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Tennessee Football 2018 Opponent Preview: The Kentucky Wildcats

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NCAA Football: Music Bowl-Kentucky vs Northwestern Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Eight NCAA Division I championships, the only school to have five NCAA Division I championship coaches, names like Rupp, Hall, Pitino, Smith and Calipari. A feeder program for the NBA. One of the premier college basketball programs in the country — Kentucky.

By the way, they do have a football team in case nobody noticed.

The football team built a new — top-notch by all accounts — facility in 2016 and even added a 1950 national championship trophy, won under a guy named Bear Bryant. Kentucky defeated Oklahoma in a title game that year, but was never officially named the national champs.

Wildcats’ football will never reach the level of the basketball notoriety, but head coach Mark Stoops is working hard to build a good program in the tough SEC.

Stoops may have one of his best teams in 2018 based on returning players. The lack of an experienced quarterback will be the biggest question mark. JUCO transfer and former Oregon Duck Terry Wilson will join the Cats this season. He will compete with Gunnar Hoak, for the quarterback slot. Hoak has two years in the program and the size and arm to win the job. He hasn’t taken a snap in a game yet.

The offense will probably run under the efforts of junior Benny Snell. Snell, 5’11”, 233, has two consecutive seasons over 1000 yards. Snell, running behind four returning offensive lineman, is a force to contend with for any defense.

Senior Dorian Baker returns to lead the receivers, but he missed 2017 with an ankle injury. Tight end C.J. Conrad also returns. No wildcat receiver had more than 30 catches last season, so the passing game will have to step up or defenses will stack the box to stop Snell.

The Wildcats may tout their defense as their strongest unit with eight starters returning from a squad that ranked 92nd in yards per game nationally. Outside linebacker Josh Allen returns with safety Mike Edwards, who led the SEC in tackles the past two seasons. Linebacker Josh Paschal — a converted defensive end — will add a pass rush with nose guard Quinton Bohanna anchoring the line. LB Jordan Jones could also be a force if he can avoid injuries and off-field issues.

The Wildcats should be able to crack the six win threshold once again, which will get them to a bowl game. The challenge will be this — can Stoops teams upset the upper tier teams in the SEC to increase that win count?

Kentucky travels to Knoxville on November 11 this season to face the Vols.