Kentucky Football: Can the Wildcats Escape the SEC Cellar?

Can Kentucky Escape the SEC Cellar?

3/28/14 in NCAAF   |   BlakeLovell   |   86 respect

Nov 2, 2013; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach Mark Stoops during the game against the Alabama State Hornets at Commonwealth Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY SportsThe Kentucky Wildcats officially get spring practice underway on Friday, and there's plenty of anticipation for year two of the Mark Stoops era in Lexington.

It was a forgettable 2013 for Kentucky, as it posted a dreadful 2-10 record and didn't win a single game in the SEC.

But Wildcat fans should expect this team to take a significant step forward once the 2014 regular season rolls around. Will Kentucky compete for an SEC title this season? No. However, there's a bright future ahead with Stoops at the helm.

And the future begins with the top-20 recruiting class that Stoops brought in this spring, which will certainly help Kentucky start building a new foundation. Four-star quarterback Drew Barker headlines an outstanding freshman class that will look to compete for opportunities right away.

There's a ton of underclassmen on this roster that will battle for spots, and while they may not win it immediately, Stoops has at least built up a solid nucleus that will only get better as the years progress.

It also helps that Kentucky returns a ton of starters. This group took their lumps a season ago, but the experience should pay off this season in what should be a much more manageable schedule for the Wildcats.

The first half of the 2014 season should tell us quite a bit about how much this team has improved in the off-season.

Kentucky opens with two winnable games against FCS UT Martin and Ohio before venturing to the Swamp to take on what should be a much-improved Florida Gators team.

Then comes two very intriguing matchups. 

The Wildcats host Vanderbilt and South Carolina in consecutive weeks, and these are two games that could swing the tide for Stoops and company.

The Commodores are facing changes with new head coach Derek Mason, and although the Gamecocks will be battling for the SEC crown as usual, this could be a tricky spot for them. It will be the sixth straight week without a bye for Steve Spurrier's squad, and it's the kind of momentum game that could give Stoops his first signature win in Lexington.

How big would those two wins be? We're talking a potential 4-1 start for a team that won two games all last season. Not too shabby.

But, of course, we're a long way away from that. Stoops still has to find a consistent quarterback, and even more importantly, has to find playmakers on both sides of the ball.

If the Wildcats can do that, 2014 could mark the year that Kentucky football turned the corner and became relevant in the SEC once again.

How do you think Kentucky will fare in 2014? Let us know by commenting below! For more college football talk, follow FanIQ College Football or myself on Twitter!
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3/27/14   |   BlakeLovell   |   86 respect

zippy1cat wrote:
The last name of our coach is Stoops. Please make the correction. Good article. I believe the Cats will be greatly improved. Ready for the Spring Game.

Clearly had a momentary Rich Brooks flashback. My bad on that.

3/27/14   |   zippy1cat

The last name of our coach is Stoops. Please make the correction. Good article. I believe the Cats will be greatly improved. Ready for the Spring Game.