In a losing streak that now stretches into its third decade almost every Kentucky football coach has had at least one bad loss at Florida. This past Saturday it was Mark Stoops‘ turn. The Wildcats were embarrassed 45-7 in “The Swamp” in a game that was never in doubt. The Kentucky defense made Luke Del Rio look like Danny Wuerffel, as he threw for 320 yards and 4 touchdowns, the most yards by a Gator quarterback in SEC play since Chris Leak tossed for 322 against Arkansas in 2004.
In his first SEC road game Drew Barker looked lost as he completed more passes to Gator defenders (three) than he did to Kentucky receivers (two). In fact the whole Wildcat offense looked lost and even one player hinted the team quit on Saturday.
After nearly ending the three decade losing streak to Florida each of the last two seasons, Saturday’s game showed no signs of the progress the coaching staff has been preaching since last season ended. In fact it actually seems as if the program is regressing. Since starting the 2015 season 4-1, the Cats have gone 1-8 with the one win being over Charlotte, one of the worst teams in football. In six of the last eight games, Kentucky’s opponents have rushed for over 200 yards. For a coach who built his reputation as a defensive coach this has to be tough to watch.
Even more telling were some of the comments by former Cats on Saturday while the blowout was happening. Former quarterback Maxwell Smith, who left the program for San Diego State, posted this during the game.
— Maxwell Smith (@Maxwe11uk) September 10, 2016
Even more vocal was former defensive back Martavious Neloms, who had lots to say about the game. Most of it can’t be printed here.
But Patty Ice was ran outta town 😂😂😂
— Yay Diggs (@they_loveyayyay) September 10, 2016
Stoops says he is going to be much more involved with the defense, while offensive coordinators Eddie Gran and Darrin Hinshaw say they will simplify the offense. This brings us to the game on Saturday.
A Former Cat Returns Home
New Mexico State at Kentucky- (4:00 SEC Network Alternate)- Doug Martin brings his Aggie squad into Lexington for a first ever meeting against the Wildcats. Martin was the back-up quarterback on the back-to-back Hall of Fame Bowl squads in 1983 and 1984 under Jerry Claiborne. Those times seem like a distant memory to Wildcat fans.
The Aggies are 1-1 on the season. After losing to UTEP in week one they rallied in the fourth quarter for a 32-31 win over in-state rival New Mexico last week.
Martin’s squad will be without its best player running back Larry Rose III. Rose has missed the first two games with a sports hernia and is officially out for Saturday. He ran for over 1,600 yards last season. With the Wildcats porous defense against the run, having Rose on the field would make this game a lot more interesting.
The next month is going to be key for Stoops and the future of the Kentucky program as three of the next four games are winnable. This is a game the Cats have to win and they will do just that on Saturday.
Now time to take a look at the rest of the games in the SEC this weekend. Last week only an Arkansas comeback kept the old Krystal Ball from going a perfect 13-0. Still 12-1 for the week and 20-6 for the season isn’t too bad.
Ohio at Tennessee- (NOON- SEC Network)– The Vols spotted Virginia Tech 14 points before finally showing why they were picked to win the SEC East in 2016. Before a record crowd of over 156,990, they blitzed the Hokies 45-24 and now face a Bobcat squad who beat Kansas last week. Butch Jones’ team seems to have things figured out and should roll.
Vanderbilt at Georgia Tech- (4:00 ACC Network)- Behind Ralph Webb’s 211 yards and two touchdowns the Commodores exploded for 47 points in a much easier than expected win over Middle Tennessee. The Yellow Jackets are 2-0 on the season with wins over Boston College and Mercer. Playing at home, Paul Johnson’s team will win a close one.
Georgia Tech 28-21
Alabama at Ole Miss- (3:30 CBS)- The big game of the day in the SEC and one of the biggest in college football this season. Behind coach Hugh Freeze, the Rebels are trying to become only the third team in history to beat Nick Saban in three straight seasons. Both Michigan (1996-98) and Purdue (1997-99) beat Saban’s Michigan State clubs three times in a row. LSU beat Alabama twice in 2010-11 before losing in the 2012 National Title game.
Ole Miss shook off a loss to Florida State with a big win over Wofford, while the Crimson Tide easily handled a good Western Kentucky team. Quarterback Chad Kelly has had a great start to his senior season, while Jalen Hurts has emerged as the man for the Tide.
This should be a close one and it is hard to see the Rebels beating Saban three times in a row.
East Carolina at South Carolina- (4:00 SEC Network)– After playing the first two games of the season on the road, Will Muschamp finally gets his home debut in Columbia. The Gamecocks lost to Mississippi State last week, while the Pirates knocked off North Carolina State. South Carolina should get the win in what could be a great game.
South Carolina- 24-21
Mississippi State at LSU- (7:00 ESPN2)- Playing without Leonard Fournette, the Tigers struggled again on offense against Jacksonville State. Les Miles finally switched quarterbacks and Danny Etling provided a spark leading to a 34-13 win.
Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald set a school record for rushing yards in a game with 195 in a 27-14 win over South Carolina.
Playing in “Death Valley” is always tough and in the end the Tigers will find a way to win.
Texas A&M at Auburn- (7:00 ESPN)- This game may end up being one of the best of the weekend, possibly even better than Alabama vs. Ole Miss. The Aggies blasted Prarie View 67-0 to go to 2-0. The Tigers nearly beat Clemson in week one and drilled Arkansas State 51-14 last Saturday.
With a game against LSU next week, Gus Malzahn’s club really needs a win to avoid a possible 1-3 start. However, Texas A&M has more weapons and they will get the job done on the road.
Texas A&M 35-27
North Texas at Florida- (7:30 ESPNU)- Fresh off the huge win over Kentucky, the Gators step out of conference to play the squad with one of the best names in football: the Mean Green. Unfortunately the name is all North Texas has going for them and this should be another pad the stats game for Del Rio and company.
Texas State at Arkansas- (7:30 SEC Network Alternate)- Without question Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks have been the surprise of the SEC, sitting at 2-0 after a big overtime road win at TCU. Texas State beat Ohio 56-54 in triple overtime two weeks ago but will give Arkansas little trouble.
Georgia at Missouri- (7:30 SEC Network)- The Bulldogs looked anything like the team that beat North Carolina two weeks ago, barely beating FCS team Nicholls State 26-24. The Tigers found some offense last week as Drew Lock threw for 450 yards in beating Eastern Michigan 61-21.
This should be a close game but the Georgia offense should be too much for a strong Missouri defense.