The Kentucky Wildcats football outlook for 2016 season. Is this the year the Wildcats finally finish strong and go to a bowl?
Coffee’s for closers only.
In 2014, Kentucky started out 5-1 with a controversial loss to Florida and a great win over South Carolina, and then gacked away the final six games to miss out on a bowl game.
Last year, UK started out 4-1 and, with the layup against Charlotte still to play, just had to win one more game to go bowling for the first time since 2010. It couldn’t do it losing six of final seven games for a second straight 5-7 season.
So how is it going to be different for Mark Stoops in his fourth season as the head coach?
The schedule is shaping up for a third straight second half collapse after a promising start with Southern Miss, at Florida, New Mexico State, South Carolina, at Alabama and Vanderbilt before the bye week for the possibility for a 4-2 start. With Austin Peay a guaranteed win over the second half of the year, all it’ll take is one more win to get it done – just like last year.
It’s hardly going to be easy. With road games at Tennessee, Louisville and Missouri, and with home games against Mississippi State and Georgia, it’s all there for another 5-7 campaign unless the team gets better as the season goes on – something that hasn’t happened over the last two years.
Stoops has done a solid job of ramping up the talent level and doing what he can to recruit in the brutal SEC world, but it’s been tough to come up with the consistent offense to rise up against the better teams.
This year, it’s all about QB Drew Barker taking over the attack with Patrick Towles transferring to Boston College. Nine starters are back on the O – and that doesn’t include Barker – with a nice blend of speed, experience, and options for new offensive coordinator Eddie Gran to work with.
The defense that did a nice job at times last year has to replace almost all of the top tacklers and needs an overhaul on the defensive front seven, but there’s hope with size inside and speed on the outside. The secondary should pick up the slack for a while.
But however the personnel issues work out, overall, the program needs a bowl appearance. Stoops has needed that one extra win to finally break through and make Kentucky football promising enough to think there might be another level to soon go to.
The Wildcats need a niche, and they need an identity that’s better than being known as the team that keeps blowing its chances. It’s going to be tough, but Stoops and UK are overdue for a few good breaks.