On a day dedicated to Johnny Football and other, more traditionally competitive teams than his own, Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops knew he would probably only make news for stirring-the-pot reasons.
And that's exactly what happened.
Speaking at his first media day since coming to Kentucky from Florida State (where he served as defensive coordinator for three years), Stoops cited Florida and South Carolina as the teams to beat in his new division, the SEC East. The problem? He left out the defending champions.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Stoops said:
On our side of the division, certainly you have to look at Florida and South Carolina, you expect them to be very good.
Shoot, we’re just worried about ourselves to be honest with you. We have so much work to do. All the teams in this league are good. We all know that. . . . Top to bottom there’s no break.
Considering the second part of the quote, Stoops' alleged "snub" seems more like an error of omission than a calculated shot at the Bulldogs. Still, with Georgia returning 12 starters from a team that went 12-2 and came within five yards of making the BCS National Championship Game last year, the Wildcats' new boss probably needs to do more homework.
It is worth saying that Kentucky, which won only two games last year, did play Georgia close in Lexington. Despite coming in as 26-point underdogs, the Wildcats led 17-16 in the third quarter before losing 29-24.
How Do You Feel About Mark Stoops Omitting Georgia as a Top Contender?
By contrast, Florida and South Carolina beat Kentucky by a combined 59 points in 2012, the Gators winning 38-0 in Gainesville and the Gamecocks winning 38-17 in Lexington. So maybe Stoops just named the teams that scared him most after watching Kentucky's film from last season?
The Wildcats fared well against Georgia in 2011, too, traveling to Athens as 31-point underdogs but losing by just nine points. Bulldogs QB Aaron Murray, who threw for an average of 216 yards and 3.3 touchdowns per home game that season, was held to just 162 yards, one touchdown and one interception in that one—his lowest home QB rating (106.6) of the year.
So yes, maybe this was just an innocuous omission by a coach who's new to his division. That's the overwhelming likelihood. But maybe, just maybe, Stoops thinks his team can handle Georgia. Maybe this was less irrelevant exclusion and more Freudian slip.
Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter @BLeighDAT