Mark Stoops hasn’t taken a backward step as head coach at Kentucky. The Wildcats have won as many or more games as the year before in each of his five seasons.

After back-to-back 7-6 seasons – on the heels of winning five games in each of the two seasons previous to those – Stoops wants more.

“We want to win and get over that hump,” he said Monday at SEC Media Days. “We’re tired of being close in some (games).”

The Wildcats return 17 starters from 2017: nine on defense, eight on offense. Running back Benny Snell Jr. rushed for 1,333 yards and 19 touchdowns and linebacker Josh Allen recorded seven sacks.

Stoops acknowledged that Kentucky has returning talent, including some players who considered the option of declaring for the NFL Draft. Now he wants results.

“We expect more,” he said.

Top rival?

Texas A&M senior defensive lineman Kingsley Keke hasn’t ever beaten Alabama in his career, but he still considers the Crimson Tide to be the Aggies’ top rival in the SEC West.

“I’d probably go with Alabama for sure,” he said. “Just knowing that game has always been really crazy, knowing the fact that you’re going against Nick Saban – one of the best coaches in the league. They have some great players. I like playing against them.”

Defying odds

Some oddsmakers have LSU pegged to win six or seven games in 2018. Tigers defensive end Rashad Lawrence expects better, but doesn’t take offense at the outside opinions.

“We respect the media and what they have to think,” Lawrence said. “I can’t blame them.

“I’m never going to go against it, but that’s something we can’t control – what we’re projected – but what we can control is our work ethic every day. Taking it one game at the time is going to be the biggest thing for us.”