With expectations at an all-time high for Kentucky leading into this season, the excitement was deflated out of the program after a brutal October. Even with that, the Wildcats are ranked 24th in the newest CFP poll. Through nine games in the highly regarded 2021 season, Kentucky was 6-3. After nine games this season, Kentucky is also 6-3. Even with identical records, the morale of the program seems much lower right now than what it was at this point last year. Why is that?
Let's start with the obvious: people enjoy offense. In 2021, Kentucky averaged 425.4 yards per game with an average of 225.6 yards through the air and 199.8 on the ground. The balanced attack that Mark Stoops had been striving towards for years was coming to fruition under Liam Coen. Fast forward to this year, where the Wildcats are putting up just 341.4 yards per game and just 109.2 yards on the ground. The lack of balance and the declining offensive output has put both the program and Rich Scangarello under fire throughout the year. Despite Kentucky's defense being improved from last year, the disappointment on offense has been the story in Lexington.
The schedule also plays a part in this. As I mentioned, the 2021 record and 2022 record are identical through nine games. What's the difference? Kentucky still has Georgia looming this season. The last three games in 2021 were layups against Vanderbilt, New Mexico State and Louisville. This year, Vanderbilt and Louisville are much more formidable opponents. With one guaranteed loss and two potentially dangerous matchups, the Wildcats are already looking at decreasing their win total from a year ago. Also, last year's schedule allowed Kentucky to take advantage of a down LSU program at home and pick up a huge win. That game, along with Florida, gave Kentucky two wins over elite programs, compared to just one over Florida this season.
What Is Success?
Back to the original point. Given how many people looked at last year compared to this year, despite identical records, what would be considered a successful season at this point? The obvious answer would be finishing the season 4-0 with an upset win over Georgia and a fifth consecutive bowl victory. Realistically speaking, there is no chance that happens. The Bulldogs proved on Saturday that is going to take a perfect game to knock them off. With that out of the question, finishing the year 3-1 is very doable and would do a great deal of morale boosting for the program. Losing one, or both, of the games against Vanderbilt and Louisville is where the season turns into a massive disappointment. Coming into the year, many circled these two matchups as certain wins for Kentucky.
In my opinion, a 3-1 finish down the stretch, for an overall 9-4 finish, would be a successful season in my book, as well as the record books.