Big Blue Nation is usually referred to as the rabid fanbase that pores over every aspect of Kentucky Wildcat basketball.
But with the rise of the football program under Mark Stoops, fans from the Bourbon state (is this a thing? maybe, who cares) are increasingly focused on football. The No. 7 ranked Wildcats will be kicking off against Ole Miss in less than 24 hours, so the Cup reached out to A Sea of Blue, SBNation’s Kentucky blog to get its take on this team and its prospects against Ole Miss.
1.) It seems the general impression of this Kentucky squad is that it plays tough defense and is run heavy. Do you think that is an accurate representation?
That’s typically been Kentucky under Mark Stoops, but since Will Levis arrived in 2021, the passing game has taken a big step forward. They’re right at a 50-50 split in terms of run-to-pass ratio, though they would like to run it a bit more, but the rebuilding offensive line and lack of Chris Rodriguez has put more pressure on the passing game. Thankfully, Kentucky has one of its best wide receiver groups in recent memory, which has helped the passing game become much more modernized.
2.) Where is the fanbase on Mark Stoops? Is it just deliriously happy or wanting more?
Very happy. Kentucky football simply doesn’t have a great history of sustained big-time success. The program has had just four 10+ win seasons, and Stoops has two of them. It would be nice to see Kentucky manage to beat Florida and Tennessee in the same year, as well as win an SEC West road game (Kentucky has lost 10 straight in that regard), but there’s no question the strong majority of this fanbase is very happy with Stoops.
3.) How big is the return of RB Chris Rodriguez for the Wildcats?
Humongous. Monstrous. Monumental. Just Google ‘humongous synonyms’ and use pretty much any of those. He’s one of the best backs in all of college football. A big attribute that makes him so important to Kentucky’s offense is his vision, something Kentucky’s other running backs aren’t as good at, which is part of why the running game has struggled. Backs aren’t hitting the right holes or staying patient enough. Rodriguez is much better at these and will make this offensive line look better than what we’ve seen thus far.
Saying this, there will probably be some rust since Rodriguez hasn’t played a real game since last season’s Citrus Bowl. He should still be a big boost for this week’s game, but it may take a few weeks before we see the complete C-Rod that is an All-SEC caliber back.
4.) Who should Ole Miss fans also be on the lookout for on Saturday as impact players?
Outside linebacker Jordan Wright has been a force on the edge and arguably Kentucky’s best defender over the last three games (he sat out Week 1).
Boundary cornerback Carrington Valentine has been Kentucky’s best corner thus far and should be the biggest challenge Ole Miss’ receivers have faced thus far.
True freshman receivers Dane Key and Barion Brown have become quite the tandem, as at least one of them comes up big every week.
True freshman defensive tackle Deone Walker looks like the second coming of Jordan Davis.
5.) There seems to be a general consensus Alabama and Georgia are the top two teams in the SEC. Can you give me your case for why Kentucky is the third best?
Kentucky has talent and depth at every spot on the roster. The only thing that’s really held this team back so far is the offensive line. There’s plenty of talent and potential there. The question is will that potential start to show itself as the real meat of the SEC schedule arrives? If so, then this team absolutely has what it takes to beat anyone in the league not named Bama or Georgia.
However, if the offensive line doesn’t get right, they’ll struggle to beat teams like Ole Miss and Tennessee.