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It is hard to believe that Coach Mark Stoops has been at Kentucky for 8 years. He has made the Wildcats a team that everyone in the SEC must be ready to play. Every year when the coaching carousel begins, I expect to see him lured away from Lexington but so far he has stayed there. He has 11 starters back from a 5-6 team in 2020 and a Gator Bowl win over NC State. But, they are revamping their offense so it remains to be seen if that will pay off.
Offense: Three-year starter Terry Wilson surprised everyone by transferring to New Mexico. One has to shake your head and wonder why. Three inexperienced players battled through the spring and no one stood out and cemented their hold on the job. Will Levis transferred in from Penn State and arrived this summer so throw him into the mix too. This obviously, is not a good situation. Fortunately for Kentucky, they have Chris Rodriguez Jr. to lead a solid group of running backs. He is the fourth-leading returning rusher in the SEC with 786 yards and 11 touchdowns and he missed two games due to Covid. The NFL is looking at him. They got a boost from Wan’Dale Robinson who transferred from Nebraska where he led the Huskers with 51 catches and he will join Josh Ali who returns with his 54 catches. The offensive line returns 3 starters and should be good.
Defense: The defense returns DE Josh Paschall along with NG Marquan McCall and DT Octavious Oxendine to head up a good front three. Linebackers, Marquez Bembry and Jordan Wright are experienced veteran players. They could receive some help from Michigan State transfer Luke Felton. The secondary lost NFL draftee Kelvin Joseph but still has Cedrick Dort Jr. and Yusuf Corker. Because of several injuries in the spring the depth is shaky and if they suffer any more problems it might be something they can’t overcome.
9/4 Louisiana Monroe
9/18 UT Chattanooga
11/20 New Mexico State
It is a very quirky schedule with the season ending with two games out of conference. These 4 games are the key to the Wildcats having a winning season and a possible bowl game. The first three games are must wins and then they wrap up the season with rival Louisville. That game will probably be for a bowl game and perhaps a winning record.
9/25 at South Carolina
10/16 at Georgia
10/30 at Mississippi State
11/13 at Vanderbilt
The schedule is tough but it could be much worse. The Wildcats have a chance to get off to a 2-0 start with a home game against Missouri and a trip to South Carolina but with an unproven QB, those early games will be scary. The rest of the home schedule includes a must win game against Tennessee and potential losses against Florida and LSU. They go to Georgia and that’s a loss and then they have two winnable games at Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.
Summary: Kentucky is easy to summarize. Their season depends on if they find a suitable quarterback that can make enough plays to take pressure off their strong running game. If they do, they should be all right. Their non-conference schedule is weak and they need to take advantage of that plus try to win three or four games in the SEC.
Predicted Finish: 4th Place in the SEC East
Overall Record: 6-6
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