SEC Football Preview 2014: Kentucky Faces At Least One More Year of Pain

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

This team is a lot closer to the postseason than it was last year. It's still a pretty long way away, though

I love fan optimism this time of the year, and perhaps irrational optimism the most of all. As long as its not defensive or lashing out at other teams, as long as it's something like this, then irrational optimism in the preseason is the best part of the summer.

But we try to deal with reality here in the previews on Team Speed Kills, and reality says that Kentucky is at least a year away from seriously contending for the postseason. The starting quarterback is either going to be Maxwell Smith or a player who has never started a game in the SEC and perhaps never played in one. Jalen Whitlow was never the long-term solution for this team at quarterback, but there's no reason to think that the quarterback position is going to be a net positive this year. New quarterbacks have growing pains, no matter how much talent they have.

Remember: That impressive recruiting class that Kentucky signed was inked this February. That class could very well get the Wildcats back to the Rich Brooks Era peak of annual bowl games, and maybe even higher, but that isn't going to happen this year. Kentucky is probably going to be better this year than they were in 2013 -- there are some talented players they can draw on -- but there's a chasm between where the Wildcats were the last couple of years and where they want to be.

If I were Mark Stoops, my unspoken goal this year would be to win an SEC game. Any SEC game. Kentucky comes into the season on a 16-game conference losing streak, having not won a league game since November 2011. And they got close a couple of times last year, at South Carolina and at Mississippi State being the prime examples, but couldn't quite get the plays they needed to come away with the win. A victory in the SEC would probably pave the way for a four- or five-win season, which isn't great, but is a far sight better than 2-10.

It's just hard to see. There are opportunities on the schedule for an upset -- a gut-punch win against Mississippi State when the Bulldogs are coming off of back-to-back-to-back games at LSU and against Texas A&M and Auburn could fit the bill -- but nothing that looks like a surefire bet. A 24-game SEC losing streak looks improbable, but not much more improbable than Kentucky winning one of its conference games this year.

KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Place: 7th in the SEC East
Record: 3-9, 0-8 SEC
Could be: 2-10 to 5-7
Best chance for an upset: MISSISSIPPI STATE
Bowl: None
8.30.14 | UT-MARTIN | WIN
9.6.14 | OHIO | WIN
9.13.14 | at FLORIDA | LOSS
9.27.14 | VANDERBILT | LOSS
10.4.14 | SOUTH CAROLINA | LOSS
10.11.14 | LOUISIANA-MONROE | WIN
10.18.14 | at LSU | LOSS
10.25.14 | MISSISSIPPI STATE | LOSS
11.1.14 | at MISSOURI | LOSS
11.8.14 | GEORGIA | LOSS
11.15.14 | at TENNESSEE | LOSS
11.29.14 | at LOUISVILLE | LOSS

*Note: In response to confusion in the past, I've dumped the tiers of wins and losses and gone to a straight win-loss prediction method.

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