However the Kentucky-Austin Peay football game turns out Saturday afternoon, a significant losing streak is going to end.
The visiting Governors (0-10) from the Football Championship Subdivision will come to Lexington riding a 26-game losing skid. The Ohio Valley Conference team has not won since beating Murray State 20-13 on Oct. 18, 2014.
Austin Peay — 1-44 over the past four seasons — is almost certainly the worst college football program ever to play in Commonwealth Stadium. Since going 7-4 in 2007, the Governors are 14-86.
UK will also seek to end a torment-causing streak.
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Kentucky (5-5, 4-4 SEC) needs one victory to become bowl-eligible. Since Mark Stoops became UK head coach four years ago, the Wildcats have played nine games in which a victory would have qualified the Wildcats for the postseason.
The Cats are 0-9 in those contests — 0-6 in 2014, 0-1 in 2015, 0-2 this year.
Barring a “Chaminade tops Virginia”-level upset by Austin Peay, the 10th time is going to be the charm for Stoops.
At his weekly news conference Monday, Stoops said, “Getting six wins and getting to the bowl game, I said it in the summer and I said it when we were (0-2 and) in dire straits, it is very important for us to do that — for our players, for our recruiting and for the (extra bowl) practices.”
Since Jerry Claiborne’s 1984 UK team went 8-3 and then won a Hall of Fame Bowl matchup with Wisconsin, Kentucky has made eight subsequent bowl trips — four as a seven-win team and four as a six-win team.
It is nevertheless an important step for Stoops at UK.
After Kentucky’s five-year bowl streak (2006-10), the Wildcats’ program essentially collapsed. When you put back-to-back 2-10, 0-8 SEC seasons on the board — which UK did in 2012 and ’13 — you have found the hard, rock bottom of the well.
For Stoops, the first goal was to get back to the “Rich Brooks threshold.” In Brooks’ final four regular seasons (2006-09) as UK coach, the Cats went 7-5, 7-5, 6-6 and 7-5 and won three out of four minor bowls.
In 2014, Stoops’ second season at Kentucky, the Wildcats started 5-1. They then lost their last six games. Not one of those six defeats, however, came in a game that UK should have won.
Last year, was a different story. Kentucky started 4-1 and, with a sure-win over Charlotte in the season’s 11th game, needed only one victory to make the postseason. Instead, UK lost an eminently winnable game at Vanderbilt due to red zone failures and puzzling coaching decisions. The Cats then fell to Louisville at home after leading 24-7 at the half.
At that time, there weren’t seven people in the entire state of Kentucky who thought the Wildcats would get to six wins in 2016.
To Stoops’ credit, he held his team together and has UK in position to go to its first bowl since the 2010 season.
Because of the recruiting ties Stoops and his staff have in Ohio and Florida, if UK could string together some seasons at the Brooks threshold, Kentucky would seem well-positioned to take the next step that keeps eluding UK — getting above six- and seven-win years.
But you have to get back to the six/seven-win level consistently before you can realistically aspire to get above it. For Stoops and UK, that’s why beating Austin Peay to get to six is significant even if it is not making the thrill meter light up.
Austin Peay at Kentucky
4:30 p.m. Saturday (SEC Network)