On paper it appears as though Kentucky is catching up with the Auburns and Alabamas of the SEC. It all depends on what paper you’re looking at.
If you throw out college production and simply use recruiting rankings to evaluate talent, it’s easy to see why Auburn opened as a 10-point favorite over Kentucky. 247 Sports has ranked every college football team based off the talent from their composite recruiting rankings. Auburn ranked No. 12 overall and 5th in SEC, while Kentucky comes in at No. 27 and 11th in the conference.
The Tigers have two consensus five-star recruits on their roster and 44 four-stars, more than twice as many as the 20 four-star prospects suiting up for Kentucky this Saturday. The average ranking of each Auburn player is just north of four-star status at 89.55 (players ranked 89 and above are four-stars at 247). Kentucky’s average star ranking in 2020 is 86.93.
If you throw out what the player did as recruits and look at college production, the story isn’t so one-sided. In the preseason coaches All-SEC team, Auburn has six representatives compared to Kentucky’s seven. The Tigers return ten starters, while Kentucky brings back 15 starters. Those numbers are even more lopsided on the offensive line. Auburn’s offensive line has 34 career starts, 50 less than the 84 career starts logged by the Big Blue Wall.
The day after the SEC unveiled the Wildcats’ ten-game schedule, SEC Network analyst Cole Cubelic saw a potential seven-win season for UK, including a victory over his alma mater, Auburn.
“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.”
When comparing the talent of Auburn and Kentucky, you can look at the recruiting rankings or you can look at their production in college. The latter certainly seems to tip the scale toward Kentucky.