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Phillips Thinks Perception Of UK Is Changing (But He’s Still Got Work To Do)

Joker Phillips tells ESPN.com that he believes Kentucky football is on an uptick.

“The perception is changing,”
he said.  “We’ve beaten some of the traditional powers in this league.  The thing we have to try to do is do it on a consistent basis.”

That sounds well and good, but is the perception really changing?  Kentucky has been to five straight bowl games, yes, but the Cats also took a slight step backward last season finishing just 6-7.  It was UK’s first losing season since 2005.  Also, the Wildcats have not finished at .500 in SEC play since 2006 finishing just 2-6 in the league last year.

Considering UK’s easy nonconference schedule each year, reaching the 6-win mark necessary for a bowl bid is not all that impressive.

Rich Brooks did an excellent job of making Kentucky more competitive on the gridiron.  His teams finished 8-5 in ’06 and ’07, then dropped back to 7-6 in ’08 and ’09.  Phillips now must stop the backslide and prove that the Cats can indeed move forward, a la South Carolina in 2010.  This year’s roster does not appear ready to make that kind of leap.

Phillips still needs to do two things before Atlanta can become his program’s true goal.  First, UK needs to continue its four-year run over cross-state rival Louisville.  Phillips must continue to prove that his is the top football program in the Bluegrass State if he wants folks outside the state to view UK as a truly up-and-coming program.

Second, to be taken seriously in the SEC, UK must at some point end its 26-year streak of futility against Tennessee.  It’s hard to say, “We’re a big time program,” when a 26-game losing streak to a rival dangles over your head.  Amazingly, even during UT’s recent rough stretch the Vols have continued to master Kentucky.  Sure it would be nice for UK to snap its almost-as-long 24-game losing streak to Florida, but first things first.  The Vols have been in the Wildcats’ wheelhouse the past few years and UK has not advantage of that fact.

Kentucky’s program is more stable these days.  No one can deny that.  But to really change the national perception, Phillips still has some work to do.

 


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