Kentucky football fell to 6-4 on the season and 3-4 in SEC play with a 49-21 loss to Alabama. Here is a closer look at what the loss means beyond the scoreboard.
So much for flipping the narrative
Kentucky losing to No. 8 Alabama was hardly a surprise considering the Wildcats have beaten the Crimson Tide just twice in program history and only once since the Great Depression, but Saturday’s result has to at least be considered a missed opportunity.
Upsetting Alabama would have given Mark Stoops and company all the ammunition needed to silence some of Stoops’ more vocal critics. Instead, the season-long narrative about failing to take a step forward as a program continues.
Kentucky is bowl eligible for the eighth consecutive season and could still finish the regular season with eight wins for just the third time since 1984 but that record looks like a product of favorable scheduling more than a particularly strong season. Kentucky has now lost to the four best teams on its schedule. It is possible none of the six teams Kentucky has beaten reach a bowl game.
Stoops made headlines earlier this season with his frustrated response to a caller on his radio show who wanted to know when Kentucky could beat elite teams like Georgia and Alabama. The Wildcats don’t have to win those games to take another step forward as a program, but they do have to prove the success is more than a product of an easy schedule, especially with the SEC ditching divisions after this season.
Saturday was an opportunity to do that, but the narrative lives on for another week instead.
All eyes on Louisville now
Winning at South Carolina next week will do little to change the narrative about Kentucky beating up on average or worse teams, but it would at least avenge last season’s loss in Kroger Field, clinch a winning record and keep fans from panicking before the Governor’s Cup rivalry game. Beating Louisville in the regular season finale would go a long way to flipping the script though.
The Cardinals are 9-1 after Friday’s win over Virginia with sights firmly set on a New Year’s Six Bowl game. Louisville could still gain the ACC’s slot in the Orange Bowl even with a loss to Kentucky, but being able to retain bragging rights in the rivalry as Jeff Brohm coaches Louisville to one of its best seasons in his first year as head coach would be quite the cap to an otherwise lackluster UK season.
Stoops and his players can ill afford to look ahead to Louisville with the South Carolina game first on the schedule, but we don’t have to observe that same focus. It is clear beating Louisville is now the only thing that can give this season the rallying point it lacks.