By Chris O’MearaPosted January 25, 2018 02:15PMIt might not have been Kentucky’s best season of the 2018 season, but it was certainly one of the most memorable.
The Wildcats had just blown a 34-3 lead in the first half and were still playing at home.
In the final minute of regulation, with the score tied and the Wildcats in the lead, quarterback Josh Cribbs hit a go-ahead touchdown pass to the redshirt freshman running back T.J. McInnis with just over three minutes remaining.
It gave Kentucky its second win of the season, giving it a perfect record against ranked teams since the NCAA began tracking the rankings in 2020.
The next week, the Wildcats would beat Florida State in the Orange Bowl, a win that catapulted Kentucky into the national championship conversation.
The next week they beat Auburn in the Sugar Bowl, an upset that helped set up a rematch against Alabama in the national title game.
The following week, they lost to Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.
All three games were big wins, but the most significant was in the final game of the regular season, a blowout loss to Alabama in Baton Rouge, LSU’s home stadium.
It was the last time Kentucky would play at home for a national championship.
It would be a bitter pill to swallow for fans, and the loss hurt.
But the program’s momentum carried over the next three years.
Kentucky was ranked No, 1 in 2019 and became a contender in 2020, finishing with a 7-5 record in 2021.
It then became the No. 1 team in the country in 2021 and had an eight-game winning streak.
By the time the season was over, the Blue Devils were playing for a National Championship.
The 2017 season was even more memorable.
Kentucky won just two games in the regular year, and in the postseason, it was a complete disaster.
In fact, Kentucky had lost three games in a row and finished 8-6.
The team’s coach, Mark Stoops, said he was disappointed with his team’s performance, saying they had lost “the confidence of our program.”
The team had already lost its starting quarterback, Mitch Trubisky, in the spring, and was expected to lose star running back Dalvin Cook in the fall.
The Blue Devils fell to No. 2 in the AP Top 25 and lost the Heisman Trophy to Ohio State.
Stoops would go on to be fired in 2018 and replaced by the new coach, Steve Spurrier.
He went on to become the head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks, the team that beat Kentucky in the title game in 2019.
But he would not be the one to take the reins.
A year later, the 2016 season was a different story.
The 2015 team was still in the hunt for the national titles, but had lost four of its last five games.
Kentucky’s season was coming to an end.
The year had started with a win over Georgia, which put them back in the thick of the ACC Coastal Division race, but a loss to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game would put the Wildcats back into the top four.
The season was on the verge of ending.
The win over Tennessee had helped Kentucky clinch the SEC West title, but Tennessee was in town.
The loss to South Carolina was too much for Stoops to handle, and he was fired a week later.
He was replaced by Spurrier, who would go into the new season with a 9-4 record.
It didn’t look good for the Wildcats, and Spurrier’s teams struggled mightily.
He would finish with a 16-17 record and finish No. 5 in the College Football Playoff.
In 2018, the Crimson Tide were in a similar position.
They were still in a rebuilding phase after finishing 11-5 the year before and needed a big win to keep their season alive.
It took a big comeback by the Trojans to beat Florida in the Peach Bowl, and that victory helped the Tide keep the ACC East title race alive.
However, they had also lost two of their last three games and were coming off a big loss to the No, 2 Alabama Crimson Tide.
The Tide were still just a half game behind Clemson for the ACC championship.
That upset didn’t happen, but Spurrier would go 0-5 with a 5-6 record and the Crimson Crimson Tide would fall in the ACC Championship Game.
Spurrier was fired after the season.
“The reason why I had to do that was because the coaches did not know how to win at the highest level,” Spurrier said.
“I think that was one of my big mistakes.
And I think it affected me.”
It wasn’t the end of the world.
Kentucky had two more top-five finishes and four top-10 finishes in the 2019 season.
In 2020, it would again have its season ended by a blow to No, 10 Oklahoma in what would be the most