After throwing a game-winning touchdown pass in his final game as a Kentucky Wildcat, Lynn Bowden issued a warning to the rest of the college football world.
“Stop disrespecting us because we like that, you hear?”
SPOILER ALERT: not everyone listened. Many college football prognosticators still peg the Wildcats as a 7-5 team in the middle to the bottom of the SEC East entering the 2020 season. However, one select group of individuals would rather not come see about it.
The three analysts behind CBS Sports’ college football podcast, the Cover 3 Podcast, recently had a lengthy discussion on the underrated storylines entering this college football season. Barton Simmons ranked the Wildcats as the fourth-most intriguing “under the radar” story to follow this fall.
“Kentucky is about to enter a year where everybody is talking about Georgia and Florida — understandably,” Simmons said. “Tennessee is the hot team — everyone is talking about Tennessee. South Carolina — they’ve got their OC finally, maybe they finally have their run this year.
“Here’s Kentucky. The team everyone is counting out. No one has circled them on their schedule. No one has picked them as the dark horse. They don’t have the quarterback who’s a Heisman Trophy contender. All they have is just a sick offensive line. A few different running backs that can get you yards. All of a sudden they have some depth at quarterback and some options at quarterback. Their defense is going to be great. And they got a head coach that’s going to be able to continue to say ‘Everyone is counting us out, boys.’”
Simmons broke down the Kentucky’s schedule and he likes how it could potentially play out, warning Florida and Georgia that they must be ready to play when they’re lined up against the Cats.
“When you look at their schedule, we have talked about how Florida has such a smooth path,” Simmons said. “Auburn is on there and Auburn — this is just a year where Gus Malzahn has one of those hot seat seasons because look at all the teams from the west they have to beat. Tennessee — can they get by Georgia or Florida this year finally? When you break down everyone’s schedule, all Kentucky is ‘oh, that’s just a scrappy team that can get you.’ No one’s got that game as one of the real challenges. I think that’s a mistake. I think this could be a year where Kentucky is one of the better teams in the [SEC] East.”
Simmons was not the only one handing out kudos. Chip Patterson tipped his cap to offensive coordinator Eddie Gran for putting together an unbelievable game plan halfway through the 2019 season.
“I will always have on the tip of my tongue, positive words to say about 30-year college coaching veteran Eddie Gran for what that offense did last year,” said Patterson. “He has been around college football for a long, long time and he has worked with a lot of the game’s more well-known coaches and sometimes I think that when you’re on successful staffs, you do just kind of blend into the background behind the head coach. But man, that was some real work of ingenuity with what Kentucky did offensively last season. I am now taking the approach with Kentucky that when we count up their win totals, I’m going to count their 50-50 games and I’m going to give them 50% of those just because.”
It kind of sounds like a back-handed compliment, but you’re seeing a shift in the national narrative on how people view Kentucky’s program with Mark Stoops leading the way. When previously predicting toss-up games, it was always a good idea to bet against Kentucky. The Wildcats are finally starting to get the benefit of the doubt from the college football intelligentsia.
It’s a small step in the right direction. Nobody on the podcast was ready to proclaim the Cats as their dark horse choice to win the SEC East. They’re still perceived as second-place contenders behind either Georgia or Florida. Even so, Mark Stoops is in a much more comfortable setting than Jeremy Pruitt or Will Muschamp as the perennial “breakthrough” teams of the SEC East that perennially fail to meet expectations.