Kentucky Wildcats Football: SEC East Preview and Predictions

Jeff Blake-US PRESSWIRE

Football is almost upon us so it's time to preview the SEC. First we look at the East Division. Who will come out on top and how will the Wildcats stack up in the conference? Key player reviews and standings predictions are included with much more.

Last Season's Results:

Florida Gators- 11-2 (7-1) Lost to the Louisville Cardinals in the BCS Allstate Sugar Bowl 33-23

Georgia Bulldogs- 12-2 (7-1) Defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Capital One Bowl 45-31

Kentucky Wildcats- 2-10 (0-8)

Missouri Tigers- 5-7 (2-6)

South Carolina Gamecocks- 12-2 (6-2) Defeated the Michigan Wolverines in the Outback Bowl 33-28

Tennessee Volunteers- 5-7 (1-7)

Vanderbilt Commodores- 9-4 (5-3) Defeated the North Carolina State Wolfpack in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl 38-24

Key Players Returning:

Aaron Murray- Georgia Bulldogs Senior Quarterback: 3,893 Passing Yards, 36 Touchdowns and 10 Interceptions

Todd Gurley- Georgia Bulldogs Sophomore Running Back: 222 Rush Attempts, 1,385 Yards, 17 Touchdowns

Jeff Driskell- Florida Gators Junior Quarterback: 1,646 Passing Yards, 12 Touchdowns and 5 Interceptions

Alvin "Bud" Dupree- Kentucky Wildcats Junior Defensive End: 90 Tackles, 6.5 Sacks

James Franklin- Missouri Tigers Senior Quarterback: 1,562 Passing Yards, 10 Touchdowns and 5 Interceptions

Jadeveon Clowney- South Carolina Junior Defensive End: 60 Tackles, 14 Sacks

Rajion Neal- Tennessee Volunteer Senior Running Back: 156 attempts, 708 Yards, 5 Touchdowns

Jordan Matthews- Vanderbilt Commodore Senior Wide Receiver: 94 Receptions, 1,323 Yards, 8 Touchdowns

New Coaches:

Mark Stoops- Kentucky Wildcats

Butch Jones- Tennessee Volunteers

Teams in the Preseason Top 25: #5 Georgia Bulldogs, #7 South Carolina, #10 Florida Gators

Bold Prediction: Jadeveon Clowney will win the Heisman Trophy. My reasoning?


Any questions?

Sleeper Team: The Kentucky Wildcats went from a perennial bowl team to the worst team in the SEC. Head coach Joker Phillips is gone and first time head coach Mark Stoops is at the helm. Stoops built his reputation as a defensive coordinator, namely at Florida State, where he completely turned around the Seminoles defense and made it one of the most feared units in the country. The cupboard isn't completely devoid of talent; Joker did have some decent success as a recruiter at Kentucky, but the Wildcats do have major issues in the secondary. But the quarterbacks are all game-tested, the defensive line is SEC caliber, the wide receiver position got a major boost from a couple of JUCO transfers and they are fairly deep at running back. Will this team make a bowl game? More than likely no, but five or six wins are not out of the question.

Team Set to Take a Dive: The Vanderbilt Commodores are losing a lot. Quarterback Jordan Rodgers is gone as is starting running back Zac Stacy. James Franklins' team is also experiencing some off the field turmoil as a number of football players are involved in a sexual assault case. There isn't any indication on which players will be affected by this but these issues will no doubt have an effect on the entire team. Franklin has done a great job at Vanderbilt thus far, but with the loss of some key starters and a scandal plaguing his team, Vandy may be set to tumble back down the SEC East ladder.

Final Standings Prediction:

1.       Georgia Bulldogs

2.       South Carolina Gamecocks

3.       Florida Gators

4.       Tennessee Volunteers

5.       Kentucky Wildcats

6.       Vanderbilt Commodores

7.       Missouri Tigers

Why Georgia Will Win the East: The Bulldogs have arguably the best offense in the entire SEC. Aaron Murray could have gone to the NFL last season but he returned for his senior year and for a run at the BCS title and a possible Heisman candidacy. Todd Gurley absolutely blew up during his freshman season. The combination of his strength and speed made him a nightmare to tackle for opposing defenses. He torched the vaunted Alabama defense for 122 yards and 2 touchdowns in a close loss to the Tide in the SEC title game.

Gurley is complimented by fellow sophomore running back Keith Marshall who ran for 759 yards and eight touchdowns. With Murray, Gurley, Marshall and returning receiver Malcolm Mitchell, the Bulldogs offense is loaded with firepower and will be putting up big numbers and big points on the board.

The question mark for Mark Richt's squad lies in the defense. They lost a lot of players to the NFL and will rely on youth and inexperience in some key positions. But Georgia is an SEC powerhouse that reloads with superior talent at every position every season.

Whatever deficiencies they have on defense will be covered by their superior offense. The Dogs are a sexy pick to not only win the SEC outright, but to represent the conference in the BCS Title Game. Will this be Richt's year after so many near misses?

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