Check out the advanced-stats glossary here. Below, a unique review of last year's team, a unit-by-unit breakdown of this year's roster, the full 2016 schedule with win projections for each game, and more.
1. A slippery hill to climb
Recruiting well out of the gates will earn you goodwill and buy you time, especially when you're in a rebuilding job.
But your grace period isn't particularly long; to keep recruiting well, you need to show improvement quickly. And the balance is always tricky -- the results need to come while most of your good recruiting classes are too young to make that big a difference.
Mark Stoops hit every right note when he started out at Kentucky. There was that moment in Summer 2013, for instance, when he had the top recruiting class in the country. While mid-summer recruiting rankings are only useful with many large grains of salt -- that top class ended up ranking 22nd in the 247Sports Composite, powered mostly by early commitments -- it was supposed to signify something. Kentucky isn't supposed to sign even top-25 classes unless the sport involves a round ball.
In the two seasons that followed, Kentucky has twice started quickly, then crumbled. The Wildcats were 5-1 in 2014 before losing six straight by an average score of 44-22. Last year, they were 4-1, then lost six of seven. (The only win was over Charlotte.)
In Stoops' three seasons, they are 4-20 in SEC play.
Struggling is common in the early stages of a rebuild. But 2015 was particularly disappointing.
It wasn't that UK didn't improve enough. The Wildcats regressed drastically. The record remained the same, but they fell from 58th to 95th in S&P+, worse than when they were at 2-10 in 2013. Under a new coordinator, the offense fell from 74th to 104th in Off. S&P+. The passing game was woefully inefficient, and while the run game had its explosive moments, there weren't enough to consistently move the chains.
Following the loss of a couple of difference-makers up front, the Wildcats were toothless on defense, ranking 122nd in Adj. Sack Rate and 121st in stuff rate. There was no havoc whatsoever. It felt like this was unintentionally a bend-don't-break defense, only it gave up too many big plays.
It just didn't feel like Kentucky had the talent necessary to do damage in the SEC.
Stoops hasn't found a set of offensive coaches he trusts yet (he brought in a couple more new ones this year), and while he was a successful defensive coordinator, he has not yet fielded even a top-50 defense, per Def. S&P+.
Recruiting has fallen into the mid-30s (still solid, considering the record), and UK's preseason S&P+ projection is the worst in the SEC. This has gone from hopeful to dire awfully quickly.
If that 2014 class begins to develop, however, Stoops could still right the ship. Of the six 247 four-star recruits he signed in 2014, five could become either starters or key contributors this year: quarterback Drew Barker, Williams (the only signee who has truly played like a four-star thus far), defensive linemen Denzil Ware and Matt Elam, and defensive back Darius West.
If the offense improves, it will likely be because Barker and a trio of 2014 receivers (Dorian Baker, Garrett Johnson, Blake Bone) developed a strong rapport to complement Williams. If the defense improves, odds are good that an improved line led by not only Elam and Ware but also 2014er Adrian Middleton (and maybe Tymere Dubose, too) led the way.
The 2014 class was the reason we all thought we Stoops was maybe onto something. And now the 2014 class will have to save a foundering program.
I don't want to call this a make-or-break year, because I don't think Stoops is in danger of getting fired (barring some 1-11 debacle), but UK fell off-track in a major way. It's hard to imagine things working out well for Stoops unless we begin to see some serious hints of progress this year.
|Record: 5-7 | Adj. Record: 4-8 | Final F/+ Rk: 91 | Final S&P+ Rk: 95|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|12-Sep||at South Carolina||88||26-22||W||28%||23%||+20.8||+11.5|
|24-Oct||at Mississippi State||16||16-42||L||9%||0%||-11.6||-14.5|
|Points Per Game||24.7||95||27.4||69|
2. Winning on the road comes last
I'm writing a book. It's about 50 of the most interesting college football teams of all time; the 1993 Wisconsin Rose Bowl team made the list.
I bring this up not because the Badgers were, like UK, led by a successful former defensive coordinator (former Notre Dame DC Barry Alvarez), but because a) I recently finished this chapter and it's fresh in my mind, and b) in the early years under Alvarez, Wisconsin was dragged down by its road performances. The Badgers were 1-11 away from Camp Randall in Alvarez's first three seasons and fell just short of bowl bids in his second and third years (both 5-6 campaigns).
So ... Kentucky to the Rose Bowl this year then? Probably not. Wisconsin's third season under Alvarez was full of clear potential and close calls -- the 1992 Badgers beat Ohio State and lost three road games by a combined 10 points, while 2015 Kentucky's best win was against Missouri by eight points at home, and the only decent road performances were against South Carolina and Vanderbilt.
- UK on the road:
Record: 1-3 | Average percentile performance: 23% (~top 100) | Yards per play: Opp 6.2, UK 5.0 (-1.2)
- UK at home:
Record: 4-4 | Average percentile performance: 46% (~top 70) | Yards per play: UK 5.7, Opp 5.2 (+0.5)
Still, Alvarez's tenure is a reminder that a) it takes a while to build talent when you inherit a down program, and b) good road performances are often the last piece of the puzzle. Kentucky fans can hope, anyway.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||37.4%||108||Succ. Rt. +||97.8||82|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||32.0||111||Def. FP+||31.0||95|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.4||65||Redzone S&P+||104.0||57|
|Q1 Rk||40||1st Down Rk||61|
|Q2 Rk||110||2nd Down Rk||43|
|Q3 Rk||48||3rd Down Rk||75|
3. A Cincinnati offense
After a one-year experiment with a spread-like offense that didn't really take, Stoops looked a little bit north for help in installing his third offense in three years. Now offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw (also listed as co-coordinator), imports from the University of Cincinnati, will attempt to deliver Stoops his first decent offense.
Cincinnati's offense had quite a bit of upside. The Bearcats were dynamic at throwing, ranking 23rd in Passing S&P+ while balancing efficiency with explosiveness. The run game didn't produce enough big plays to be reliable, but with former blue-chipper Gunner Kiel, UC's offense was one of the better in the mid-major universe.
Kentucky has its own former blue-chipper in charge. Barker took the starting job from Patrick Towles last year, which resulted in Towles transferring to Boston College. The problem: Barker didn't have a chance to show much upside. Towles' battles with mistake throws got him replaced -- he was maddening in his ability to make a few consecutive great throws, then ruin the progress with an interception or a poor throw. But he was also able to occasionally deliver a big play or two. His 11.7 yards per completion weren't great, but they were better than Barker's 10.4.
No matter. It's Barker's job now, and he's still only a sophomore. Maybe Hinshaw's the guy to tap into the potential.
Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Drew Barker||6'3, 225||So.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9425||35||70||364||1||2||50.0%||5||6.7%||4.4|
|Stephen Johnson||6'2, 183||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8115|
|Gunnar Hoak||6'4, 200||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8485|
|Stanley Boom Williams||RB||5'9, 196||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.8983||121||855||6||7.1||10.6||41.3%||3||1|
|Jojo Kemp||RB||5'10, 200||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8607||98||555||6||5.7||5.5||42.9%||1||0|
|Mikel Horton||RB||6'1, 230||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8812||82||318||3||3.9||3.8||30.5%||3||2|
|Drew Barker||QB||6'3, 225||So.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9425||20||77||1||3.9||3.1||35.0%||0||0|
|Sihiem King||RB||5'9, 172||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8439||11||127||1||11.5||12.5||54.5%||0||0|
|Will Thomas Collins||FB||5'11, 241||Sr.||NR||NR|
|Benjamin Snell, Jr.||RB||5'11, 211||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8482|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Dorian Baker||WR||6'3, 208||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8558||96||55||608||57.3%||26.6%||6.3||57.3%||41.7%||1.29|
|Garrett Johnson||WR||5'11, 175||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8550||80||46||694||57.5%||22.2%||8.7||53.8%||43.8%||1.76|
|Jeff Badet||WR||6'0, 180||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8433||49||29||430||59.2%||13.6%||8.8||57.1%||42.9%||1.91|
|Blake Bone||WR||6'5, 213||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8646||28||20||210||71.4%||7.8%||7.5||50.0%||60.7%||1.05|
|Ryan Timmons||WR||5'10, 198||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8668||24||12||114||50.0%||6.6%||4.8||50.0%||25.0%||1.69|
|Stanley Boom Williams||RB||5'9, 196||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.8983||22||13||74||59.1%||6.1%||3.4||45.5%||27.3%||0.95|
|C.J. Conrad||TE||6'5, 245||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8988||21||15||149||71.4%||5.8%||7.1||57.1%||47.6%||1.38|
|Mikel Horton||RB||6'1, 230||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8812||10||10||140||100.0%||2.8%||14.0||40.0%||70.0%||1.76|
|Charles Walker||WR||5'11, 203||Jr.||NR||NR||10||5||61||50.0%||2.8%||6.1||20.0%||40.0%||1.24|
|Jojo Kemp||RB||5'10, 200||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8607||7||4||12||57.1%||1.9%||1.7||42.9%||14.3%||1.29|
|Sihiem King||RB||5'9, 172||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8439||5||4||6||80.0%||1.4%||1.2||60.0%||0.0%||0.00|
|Alexander Montgomery||WR||6'2, 210||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8313||4||3||18||75.0%||1.1%||4.5||75.0%||50.0%||0.96|
|Greg Hart (Nebraska)||TE||6'5, 245||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8503|
|Darryl Long||TE||6'4, 246||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8600|
|Jabari Greenwood||WR||6'3, 195||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8681|
|Tavin Richardson||WR||6'3, 216||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8481|
|Dakota Holtzclaw||WR||6'7, 216||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8518|
4. Continuity where you need it
59.4 percent, 57.1 percent, 61.4 percent. Those are the success rates for Kiel's top three targets (Shaq Washington, Chris Moore, Max Morrison) last year at UC. Kentucky's top three targets last year: 41.7, 43.8, 42.9.
Because of Towles' inconsistency, the quarterback change, etc., the passing game was woefully inefficient, which is a problem when you've got at least a slight pass-first offense. It's also a problem when you've got a weapon like Boom Williams but can't free him much because opponents don't respect your other weapons.
The goal for Gran is simple: Deliver just enough efficiency with your passing game that you can take advantage of Williams' immense upside. He is one of the best in the country when he gets to the second level of a defense, and success elsewhere will open up that many more second-level chances. (Williams' backup, senior JoJo Kemp also has wheels. And sophomore Sihiem King, too.)
If nothing else, continuity will be a boon here. The receiving corps loses no one of consequence, and the top seven returning wideouts are all juniors and seniors. Speedy Garrett Johnson has big-play potential, and there is nice diversity in this unit -- Dorian Baker and Blake Bone are big possession types, while Johnson, Jeff Badet, and Ryan Timmons are all smaller speedster types. And tight end C.J. Conrad is only a sophomore -- as with Barker, there's plenty of time for him to develop the four-star potential he was supposed to have.
UK's passing game doesn't have to produce Cincinnati numbers for this offense to do some damage, but if it can improve from 91st in Passing S&P+ into at least the 50s or 60s, it could stretch defenses out just enough to unleash Williams and his compadres in the backfield.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||2015 Starts||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Jon Toth||C||6'5, 310||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8370||12||35|
|Ramsey Meyers||RG||6'4, 305||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8351||12||24|
|Nick Haynes||LG||6'3, 316||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8088||9||10|
|Kyle Meadows||RT||6'5, 300||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8631||9||10|
|George Asafo-Adjei||RG||6'5, 315||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8751||3||3|
|Cole Mosier||LT||6'6, 335||Jr.||NR||NR||1||3|
|Zach Myers||RG||6'3, 305||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8338||0||1|
|Jervontius Stallings||RG||6'3, 318||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8206||0||0|
|Logan Stenberg||LG||6'6, 318||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8587|
|Mason Wolfe||RT||6'6, 305||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8160|
|Tate Leavitt||LT||6'6, 310||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.8833|
|Landon Young||LT||6'7, 305||Fr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9609|
|Luke Fortner||LG||6'6, 305||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8274|
|Drake Jackson||C||6'2, 302||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9331|
5. Recruiting? [ x ] Improvement? [ ]
The line protected its quarterbacks better in 2015, or at least benefited from quicker passing. After ranking 106th in Adj. Sack Rate, the Wildcats improved to a still-shaky 82nd.
The run blocking, however, cratered. Injuries had a role -- only two players started all 12 games, and three-year starter Zach West only appeared in the starting lineup three times. Five freshmen and sophomores started in at least one game.
In theory, the line could improve dramatically this fall. Six of the eight players who started at least one game last year are back. Second, in come the reinforcements: four-star JUCO Tate Leavitt, blue-chip freshman Landon Young, and four-star freshman Drake Jackson all could join the rotation, giving UK a nice balance between upside and experience.
The main problem: UK could improve into the 70s in both primary line categories (Adj. Line Yards, Adj. Sack Rate), and that would represent significant improvement. The bar's pretty low here, but hey, that means UK will almost certainly clear it.
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||44.2%||94||Succ. Rt. +||86.8||113|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||27.6||113||Off. FP+||27.9||103|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.0||29||Redzone S&P+||91.1||104|
|Q1 Rk||49||1st Down Rk||95|
|Q2 Rk||116||2nd Down Rk||104|
|Q3 Rk||111||3rd Down Rk||94|
6. Why does the defense still stink?
Stoops was a strong coordinator, albeit in defense-friendly situations. Under brother Mike (himself a successful DC) at Arizona, he produced a No. 15 ranking in Def. S&P+ in 2006 and No. 26 in 2009. In three years as Florida State's DC (2010-12), his Seminole attack was in the top 10 each year.
At Kentucky thus far, his Wildcat defense has ranked 89th, 51st, and 80th. The 2014 defense was able to exploit a nice passing downs pass rush, though if the opposing quarterback was able to stay upright, the pass was probably going to be successful.
Without 2014's ace pass rushers, Bud Dupree and Za'Darius Smith, UK went back to square one. The line was one of the least disruptive in the country, and with a new batch of youngsters in the secondary, the Wildcats really weren't good at anything.
If that's going to change, we'll see signs this year. The secondary now features four sophomores who made at least 14.5 tackles last year, and one of them (big corner Chris Westry) showed potential, albeit while getting burned a lot too. But sophomore safety Mike Edwards underwent trial by fire, and it's certainly not too late for Edwards and fellow sophomore Darius West to prove recruiting services right.
The front seven, though, could tamp down the upside. Injuries didn't help this unit, but it was dreadful regardless, and now the line must replace three of last year's top five tacklers while the linebacking corps replaces its top four.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Denzil Ware||RUSH||6'2, 255||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.9051||12||30.5||4.4%||5.5||1.0||0||0||1||0|
|Regie Meant||DT||6'4, 302||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8181||10||22.5||3.2%||1.5||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Matt Elam||NG||6'7, 360||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.9272||12||16.5||2.4%||0.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Courtney Miggins||DE||6'5, 285||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8800||11||8.5||1.2%||0.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Adrian Middleton||DT||6'3, 303||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8635||4||5.5||0.8%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Jacob Hyde||NG||6'2, 320||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8544|
|Alvonte Bell||DE||6'5, 260||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8107|
|Kengera Daniel||DE||6'5, 260||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8575|
|Tymere Dubose||NG||6'5, 320||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8322|
|De'Niro Laster||RUSH||6'4, 241||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8487|
|Naquez Pringle||DT||6'3, 330||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8056|
|Jordan Bonner||RUSH||6'5, 220||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8606|
|Kordell Looney||DT||6'3, 285||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8462|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Jordan Jones||WLB||6'2, 220||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8782||8||6.5||0.9%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|MLB||6'2, 242||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8762||12||5.0||0.7%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Josh Allen||SLB||6'5, 230||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7967||12||2.5||0.4%||1.5||0.5||0||1||0||0|
|Kobie Walker||SLB||6'3, 215||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8690|
|Nico Firios||MLB||6'2, 242||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8541|
|Eli Brown||WLB||6'2, 215||RSFr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9006|
|Kash Daniel||MLB||6'1, 241||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8948|
|Jaylin Bannerman||LB||6'5, 218||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8487|
|Roland Walder||WLB||6'3, 215||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8465|
|Jamar "Boogie" Watson||SLB||6'3, 234||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8182|
7. Another front-seven reset
Sophomore rush end Denzil Ware managed 5.5 tackles for loss as a freshman. Sophomore linebacker Josh Allen was only on the field long enough to make 2.5 tackles but made 1.5 behind the line and broke up a pass. Sophomore tackle Adrian Middleton saw decent rotation time in the middle of the season.
You have to squint, but you can find at least a little bit of potential in certain young members of the front seven. Plus, this has been a recruiting priority, so there might be plenty of newcomers with upside. But it's been a double-dip recession of sorts up front, with the only known difference-makers departing for the second straight year. Though some of these pieces could become useful, depth is an obvious issue, bordering on either problematic or terrifying.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Marcus McWilson||SS||6'0, 210||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8999||11||49.0||7.0%||1.5||1||0||2||1||0|
|Mike Edwards||SS||6'0, 200||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8888||12||32.0||4.6%||2||0||1||2||1||0|
|Chris Westry||CB||6'4, 195||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8469||12||29.5||4.2%||1.5||1||2||8||0||0|
|Blake McClain||FS||5'11, 200||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8181||12||25.0||3.6%||1||0||0||5||1||0|
|J.D. Harmon||CB||6'2, 200||Sr.||NR||NR||12||20.5||2.9%||0||0||3||2||1||0|
|Derrick Baity||CB||6'3, 182||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8432||12||16.5||2.4%||1||0||0||2||0||0|
|Darius West||FS||6'0, 206||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9067||10||14.5||2.1%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Kendall Randolph||CB||6'0, 182||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8768||9||8.5||1.2%||0.5||0||0||1||0||0|
|Jared Tucker||CB||5'11, 175||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8487|
|Marcus Walker||FS||6'1, 202||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8764|
|Kei Beckham||DB||5'11, 175||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8634|
|Jordan Griffin||CB||6'0, 177||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8811|
|Tobias Gilliam||CB||5'11, 185||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8543|
|Davonte Robinson||CB||6'2, 187||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8440|
8. Fewer worries, relatively speaking
Granted, for the number of four-star DBs Stoops has signed, this has been quite the two-star secondary during his tenure. But it really was a young unit last year, and unlike the front seven, it had quite a few youngsters who showed more than simple hints of potential.
Westry could be a tough nut for offenses to crack in the coming years, and with eight of last year's top 10 back, continuity should be Kentucky's friend here, just as it will be at WR. Kentucky's pass defense was woeful last year, but while one of the two reasons for that (an awful pass rush) won't be any better, at least youth will be less of an issue. Probably.
|Austin MacGinnis||5'10, 180||Jr.||37||61.5||14||0||37.8%|
|Miles Butler||5'9, 171||So.||25||59.6||2||0||8.0%|
|Austin MacGinnis||5'10, 180||Jr.||22-23||9-10||90.0%||4-7||57.1%|
|Miles Butler||5'9, 171||So.||11-12||3-3||100.0%||1-1||100.0%|
|Sihiem King||KR||5'9, 172||So.||23||21.7||0|
|J.D. Harmon||KR||6'2, 200||Sr.||4||32.0||0|
|Ryan Timmons||PR||5'10, 198||Sr.||8||7.4||0|
|Charles Walker||PR||5'11, 203||Jr.||3||7.3||0|
|Special Teams S&P+||40|
|Field Goal Efficiency||34|
|Punt Return Success Rate||48|
|Kick Return Success Rate||83|
|Punt Success Rate||59|
|Kickoff Success Rate||85|
9. When decent isn't enough
Kentucky had the worst field position margin in the SEC (minus-4.4 yards per possession) and one of the worst in the country (113th), but that was mostly because of offensive mistakes and defensive misery. Special teams did its best to make up some of the difference; UK was decent in both punts and punt returns, and Austin MacGinnis and Mile Butler were perfectly solid in the place-kicking department.
Of course, kickoff returns were poor (which is a problem when you're allowing a lot of scores), and kickoffs weren't particularly impressive either.
Punter Landon Foster is gone, which could hurt a little since he was better than average, but at the very least the return of MacGinnis/Butler and a decent punt returner in Ryan Timmons should make sure this remains a decent unit. But unless the defense improves, "decent" won't do much.
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk||Proj. Margin||Win Probability|
|17-Sep||New Mexico State||117||14.5||80%|
|Projected wins: 4.3|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||-15.6% (92)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||36 / 32|
|2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||-2 / 1.5|
|2015 TO Luck/Game||-1.5|
|Returning Production (Off. / Def.)||62% (62%, 61%)|
|2015 Second-order wins (difference)||5.0 (0.0)|
10. This would be a good time to exceed your projections
Last year wrecked whatever upward trajectory Kentucky had developed. That might seem like a strange thing to say after a second straight 5-7 finish, but the Wildcats were more tenuous and less impressive last year, especially after the first month of the season.
Now things look like 2014 was a happy blip. And it's up to Stoops, his new hires, and his 2014 class to rectify things.
If they don't, 2016 will be awfully long. The first half of the season does feature three tossups among a likely win and two likely losses, so it's possible that UK will again post a decent early record. But after Vanderbilt leaves town on October 8, the Wildcats will face five games as a double-digit underdog in their last six contests. Yikes.
Winning tossups won't be enough, in other words. Kentucky's simply going to have to be a much better program than the numbers suggest. If Stoops' new offensive hires hit their mark, and if the passing game clicks like it seems it could on paper, then maybe things will be fine. But UK lost the statistical benefit of the doubt last year.