LEXINGTON, Ky. — One win can make a great deal of difference for Kentucky football — a dividing line between seasonal success and failure.
The Wildcats have lost back-to-back games. Their shot for an unlikely SEC East title has vanished as has their chance to finish better than .500 in conference play for the first time since 1977.
But the goal at the start of the season is within reasonable reach.
“Everything we set goals for at the beginning of the season are still in front of us,” Boom Williams said after the Tennessee game. “But I don’t think we’re gonna be worried about a bowl game or whatever, we just need to come out as a team.”
After consecutive 5-7 seasons, 6-6 would be a success for coach Mark Stoops in his fourth year. More might’ve been expected after a 5-3 start, after five wins in a six-game stretch, but the Wildcats couldn’t overcome underdog status against Georgia, and the talent gap was still too wide to upend Tennessee.
Kentucky finished 4-4 in the SEC, tied for its best mark in conference since the divisional split. And now its reward awaits as FCS Austin Peay will walk into Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday. By kickoff time, the Governors from Clarksville, Tenn., will have not won a football game in 763 days.
Austin Peay was winless last year and is looking for its first victory this season. The squad is coming off a 37-point loss last Saturday against Eastern Kentucky and it’s already lost to the likes of Mercer, Southeast Missouri and Tennessee-Martin.
“This next game is the next opportunity and we have to approach it and challenge it the same way we always do,” Stoops said in typical coach fashion.
A guaranteed win is a thought that challenges the integrity of college football, but a Kentucky loss to Austin Peay is unthinkable and nothing short of impossible. Perhaps getting that elusive sixth win against an SEC foe would make it all the sweeter for Kentucky fans, but the chance to secure it Saturday might be the only way to spark interest in what figures to be a lopsided affair.
It’s been six years since Kentucky’s last bowl game.
“It would mean a great deal and we have to continue to push forward,” Stoops said of a potential bowl bid. “Nobody’s happy.”
That should change by Saturday night.