It’s never happened before. Kentucky football has not won an SEC East Championship. They’ve never played in the SEC Championship, but below are five reasons why 2023 can be the year it happens.
The Georgia Bulldogs are the toughest road game the Cats will have in 2023, and that should be expected because they are the defending National Champions. Kentucky football’s other SEC road games are Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, and South Carolina, which are games that should be won.
Combine that with a home schedule that includes Florida, Missouri, Tennessee, and Alabama and it appears the Wildcats’ toughest competition will be at home. Assuming they go 6-0, against the schools that haven’t won a football championship in the last 10 years, pull off an upset against either Alabama at home or Georgia on the road, and get a little help from Ole Miss and Tennessee, who Georgia plays in back-to-back weeks in November, I like the chances of an SEC crown for Kentucky football.
Barion Brown, Dane Key, Tayvion Robinson. This group of receivers is explosive and has more experience, coupled with bringing Liam Cohen back as offensive coordinator, and I expect this unit to have a big season.
Through two games, we’ve seen how great this unit can be. All three of the WRs named above have caught 9 passes. Robinson leads the pack with 174 yards. Sure, the Wildcats haven’t played much competition, but fast starts are crucial once the schedule picks up.
3. Controlling the clock
Mark Stoops has become a master at setting the tone for games. Getting a lead, keeping it, and controlling the clock for the rest of the game.
In college football, leads can change in an instant. Having a veteran head coach in Stoops is a great card to have in the back pocket.
Brad White is a master. White has been defensive coordinator for four seasons at Kentucky and in those four seasons, his defense has ranked worse than 30th just one time. That happened in the 2020 season against an all-SEC schedule.
Last season, White’s defense cracked the top 15 for the first time, and although he lost starters in linebackers DeAndre Square, Jacquez, and Jordan Wright, as well as nose guard Justin Rogers, UK has done a phenomenal job adding depth in recent years.
Look for the Cats to maintain a top-20 ranking defensively. JJ Weaver is becoming a leader and defensive tackle Deone Walker has been a tough player for opposing teams to block. In the SEC East, a strong defense is necessary, and Kentucky football has one.
1. Liam Coen
Look, we all noticed it last season, that was not the same offense that we saw during the 2021 season. Say what you want – Chris Rodiguez was suspended at the start of the season, Will Levis was injured, and the offensive line was young – at the end of the day Rich Scangerallo failed miserably.
I had high expectations for UK’s offense at the start of last season and was let down. Scangerallo was handed a Ferrari in Will Levis, Rodriguez, and company. The problem is, the man didn’t know how to drive it. Look for Kentucky football to be more creative and more explosive with Coen back as OC this season.
Overall, the outlook for Kentucky football may be brighter than ever before. Mark Stoops has done a tremendous job of setting expectations, building a culture that players buy into, and laying a foundation that should last for years to come. If 2023 isn’t the year, it’s definitely within reach.