A season ago Mark Stoops and the Kentucky Wildcats finished with their best season in 41 years. By virtue of beating Penn State in the Citrus Bowl the Cats wrapped up 2018 with a 10-3 record. Two of the best players in school history Josh Allen and Benny Snell have to be replaced. However the Cats have a great nucleus returning. They face a good team in their opener in the Rockets from the Mid-American Conference. Let’s take a closer look at the game with our Toledo Versus Kentucky Preview.
Toledo Versus Kentucky Preview
Second Year Terry
With Snell now playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers the offense goes through Terry Wilson. In his first season playing major college football Wilson threw for 1,889 yards and 11 touchdowns. However, he did throw eight interceptions and had trouble with fumbles. Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran says Wilson made incredible strides in the off season. Cutting down turnovers and making better reads are going to be a key in 2019.
When Wilson throws, his favorite target is wide receiver Lynn Bowden. In 2018 Bowden hauled in 67 passes for 745 yards and five touchdowns. However finding a second receiver is going to be a key. The staff needs someone to step up and it could be any of the combination of Josh Ali, Bryce Oliver or Ahmad Wagner. Look for Wagner especially around the goal line where Wilson could lob the ball to take advantage of his six foot five frame.
The Cats have what they term the “three headed snake” ready to replace Snell. A.J. Rose is first on the depth chart at running back. He ran for 442 yards a season ago. Behind him are Chris Rodriguez and Kavosiey Smoke, who both showed potential in limited action.
Replacing Josh Allen
Obviously finding a replacement for the seventh pick in this year’s draft is no easy task. However new defensive coordinator Brad White has a host of players ready to step up. The Cats are strongest along the defensive live with as many as eight players who will see time. Calvin Taylor, Quinton Bohanna and T.J. Carter all have tons of experience. Behind them are Marquan McCall and Josh Paschal, who is healthy after a cancer scare.
Kash Daniel holds things down at the middle linebacker, with Jamar “Boogie” Watson lining up at Allen’s weak side position. White is also looking for big things from Chris Oats and DeAndre Square. If the Cats have a weakness it is in the secondary where the entire starting unit graduated. In addition the top returning player Davonte Robinson will miss 2019 with a leg injury.
Scouting the Rockets
The rebuilt Kentucky secondary is going to be tested early and often on Saturday by Toledo. Jason Candle’s club averaged 40 points a game last season and topped 50 on five occasions. Senior Mitch Guadagni beat out junior Eli Peters to win the starting job. A season ago Guadagni threw for 1,053 yards and 13 touchdowns in only seven games. In addition he ran for 428 yards and seven scores. He suffered a concussion against Fresno State then a broken collarbone against Western Michigan and missed the rest of the season.
The Rockets were hit hard by graduation at wide receiver. Senior Desmond Phillips, who caught 27 passes a year ago, is the top returnee. The running back position features a name very familiar to True Blue Fans. Bryant Koback originally signed with Kentucky in 2017. After redshirting he transferred to Toledo in order to be closer to home. Koback ran for 947 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.
On the other side of the ball the Rockets were 93rd in the nation on defense giving up 30 points a game and 423 yards. They only return five starters from 2018 so look for Kentucky to test their defense.
Saturday’s game is the first ever meeting between Kentucky and Toledo on the gridiron. However they will meet several times in the future. The Rockets come to Lexington in 2025 and 2028 and the Wildcats head to Toledo in 2027. Over the next few years Kentucky has scheduled numerous games against teams from the Mid-American Conference. As we continue our Toledo Versus Kentucky preview it’s now prediction time.
Who Wins On Saturday?
Even after a 10 win season, respect is hard to come by for Kentucky. While we here at Last Word On College Football picked them fourth in the SEC East, many others have them near the bottom and not even making a bowl game. Furthermore USA Today ranks the Rockets four spots ahead of Kentucky in their preseason rankings.
What does this all mean? Expect the Cats to come out with a huge chip on their shoulder as they try to prove the critics wrong. Look for a healthy dose of the running game behind the “three headed snake.” Kentucky fans hope that opens up the passing attack with Wilson going long to Bowden.
However Toledo is far from a cupcake and should give the Cats a run for their money. They have been to eight straight bowl games and are the favorites in the MAC’s Western Division. Look for them to test the rebuilt UK secondary early and often. Also look for Koback to try to burn his former team.
This looks like one of those games where it is close for a half maybe even three quarters. The Wildcats opened as a 13 point favorite but the line has quickly dropped to around 11. That sounds about right as in the end Kentucky pulls away for a hard fought victory.
Thanks for checking out our Toledo Versus Kentucky preview here at Last Word On College Football. We’ll have a recap following the game and look ahead to a battle with another MAC squad in Eastern Michigan next Saturday.