Kentucky vs. Toledo
When: Noon, Saturday (Aug. 31)
Where: Kroger Field
Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1, XM Channel 190, Sirius Channel 135, Internet Channel 961
Records: Kentucky (0-0; 0-0 SEC); Toledo (0-0; 0-0 MAC)
Series: First meeting
Favorite: Kentucky by 11 1/2 points
The story line
Coming off one of the best seasons (10-3, VRBO Citrus Bowl champions) in school history, Kentucky must replace the National Defensive Player of the Year (Josh Allen), its all-time leading career rusher (Benny Snell) and its top six defensive backs as it attempts to keep the good times rolling into a new season. Toledo, the preseason choice to win the Mid-American Conference West Division, will be a legitimate test for Mark Stoops’ new-look troops.
The big threat
Toledo’s Bryant Koback originally signed with Kentucky in the class of 2017 and sat out his true freshman season at UK as a redshirt. The speedy running back from Holland, Ohio, subsequently left UK to transfer closer to home “due to some unforeseen circumstances with my family,” he said at the time. Last season at Toledo, the 6-foot, 193-pound Koback ran for 917 yards and 14 touchdowns. Though Mark Stoops said UK and Koback parted on friendly terms, one surmises the back will be well-motivated to show his former team what it lost.
On the spot
The Kentucky secondary. UK opens the 2019 season without its top six defensive backs from a season ago after losing five to graduation and safety Davonte Robinson to injury. Toledo lost its three leading receivers from 2018 but does have two experienced quarterbacks in Mitchell Guadagni and Eli Peters. Expect Coach Jason Candle’s Rockets to test a UK defensive backfield that, other than senior safety Jordan Griffin, is all but a complete blank slate.
Has been almost giddy. Since Kentucky finished off its 10-win, 2018 season with a VRBO Citrus Bowl upset of Penn State, the Wildcats’ program has been riding a momentum wave. UK had five players chosen in the 2019 NFL Draft. Kentucky’s recruiting efforts in the class of 2020 have been strong. With the Big Blue Nation feeling more positive about Wildcats football than it has in eons, the challenge now is to perform well enough during the 2019 season to sustain the positive vibes.