#37 Kentucky Football 2020 Preview

Kentucky Wildcats
Overall Rank: #37
#8 SEC
 Kentucky Logo
Coach Mark Stoops has now been to four straight bowl games. For the Wildcats in the always brutal SEC, that is quite the accomplishment. And after 18 wins in the last two seasons, the expectations are getting even bigger. The 2020 season could be the one where Kentucky seriously competes for an SEC East title.
2019 Record: 8-5, 3-5
2019 Bowl: Belk Bowl vs. Virginia Tech (W 37-30)
Coach: Mark Stoops (44-44 at Kentucky, 44-44 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Darin Hinshaw
Defensive Coordinator: Brad White
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Asim Rose, RB, 826 yards
Passing: Sawyer Smith, QB, 690 yards
Receiving: Josh Ali, WR, 233 yards
Tackles: Yusuf Corker, DB, 74
Sacks: Jamar Watson, LB, 6.5
Interceptions: 5 tied with 1
Other Key Returnees: RB Kavosiey Smoke, RB Christopher Rodriguez Jr, LB DeAndre Square, DB Brandin Echols, LB Chris Oats, DB Jamari Brown, P Max Duffy
Key Losses: WR Lynn Bowden, WR Ahmad Wagner, OL Logan Stenberg, DE Calvin Taylor, S Jordan Griffin, LB Kash Daniel
Lynn Bowden is off to the NFL after his surprising 2019 season. Bowden started the year as a wide receiver, and actually led the team with 30 receptions for 348 yards, before taking over at quarterback where he ran for 1,468 yards and 13 touchdowns. Unfortunately Bowden only threw for 403 yards so he did not quite accomplish the nearly impossible feat of leading the team in rushing, receiving and passing. Terry Wilson started the 2019 campaign as the starting quarterback and he will step back into that role if his knee is healthy. Sawyer Smith started three games last season too and will be ready to go if Wilson is not. A lack of proven wide receivers is a big concern, but Kentucky does have some talented running backs to build the offense around. Asim Rose started last season and rushed for 826 yards and six scores. Kavosiey Smoke added 616 yards on 101 carries and another six trips to the end zone. Those two should get a lot more work in 2020.
Kentucky’s defense was brilliant last season. They ranked second in the nation in pass defense, allowing a mere 167.8 yards per game. They also ranked 21st in total defense and 14th in scoring defense. There are a few holes to fill though. Calvin Taylor and T.J. Carter are gone from the line so it will be difficult to replicate Kentucky’s 2.54 sacks per game from a season ago. However, Marquan McCall and Kordell Looney have experience and nose guard Quinton Bohanna is a beast in the middle of the line. Returning starting outside linebackers Jamar Watson and Josh Paschal will help keep pressure on the quarterback. Meanwhile DeAndre Square will lead the inside linebackers after tallying 69 tackles in 2019. Yusuf Corker was a surprise in the secondary and led the team with 74 tackles as a sophomore. With Davonte Robinson back from injury and cornerbacks Brandin Echols and Dedrick Dort performing well last season, the secondary will again be difficult to throw against for opposing SEC quarterbacks.
The Bottom Line:
Kentucky will be a popular upset pick to win the SEC East. That may be a bit too optimistic, but it has more to do with Georgia and Florida instead of Kentucky. It will not take long to see how serious Kentucky is going to be this season though with a trip to Florida to open up SEC play on September 12th. The rest of the schedule is manageable by SEC standards and that should easily lead Kentucky to their fifth straight bowl game.
Projected Bowl: Liberty Bowl
2019 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 278.8 (4th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 113.7 (127, 14)
Total Offense: 392.5 (76, 9)
Scoring Offense: 27.2 (76, 8)
Rushing Defense: 156.8 (64, 11)
Pass Defense: 167.8 (2, 1)
Total Defense: 324.6 (21, 5)
Scoring Defense: 19.3 (14, 4)
Turnover Margin: -0.08 (70, 10)
Sacks: 2.54 (37, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 1.31 (14, 3)