The folks at The Sporting News have spent their summer ranking and breaking down the best 100 teams going into this year’s college football season. Today our beloved Wildcats are in the spotlight, as they check in at #58 on the list. TSN projects the Cats to Operation: Win five games and drop the other seven this year, with a 2-6 mark in the conference. That would, of course, end the Cats’ bowl streak at four straight and be the kind of step back that Joker is trying to avoid taking in the first season under his watch. Here’s a little bit more of the breakdown:
Why we know we’re right: Despite all that Rich Brooks accomplished at UK–and there was plenty considering what he took over and how he finished–the Wildcats still face an uphill battle in the SEC under new coach Joker Phillips. There’s talent at the skill positions, but the offensive line is completely rebuilt and doesn’t look like a group that can control the line of scrimmage. For UK to reach another bowl game, wide receiver Randall Cobb and tailback Derrick Locke–two of the SEC’s more exciting players–need room to work. The line will struggle to open holes for Locke, and the quarterbacks will struggle to get the ball to Cobb.
Why we might be wrong: QB Morgan Newton has a ton of raw ability, and has the size and enough experience to take a significant step in growth. But he still hasn’t won the starting job–he’s still battling Mike Hartline and Ryan Mossakowski–and still lacks the confidence of an SEC quarterback. Only Florida and Georgia have better skill players in the SEC East. If the line can find a way to protect Newton, the Wildcats have more than enough to extend the school record bowl streak to five years.
Judgment day: Sept. 4 at Louisville. The rivalry, the new coaches, the turning point of the season in Week 1. It’s all there. With a win, UK is well on its way to a bowl season. The nonconference schedule (Louisville, Western Kentucky, Akron, Charleston Southern) sets up a bowl run. A victory over Louisville and two league wins secures it. But Louisville, with new coach Charlie Strong, is the first big step.
Despite being presented with this information and thus already knowing how the season will end, it’s rumored that Joker plans to play out the schedule anyway. Here’s to hoping the Sporting News soothsayers are wrong about our fortunes.