2010 Bowl result: lost BBVA Compass Bowl 27-10 to Pittsburgh
2010 Against the Spread: 6-7
2010 over/under: 9-4
Returning Starters: 15 (6 offense, 9 defense)
Throughout August we are releasing pre-season previews for all the major college teams. Our College Football Handicappers are doing plenty of research to make sure we release winners every week during the upcoming season.
Last season, people were asking Kentucky Coach Joker Phillips “Why so serious?” as the Wildcats completed a mediocre 6-7 season. They did make it to a bowl game but were beaten handily 27-10 by Pitt. The Wildcats return 15 starters from last season, but must replace the versatile Randall Cobb who is now with the Packers. Cobb accounted for 2,396 all-purpose yards, and 16 touchdowns. He played quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and returned kicks and punts.
Here is a look at Kentucky’s offense, defense special teams, and schedule.
Kentucky had a top 30 offense last year averaging 428 yards a game and 31.2 points a game. They did most of their damage through the air averaging 269.3 yards per game. The rushing game averaged 158.7 yards a game. The Wildcats return 6 starters from that unit. Unfortunately, the offense went in the tank in the last two games against arch-rival Tennessee and against Pitt in the bowl game scoring a total of 24 points.
Though Cobb threw 3 touchdown passes last year, the real starter was Mike Hartline. He completed 66.2% of his throws for 3,178 yards with 23 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. He leaves the program after a successful tenure. Junior Morgan Newton takes over as the starter. Newton completed 25 out of 43 passes for 265 yards, and no touchdowns or interceptions. True freshman Maxwell Smith will get some snaps this season and could get a chance to start if Newton struggles.
The Wildcats must replace the top three rushers from last season including Derrick Locke and Cobb. Sophomore Raymond Sanders had 68 carries for 254 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also had 16 catches and a touchdown. Sophomore Jonathan George was mainly used on special teams last year but he will compete with Junior CoShik Williams for the number 2 running back. Williams had 24 carries for 136 yards and 4 touchdowns last year, but most of that came in one game against Charleston Southern where he had 13 carries, 95 yards, and 3 scores in the 49-21 rout. Sophomores Cody Jones and Andrew Joseph will be the fullbacks.
Kentucky also has to replace 3 of their top 4 receivers from last season, including Locke and Cobb along with Chris Matthews. Junior La’Rod King caught 36 carries, 478 yards, and 5 touchdowns last year and is the top returning receiver. Senior Matt Roark had 12 catches for 170 yards with no scores last year but moves to the #2 receiver this year. Sophomore Brian Adams only had 3 catches for 23 yards as he recovered from an almost fatal blood clot. He was drafted by the Reds in baseball but decided to stay with the Wildcats for at least one more year. Juniors Gene McCaskill and E.J. Fields will also get some targets if they can stay healthy. McCaskill had a knee injury last year during fall camp and missed the entire season.
Four players will see action at tight end. Sophomore Jordan Aumiller had 18 catches, 193 yards, and a touchdown last season. Sophomore Tyler Robinson had 11 catches and a score last year. Senior Nick Melillo and sophomore Anthony Kendrick will also see time at tight end.
The offensive line returns 4 starters from a unit that was second in the SEC in sacks allowed. Junior left guard Larry Warford was second team All-SEC last year and returns to anchor the line. Senior left tackle Chandler Burden returns after missing the last 2 games of the season with a shoulder injury. The former defensive end is a dominant left tackle when healthy. The line could be a strength for a team that loses so many players at the skill positions.
Kentucky’s defense was dominant against the pass giving up only 177.1 yards a game which was the 14th best in the nation. However, the rush defense was awful giving up 179.7 yards a game. Overall, they were ranked #45 allowing 356.8 total yards a game. They gave up 28.4 points a game which was #72 in the nation. The defense returns 9 starters from that unit, and will look to lean on the defense as the new skill position players acclimate to the offense.
Senior LB Danny Trevathan was an All-American last year and will anchor the defense along with safety Winston Guy. The Wildcats finished last in the SEC in tackles for loss and 11th in sacks, so they need some semblance of a pass rush. Kentucky moves to a 4-2-5 alignment this season, which seems a little strange as the problem wasn’t defending the pass but the run. Teams usually add extra secondary members to shore up the pass defense.
Junior kicker Craig McIntosh hit 11 out of 15 field goals including a 50 yarder. He returns and is a reliable option at kicker, especially from inside 45 yards.
Senior punter Ryan Tydlacka averaged 43.8 yards per punt, with 11 fair catches and 13 inside the 20.
Raymond Sanders will replace Cobb as the kick and punt returner, but that will be difficult if not impossible.
Kentucky opens with a neutral site game against Western Kentucky in Nashville. They then get 3 home games in a row against Central Michigan, Louisville, and Florida. Then they travel to LSU and South Carolina before another 3 game home stand against Jacksonville St, Mississippi St, and Old Miss. Kentucky then travels to Vanderbilt, and Georgia before finishing up at home versus Tennessee. Besides the game against in-state rival Louisville, which is a toss-up, the non-conference schedule is pretty thin. I think that Kentucky’s streak of 5 straight bowl games could be in jeopardy as I don’t see more than 6 wins for this team.
Kentucky was 6-7 last year ATS including 5-2 at home and 1-5 on the road. The over/under was 9-4 including 7-0 at home and 2-4 on the road.
Game to Play Kentucky
November 13, Kentucky travels to Vanderbilt. Last year Kentucky won in Lexington 38-20. The Wildcats have won 5 of the last 6 in the series and 7 of the last 9. Vanderbilt is coming off a 2 win season. Kentucky should win on the road.
Game to bet against Kentucky
After 2 warm-up games Kentucky starts a brutal 4 game stretch with home games against Louisville and Florida and road games at LSU and South Carolina. They could lose all 4, so I wouldn’t bet on the Wildcats in any of those games.
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