Mark Story

Three non-stars who are vital in 2017 Kentucky college football

Quick hitters from the solar-eclipse glasses discount sale:

21. 2017 Kentucky football player I’m most anxious to see play: Lynn Bowden. UK has lost a ton of playmaking from 2016 and needs the true freshman wide receiver to be as dynamic as his recruiting profile suggests.

20. 2017 Louisville football player I’m most anxious to see play: Russ Yeast. As beloved as Craig Yeast was catching passes from Tim Couch, it’s going to be tough for Kentucky fans to see Craig’s son playing cornerback for Louisville.

19. 2017 WKU football player I’m most anxious to see play: Lucky Jackson. The redshirt sophomore wideout from Lafayette High School has a chance to become the next home-state-produced offensive standout at Western Kentucky.

18. Most indispensable players: I hold it to be self-evident that Benny Snell, Lamar Jackson and Mike White are the most indispensable players for Kentucky, Louisville and Western Kentucky, respectively, in 2017.

17. UK’s most indispensable player not named Benny Snell: Landon Young. With the season-ending knee injury to starting left tackle Cole Mosier, Young — who shared the position with Mosier last season as a true freshman — is vital to Kentucky’s season.

16. U of L’s most indispensable player not named Lamar Jackson: Geron Christian. The junior left tackle is the best player on an offensive line whose improvement is the key to Louisville’s season.

15. WKU’s most indispensable player not named Mike White: Joel Iyiegbuniwe. With the departure of standout linebackers Keith Brown and T.J. McCollum, Iyiegbuniwe (64 tackles, 6.5 TFL in 2016) becomes the featured player in the Western Kentucky linebacking corps.

14. Pivotal game for UK in 2017: South Carolina. Kentucky will be going for its fourth consecutive win over the Gamecocks when it visits Columbia on Sept. 16. Another UK win would set the Cats up to exceed expectations.

13. Pivotal game for U of L in 2017: Clemson. Since joining the ACC in 2014, Louisville is 0-3 vs. the Dabo men. The Cardinals need to break through against the 2016 national champions in The Ville on Sept. 16.

12. Pivotal game for WKU in 2017: Louisiana Tech. In week three, Western faces the team it beat 58-44 in last season’s Conference USA championship game. The outcome sets the tone for Coach Mike Sanford’s first season as top ’Topper.

11. Favorable UK football schedule? There’s been a lot of talk this summer about how well Kentucky’s 2017 schedule sets up for the Wildcats.

Well, yes and no.

10. A positive trade-off. Where Kentucky had a road game at Alabama in 2016 as its rotating foe from the SEC West, the Wildcats get Mississippi at home in 2017.

9. Avoiding West big boys. Kentucky does not have to play any of the SEC West’s three favorites — Alabama, Auburn and LSU — in 2017.

8. What’s not favorable. Last year, Kentucky won three SEC games in Lexington, beating South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State by seven, seven and two points, respectively. This year, all three of those contests are on the road.

7. A “streak year.” Conversely, UK has Florida and Tennessee among its four SEC home games in 2017. As UK fans know all too well, the Cats have lost 30 straight to the Gators and 31 of 32 to UT. Playing them at home has been no advantage.

6. Moral of the story. Until Kentucky shakes off the hold of Florida and Tennessee, UK’s schedule is more favorable in years when it plays those two on the road but has South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State at home.

5. UK men’s basketball schedule. Kentucky facing archrival Louisville on Dec. 29 then having to turn around and open SEC play two days later against Georgia on New Year’s Eve will be challenging.

4. Florida as regular-season finale. After a two-year hiatus, the SEC has returned Kentucky vs. Florida (in Gainesville, March 3rd) to the season’s final weekend. The Cats and Gators have met in that schedule slot 15 times in the past 18 years.

3. Walker Buehler. The Los Angeles Dodgers have named the former Henry Clay High School star their 2017 “Branch Rickey Minor League Pitcher of the Year.”

2. On the L.A. playoff roster? Buehler, a right-handed starting pitcher, has been transitioning to the bullpen for Class AAA Oklahoma City. If he is called up to Los Angeles after rosters expand Sept. 1, Buehler might have a long-shot chance to pitch his way onto the Dodgers’ playoff roster.

1. Six percent of the sun’s light. Is really bright, it turns out.

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