Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops took to the podium Monday during day one of the 2018 SEC Football Media Days. Monday marked Stoops sixth year at Media Days and had gotten a lot of pats on the back for leading Kentucky to back-to-back seven-win seasons and bowl appearances. During his media time, he talked about how the SEC East and how all the teams are trying to get to the same place. Then Stoops talks about how tough it’ll be for the Wildcats to beat the defending SEC East and title champions. He addressed the Florida debacle as well.
He mentioned how the league has gone through ups and downs on both sides. The west has been playing at an extremely high level and deserved credit, but thinks that East continues to get better.
“I remember saying there’s no doubt in my mind some of the teams in the east were ready to make a big jump,” Stoops commented. “I don’t think that’s any different and I can promise you every team in the east is getting better every day, recruiting at a high level, developing our players and competing to play at the same level. So it’s all— you know, we’re all trying to get to the same place.”
Stoops also talked about how Georgia is once again the team to beat in the Eastern Division. He’s hoping the Wildcats prove they’ve closed that gap by the time they play Georgia late in the season.
“It’ll take a lot,” Stoops said of playing against the Bulldogs. “We had a close game with them two years ago at our place but it got away from us last year. That will happen when you make mistakes against a good team like that. We’ll have to play a cleaner game, to start with.”
Last season, Georgia rushed for a total of 381 yards against the Wildcats. After Kentucky scored on the opening drive of the second half, the Bulldogs scored 21 unanswered points. That was Georgia’s eighth win in a row over Kentucky and the 10th in the last 11 years. However, that doesn’t compare to the frustration the Wildcats have experienced against Florida. Despite losing to the Gators 31 years in a row, the Wildcats do have one thing to be proud of in recent years. Kentucky’s won four in a row against the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Stoops has put some big-time scares in some powerhouse programs but cannot get over that hump with Florida and Georgia. However, Stoops is thinking bigger than that. The former Florida State defensive coordinator thinks he has the backs to challenge in the East this year. Kentucky returns junior running back Benny Snell, who rushed for 2,432 yards and 32 touchdowns the last two years. They’ll pair that with a defense that leads the SEC returning defensive production.