It’s been a long time since the Kentucky Wildcats actually mattered in the SEC. After a 3-1 start to the season, Mark Stoops‘ program continues to make headway in college football toughest conference.
After defeating the Vanderbilt Commodores 17-7 and ending the school’s 17-game conference losing streak, the Wildcats now have their sights set on the program’s biggest test to date, the South Carolina Gamecocks.
“I feel like we’re right in the middle of the SEC race right now,” Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles told The Courier-Journal‘s Kyle Tucker. “We work for this moment right here. It’s going to happen at 7:30, so just go out three and let it all hang out.”
The Gamecocks are 3-2 this season and coming off an excruciating last-minute 21-20 loss to the Missouri Tigers. But this is the same program which beat the Georgia Bulldogs two weeks earlier.
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier isn’t taking Kentucky lightly, though.
“They don’t look like some of their teams 10, 15 years ago,” Spurrier said earlier in the week. “They’re very fast, athletic. I think their defense is actually nationally ranked in all categories. They’re a good-looking team.”
Kentucky shouldn’t look the same. Since Stoops took over the program, the new staff has recruited well. The Wildcats even finished with the 17th-best recruiting class this year, according to Rivals.com.
The next step isn’t simply winning games against teams like South Carolina. It’s also getting fans to show up to games. The Wildcats haven’t sold out a home game since 2010. They’re on the verge of doing so this weekend.
UK now reporting that more than 60,000 tickets out (sold and comps) for game against South Carolina.
— Jen Smith (@jenheraldleader) October 3, 2014
A renewed sense of accomplishment, increased talent and interest in the program is exactly what Stoops has brought to Kentucky. Now it’s up to the coach and his team to continue their current upward trend.
A win Saturday will go a long way in the wide open SEC East.