We reviewed five preseason magazines — Athlon, ESPN, Lindy’s, Phil Steele and The Sporting News — and broke down their team-by-team predictions.
Sunday, we examine Kentucky. Here is what’s being said about the Wildcats:
Athlon (4th in SEC East — 6-6, Birmingham Bowl): “Hope for improvement in 2016 largely centers on the 2014 recruiting class, the highest-rated class in program history, entering its third season on campus and an offensive overhaul.”
Phil Steele (5th in SEC East — Liberty Bowl): “Kentucky has nine starters back on offense and look solid on that side of the ball. The defense is inexperienced, but does have talent … I give the Cats a really good shot at their first bowl game since 2010.”
Sporting News (5th in SEC East — no bowl): “Even at basketball-mad Kentucky, where football is the appetizer instead of the main course, the honeymoon appears to be over for Stoops. He knows as much as anyone that it’s time for some tangible success.”
Lindy’s (6th in SEC East): “Fans see progress in the form of facilities and recruiting success, but they are restless for postseason play.”
ESPN (6th in SEC East — 5.0 projected wins): “Padding the 2016 win column early will be a tall order, with road trips to Gainesville and Tuscaloosa by Oct. 1. A new QB and his new OC will have to learn on the fly — and fast.”
Preseason All-SEC selections: Boom Williams (1st x1, 3rd x1), Jon Toth (2nd x2, 3rd x1), Austin MacGinnis (4th x1)
- Lindy’s listed Mark Stoops as its No. 4 hot-seat coach: “Someone else will play with all the new toys ($120 football stadium renovations, $45 million team facility) if he doesn’t at least get to the teeniest, tiniest of bowl games in his fourth year.”
- Lindy’s found that Kentucky is the worst in the country at covering gambling spreads over the past five years, going 18-37 for a 32.7 percent success rate. Virginia Tech (21-40, 34.4 percent) is No. 2.
- ESPN spoke with an anonymous SEC coach who had high praise for Kentucky’s defensive scheme: “You get odd overload from the boundary, odd overload from the field, and they really do a good job with the multiplicity of coverages in the back end — as good as anybody in the country.”
- ESPN’s Football Power Index listed Kentucky’s Oct. 1 game vs. Alabama (6 percent) and Nov. 12 game at Tennessee (6 percent) as the Wildcats’ toughest games to win this year.
- Phil Steele said the Wildcats need to get back to their sneaky ways: “The old formula for success under Rich Brooks was win the games you were supposed to and pull one or two upsets. That resulted in five straight bowl games. I have them favored in five games this year, so they are just one upset away from getting back to the postseason for the first time since 2010.”
- Athlon spoke with an anonymous coach who expressed some confusion about Kentucky’s plan: “They’ve done a really good job recruiting, but you don’t see a lot of cohesion to what they’re doing on either side of the ball. I thought (former offensive coordinator) Shannon Dawson was really good and I’m surprised they made a change there, to be honest.”
- Athlon noted that in Kentucky’s final six games last year, the Wildcats underachieved compared to the Las Vegas spread by an average of 9.8 points per game.