Kentucky Wildcats

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 10:  Drew Barker #7 of the Kentucky Wildcats passes during a game against the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Back injury will cost Kentucky QB Drew Barker ‘significant time’

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Aside from starter Drew Barker, Kentucky knew coming into the 2016 season that they were very green at the quarterback position.  If the Wildcats are to bounce back from a 1-2 start to go bowling, and potentially save their head coach’s job in the process, they’ll need that position to ripen in a hurry.

Mark Stoops announced Wednesday that Barker “will be out for a significant amount of time” because of a back injury.  According to the school, the issue flared up this summer, then was aggravated in the Week 2 loss to Florida and further aggravated in the Week 3 win over New Mexico State.  Barker lasted just one series in the latter game.

After seeing a specialist, it was recommended that Barker rest the next three weeks.  At that point in time, he’ll be reevaluated.

Right now, surgery is not required.

“His mother, his father, Drew, Jim Madaleno and our doctors are all on the same page, and they believe the best treatment is rest right now and some treatment, and the best idea for him is non-operative at this point in time,” the coach said in quotes distributed by the school. “If that changes, I’ll let you know. When he gets back out on the field, I’ll let you know. But he is out for a significant amount of time.”

Barker, at least statistically, began the season with promise, throwing for 323 yards and four touchdowns in a loss to Southern Miss.  The following week however, he completed just two of his 10 passes for 10 yards in a 38-point bating at the hands of the “rival” Gators.

With Barker out for the foreseeable future, the Wildcats will turn to Stephen Johnson II.  In relief of Barker, the junior college transfer completed 17-of-22 passes for 310 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Johnson II will make his first career FBS start against South Carolina in Lexington this weekend.  Should the new starter go down, no other quarterback on the roster has attempted a pass at this level.

Barker took over for Patrick Towles as the starter in the latter part of the 2015 season, with the then-freshman being named the starter in spring practice.  By that time, Towles had already transferred to Boston College and is now the Eagles’ starter as a graduate transfer.

SEC rebounds from putrid Week 1 with perfect non-conference Week 2

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 07:  An 'SEC' logo is seen on an end zone pylon before the Missouri Tigers take on the Auburn Tigers during the SEC Championship Game at Georgia Dome on December 7, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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The obituaries for the mighty SEC flowed fast and free following Week 1, with The Big Football Conference That Suddenly Couldn’t watching as half of its team went down in defeat.  The last time seven of the current SEC teams lost the same opening weekend, the conference had just added Arkansas and South Carolina as members in 1992 and Missouri and Texas A&M weren’t even in the league.

As noted Southern football historian Mark Twain once opined, though, the SEC’s death may have been greatly exaggerated.  Possibly.

In Week 2, the 14-team SEC went a collective 12-2.  The two losses?  Mississippi State of the SEC West dropping South Carolina of the SEC East and Florida, yet again, embarrassing divisional “rival” Kentucky.  In other words, the league went unbeaten in non-conference play.

If you’d like — why do I get the feeling many will take advantage of this generosity? — you can attach a giant asterisk or caveat or whatever big-sounding word you want to the undefeated bounce-back.

Of the 10 non-conference wins, four came against FCS teams — a two-point escape for Georgia in one of those — while another four came against Group of Five programs.  Tennessee handling Virginia Tech and Arkansas stunning TCU in double overtime marked the lone “signature” wins for the conference.

Still, after the pabulum that was Week 1, the SEC needed something like this in Week 2 to right a national perception ship that had been listing mightily.

Florida swamps Kentucky for 30th straight win over Mildcats

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 10:  Antonio Callaway #81 of the Florida Gators makes a catch for a touchdown during a game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Death, taxes and a Gator chewing up and spitting out a Wildcat?  Yep, those are a couple of the certainties in a football life.

Saturday afternoon on The Swamp, Florida had little problem in dispatching Kentucky, rolling through, over and around the hapless ‘Cats in a 45-7 win that wasn’t even that close.  The Gators have now won 30 straight games over the Wildcats, with the latter’s last win coming in 1986.

For perspective, Ronald Reagan was in the White House, a gallon of gas would set you back roughly 90 cents and the SEC had just 10 members the last time UK claimed a victory in the series.  The 30-game losing streak is the longest in SEC history and the longest active streak in the FBS, but still lags behind the longest such streak at this level — Notre Dame’s 43-game stretch over Navy that ended a decade ago.

Of the 30 losses, a whopping 21 of them have come by 10 or more points.

UK gave up over 500 yards of offense in this latest embarrassing loss, while managing just 149 themselves.  They shot themselves in the foot on multiple occasions, turning the ball over four times to UF’s one.

Luke Del Rio threw for 320 yards and four touchdowns in the win.  Antonio Callaway was on the receiving end of 129 of those yards, including a 78-yard touchdown catch.

If Mark Stoops wasn’t on the hot seat entering the season, he certainly should be now.  After taking a 35-10 lead on Southern Miss in the opener last Saturday, the Wildcats had been outscored 79-0 before a meaningless touchdown with four and a half minutes remaining ended the ignominious streak this evening.

Regardless, the Wildcats are 0-2 and, while it may not be hot quite yet, Stoops’ seat is certainly getting warmer.

Get ready for the Week 2 hangover: Five games to watch this week

Battle At Bristol
AP Photo/The Bristol Herald-Courier, David Crigger
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After Florida State and Texas helped close out the greatest opening weekend in college football history the past two nights, all eyes have now shifted to what’s ahead for an encore in Week 2. Unfortunately for fans, the college football scheduling gods have not been as kind to us in the second week of the season, which is to be expected when we have been so spoiled out of the gate this fall.

The five most intriguing games of Week 2 to follow are listed below:

Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech: The Battle at Bristol will pit Tennessee against Virginia Tech on the infield of Bristol Motor Speedway. The Vols escaped an upset bid by Appalachian State on Thursday night, while the Justin Fuente Era in Blacksburg got off to decent start by pulling away from Liberty. The Vols must play a sharper game on offense, because the Hokies will be feeding off the film they got from Thursday night’s game.

TCU vs. Arkansas: Both the Horned Frogs and Razorbacks opened the season with a win this past weekend, but neither did so in a fashion that inspires a tremendous amount of confidence. Were they each saving a little something for this matchup between the Big 12 and SEC, or are there some concerns that need to be addressed by Gary Patterson and Bret Bielema. This matchup in Fort Worth should provide some energy.

Pittsburgh vs. Penn State: For the first time in 16 years, these in-state rivals are set to renew their rivalry. It is difficult to comprehend the idea that a generation of college football fans in Pennsylvania have yet to experience a game between the Panthers and Nittany Lions, but they finally get their first taste of it this Saturday in western PA. It is the first of a four-game scheduling arrangement over the next four seasons. Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi has shut his team off from the media to avoid distractions this week.

Florida vs. Kentucky: The Gators were sluggish on offense in their opener before starting to pull away from UMass. Kentucky let one slip away at home last week against Southern Miss. The Gators have won 29 straight in this series dating back to 1987 and have lost just once to the Wildcats since 1980. Kentucky has not won in The Swamp since 1979. With this being the SEC opener for each, getting a jump on the division race is key, and Kentucky is already on thin ice for making postseason play after dropping last week’s game.

Utah vs. BYU: The Holy War always is worth watching because these two schools hate each other with a wild passion. Both teams enter with 1-0 records after Utah handled Southern Utah and BYU clipped Arizona in the opener. Can the Cougars go 2-0 against the Pac-12 out of the gates?

OTHER GAMES ON THE RADAR

Baylor vs. SMU: SMU still has a long way to go but could put up some offense against Baylor.

Texas vs. UTEP: After a thriller against the Irish, can Charlie Strong’s team avoid a letdown?

Boise State vs. Washington State: The Broncos were impressive last week while Mike Leach’s Cougars took a home loss against Eastern Washington.

South Florida vs. NIU: With NIU taking a loss on the road last week at Wyoming, the Huskies need a win to remain in the Group of Five hunt before it pulls away from them entirely.

Oregon vs. Virginia: The Cavaliers were trounced at home by Richmond in Bronco Mendenhall’s Virginia debut. Now they fly to Oregon? Uh-oh.

Arizona State vs. Texas Tech: Offense on offense on offense.

Illinois vs. UNC: Lovie Smith’s Illini played well in its opener and they host UNC coming off a loss.

THE TEAM YOU DON’T WANT TO BE THIS WEEK

Wofford: The FCS program travels to Ole Miss this week. You think the Rebels will be ready to unload some pent-up frustration after losing to Florida State Monday night?

FCS USET ALERT OF THE WEEK

Illinois State vs. Northwestern: Though one should logically assume Northwestern bounces back at home this week after dropping one to Western Michigan, Illinois State is coming in as one of the top FCS programs there is. Don’t be surprised if No. 9 Illinois State hangs around longer than Northwestern fans would be comfortable seeing.

Also, No. 5 Jacksonville State is visiting LSU, who lost last week in Green Bay. The Jaguars pushed Auburn to the limit last season and we know LSU’s passing game is a concern. You just never know!

Ex-Kentucky OC Shannon Dawson exacts revenge on his former team

LEXINGTON, KY - OCTOBER 15:  Mark Stoops the head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats watches the action against the Auburn Tigers at Commonwealth Stadium on October 15, 2015 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops fired his offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson this offseason, nearly a year to the day after pulling him away from West Virginia. The firing seemed justified at the time. In his one season guiding the Wildcats’ attack, their numbers stayed relatively stagnant; UK finished the 2014 season tied for 76th nationally in yards per play, and in ’15 ranked tied for 78th. Kentucky collapsed down the stretch for the second consecutive season, so Stoops felt he needed to present a head to the screaming blue masses, lest they come for his own. So he eschewed Dawson to hire both Darin Hinshaw and Eddie Gran away from nearby Cincinnati.

And through one half on Saturday night, Stoops’s plan looked like a smart one.

Dawson’s new team Southern Miss just happened to open at Kentucky, and the Wildcats jumped out to a 35-10 second quarter lead.

But Dawson’s Eagles offense moved 84 yards in three plays just before the half to pull within 35-17. Then they marched 84 yards to open the second half, and now the score was 35-24. And then Southern Miss moved 66 yards in eight plays to pull within 35-31.

On its next possession, Southern Miss again found the end zone, marking four straight touchdowns to turn a 35-10 lead into a 38-35 advantage.

Kentucky finally slowed down the Flying Shannon Dawsons on their final two possessions — sort of. Both traveled more than 50 yards, and both ended in field goals.

Overall, Southern Miss moved 409 yards over 55 plays and six possessions, producing 34 points over that span.

“Coach Dawson and all that he’s gone through, I am happy for him,” Stoops told the Louisville Courier-Journal afterward. “Obviously, I want our team to play better, but he did a heck of a job and they kept us off balance.”

Meanwhile, Kentucky’s offense went completely in the tank.

The Wildcats’ second half touches moved 24 yards before losing a fumble, lost 11 yards in a three-and-out, threw an interception, moved five yards and punted and, in what proved to be their final snap of the night, gained 28 yards before losing another fumble.

Even former Kentucky head coach Hal Mumme tossed some shade at his former team through a praise for Dawson.

It was a loss Stoops could not afford to bear, not only for his ego but to avoid UK backers finding the $12 million necessary to buy him out after two straight late-season collapses and, now, one epic late game thud to open a season that was supposed to bring so much more.

After all, Stoops hired new offensive coordinators and everything.