As the University of Kentucky football team heads into the final two weeks of the regular season, the Wildcats find themselves on an upswing.
Kentucky, after rolling over Vanderbilt on Saturday, closes out its year with a pair of games at Kroger Field -- this weekend against Tennessee Martin and next week against bitter rival Louisville. With just one more win needed to become bowl eligible, the Cats are riding some momentum into the last stretch of the season.
Of course, UK coach Mark Stoops won't tell you that.
Now in his seventh season in Lexington, Stoops is as even-keeled as they come. No game is any bigger than any other, it's just about working hard every single day, etc. Those are the messages that Stoops preaches, both publicly and privately.
For a team that has dealt with a number of distractions throughout the season -- from injuries to starting quarterback changes to an inexperienced defense -- it's been the right approach to take.
With victories in two of their previous three outings -- and, honestly, UK had plenty of chances to win against Tennessee -- the 5-5 Wildcats are feeling pretty good about themselves, all things considered.
"Confidence comes with preparation and doing what you're supposed to do," Stoops said this week. "I'm not a big false confidence guy. I want us to earn that. You earn it by being prepared and putting the work in."
It's been difficult to nail down this year's UK team. It's been quite a shift from the preseason discussions that Terry Wilson was going to throw the ball 40 times a game. Now, the Cats are all ground-based with a wide receiver, Lynn Bowden, leading the way.
What a strange, wacky, up-and-down season it's been.
Despite the turmoil, however, UK's mindset hasn't wavered. It might appear that the Cats never really formed a true team identity this year, but Stoops disagrees.
"Identity, to us, is just continuing to build our culture and what we want to be," he said. "That can change, as you've seen this year. We went from being very balanced and trying to be very diverse offensively to having to adapt to what we have to do right now to win games.
"We're always going to have that blue-collar mentality and that work ethic."
Some teams thrive off of that attitude. After all, if your back's always against the wall, there's no room for any steps backward.
As a result, Kentucky can't be characterized as just a running team or just a defensive-minded team. Those are things that the Cats do well, but it isn't who they are.
Who they are, instead, has already been proven -- warts and all, UK has shown toughness and resiliency throughout the season that hasn't been subdued, despite a whirlwind of struggles along the way.
"I know you need to be good in a lot of areas, trust me," Stoops said. "Take a look at our league and look at some of the great teams here this year. They're very good in a lot of areas, and we're striving to do that. Without physicality, you have no chance.
When your roster's full like that on both sides, you have a lot of opportunity."
And that's exactly what the Cats have given themselves at this point in the year: Opportunity.
The opportunity to go 7-5 with two more wins. The opportunity to appear in a fourth consecutive bowl game. The opportunity to turn an unusually bizarre season into one of triumph, far beyond the expectations from just a month ago.
Now, all UK has to do is take advantage of those opportunities -- beginning with Saturday's matchup against UT Martin.
"You are playing a team that is coming in here with nothing to lose," Stoops said of the Skyhawks (7-4). "It is their last game, and they are going to throw caution to the wind and take some gambles and some shots. Again, they are good, they're well-coached and present some problems.
"They are unique in certain ways."
At the same time, though, so is Kentucky.