Mark Stoops hoped a bye week would reenergize his team, leading to a strong week of preparation and good performance in its season finale.
So far, he's getting exactly what he wanted.
"It's been a good week of practice so far," Stoops said. "The guys are very energetic, worked hard, enthusiastic. So it's been good. Excited about the opportunity here this week."
The opportunity for Kentucky is two-fold.
To begin with, the Wildcats get to face rival Louisville at noon ET on Saturday in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. To that end, UK continued its educational series on the rivalry by watching a handful of clips from Governor's Cup games past.
Other coaches might downplay the importance of the matchup, but not Stoops. He sees UK-UL as an important part of what it means to be at Kentucky.
"It's a rivalry," Stoops said. "We want to embrace that rivalry. We want kids to be a part of that and know when they come play at Kentucky that Louisville's a big game for us."
Stoops and his staff have needed some educating too, since most have still only been in Lexington for less than two years. Included in that group is defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, who has quickly learned about the intensity of the rivalry.
"Well, one thing that I've learned is this is as big a rivalry as anywhere I've been," Eliot said. "The players want to win. The fans want to win. It's something that is special and it's something you look forward to."
At the same time, the Cats are looking forward to their last chance to secure their sixth win and clinch bowl eligibility. Stoops, just as he hasn't hidden from the magnitude of UK-UL, has acknowledged the importance of reaching that plateau for his program.
Even so, that's not the message he's delivering to his team. He simply sees a group that deserves to keep playing football.
"I haven't said anything about a playoff, but I've said it's pretty self-explanatory," Stoops said. "If we win, then we're going to play another game and, I've told them, they deserve it. They've worked hard, they've done a lot of good things and worked hard for a solid year leading up into this season and did some good things. So I'd like the opportunity for them."
Before that opportunity, the Cats will tweak their game-day schedule slightly for Thanksgiving. They will practice earlier than normal on Thursday before eating a meal together. After that, Stoops has given them the night off, with an option to stop by his house in the evening.
Stoops and his wife Chantel are prepared for a crowd.
"We're going to have a dinner right afterwards for the whole group and then I told them my house was open," Stoops said. "So I may get anywhere from two to a hundred."