Predicting a college football team’s final record is nothing new to talking season. In this unusual preseason, it’s more difficult than ever. Even with a loaded 10-game, conference-only schedule, the SEC Network’s Cole Cubelic believes Kentucky can finish near the top of the SEC standings with a 7-3 record.
“I look across this schedule and I see a lot of winnable games,” Cubelic said on Tuesday morning’s Kentucky Roll Call.
“I think if you’re Kentucky, seven wins is very possible and if you found a way to go 7-3 against that schedule with powerhouses like Auburn, Tennessee, Georgia, Bama, Florida all on that schedule, I think that would be an excellent season for Mark Stoops”
A seven-win season likely accounts for losses vs. Georgia, at Alabama and at Florida. Don’t count those games as automatic losses just yet. Coronavirus could dramatically change the makeup of teams on a week-by-week basis. On the first day of practice four projected Florida starters, including their top three wide receivers, sat out of practice. If they opt out, one of the best teams in the SEC East will be stripped of its top offensive weapons. That does not take into account the added risk of injury with an adjusted training camp schedule and the absence of spring practice. All of the circumstances must force fans to readjust expectations.
“What are we going to consider a good year, or an acceptable year or a really good year this year?” Cubelic asked, “Because I don’t think anybody’s going undefeated. I don’t think Alabama is going undefeated, I really don’t. Things are going to be so different this year. 8-2 might be a phenomenal year. 7-3 might be a damn good football season but you just don’t know exactly and I think you’re going to have to sort of alter our expectations and maybe our thought process as to what is good, what is great and what is acceptable this fall.”
Auburn fans might not think Cubelic’s outlook on the season opener is acceptable. If you made the former Auburn center pick who’s going to win the game today, he’d take the Wildcats.
“I would actually lean Kentucky in that game right now,” he said. “I think physically at the line of scrimmage Kentucky has an advantage. When you’re talking about that front seven with Quinton Bohanna, DeAndre Square and Boogie Watson, guys that are coming back against four new starters on the Auburn offensive line, an offense that’s going to be a little bit different (with new offensive coordinator, Chad Morris). You don’t know exactly what communication is going to look like and how they’re going to be able to operate from that standpoint.
“I think it’s an experienced secondary. It’s a big, long secondary for Kentucky that should be able to help you with guys like Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz, somebody that everybody’s gotta find an answer for. Kentucky doesn’t get enough credit for what Brad White did with that defense last year. They had the No. 4 pass defense in the country last year and he’s got a majority of those players back. And it’s not going to be the defensive line we saw Auburn have last year with Marlon Davidson and Derrick Brown gone. Now you look at Drake Jackson, Landon Young and Darian Kinnard returning on the offensive line with multiple weapons in the backfield, that could be a game that Kentucky really tries to control on the ground.”
The first game of the season adds a different wrinkle of unknowns. Surely the offense with Terry Wilson at the helm will look different than Lynn Bowden ball. The ultimate question, will we see Joey Gatewood?
“Knowing that’s your first game, what offense are you preparing for? He’s got Terry Wilson back who has experience. It’d be a lot of fun if Joey Gatewood was determined to be eligible. After what happened to Cade Mays, I don’t know if that can happen. There are a lot of things that make it intriguing. I just think is going to be a season that’s probably not going to be super physical and right now that advantage lies with Kentucky based on what Auburn has to replace.”
Cubelic’s final statement has more significant long-term repercussions and may ultimately be the difference in a good vs. historically great UK football season, however, most fans are more captivated by his thoughts on Joey Gatewood. Yesterday another intra-conference transfer, Cade Mays, was declared ineligible. The circumstances are slightly different for the offensive lineman that transferred from Georgia to Tennessee, yet Cubelic sees enough similarities to be pessimistic about the possibility that we’ll see Gatewood play for the Wildcats this fall.
Cubelic discussed much more in the 15-minute conversation. He believes there will still be a home field advantage this fall, even without fans in the stands. You can hear the entire interview with Cubelic here and you can catch Kentucky Roll Call each morning from 7-9 am on Big X Sports Radio (96.1 FM-1450-AM) in Louisville or where ever you listen to podcasts.