a high level — as they have the last few years — and continue to develop their players it feels like the sky is the limit for this football program.
Now, saying Kentucky is becoming a football school doesn’t mean they can’t still be a basketball school. They always have been and always will be. It’s like the sun coming up every morning, it’s not going to change.
But, as the football team continues to prove itself through multiple winning seasons and potentially better opportunities to compete at a high level, the basketball team is going to have to step it up and play like championship teams of the past. If they don’t, the talk in March and April might turn as much to spring football practice as it does to March Madness.