Thursday, June 04, 2009

What the "Experts" Say About the Wildcats

Most fans of major college football programs wait with bated breath as the supposed gurus and preseason publications prognosticate their lot in the college football universe for the coming season. Prognosticating in early summer for the season about to unfold is wildly speculative and usually wrong, but we, as fans, continue to support these endeavors with flashy covers, pages of stats, and usually a page or two of cheerleaders thrown in to make sure the blood doesn't all pool in our brains.

This year's crop of preseason magazines found their way into my hot little hands over the weekend, and OTP is proud to share what these augurs of the college football world had to say about our beloved Kentucky Wildcats.

The Sporting News College Football 09 Preview Magazine
The Sporting News has put out preview magazines for years, but for whatever reason is not considered to be one of the premier publications of the season. The information contained within is good enough, and it makes for at least something to fill the days before August, but for the most part, as one would expect with such a large national following like SN, the focus is on the top-tier teams and not on the ins and outs of the lower-tier BCS schools, the midmajors, or really any school that is not competing to win a national title or a BCS conference crown.

For Kentucky, they don't get near the sort of evaluation or examination that a team like Oklahoma or Florida receives, but the Cats do get a write up that is borderline infuriating. Despite picking the Cats as potential participants in the Bowl, SN makes it a point to really pick apart the Cats potential offensively, lack of what they believe to be impact players, and relying instead on the approach that Kentucky must simply avoid mistakes and not beat themselves.

SN takes special care with Trevard Lindley, certainly making no hidden evaluations of his talent. They even suggest that Lindley should get the ball on offense since they believe he is the only true special playmaker on the roster. Overall, the future looks borderline mediocre to grim for the Wildcats if you believe what SN has to say.

Predicted UK Final Standing: 5th in SEC East
Predicted SEC East Champion: Florida
Predicted SEC West Champion: Mississipppi
UK Players on SN All-SEC Team: Trevard Lindley
UK Players on SN All-American 2nd Team: Trevard Lindley
Of note: Given a grade of "C"... Kentucky rated 11th in SEC for recruiting... Uga named conference's best mascot, Alabama the best fans, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium the best stadium, and LSU the best home-field advantage... Kentucky projected to go to Bowl... Lists the "Game to Watch" as Alabama, saying that confidence gained by competing admirably will translate well for road games at SC and Auburn... names Alfonso Smith "The Next Big Thing"... only Mississippi State and Vanderbilt not projected to be Bowling in the conference.

Lindy's Football 2009 College Preview
Lindy's is actually a decent option for anyone looking for a national publication with adequate coverage of the midmajor programs throughout the land in addition to the national power BCS conferences. Unlike the Sporting News, Lindy's prides itself on being insightful and detailed, while still prognosticating and opining page after page.

Being a member of the SEC is advantageous for UK in this publication, as the lower tier conferences and midmajor schools don't get nearly the same sort of coverage.

For the Wildcats, Lindy's dedicates an entire paragraph in the conference overview regarding the Wildcats. They admit that this may be Rich Brooks' most talented team from top to bottom since his arrival in Lexington, but point to the lack of talent surrounding an "average quarterback" to make their 4th consecutive Bowl appearance a probability. Additionally, Lindy's points to Kentucky's early schedule as potential disaster for Bowl eligibility.

Overall, Lindy's points to the obvious, focusing on Kentucky's defense over their offense, and recognizing the need for the Wildcats to find some sort of identity on offense to match their stout defense. According to Lindy's they have evaluated UK's defense as capable of playing with any team in the SEC, but for the defense to be consistent and game changing, the offense must keep them off the field to avoid tired stretches at the conclusions of games.

UK National Ranking: 50
Predicted UK Final Standing: 5th in SEC East
Predicted SEC East Champion: Florida
Predicted SEC West Champion: LSU
UK Players on Lindy's All-SEC 1st Team: Trevard Lindley
UK Players on Lindy's All-SEC 2nd Team: Ineligible Jeremy Jarmon, Michah Johnson
UK Players on Lindy's All-American 1st Team: Trevard Lindley
Of note: Trevard Lindley named the conference's best cover corner and best corner in nation... Michah Johnson named 7th best inside linebacker in country... Kentucky ranked #6 in the country for their QB unit recruiting... Trevard Lindley named #4 in the conference for NFL talent... Kentucky ranks 11th for recruiting in the SEC.

Athlon Sports College Football Preview
Athlon Sports is consistently one of the well-written, well-researched, and well-thought out preview publications in all of college football. They provide fantastic coverage of national, regional, and local storylines, and do so without the glaring oversights and mistakes of other national publications.

Athlon, much like the two other aforementioned preview magazines focuses on Kentucky's defense as the stand out unit and the offense as the proverbial question mark for the coming season. Athlon makes the point of Ryan Mossakowski and Morgan Newton able to challenge Mike Hartline for the starting QB job come fall.

Special attention is paid by Athlon to the Randall Cobb situation and making him a full-time receiver. There is an anonymous quote from an SEC assistant coach that says, "Randall Cobb is not a bad passer, but if you want a guy who makes his living passing the football, you would probably put Cobb somewhere else."

Attention is also paid to the special teams of the Wildcats, where they make mention of the need for a reliable punter to replace Tim Masthay and a kicker who can deliver consistently. Also getting a mention is the "atrocious" protection schemes in the Florida game last year where two punts and a field goal was blocked.

The unit rankings for the Wildcats in relation to the conference: QB-8, RB-10, WR/TE-12, OL-9, DL-8, LB-11, DB-8

UK National Ranking: 56
Predicted UK Final Standing: 6th in SEC East
Predicted SEC East Champion: Florida
Predicted SEC West Champion: Alabama
UK Players on Athlon All-SEC 1st Team: Trevard Lindley
UK Players on Athlon All-SEC 2nd Team: Ineligible Jeremy Jarmon, Micah Johnson
UK Players on Athlon All-American 1st Team: Trevard Lindley
Of note: Kentucky ranked 11th in the SEC and 44th nationally for recruiting... Kentucky cheerleader Randi Bishop gets a page dedicated to her in the Spirit section.

Phil Steele's College Football Preview 2009
By and large, there is no better preview magazine available than Phil Steele's Football Preview. Most who cover college ball in some capacity call it simply "The Bible" and truthfully, even that is putting it mildly. Steele focuses on statistical analysis and simply loading the most information possible in a preview magazine. If you're a casual fan or just looking for college football reading material, this is the ONE magazine to purchase.

Steele takes special care and time to point out just how overwhelmingly unbelievable the SEC will be this year. Steele believes teams like Florida and Ole Miss will compete for the SEC Title, and with that, a shot at the National Title.

For Kentucky, Steele takes the standard stance of an offense that needs improvement if the Cats are to be successful, and a defense that may be the best under the Brooks regime at Kentucky, most notably led by two players on Steele's 1st and 3rd team All-American selections (Trevard Lindley and Micah Johnson).

Overall, the tone of the article is positive while tempered with the sheer talent that will line up against Kentucky in their conference. Steele does make note that it is not out of the question that Kentucky will be Bowling again, this time, he predicts, in the Liberty Bowl against UNC. The number of other SEC teams going Bowling according to Steele? 10. Impressive if true.

UK National Ranking: 58
Predicted UK Final Standing: Tied for 5th in SEC East
Predicted SEC East Champion: Florida
Predicted SEC West Champion: Mississippi
UK Players on Steele All-SEC 1st Team: Trevard Lindley
UK Players on Steele All-SEC 2nd Team: Micah Johnson, and the now ineligible Jeremy Jarmon
UK Players on Steele All-SEC 3rd Team: Zipp Duncan
UK Players on Steele All-SEC 4th Team: Corey Peters
UK Players on Steele All-American 1st Team: Trevard Lindley
UK Players on Steele All-American 3rd Team: Micah Johnson
Of Note: Kentucky predicted to be Bowling against UNC in the Liberty Bowl... Derrick Locke #38 draft eligible Running Back nationally... TC Drake #28 draft eligible Tight End nationally... Kentucky has 30th best defensive back unit in the country... SEC rated #1 toughest conference... Kentucky the 23rd highest average attendance last season... Kentucky's Unit Rankings for 09 (out of 12) QB-5, RB-10, REC-9, OL-7 , DL-10, LB-12, DB-8, ST-7, Coach-6

So what does all this tell us about the upcoming year for the Wildcats? If the preseason magazines tell an accurate story of the Wildcats, the offense simply needs to play well enough to not cost their team games and allow the defense enough time to remain rested and well-performing. With the assumption, and it is a sizable one, that Kentucky wins its out of conference games and the offense matures and finds itself, then Kentucky is poised to go to its 4th consecutive Bowl game, a feat that is impressive considering the way the Brooks tenure at UK began.


Anonymous said...

Kentucky going Bowling again? Doubtful. The SEC is too strong, and the Wildcats are too mediocre to make any kind of difference. They won't beat anyone in the East, and may only beat Mississippi State from the West. I mean, they have a giganticly weak schedule, but even that's only 5 wins. Sorry, kittie cats.

Chris said...

Anonymous, you know nothing about UK football. It is surprising that even after winning 3 minor bowl games, we are still flying under the radar.

It's a pleasant surprise though, because it just makes other teams underestimate us.

Anonymous, you need to stick to other sports, like women's lacrosse, and leave football to the real experts.

Anonymous said...

Maybe going 4-4 in the SEC in 06', then 3-5 in 07', and finally 2-6 last year is why UK is "flying under the radar". No team should be allowed in a bowl game with a 2-6 conference record, especially when most of the non-conference wins are against mediocre opponents. Despite all the hype about "3 straight bowl appearances", the Cats have regressed in SEC play.

Larry Stidom said...

Let's face it, until UK football gets a major bowl, no recognition. Losing winnable games has doomed this team year after year from that goal and with a subpar QB, one major plsyer suspended and a so-so sked, it probably won't happen this year.