Sidelines with John Clay

ESPN: Kentucky football “has enough talent to surprise”

Kentucky running back Mikel Horton (4) laughs it up with offensive coordinator Eddie Gran during a break in practice on Monday.
Kentucky running back Mikel Horton (4) laughs it up with offensive coordinator Eddie Gran during a break in practice on Monday. Lexington Herald-Leader

Tuesday morning, we referred to you a SI.com writer with a pessimistic view of Kentucky football’s outlook for 2016, predicting Mark Stoops’ Cats would finish just 3-9.

Tuesday afternoon, we refer you to ESPN staff writer Greg Ostendorf, a regular contributor to the World Wide Leader’s SEC football blog and one who sees the UK glass as half full for this season.

While Ostendorf doesn’t predict a final record, he hints that Kentucky could end up surprising some people.

Under “Best-case scenario,” Ostendorf writes, “Looking at the schedule, if you count the games that Kentucky should win, plus two toss-up games, there’s potential for seven wins. But this team also has enough talent to surprise one of the upper-echelon teams. The Wildcats aren’t beating Alabama, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see them win at Florida or at home against Georgia.”

Kentucky has dropped 29 straight to Florida. Its last triumph over the Gators was 10-3 in Lexington way back in 1986. Bill Ransdell was the Kentucky quarterback. Jerry Claiborne was the Kentucky coach.

Under Stoops, however, UK took the Gators to overtime in The Swamp in 2014, losing 36-30. There was controversy in that game. Florida tied the game at 27-27 in overtime on a nine-yard pass from Jeff Driskel to Demarco Robinson on a play in which the snap appeared to have taken place after the play clock ran out.

Last season, Kentucky lost 14-9 to the Gators in Commonwealth. Florida led 14-3 at the half. In the second half, Kentucky drove the ball to the visitors’ five-yard line, but settled for a field goal. Later in the forth quarter, UK drove to the Florida 28, but again settled for a field goal. The next two possessions, Kentucky moved the ball close to midfield but no further.

As for Georgia, Kentucky has lost six straight to the Bulldogs. Stoops has suffered three straight lopsided losses to the Dawgs -- 59-17 at Georgia in 2013; 63-31 at CWS in 2014 and 27-3 in Athens last season.

Those losses came against former Georgia head coach Mark Richt, now back home at Miami, his alma mater. Former Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is the new Georgia head coach.

Kentucky travels to Florida on Sept. 10 for a 3:30 p.m. CBS game. Georgia visits UK on Nov. 15.

Kentucky football 2016 schedule

Date

Opponent

9/3/16

Southern Miss

9/10/16

@Florida

9/17/16

New Mexico St

9/24/16

South Carolina

10/1/16

@Alabama

10/8/16

Vanderbilt

10/22/16

Mississippi St

10/29/16

@Missouri

11/5/16

Georgia

11/12/16

@Tennessee

11/19/16

Austin Peay

11/26/16

@Louisville

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