Has Kentucky Reached Their Ceiling Under Mark Stoops?

Has Kentucky Reached Their Ceiling Under Mark Stoops?

Football

Has Kentucky Reached Their Ceiling Under Mark Stoops?

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AP Photo/Sean Rayford 

Kentucky went into Knoxville, Tennessee Saturday night looking to pull off a massive upset and get the biggest win in the history of Mark Stoops’ tenure at Kentucky. They left Knoxville with a 44-6 beating and more questions than answers. I hope this piece can be a bit cathartic or thought-provoking for some Kentucky fans. One of those primary questions is: has Kentucky reached its peak under Mark Stoops? 

In 2022, Kentucky will fail to win 10 games for the eighth time in the 10 years that Mark Stoops has been in Lexington. This season is, undoubtedly, a massive disappointment. Kentucky has conquered many demons in the first decade of Mark Stoops’ time here. Outside of this year, they have become a dominant force over South Carolina, they have become competitive with Florida and Mississippi State, and they have raised the floor of this program from a two-win team to a seven or eight-win team. On the other hand, they are still significantly below the top dogs in the SEC, they haven’t been able to consistently lead over the big orange hurdle from Tennessee, and the recruiting seems to have reached a high point. 

The last decade of Tennessee football has been the worst in the program’s history. The Volunteers haven’t won 10 games in a season since 2007. Yet, Kentucky under Mark Stoops has only beaten them twice. Mark Stoops is now 2-8 against Tennessee as the head man at Kentucky, and many of those games weren’t competitive at all. That is unacceptable. Just two years ago, Tennessee won only three games. Now, they are on the verge of a potential National Championship run. It took them just two years to do what Kentucky has now failed to do in 10. 

Georgia is consistently great. They’ve been a constant in the top 10 for the better part of the last decade. As much as Kentucky has improved in that time, the gap between the Dawgs and the Wildcats hasn’t seemed too close. In fact, it may have gotten larger. Only one game in the last decade has been a one score game between the two teams. Since 2017, Georgia has beaten Kentucky by an average of 19 points per game. There has always been a gap between the top teams in college football and the rest of the pack, but after a decade, I expected Kentucky to close it a decent bit. Kentucky just has not been able to score against Georgia.

My main complaint over Mark Stoops coached football teams is the way he chooses to run offense. He has always been a run the ball, play strong defense type of coach. I am just not sure why you have to sacrifice explosive offense for strong defense. I don’t think they’re exclusive. He has tried to get more creative with hires such as Liam Coen, but look at the best teams in the country right now. Tennessee’s offense is a juggernaut with the tempo, Alabama can spread it out with an abundance of weapons and score from any position on the field, and Ohio State is the same way. USC has one of the best offensive minds as a coach, along with one of the best quarterback and skill groups in the nation. Kentucky is so far behind the changing landscape of football. They don’t have the talent of a USC, Ohio State, or Alabama, but Tennessee has proven that a great offensive system can change everything. It is about time Kentucky gets with that program.

 

Mark Stoops deserves a statue outside of Kroger Field. What he has done here is beyond impressive. This year, Kentucky can go 9-4, win a bowl game, and feel somewhat positive about the state of the program. It is, unfortunately, worth asking if Kentucky missed their window to win the SEC East and if nine or 10 wins is the best it will ever get in Lexington if changes aren’t made to the way he goes about things. 

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