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To kickoff Tennessee week, Mark Stoops and Kentucky are dealing with Florida State rumors

An interesting subplot.

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Mississippi State Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee and Kentucky have a pretty important game on Saturday night at Kroger Field in Lexington. Both schools are trying to keep their seasons afloat, each trying to get to that six win mark so they can go bowling next month.

Jeremy Pruitt’s Volunteers have been on a tear recently, winning three of the last four and playing inspired football. Kentucky bounced back to stop the bleeding two weeks ago against a struggling Missouri team.

But now the Wildcats have another problem to deal with — perhaps a much larger one. Willie Taggart was fired by Florida State on Sunday and Mark Stoops has been the top name connected to the very young coaching search.

Stoops is the former defensive coordinator for the Seminoles and has ties to the area. VolQuest’s Austin Price said this morning that Florida State has already reached out to Stoops.

Stoops was asked about the speculation today during his press conference ahead of the Tennessee matchup — and he didn’t exactly shut things down.

Kentucky is 4-4 and coming off of an open date. The Wildcats have been operating without a true quarterback for a few weeks, letting receiver Lynn Bowden run the offense. However, quarterback Sawyer Smith could be ready for a return this week.

Stoops has turned Kentucky into a middle-of-the-road SEC school, which is a pretty decent accomplishment for a program that has typically been in the shadows of its men’s basketball team. But the Wildcats likely won’t be able to put up much of a challenge for Stoops if Florida State comes calling.

How will Stoops manage this for the rest of the year? That remains to be seen. Kentucky finishes the season with Tennessee, Vanderbilt, UT-Martin and Louisville. Stoops should be able to find a couple of wins in that stretch to get to six once again.

But will he be in Lexington next year?