Coming off their most successful season in over 40 years, the Kentucky Wildcats open their 2019 season in the friendly confines of Kroger Field against MAC opponent Toledo. Kickoff is set for noon Saturday.
For the Wildcats, 2018 was a magical year by any measurement. UK won 10 games in a season for the first time since 1977 when the Cats finished 10-1. The 2019 Cats finished off their march into history with a 27-24 victory over Penn State in the VRBO Citrus Bowl.
The Cats enter this season already feeling the icy shoulder of the pollsters. Even with their success, the Cats did not receive a single Top 25 vote even though they finished 11th in the final poll of last season. So safe to say, motivation is very real in Lexington.
UK also enters this season without their All-Time leading rusher Benny Snell Jr. and All-American and Defensive Player of the Year Josh Allen as well as their senior class, the most successful one in school history. So safe to say, some questions linger in Lexington.
On top of that, UK opens its campaign against a Toledo squad that won seven games last season, returns 50 lettermen (including their best player, UK transfer running back Bryant Koback), and is favored to appear in the MAC Conference title game. So safe to say, the Cats opponent is a good team.
Let’s answer a couple of questions, shall we?
- The Cats are plenty motivated to prove 2018 was not a fluke. Do you think the preseason Top 25 list isn’t hanging somewhere where everyone associated with the Kentucky football program can see it and feel the sting of being overlooked again? Hardly. UK coach Mark Stoops and his staff and players have worked to hard to turn the fortunes of the once moribund Kentucky program around. Every Saturday now is an opportunity to prove the country wrong again.
- The Cats have talent waiting in the wings. Obviously, you just don’t replace a Snell or an Allen production immediately. However, players like AJ Rose, Kavoisey Smoke, Chris Oats and DeAndre Square are ready to take on the mantle of next up in Lexington. Quarterback Terry Wilson is primed to take a major step in his development as a signal caller. If these Cats and a few more can elevate their production, then Kentucky has every opportunity to take the next step of developing a quality SEC football program.lity SEC football program.
- Toledo is a quality opponent. You should know the Rockets are very explosive offensively. In 2018, Toledo’s run/pass yardage was pretty balanced (216 on the ground and 228 through the air.) The Rockets have a big time playmaker in Koback. The sophomore rushed for nearly 1000 yards last season and is a Doak Walker Award nominee this season. Toledo is also a typical MAC football team- tough. Don’t think for a second the Rockets will roll into Lexington starry-eyed. Quite the contrary. The Rockets will come in quite confident and expecting to win as the early favorite to win the MAC West Division and play for a conference title. Why? The Rockets are consistently successful. Again, this isn’t Toledo’s first rodeo against a Power Five school. Last season, the Rockets moved the ball well against Miami, Fresno State, Nevada, and Florida International. Toledo will expect to do the same against a UK defense that has to replace Allen and most of its secondary. Over the past nine seasons, Toledo is one of nine teams in the FBS to have a winning record each season, joining such perennial powerhouses as Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, and Stanford. The Rockets also rank 12th in total wins over the previous five seasons (46).
With that said, Saturday looks like a great game. Go Cats!
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