Benny Snell: Kentucky football always has doubters
The University of Kentucky’s football players report to campus Thursday. Media Day is Friday. Fan Day, complete with an open practice, is Saturday. Head coach Mark Stoops’ sixth season is upon us.
With that in mind, let’s play “What’s more likely?” Here are 10 UK football scenarios. The answer is either/or. Which scenario is more likely to happen? Pick one. Go.
1. Who’s more likely to be the starting quarterback in the Sept. 1 opener, Gunnar Hoak or Terry Wilson? Both are sophomores. Neither has taken a snap in a Division I game. Wilson is a junior college transfer. Hoak, a redshirt sophomore, has two years in offensive coordinator Eddie Gran’s system. The opening day starter is not necessarily the starter for the season. Keep that in mind. Answer: Hoak.
2. Is UK more likely to win at Florida or at Tennessee? The Cats haven’t won in Gainesville since 1979. They visit The Swamp on Sept. 8. The Cats haven’t won in Knoxville since 1984. They visit Neyland Stadium on Nov. 10. Both the Gators (Dan Mullen) and the Vols (Jeremy Pruitt) have new head coaches. UK’s last win anywhere over Florida: 1986. UK’s last win anywhere over Tennessee: 2017. Answer: Tennessee.
3. Is UK more likely to beat Georgia or South Carolina at Kroger Field? Crystal balls have projected those two as the top two in the SEC East. South Carolina visits Sept. 29. Georgia visits Nov. 3. UK has won four straight over South Carolina. Georgia whipped UK 42-13 last season in Athens. Both games will be tough. Answer: South Carolina.
4. Is the defense more likely to give up more yards this season or fewer? UK allowed 426.8 yards per game last season, which ranked 92nd nationally. That improved from the 434.2 allowed the year before, but not by much. Head coach Mark Stoops made his coaching chops as a defensive coordinator. With eight starters back from last season, UK should take a step forward. Answer: Fewer.
5. Is Josh Allen more likely to end up a first-team or second-team All-SEC pick? The senior was voted second-team in the preseason media poll. But he has returned with a purpose, said defensive coordinator Matt House on Thursday. He has a newborn son. He’s high on NFL mock draft lists. He should learn from new position coach Brad White. Answer: First-team All-SEC.
6. Is the offense more likely to gain more yards this season or fewer? The Cats attack slipped from averaging 420.2 yards per game in 2016 to 349.8 in 2017. Attrition played a role. Boom Williams and Jeff Badet departed. Cole Mosier and Dorian Baker were lost for the season in training camp. Eddie Gran is due for some better breaks. Answer: More.
7. Is Benny Snell more likely or less likely to rush for 1,000 yards? The Ohio wrecking ball rushed for 1,091 yards as a freshman and 1,333 as a sophomore. No previous Wildcat had produced consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. At SEC Media Days, Snell pronounced himself the league’s best back. It’s not bragging if you can back it up. Answer: More likely.
8. Who is more likely to catch more passes, Dorian Baker or Lynn Bowden? Baker has 89 career grabs, but missed 2017 with a dislocated ankle. Bowden caught just 17 balls last year as a true freshman, but should be featured more this season. Baker is a senior. Answer: Baker.
9. Is UK more likely to go 5-3 or 3-5 in the SEC? The Cats haven’t posted a winning conference record since 1977. They’ve gone 4-4 each of the past two years. Last year, they lost 28-27 to Florida and 37-34 to Ole Miss, both at home. A win over either would have snapped the streak. Opportunity missed. Answer: 3-5.
10. Is UK more likely to go 7-5 or 5-7? Reframe the choice as 8-4 or 4-8 and we’d come down on the four-win side. The 7-5 or 5-7 split is a tougher call. Stoops has gone 7-5 each of the past two regular seasons. The 2018 schedule appears tougher. Still, with 17 starters returning, a backwards step would be a blow. Answer: 7-5.
Important upcoming UK football dates
Aug. 2: Players report for camp
Aug. 3: Media Day
Aug. 4: Fan Day
Sept. 1: Season opener at home vs. Central Michigan