Mark Story: Kentucky's in a battle with New Mexico for worst college football state

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistOctober 18, 2011 

The 2011 college football season seems headed for a showdown between two diabolically well-matched rivals locked in a riveting duel for the title.

Louisiana State vs. Alabama for the "SEC slot" in the BCS national championship game?

No, actually.

The most spirited "competition" in college football this season might be between those ancient gridiron antagonists — the state of New Mexico and the commonwealth of Kentucky — over which state with multiple FBS programs is producing the worst caliber of football.

Here in Kentucky, we might have to fumigate the entire commonwealth if the level of football doesn't pick up dramatically over the second half of the season.

The University of Kentucky is 2-4 and has not yet beaten a team from a BCS automatic-qualifying conference.

The University of Louisville is 2-4 and has not yet beaten a team from outside Kentucky.

Western Kentucky University is 2-4 and has not yet beaten a team worth a darn. The Hilltoppers have won their last two but against foes (Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic) who are a combined 1-10.

How bad is our football in Kentucky?

Out of the 120 major-college football programs that comprise the Football Bowl Subdivision, when it comes to scoring points, our three entrants rank No. 106 (WKU, 18.5 points), No. 111 (U of L, 16.33) and No. 118 (UK, 13.0) in the nation.

In this week's Sagarin Ratings, Louisville is ranked No. 98, with UK at No. 112 and WKU at 157.

To put that in perspective, there are 10 teams from the FCS (the former I-AA) ranked higher than any of our state's three FBS schools.

It gets worse.

UK has been outscored 137-20 so far this season in Southeastern Conference games.

U of L has lost at home to both a Sun Belt (Florida International) and a Conference-USA (Marshall) team.

WKU not only lost a home game to a Football Championship Subdivision foe, it got run out of Bowling Green (44-16) by Indiana State.

Overall, our state has no wins against any out-of-state team from a BCS AQ conference and only three total wins all year against schools from other states. The three out-of-state teams our FBS schools have vanquished — Central Michigan, Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic — are a combined 3-15.

Yet as bad as all that sounds, the commonwealth of Kentucky may not have a hammer-lock on the mantle of "worst major-college football state of 2011."

The Land of Enchantment could yet give us a run for our money.

The University of New Mexico is 0-for-2011 (0-6) and has lost 32 of its past 34 games. New Mexico has allowed foes 40 points or more in its past five games.

One of the Lobos' losses came to Sam Houston State of the FCS.

It's so bad, third-year New Mexico head coach Mike Locksley has already been shown the gate.

The state's other major-college team, New Mexico State, is not pulling its weight so far in the futility quest — it's produced decent results.

NMSU has more wins so far this year (three) than any of the FBS schools in Kentucky.

One of the Aggies' victories is over its hapless in-state rival New Mexico, but NMSU (3-3) also has one thing that no Kentucky team has yet claimed: A victory over an out-of-state team from a BCS Conference. In the season's second game, New Mexico State went on the road to Minnesota of the Big Ten and left with a 28-21 win.

As a state, the FBS schools from New Mexico have a combined winning percentage of 25.0 and an average Sagarin Rating of 163.5.

The major-college football programs in the commonwealth of Kentucky have a combined winning percentage 33.3 and a combined Sagarin Rating of 122.3.

So those who say there's nothing at stake here in the second half of the football season in the Bluegrass State are flat wrong.

The victor in the Nov. 5 Armageddon between Alabama and LSU may well determine who ends the season chanting "We're No. 1!"

But the more compelling competition could be between the states of Kentucky and New Mexico to see who can avoid ending the college football year of 2011 having to say:

"We stink the most."

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