Kentucky will take a 7-3 overall record and 4-3 Southeastern Conference mark into its game at Georgia Saturday, but many Wildcat fans, maybe even coach Mark Stoops, are lamenting what could have been.
Turn just a couple of plays total in a one-point loss to Florida and a three-point loss to Ole Miss could have left the Wildcats at 9-1 and 6-1, respectively, and playing the Bulldogs for the SEC East title.
Stoops said he understands the fans' feelings about the elimination of that possibility and though he follows the standard coaching mantra of "never look back," at times he can't help but think "what if."
"I'm frustrated and disappointed in some ways as well," Stoops said. "Again, it's not for a lack of effort. We'll continue to work to put ourselves in position to win games because that's easier said than done."
The Wildcats obviously are in a position for one of their most successful seasons over the last three decades. They need two more victories (they finish at home against Louisville Thanksgiving weekend) to reach the nine-win level for the first time since 1984, and they need to beat Georgia to finish with a winning record, not just break even, in SEC play for the first time since the 1977 team finished 6-0 in league play. Five 4-4 marks are they best they have done since then.
But they will have to take their next step against a Georgia team still smarting from a 40-17 spanking at Auburn that was their first loss of the season. How the Bulldogs will respond is a side issue to the game. Will they come out fired up or be down emotionally?
Stoops declined to offer an opinion on that.
"I would never, I could never worry at all about what another team's psyche is," he said. "And I can't control that. I have no idea what they're doing over there. I just know what I see on film, and that's a very good football team that's very well coached.
"I'm worried about us and us continuing to sustain the good things we've done this past week and the good things we've done all year. And to improve on the areas we need to improve on."
Georgia has dominated the series and will go into the game having won the last seven in a row and 18 of the last 20 against the Wildcats. This Georgia team, Stoops said, is better than the one that edged his Wildcats 27-24 last year with running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel ranked among the top rushers in the SEC and Roquan Smith one of the top linebackers in the conference.
"Oh, without a doubt," Stoops said. "Yeah, I don't think there's any doubt that they're better. I mean, you look at them on film, and they're a very good football team."