Mark Stoops, Kentucky Have Turned The Corner

Kentucky will always be a basketball school, but the football program is no longer an afterthought

Ferrall On The Bench
October 29, 2018 - 7:25 am

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Kentucky is a basketball school. Always has been, always will be.

But the football program is no longer an afterthought. The No. 12 Wildcats (6-1) have lost just once this season – at Texas A&M in overtime – and control their own destiny in the SEC-East.

Has Kentucky turned the corner?

“It’s kind of like being at Ohio State: It’s a football school, so the basketball coach is always going to take a backseat,” Kentucky radio analyst Jeff Piecoro said on Ferrall on the Bench. “But Kentucky redid the stadium, they redid the practice facility – they put almost $200 million into the football program, and it showed. It’s one of the best places to come see a game. So now you got to win, and now they’re starting to win. Basketball is always going to be No. 1, but there’s no reason football can’t be an eight-, nine-, 10-game winner year in and year out. I think they’ve turned the corner and they’re going to do that.”

Kentucky began the season 5-0 with wins over Florida and Mississippi State before falling at A&M. They responded, however, with a 14-7 win over Vanderbilt and play at Missouri (4-3) this Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.

“It’s a lot of fun right now,” Piecoro said. “Kentucky has the tiebreaker over Florida, they beat South Carolina, and this game Saturday is a huge game for them. If they win and Georgia wins, then we’re going to be on CBS next Saturday afternoon. It’s going to be a madhouse in Lexington.”

Benny Snell has led the Wildcats offensively this season. He’s carried 160 times for 868 yards (5.4 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns.

“He’s tough,” Piecoro said. “He’s going to play on Sundays next year. They’re going to keep it on the ground and play the old Bill Parcells type of football game: great defense and run the football. It starts upfront. They got a great offensive line. That’s the one thing Mark Stoops did when he came here. He said, ‘To win in the SEC, you got to win inside-out – and that means offensive and defensive lines.’ He’s done that. They’ve got depth there. That’s where they control the game – at the line of scrimmage.”

If the Wildcats keep winning – and somehow beat No. 7 Georgia (6-1) on Nov. 3 – they could find themselves in the SEC Championship on Dec. 1 in Atlanta.

Could Kentucky beat No. 1 Alabama (8-0)?

“That would be so off-the-charts crazy,” Piecoro said. ”It would be nuts. They would turn that city into Lexington. The one thing that Kentucky fans do is they travel. Alabama is the best team in football. Until they get beat, they’re the best. I think this is the one shot LSU has. They’ve got them at home, it’s a night game, it’s going to be absolutely nuts. Can they beat Alabama? Sure, anybody can be beaten, but there’s no weakness on that team. Can Kentucky beat them? Sure, they got a pincher’s chance because they can run the football and they got a great defense. But to beat an Alabama in the SEC Championship game, you're also going to have to throw the football for 200 yards – and at this point, Kentucky can’t do that.”