Kentucky Football: The Sleeper of the SEC

Alex ThomasContributor IAugust 13, 2011

LEXINGTON, KY - NOVEMBER 13:  Larry Smith #10 of the Vanderbilt Commodores runs with the ball during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats  at Commonwealth Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

As the 2011 college football season is set to kick off, Kentucky has, once again, been deemed a sleeper.

Haven’t we heard this tune before?

It seems the Wildcats are in the running for the longest sleeper streak in college football history. The chronic narcolepsy exhibited by the Wildcats makes it appear as though Rip Van Winkle took a mere power nap.

Let us take a look into how this football program has yet to awaken from its prolonged slumber.

A statistic that demands attention is that 10 out of the last 11 seasons Kentucky has a losing record in conference games, with a 2-33 record versus the powerhouses Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. Even more embarrassing are the scores during those seasons (i.e. losing 42-6 to South Carolina in 2001, losing 63-5 to Florida in 2008, and getting blanked by LSU in 2006 49-0, to name a few).

To be fair, there exists a handful of shining moments for the Wildcats. Beating No. 1-ranked LSU in 2007 was a moment that no fan will forget. Stopping the Tigers on fourth down in triple OT was a rare occasion in which victory was snatched from the jaws of the Tigers. What can I say? Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while.

The final hurrah of that ’07 season was being crowned Music City Bowl champions. The Cats beat the Florida State Seminoles, which came into the bowl game riddled with controversy and sans 36 players, by a whopping seven points. Not quite the romping that was expected by many.

For the past few years, the start of the season has held so much promise; hence, the recurring sleeper label placed upon the blue and white.

Kentucky has beaten the in-state rival Louisville Cardinals four consecutive seasons, a feat that at one point seemed unattainable. On top of that, the majority of non-conference matchups have ended in favor of the Wildcats.

Despite this optimistic start, the beginning of conference play ultimately leads to the squad sleep walking through the bulk of the season, escaping with a few wins and a lot of wounds.

Last season, with only a pair of wins against conference opponents, they were invited to play at the elite BBVA Compass Bowl. I didn't know a downgrade from the Music City Bowl existed until that point. Kentucky lost to Pittsburgh, officially placing the raspberry atop the bitter cake of defeat.

It’s hardly a coincidence that the headquarters of Tempur-Pedic® mattresses are located in Lexington. The first week of preseason camp has been turned into one giant sleepover to better prepare for the ensuing months of lazily lying in the lower tier of the SEC. Lexington was found to be the most sedentary city of the US, which further reflects the style of play at Commonwealth Stadium.

At times, the pulse of the football program is difficult to discern, but perhaps the catnap is over and the Kentucky Wildcats will soon come alive as a contender in the greatest college football conference.