As the ACC and Big 12 continue to test the college football waters among Power Five programs, the SEC is officially set to return to action next week, including eight ranked teams in the conference making their season debuts.
One of the most intriguing matchups of the week? None other than No. 23 Kentucky at No. 8 Auburn, one of just three games featuring two ranked teams.
On ESPN College GameDay this morning, the crew picked out a few intriguing SEC matchups to keep an eye on next week, specifically pointing out UK’s season-opening road trip to Auburn as one of the best games on the schedule.
While the Tigers come in as home favorites, ESPN’s Rece Davis said the Wildcats are the team to watch in Week 1.
“I know Kentucky’s not going to play Louisville this year, but they will open next weekend on the Plains against Gus Malzahn and the Tigers,” said Davis. “I’m gonna tell you, this is a game I’m really looking forward to. I know Lynn Bowden is gone, but Terry Wilson is back, Jamar Watson is back for Kentucky, and there is a question on the offensive line for Auburn. What will Bo Nix be able to do? I’d get it out to Anthony Schwartz as quickly as you can, he’s the fastest man in college football. Auburn better be careful.”
To close out the first hour of the show, Davis doubled down on the Kentucky love to open the season, adding that the Wildcats are “a little underrated.”
“I think Auburn needs to be careful next week,” said Davis. “Kentucky is a little underrated”
This isn’t the first time a national analyst has put Auburn on upset watch leading up to Week 1.
Back in August, college football analyst Greg McElroy said Kentucky vs. Auburn was a game to watch to open the year, adding that the Wildcats could be a “potential disruptor” in the SEC East.
“Kentucky is a team that last year went 8-5 and won five of their final six with a wide receiver [Lynn Bowden] playing quarterback,” McElroy said on ESPN’s College Football Live. “That’s right. You heard me right. In comes Terry Wilson — or potentially Joey Gatewood — the transfer from Auburn. So if he gets the start, he’s going against his former team.
“Auburn should have high hopes off what was a very impressive season last year with a true freshman starting quarterback in Bo Nix.”
SEC Network analyst Cole Cubelic said he would pick Kentucky straight up right now.
“I would actually lean Kentucky in that game right now,” Cubelic said on Kentucky Roll Call. “I think physically at the line of scrimmage Kentucky has an advantage. 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 … right now that advantage lies with Kentucky based on what Auburn has to replace.”
Will the Wildcats be able to take down the Tigers on the road?